Earlier this month, I was contacted by longtime Atlanta journalist and columnist Richard Eldredge about two student reporters with the city's teen newspaper, VOX, who wanted to shadow a poet for a day. Since I don't teach, I thought the best way for the budding young writers and poets to see Atlanta's scene in action was a meet-up in Decatur for open mic night at Java Monkey.
Richard brought two students – Mac and Agustin – and we met early for dinner and had a long conversation about our favorite poets, influences and their love of the craft. Java Monkey Speaks had a packed house that night and the brilliant Gypsee Yo was featuring, so you couldn't ask for a better "teachable moment." I also encouraged Mac and Agustin to send me a poem using a prompt I gave them. The prompt was to write a poem in response to one of their favorite songs or pieces of music. Agustin sent me the poem below (under his pen name) and it totally knocked the top of my head off. He's 17! Let me repeat that - 17!!! I also posted the song by Calle 13 that inspired him to write the poem below. I would love to hear you comments and I know Agustin would too!
By P.S. Goya
Either I’m nobody, or I’m a nation.
Like the stalactites that crawl into their crystal-helix shapes,
I crawled, American baby, from the Strait of Magellan where the fish
Gargle their lugubrious songs, to the dehydrated Line where the Texans,
Those American wannabe’s, flung their broken Spanish at me.
I crossed the Frontier, and for a while I stayed with Fruit-pickers,
Developing into a character that cannot be defined by American citizenship.
My hair crawled far away from my scalp, my feet forgot their Aztec dances,
Memories became the packaged boxes in the attic of a house too busy to care.
The melanin in my skin, disgusted, evaded me in mirrors.
I wanted to dream, baby, so when they told me about Visas, I listened,
And soon enough I began speaking from my Nose just like the gringos,
And recited the stories of Bush and Cheney so they’d give me my Green card.
I forgot about my Mother, whose scarred back is the spine of the Andes,
Who incubated me in the smoke of a patient volcano for two centuries…
I didn’t remember myself until the age of 17,
When, burned out from singing W.A.S.P. songs, I recalled the tune of my own people.
The heats and smells of Acapulco, the poverty and the richness of the tongue,
And I had also forgotten the cacao that is in the eyes of sweet-faced strangers…
It all came back to me.
I am an American baby, but the U.S., my friend, is not America.