Jimmy Santiago Baca

(2 January 1952 / Santa Fe, New Mexico)

Yesterday


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.

Submitted: Monday, January 02, 2012
Edited: Monday, January 02, 2012

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