POETRY before PROSE

Poems by Marco Saavedra

A Creation Story

(after James Weldon Johnson, Genesis)

before sacrifice 
before world war
before capital 
& punishment 
before she/hit 
before i/thou 
before me, mine!
 
i saw you – naked – standing – there. 
and ate fruit 
 
and played lion
 and followed lamb 
 
and the dew was good 
and paradise, new 
 
good to us, 
the light, the life, the sea was
 
all that was good in days
all that pains remains

Notes and References

  • St. John 1 (King James Version, KJV)

1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.

2. The same was in the beginning with God.

4. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

  • James Weldon Johnson

In the beginning God created . . . the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters . . . And it was GOOD.

(Genesis 1:1, 2 & 4).


Riffs from Inside: or, How to Set the Limits of Your Own Detention

The weird thing about Broward Transitional Center is that it is not that bad, really; the food is digestible, you have one change of clothing, the men can play, gossip, & pray— the structure is much, much less hospital to the womyn.

But the backdrop to Everything is Deportation, all your appointments with your attorney (if you can afford one), judge & deportation officer can trigger that—& even if that were just perception, the psychological toll is the same.

Aunque la jaula sea de oro, no deja de ser prisión. And they beat their bars so they would be free.

I was well prepared for it: 19 years of living undocumented does that; you learn the lies, the subtleties, the embarrassment, the agony that comes with it. I knew why men were sycophants, why so many disbelieved in organizing, why they would rather numb, avoid, or silently care their wounds.

What happens to a people whose imprisonment brings profit is ghastly; what happens to the people who need this system, is much, much worse: They abide in an innocent world, where America is still the frontier with resources & natives left to plunder. They have forgotten their history & are blinded by that amnesia.

Not one person—ever—left home without leaving some of themselves or their love on the other side. I saw it at boarding school & then, again, in college. But the rich & innocent can’t fathom the same for the poor—and perhaps here is our sad ending, the rich need the poor, not only to justify themselves but for profit, and the poor need not the rich.

Well the men at BTC were poor, just not in laughs or stories. They have a message for the nation, if only we dare to listen:

i am thinking about how undocumented & illegal mean different things (depending on the interlocutor) in their origins, legal significance, and threats & mean the same only at a superficial level. Undocumented is almost too much of a band-aid, meaning that due to a series of events a person falls out of line w/ the procedures of the state they reside in.

A drawing depicting a tiny individual facing a bigger individual behind a desk
Kafka, “Before the Law” drawing by Marco Saavedra

Illegal may be more true, which sounds awful at first, but maybe the reason that word had so much power over me growing up, was because it not only tried to describe me, mine, my situation, but, more importantly, more truly, described those who used it innocently (& thereby sustain it) &, what’s more, need it.

Illegal was always an indictment, not only of me, but of everything & everyone that was part of that creation, it is but part of a series in which sin plays out throughout time, this, maybe, it’s most absurd context–> Absurd because it proves Saint Paul right, all things are justifiable, all things, and, in fact, all people can be [il]legal if we dare to put our brother on the scaffold once again, but do all things edify?

If i was never Illegal, then that cornerstone on which lay the foundation for systems of operation is folly. If i was never illegal, then, perhaps, the economy, the international politics, multinational corporations & their unmatched revenues were never legal. Doesn’t the fulfillment of the gospel point to a new creation? Have we become so alienated, so deaf to the yearnings of all creation?

We know war, poverty, plague, & hunger do not edify, yet we’re crafty enough to legislate them. We know family, life, well-being, welfare edify, yet we’re bold enough to outlaw them.

What that means now, at least to me, is that the folks who have & are now paying “twice for all their sins” possess an unparalleled moral authority. Having witnessed the underside too long, have developed a most sophisticated eye for tragedy. Here one runs against what Nietzsche decided was our modern conundrum: a collective blindness to tragedy. Will those who have eyes to see be able to bear witness? Will those who have ears to hear sing a blue note? i guess what a black preacher once told me is true: the only thing left to do is: Sound the Trumpet.

Trumpet sound for Jubilee,
Trumpet sound for you and me.

“When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.” Words spoken first by the chief author of the Declaration of Independence, who therein warns: “Persons are not predisposed to insurrection, so long as those evils are sufferable.”

“But when a long train of usurpations and abuses...” Ah! Therein lies the rub, but when the deferred dream sags to a nearly combustible population & position, but when fallacies and fraud are allowed for too long, but when your loved one and their lovers are detained & deported leaving you in despair, but when one state in the United States overtly challenges human justice and while all others subtlety, politely, but surely, allow for the over-policing of the least protected, then rebellion becomes duty.

When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty. What if the nation is the sum of policies attempting to cover up injustices? What if the framing of the constitution around negative rights was an attempt to awkwardly evade confronting the new frontier colonized by way of massacre? In fearing themselves, our brave pioneers attempted limited government, in fearing human nature they built purifying puritan crucibles to maintain the facade of virginity.

When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty. Which injustice merits rebellion first? — All and one, one and all. What if we’ve become too adjusted, accommodated, and comfortable with injustice? Are we willing to rebel against our own patterns & prophets?When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty. How much more blood does it take to cleanse our sins? How many more broken homes, broken spirits? Will we learn to dis-occupy others, and learn to occupy, by being comfortable with, our own?


One of the most agonizing things to witness was how the men used religion in detention. I could not judge them then or now, for my contention remains that that detention center & the hundreds across the nation are metaphors of ourselves.

Religion can be used to forget, to hope, to alleviate, and/or liberate; it is a lens through which one can consider all things anew or a tool used for control. of course, it is perfectly logical people for a despised people, who have been deprived of the little wealth they had (family, relationships, their labor) to cling to faith. when the courts, the prosecutor, the judge, the deportation officer, the guards, the surveillance cameras are all not in your favor, where is your refuge?

The religion of this land, Frederick Douglass once proclaimed, is not the religion of God. Anything that serves to comfort the afflicted, shield the wounded, restore the displaced, is in accordance with my faith. Anything that promotes injustice, that severs the holiest of ties, that awkwardly & adolescently uses desensitized laws to justify the ways of man, is sin. But when we started to promote the fast, some said it was not in accordance with the gospel, & in the worst cases some thought that Judge Ford himself had been appointed by God to adjudicate over their lives…

Even so, we did our work, and held our faith, as best we could: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.


Perhaps the preacher was right,
When he was against money
while his body was profited from.

Perhaps the preacher was right,
and the fault was mine
for loving you

& it was a “lack of love”
that held me detained. 

“In America the concept of the thing became more important than the human being.”
— K.


BEATITUDES

comforter where is thy comforting?

blessed are the comfortable for they will receive alienation
blessed are the privileged for they will be forgetful
blessed are the rich for they know not their poverty
blessed are the powerful for they will suffer not their crimes

not yet.


I’m thinking about the betterment of solidarity which is incarnation, which does not mean co-opting or de-centering the injustice from the oppressed, but becoming the oppressed thru DIVESTMENT.

I’m talking about nuns in El Salvador during the Civil War who were gunned down by a Reagan back/bought militia because in the eyes of the generals “identification with the poor was the same as identification with revolution.”

And there is no revolution more important than the shredding of one’s loins by giving away to the poor the way Van Gogh did, the way the blues & Jesus do. The giving minimizes the object & heightens the value of the people, both giver & receiver.

Choosing godliness not something to be beholden to
Christ-Jesus divested himself of all power to become a human servant
Obedient to all until death, & death on the cross.

Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.

The feast of life that is endless, that celebrates the abundance of life over the scarcity of death. A metaphor so strong that it could only be played out in the flesh: Nailed on a cross, It is now our Grace:

I’d rather you be free
than chain’d to me;
I remain chained to thee,
no other place i’d rather be…


THE WORLD WHISTLES

Tell me about the progeny of an illegal, an illegal herself. Who was brought up with well intentions, but ill advised. The direct product of grace & alienation.

Who has gone to school, away to school, donated a full college education, taught to revere the plain folk & fanciful powerful. Tell me about her.

How she wandered many a lonely starry night, chasing wind & tears & how the school formed her for jail.

& go into the descent, her isolation & depression & jail & her hunger for Truth.

& how one fine day she awakens to find herself chief amongst all protagonists. The foremost heir of the kingdom & a Lily & how her blood is not illegal nor legal nor American but divine royalty, subject of majestic piety.


AMERICA DEFINED, ə-ˈmer-ə-kə, un-noun

The only definition of America is that I am not it.

I am not the chief arms producer,
chief polluter,
world war winner,
world war maker,
I am not gun-toting, gone-worshiping, money-idolizing, sex-selling, over-narcotized, under-educated, cop-crime-amnestying, Zionist-funding and overly commodified.

They have tried to turn me into America.

But I did not kill Trayvon, Eric Garner or Mike Brown or massacre at Sandy Hook or Wounded Knee; that was America.

I am not the one who displaced my parents from their homelands so that they could have their wages stolen in America.

I am not who incarcerates for profit. I am not the judge and I do know how to forgive. For America to be forgiven she must first seek repentance & that is anti-American. What did Dick Cheney say? “America is non-negotiable.”

I do not need America. America needs me.
I did not impose dictators in the New World while cutting deals and stealing people from the Old World to colonize stolen land in the New.

I don’t write history for I am prehistoric. I was here before America & I will remain after.

I Know I am not America.

I did not need to go to war to realize that slavery was wrong. I don’t make people illegal. I don’t return refugee children to their deaths. I believe in resurrection & I sure hope America doesn’t, for it will have to pay for atonement in punishment.

America is God.


Consider how much violence goes into your
every-day, perceived & actual, in soft
surveillance, in food produce, in alienated
services, into your “security,” entertainment,
relationships & energy consumption. Then,
consider how disgusting it is & how very
comfortable.
Stop. & consider the Lilies.
& what is the cost of peace?
And what are the measures? The
necessary anguishing unbelievable
imagination required for its
achievement. & Go & Do likewise.

some radicals (i call them false preachers & prophets) go promising that the individual does not matter and call you to sacrifice for a community or idea or dollar, but i say if love doesn’t start from your individual self, how does it grow?

we know hate is a renewable source of energy. love, too, is renewable but it takes more time, more work, more patience & passion, friendship.

some radicals say that books are not important. but we say this: the world began with a story & one of the reasons why i am not so miserable so horrible so destroyed as my father is because sometimes (rarely) i pause & consider the other. why do they hate me? why are you so miserable that you want no communication with me? it is books that taught me that each one of us is not a page or chapter but an entire catalog of wonder waiting to be harvested. books are not the only place where that is taught but i find it that readers are supposed to be challenged & eventually master the art of seeing the caves behind each set of eyes & the promise behind each individual.


A hallmark of liberal democracies is rampant depression cloaking the consumption of violence. Within these societies the professional class obsesses itself in specialization and technology. These fetishes trickle down to the poor and working classes who, unbeknownst to them, contain the only hope in true art & true music. The poor are demonized, the rich are idolized, every-one pretends to be happy & attempts to secure their happiness in various means of escape: religion, drugs, sport, fantasies, sex . . . Moreover, these people are always surrounded by screens, some luminous & responsive. Sadly, then (for our story), these screens never reflect our inner selves — or maybe they do and we have become too narcotized to see our nakedness, become too repulsed by our own beauty.


To America:
 
So your fields need picking
your jails filling
your children feeding
your garden landscaping
your halls cleaning
your houses dusting
your dishes washing
your industries serving
your houses building
 
But you need nothing
and we want The Thing
 
So who will win?


EVEN TO-DAY

EVEN TO-DAY THE EARTH DOES NOT DEMAND TAX NOR INTEREST FOR HER OCCUPATION. NOR DOES THE HUMUS DEMAND THE EVER RECURRING QUESTION, WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH YOUR ONE PRECIOUS LIFE. EQUALLY THE VOLES AND LILIES MAINTAIN SILENCE TO THE CONCEPTS OF SIN AND WAR. & THE SOUL SEARCHES FOR FILAMENT THAT WILL STITCH IT ALL…

STORY TIMETHEN ELIJAH RETREATED INTO THE WOODS, MADE A DWELLING IN A CAVE UP A MOUNTAIN & HIS FIGURE BECAME DISROBED & HE WAS TRIED BY TRUTH – LONELY WERE THE DAYS, NIGHTS, LONG, HUNGER OFTEN FILLED HIM, BUT HIS HEART CONTEMPLATED & THE SEEMING DISCONNECTION MADE HIM MORE AT PEACE WITH HUMANITY, THO LARGER WAS THE SPACE OF SILENCE IN BETWEEN.

AND ONE DAY THE LORD VISITED: THUNDER, WIND, FALLING ROCK & FLAILING TREES HOWLED AT THE MOUNTAIN TOP. SPLIT STONES, HAILED, STORMED & DARKENED ALL. 

BUT THE LORD WAS NOT IN THE NOISE. 

AFTER SOME TIME SUNLIGHT CUT THRU & GLIMMERED OVER WATER BEADS. & THEN – ONLY THEN – DID ELIJAH FEEL GOD IN THE SILENCE.

AFTER THE NEW WORLD SLAVE, THE FIRST WORLD ILLEGAL PRESENTS A DANGEROUS CASE AGAINST NEO-LIBERAL CAPITALISM & LIBERAL DEMOCRACIES


STOPPING DEPORTATIONS


STEP 1 OF END (EDUCATION NOT DEPORTATION): PRETEND THE PANICKED CALL IS COMING FROM YOUR PARENTS; HOW COULD YOU NOT HELP THEN?

STEP 2: ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT IS ONLY THROUGH PRIVILEGE OR FORTUNE THAT THE SITUATION IS NOT REVERSE & THEN USE FATE & FORTUNE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. RECOGNIZE THAT IT IS YOUR CAPITAL (PERCEIVED OR REAL) THAT HAS PROTECTED YOU.

STEP 3: IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A PLAN FOR THE DEPORTATION OF YOUR LOVED ONES, THIS IS A BIT REVEALING OF YOU. OPTIMALLY, YOU SHOULD WANT THEM TO BEFALL TRAGEDY – IF YOU ARE PREPARED FOR IT. THEN, YOUR STORY & AUTHORITY BECOME AN ASSAULT ON THE SYSTEM.

STEP 4: THE ONLY END CAMPAIGN YOU HAVE LOST, ARE THE ONES WE CHOSE NOT TO FIGHT. I KNOW WE OFTEN LOSE, AND THAT INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTABILITY NEED BE IN CONJUNCTION WITH INSTITUTIONAL CRITICISM. THIS IS THE ILLEGAL’S HAMLITIC PRIVILEGE: “SOMETIMES YOU BEAR THE SLINGS & ARROWS” BUT I’D RATHER “TAKE UP ARMS AGAINST A SEA TROUBLES, AND, BY OPPOSING: END THEM.”

STEP 5: CELEBRATE BEING THE FOREMOST HEIRS OF RESISTANCE & LITERATURE AGAINST THE EMPIRE. 

“I KNOW WE OFTEN LOSE, AND THAT THE DEATH OR DESTRUCTION OF ANOTHER IS INFINITELY MORE UNREAL AND UNBEARABLE THAN ONE’S OWN. I THINK I KNOW HOW MANY TIMES ONE HAS TO START AGAIN, AND HOW OFTEN ONE FEELS THAT ONE CANNOT START AGAIN. AND YET, ON PAIN OF DEATH, ONE CAN NEVER REMAIN WHERE ONE IS”

JAMES BALDWIN


WARM CRIES
OF FULL DELIGHT
FARE WELL
FOR THOSE WHO
HAVE SPENT TOO MANY A COLD
DARK NIGHT 
UNEMBRACED.
SHEDDING UNENCUMBERED,
UNRETURNED,
UNSHELTERED,
& UNYIELDING TEARS.

DEMAND - WE -
THE UNLOVED, 
UNCARED
& UNWATCHED
SUM LUV
FROM THE TURD
ABOVE
*