Poem of the Day "You, If No One Else"

Photo of Tiny Villanueva taken by Kalman Zabarsky

Listen, you

who transformed your anguish

into healthy awareness,

put your voice

where your memory is.

You who swallowed

the afternoon dust,

defend everything you understand

with words.

You, if no one else,

will condemn with your tongue

the erosion each disappointment brings.

 

You, who saw the images

of disgust growing,

will understand how time

devours the destitute;

you, who gave yourself

your own commandments,

know better than anyone

why you turned your back

on your town's toughest limits.

 

Don't hush,

don't throw away

the most persistent truth,

as our hard-headed brethren

sometimes do.

Remember well

what your life was like: cloudiness,

and slick mud

after a drizzle;

flimsy windows the wind

kept rattling

in winter, and that

unheated slab dwelling

where coldness crawled

up in your clothes.

 

Tell how you were able to come

to this point, to unbar

History's doors

to see your early years,

your people, the others.

Name the way

rebellion's calm spirit has served you,

and how you came

to unlearn the lessons

of that teacher,

your land's omnipotent defiler.

 

Tino Villanueva, "You, If No One Else" from Chronicle of My Worst Years. Copyright © 1994 by Tino Villanueva.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56719/you-if-no-one-else

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