The Rio Grande: A View of Pueblo Land
I Am Offering this Poem
BY JIMMY SANTIAGO BACA
I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,
I love you,
I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,
I love you,
Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe
I love you,
It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;
I love you.
Jimmy Santiago Baca, “I Am Offering this Poem” from Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems. Copyright © 1990 by Jimmy Santiago Baca. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1990)
Jimmy Santiago Baca (1952 - )
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 Foundation’s American Book Award in 1989. In addition to over a dozen books of poetry, he has published memoirs, essays, stories, and a screenplay, Bound by Honor (1993), which was made into a feature-length film directed by Taylor Hackford.
Baca’s work is concerned with social justice and revolves around the marginalized and disenfranchised, treating themes of addiction, community, and the American Southwest barrios. In a Callaloo interview with John Keene, Baca claims, “I approach language as if it will contain who I am as a person”—a statement that reflects the poet’s interest in the transformative and generative power of language. Immigrants in Our Own Land (1979, 1991) was Baca’s first significant collection, one based on his imprisonment. In the Encyclopedia of American Literature, Catherine Hardy wrote that the poems in the volume “reveal an honest, passionate voice and powerful imagery full of the dark jewels of the American Southwest landscape (llanos, mesas, and chiles) and the chaotic urban landscape (nightclubs, rusty motors, and bricks) woven into a rich lyricism sprinkled with Spanish.”
Baca’s other poetry titles include Healing Earthquakes (2001), C-Train & 13 Mexicans (2002), Winter Poems Along the Rio Grande (2004), and Spring Poems Along the Rio Grande (2007). In addition to the American Book Award, Baca has received a Pushcart Prize and the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature. His memoir, A Place to Stand(2001), garnered the International Prize. In 2006, Baca was awarded the Cornelius P. Turner Award, which honors GED graduates who have made “outstanding contributions” in areas such as education, justice, and social welfare.
Baca has conducted writing workshops in prisons, libraries, and universities across the country for more than 30 years. In 2004 he launched Cedar Tree, a literary nonprofit designed to provide writing workshops, training, and outreach programs for at-risk youth, prisoners and ex-prisoners, and disadvantaged communities. Baca holds a BA in English and an honorary PhD in literature from the University of New Mexico.
* I dedicate this blogpost to all people who feel that they are alone—even when they are among others. Never forget your own weight and value in the world. You are and always will be worthy of love.