As Children Know

By Jimmy Santiago Baca b. 1952
Elm branches radiate green heat,
blackbirds stiffly strut across fields.
Beneath bedroom wood floor, I feel earth—
bread in an oven that slowly swells,
simmering my Navajo blanket thread-crust
as white-feathered and corn-tasseled
Corn Dancers rise in a line, follow my calf,
vanish in a rumple and surface at my knee-cliff,
chanting. Wearing shagged buffalo headgear,
Buffalo Dancer chases Deer Woman across
Sleeping Leg mountain. Branches of wild rose
trees rattle seeds. Deer Woman fades into hills
of beige background. Red Bird
of my heart thrashes wildly after her.
What a stupid man I have been!
How good to let imagination go,
step over worrisome events,
                               those hacked logs
                               tumbled about
                               in the driveway.
Let decisions go!
                               Let them blow
                               like school children’s papers
                               against the fence,
                               rattling in the afternoon wind.
This Red Bird
of my heart thrashes within the tidy appearance
I offer the world,
topples what I erect, snares what I set free,
dashes what I’ve put together,
indulges in things left unfinished,
and my world is left, as children know,
                               left as toys after dark in the sandbox.

"As Children Know" by Jimmy Santiago Baca, from Black Mesa Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Jimmy Santiago Baca. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp., www.ndpublishing.com.

Source: Black Mesa Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1989)

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Poet Jimmy Santiago Baca b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Youth

Poetic Terms Imagery, Simile

 Jimmy Santiago Baca

Biography

Born in 1952 in Santa Fe of Chicano and Apache descent, Jimmy Santiago Baca was abandoned by his parents and at 13 ran away from the orphanage where his grandmother had placed him. He was convicted on drug charges in 1973 and spent five years in prison. There he learned to read and began writing poetry. His semiautobiographical novel in verse, Martin and Meditations on the South Valley (1987), received the 1988 Before Columbus . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Youth

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Imagery, Simile

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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