28 February 2008

in solidarity

Lawrence Salinas, poet, read this poem at Raúl Salinas' memorial service, February 16, 2008, in Austin, Texas.

Who is this man?

Raul, Roy, "Tapon" Uncle Roy,
"El stupido" as my grandmother sometimes called him

Who was this man who ran wild in the barrios of East Austin "con los pachucos" instead of being a "father."

Who is this man who was by his own mistakes
(some of which I too have made)
Not only got himself imprisoned but also imprisoned my mom, my broth my sister and me.

Who is this man I could never call "dad" because he wasn't there.

Who is this man, who was out of sight but not out of mind who, as a lil kid, would often creep into my thoughts as I watched my friends go to father-son days at school or watch episodes of "mis tres mijos (my three sons) the Brady Bunch, or God forbid, Father Knows Best … longing for my own episode to run, but quietly knowing it never would.

Who was this man who I wished could have been like Ward Cleaver but in reality is more like ELDRIDGE Cleaver!

Who was this man who I've tried so hard my whole life to be un-like because of shame, embarrassment, and let's not forget the ever-present Catholic guilt … that today as I look at my own life, I find ironically, I am so much LIKE him.

Who is this man I curse every father's day as I make that painstaking annual pilgrimage to the card shop looking for that "perfect" card only to end up with the "Snoopy" one that lacks the love but hey, fulfills my obligation.

Who is this man – I hate for giving me the bad traits; but thank my MOTHER and HIS mother for the good ones, and secretly laugh because I find the more I "resist" to be NOT like him; the more I find I AM!

Who was/is this man that was such a stranger to me?
Yet whose blood runs through my veins – forever connecting us…

Who is this man whose name I carry
But do not really know him

Who is this man who caused me to struggle to understand why he seemed to have so much time for other "kids in need" but so little time for me?

Who is this man ya'll come to hear, to see?
You say to him, "I love your poetry, you're an inspiration, you're so this, you're so that … "

Who is this man some have called over the years: artsy, a thinker, a writer, an activist, a lecturer, a "maestro" … and today, who would've thought, even an internationally "renowned poet"

Who was this man some once called a "ladies man" – un romantico, I can relate to that … hey, you know what they say bout' the apple not falling far from the tree.

Who is this man whose image I once saw as a child, with blurry, yet rose-colored glasses; but today I see with the clarity and understanding of a man.

Who is this man?? He's my father … and in some ways, he's ME …

March 19, 2005

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