[Yesterday, the sunshine made the air glow]

By Jimmy Santiago Baca b. 1952
Yesterday, the sunshine made the air glow
pushing me like a sixteen-year-old
to toss my shirt off, and run along the river shore,
splashing in the water, wading out to the reeds,
my heart an ancient Yaki drum
and I believed,
          more than believed,
          the air beneath trees was female blue dancers
          I approached, and there in the dry leaves, in the crisp twigs,
          I turned softly as if dancing with a blue woman made of air,
                                                                                           sunlight,
                   in shrub-weed skirts.
                   I knew the dance that would please the Gods,
                   I knew the dance that would make the river water
                   smile glistening ever silvering,
                   I knew the dance steps that praised my ancestors.

Yeah, I wanted to write you a poem woman
for two days,
and today it was gray and snowy and overcast,
         about how I startled the mallards from their shallow
refuge beneath the Russian olive trees
and how the male purposely
                   came close to me
                   diverting my attention to it
         its female love went the other way
         risking its life,
         that's what I saw,
the male fly before the hunter's rifles, circle in sights of hunters
and take the shots, the roaring rifle blast
                                              after blast
and circle beyond over the fields to meet its female companion.

That's how I miss you, that's how I wanted to write you a poem
since we left
         you one way
         me another way. I was the male
         taking with me the hunters that would harm you
         risking my heart so yours wouldn't be hurt,
         fronting myself as possible prey
         so you could escape,
         that kind of poem
                   I am writing you now.

Circling as hunters aim down on me
while you rise, rise, rise into the blue sky
         and meet me over in the next fields.

         I wanted to write you a poem for two days now
                  to tell you how happy I was,
                  seeing a white crane arc
                           between banks in the irrigation ditch
                           with furious efforts, its big wings flapping
                                       like an awkward nine-year-old kid
                                       much taller than the others his age
                                       with size twelve sneakers
                                       flapping down the basketball court.

But once the white crane
found its balance, its wings their grace, it glided more perfectly
than a ballet dancer's leap across air,
                  all of its feathers ballet dancer's toes,
                  all of its feathers delicate dancers
                  all of its feathers, in motion
                           made me believe in myself,
but more,
                  when it rose, swooped up,
                  the line of ascent up
                  made me think of the curve of your spine,
                  how I traced my finger down your spine
                  when you slept,
your spine
                  is the ascent of the crane
                  toward the sunshine,
and my hands my face my torso and chest and legs and hips
became air, a blue cold artic air
you glided up in your song of winter love.

"Yesterday" by Jimmy Santiago Baca, from Winter Poems Along the Río Grande. Copyright © 2004 by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp., http://www.ndpublishing.com/.

Source: Winter Poems Along the Río Grande (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2004)

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Poet Jimmy Santiago Baca b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Love, Nature, Winter, Relationships, Men & Women, Animals, Romantic Love

Poetic Terms Imagery, Pastoral, Epistle, Metaphor

 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 Love, Nature, Winter, Relationships, Men & Women, Animals, Romantic Love

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Imagery, Pastoral, Epistle, Metaphor

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