Cloudy Day

By Jimmy Santiago Baca b. 1952
It is windy today. A wall of wind crashes against,
windows clunk against, iron frames
as wind swings past broken glass
and seethes, like a frightened cat
in empty spaces of the cellblock.

In the exercise yard
we sat huddled in our prison jackets,
on our haunches against the fence,
and the wind carried our words
over the fences,
while the vigilant guard on the tower
held his cap at the sudden gust.

I could see the main tower from where I sat,
and the wind in my face
gave me the feeling I could grasp
the tower like a cornstalk,
and snap it from its roots of rock.

The wind plays it like a flute,
this hollow shoot of rock.
The brim girded with barbwire
with a guard sitting there also,
listening intently to the sounds
as clouds cover the sun.

I thought of the day I was coming to prison,
in the back seat of a police car,
hands and ankles chained, the policeman pointed,
    “See that big water tank? The big
    silver one out there, sticking up?
    That’s the prison.”

And here I am, I cannot believe it.
Sometimes it is such a dream, a dream,
where I stand up in the face of the wind,
like now, it blows at my jacket,
and my eyelids flick a little bit,
while I stare disbelieving. . . .

The third day of spring,
and four years later, I can tell you,
how a man can endure, how a man
can become so cruel, how he can die
or become so cold. I can tell you this,
I have seen it every day, every day,
and still I am strong enough to love you,
love myself and feel good;
even as the earth shakes and trembles,
and I have not a thing to my name,
I feel as if I have everything, everything.

"Cloudy Day" by Jimmy Santiago Baca, from Immigrants in Our Own Land. Copyright © 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1990 by Jimmy Santiago Baca. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp., www.ndpublishing.com.

Source: Immigrants in Our Own Land (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1990)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Jimmy Santiago Baca b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Crime & Punishment, Living, Disappointment & Failure, Social Commentaries, Nature, Weather

Poetic Terms Imagery, Dramatic Monologue, Persona

 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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Crime & Punishment, Living, Disappointment & Failure, Social Commentaries, Nature, Weather

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Imagery, Dramatic Monologue, Persona

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.