Poetry Break

“To Shaun, on Your 10th Birthday”

Let my fortune be rich in stories
shared on quiet nights
as we lay in bed
drifting into sleep.
Let the inheritance I leave to you
be the sounds of our laughter
as the whispers of your childhood.
Let both be comprised of our memories
as we took walks through my childhood
neighborhood, as I navigated you through
places long since erased. 

The origin of this poem started when I first heard the news about the Quintanilla family releasing a new Selena album, three decades after her untimely death. It was a mixture of fascination and disgust. That’s the only way I can describe the feeling of seeing a family continuing to exploit the work of their deceased sister. And I wondered what sort of things I’d leave behind for my son to find.

I never intended to take poetry outside of composition books. And I never intended to take it off the stage. And now as I’m in the last year of my thirties, I’m wondering why not? There have bumps and hiccups along the way. Events that pushed me out of the local poetry scene. And while I’ve allowed myself to be angry about it, and possibly will hold on to this grudge for a while longer, I think it’s time I just pick up the mic and where I left off a decade ago.

So what do I intend to leave behind for my son? Memories. Written. Recorded. Penciled in the margins of my books where he will find them should he one day decide to read them. I want him to remember our stories and share them with his children – should he have any, that is.

I want to encourage him to follow this music path where it ever it leads him, just as I followed my poetry path for a while.

Normally, I record an audio and slap it on stock video but this is still in a rough draft process. I believe this is the eighth attempt to write this poem. And I liked it more than the rest. But it’s not quite finished. Not quite yet. And the title isn’t the one I intended but it’s the one that made the most sense at the time of this writing.

So maybe one day I’ll break out the old Yeti and record it.

Poetry Break

“When They Look Right Through You” by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

A friend of mine read Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, But Enough by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, and it reminded how much I love his work. I’ve used his poem “Consent at 10,000 Feet” to celebrate National Poetry Month 2020, the year I decided to embark on this endeavor.

All roads led back to Button Poetry, it would seem. At least for me. When I first learned of the channel on YouTube, it introduced an entire world of new poets for me. Poets that might have gotten swept under rug for me. Poets that probably get swept under the rug for several people, actually. Because while their talent is obvious, poetry gets a bad rap. And I can spend a day and a half explaining why academia is a disservice to poetry, but that’s not the point of celebrating this month.

For a later date, maybe.

Poetry Break

“Sorrow Is Not My Name” by Ross Gay

Remember when I said I love the parenthetical after? How they’re doorways to other poems? This month, I read H. Melt’s On My Way to Liberation and There Are Trans People Here which led me to other poems. One of them was Ross Gay’s “Sorry Is Not My Name,” from his collection Bringing the Shovel Down.

It didn’t stop there – the conversation H. Melt had with Ross Gay in their poem “Dysmorphia Is Not My Name” led me to the conversation he had with Gwendolyn Brooks.

While it is unnecessary – what am I saying?! It’s totally necessary! – you should read Gwendolyn Brooks’ “To the Young Who Want to Die” before following along with Ross Gay’s poem.

And while you’re at it, pick up copies for H. Melt’s work. Because honestly, their words are powerful and important to the conversation at large. Especially with the laws being passed and pushed in Florida, Texas and every red state. I haven’t been able to find any recordings of them reading their work (as of this writing).

Poetry Break

“My Words” by César Leonardo de León

I’ve known César Leonardo de León for a few years now. Not sure how we met, but I’m sure it was one of the many poetry readings we attended. His debut collection Speaking with Grackles by Soapberry Trees became an instant favorite when I read it earlier in the year.

There were moments where I recognize myself – parts of myself, anyway, – in his works. Poems like “Isabel,” “How to Play it Safe at a Texas BBQ,” and “El Mundo” spoke to the younger parts of me. Poems that would have helped me understand how words can break someone just as easily as actions of others could break me. I chose “El Mundo,” the first poem in the collection, as part of the National Poetry Month poster exhibit at the library.

Poetry Break

“Affirmation” by Assata Shakur

I listened to Assata: An Autobiography for our March Get Lit! BOYBook Club – a decision I made after realizing that I couldn’t discuss Carolyn Cassady’s Off The Road in good faith for our Women’s Month-themed meeting. And I’m glad I did, because this was an excellent book to discuss to celebrate women, especially those within the BIPOC community.

Part of what I loved about this autobiography is how Shakur peppered her poetry within chapters. The poem recited in today’s video is called “Affirmation,” and it’s the opening poem to Shakur’s story.

You can follow along with the performance here.