For the Man Who is Half of Me
I always knew my father did not belong.
I did not need the television to blemish my mind
and condition what my father should look like.
My father did not come home
with a shirt and tie and briefcase.
He came home smelling of the earth
and sweat of his manual labor, and
his cologne that I would always remember
even after he was long gone.
He spoke to me in boisterous Spanish,
“Angelina, mi Angelita.”
I did not need a thick panel of glass
to tell me that my father was untouchable.
Even the law agreed, he was meant for Mexico,
not the United States.
Either that or locked from view.
I wrote this poem when I was 18. I was apart a poetry class at El Centro De La Raza taught by Anna Balint. I had never been much of a public speaker, choosing to hid behind my art and let it speak for me. I was joined in this class by several of my close friends and this class helped me process a lot of what I was going through as a young adult. Most of my poems ended up in the trash and Anna would fish them out and go line by line with me, showing me there’s a process to creativity and that I needed to trust it. This is and one of the hardest lessons in my life, one that I still struggle with and that in itself is a process I need to trust. For the Man Who is Half of Me was written about my father who was an undocumented Mexican migrant farmworker who would later become incarcerated and then deported. He died when I was 9.
The class later participated in a program Language of Hope which took photos as prompts to poems created by youth poetry groups throughout Seattle. These were then collected in an anthology and read them at an event at the Seattle Art Museum. This is also a very found memory I have of Roberto Maestas showing up at the ceremony with flowers for us; he always had a way of making the youth feel like the were top priority. I still mourn his passing and hope I live up to the legacy he instilled on all the youth from El Centro de La Raza.
Last year I would be asked by Anna to include this poem in her anthology she was working on with fellow collaborators. It was an immense honor to have her think of me for this and I am proud to be apart of the book.
Take a Stand: Art Against Hate, A Raven Chronicles Anthology, edited by Seattle-based writers Anna Balint, Phoebe Bosche, and Thomas Hubbard, contains poems, stories and images from 117 writers, 53 artists, with 69 illustrations, divided into five fluid and intersecting sections: Legacies, We Are Here, Why?, Evidence, and Resistance. We begin with Legacies because the current increased climate of hate in this country didn’t begin with the 2016 election, and to find its roots we must look to U.S. history.
There was scheduled to be a reading from Take a Stand March 30th at Elliot Bay Bookstore, but because of the heightened awareness of the Coronavirus, this has been canceled. I chose to share this poem now as a way to reincfoce the sentiment that we will continue to Stand Up against hate. That fear based xenophobia, hate, and harmful stereotypes will not live here.
Please support by purchasing this book on the Raven Chronicles site.