THE ONE THAT SPOKE OUT

THE LIFE OF LORNA DEE CERVANTES, A MAJOR CHICANA POET

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Lorna Dee Cervantes (1954)

Lorna Dee Cervantes was born in San Francisco, California on August 6, 1954 to Mexican and Native American parents. She grew up in a barrio called "Horseshoe" which was full of gangs and street violence. As a teenager, she joined different civil rights movements. She began writing poetry as a child and won the American Book Award for her first volume, Emplumada during 1981. She is an activist poet who is an award-winning Chicana and considered one of the major Chicana poets of the past 40 years. She uses poetry to speak out against oppression, sexism, violence against women, and against racism.

Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway

1

Across the street – the freeway,
blind worm, wrapping the valley up
from Los altos to Sal Si Puedes.
I watched it from my porch
unwinding. Every day at dusk
as Grandma watered geraniums
the shadow of the freeway lengthened.

2

We were a woman family:
Grandma, our innocent Queen;
Mama, the Swift Knight, Fearless Warrior.
Mama wanted to be Princess instead.
I know that. Even now she dreams of taffeta
and foot-high tiaras.

Myself: I could never decide.
So I turned to books, those staunch, upright men,
interpreting letters from the government, notices
of dissolved marriages and Welfare stipulations.
I paid the bills, did light man-work, fixed faucets,
insured everything
against all leaks.

3

Before rain I notice seagulls.
They walk in flocks,
cautious across lawns; splayed toes,
indecisive beaks. Grandma says
seagulls mean storm.

In California in the summer,
mockingbirds sing all night.
Grandma says they are singing for their nesting wives.
“they don’t leave their families
borrachando.”

She likes the ways of birds,
respects how they show themselves
for toast and a whistle.

She believes in myths and birds.
She trusts only what she builds
with her own hands.

4

She built her house,
cocky, disheveled carpentry,
after living twenty-five years
with a man who tried to kill her.

Grandma, from the hills of Santa Barbara,
I would open my eyes to see her stir mush
in the morning, her hair in loose braids,
tucked close around her head
with a yellow scarf.

Mama said, “It’s her own fault,
getting screwed by a man for that long.
Sure as shit wasn”t hard.”
soft she was soft

5

in the night I would hear it
glass bottles shattering the street
words cracked not shrill screams
inside my throat a cold fear
as it entered the house in hard
unsteady steps stopping at my door
my name bathrobe
slippers outside at 3 A.M. mist heavy
as a breath full of whiskey
stop it go home come inside
mama if he comes here again
I’ll call the police

inside
a gray kitten a touchstone
purring beneath the quilts
grandma stitched
from his suits
the patchwork singing
of mockingbirds

6

“You’re too soft…always were.
You’ll get nothing but shit.
Baby, don’t count on nobody.”

– a mother’s wisdom.
Soft. I haven’t changed,
maybe grown more silent, cynical
on the outside.

“O Mama, with what’s inside of me
I could wash that all away. I could.”

“But Mama, if you’re good to them
they’ll be good to you back.”

Back. The freeway is across the street.
It’s summer now. Every night I sleep with a gentle man
to the hymn of mockingbirds,

and in time, I plant geraniums.
I tie up my hair into loose braids,
and trust only what I have built
with my own hands.

T- "Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway" makes me think of someone that is walking alone and that is afraid to look forward to the future because he/she might feel that they aren't worth it and that nobody cares about them. It might be due to the circumstances of someone making them feel un-confident.

P- Demonstrates a young women who struggles with her identity, feeling caught between the knowledge of her grandmother and the disbelief of her mother.

C- Positive Negative

  • Innocent queen Fault
  • Princess shattering
  • Unwinding screams
  • dreams cold fear
  • staunch unsteady
  • insured call the police
  • respects grown more silent
  • soft grandma stitched

  • good disheveled carpentry


A- The attitude toward the poem is form with a change towards to be someone else.

S-The shift occurs at the tone from confusion to determination.

T- The title relates to the poem in the way that the young woman is determined to find and discover who she really is through all means necessary.

T- The theme of the poem is that we should be the person that we want to be and that we shouldn't care what other think we should be

Yo Soy Chicano

Yo soy Chicano tengo color Americáno, peró con honor Cuando me dicen Que hay revolución Defiendo mi raza Con mucho valór. I AM CHICANO I am Chicano imbued with color American, but with honor When they tell me There is revolution I defend my race With great valor. (Yo Soy Chicano) Tengo todita mi gente Para la revolución Voy a luchar Con los pobres Pa’ que se acábe el bolón (Coro) Yo soy Chicano tengo color Americano peró con honor Cuando me dicen Que hay revolución Defiendo mi raza Con mucho valór Tengo mi orgulló Y machísmo, Mi cultura y corazón Tengo me fé y diferencias Y lucho con gran razón. (Coro) Yo soy Chicano… Tengo mi par de cabállos Para la revolución Uno se lláma El Canario Y el otro se lláma El Gorrión. Tengo mi orgúllo Tengo mi fé Soy diferente Soy color café. Tengo cultura Tengo corazón Y no me lo quita A me ningún pelón.


Lorna Dee Cervantes would have been inspired by this song because it is about someone that defends his race with pride and that would defend it by fighting with their people. The way that it relates to Lorna is that based on the identity that she wants to be seen as she is determined to do and be what she wants to be as the song says I am Chicano making it seem that they don't get judge, they will always be them.




TRANSLATION



(I Am Chicano) I have in ready all my people For the revolution I am going to fight With the poor To put an end to strife (Chorus) I am Chicano imbued with color American, but with honor When they tell me There is revolution I defend my race With great valor. I have my pride And machismo, My culture and spirit I have my faith and differences And fight with great truth (Chorus) I am Chicano… I have my a pair of horses For the revolution One is named The Canary The other one’s name is The Sparrow, I have my pride I have my faith I am different I am the color brown. I have my culture I have spirit And it can’t be taken from me By any baldheaded fool (translated by Abby Rivera, 02/05)

El picket sign

El Picket Sign (Luis Valdez, Teatro Campesino) Desde Tejas a California campesinos estan luchando Desde Tejas a California campesinos estan luchando Los rancheros a llore-llore de huelga ya estan bien pandos El picket sign, el picket sign Lo llévo por todo el dia El picket sign, el picket sign Conmigo toda la vida The Picket Sign (Luis Valdez, Teatro Campesino) From Texas to California farm workers are fighting From Texas to California farm workers are fighting And the growers a’-cryin, ‘a-cryin’ from the strike they’re knuckling under The picket sign, the picket sign I carry it all day with me The picket sign, the picket sign With me throughout my life (El Picket Sign) Ya tenemos más de siete años Luchando por esta huelga Ya tenemos más de siete años Luchando por esta huelga Un ranchero ya murio Y otro si hizo abuelo (Coro) El picket sign... Cuando comenzó la huelga mi tío estába en Coachella Cuando comenzó la huelga mi tío estába en Coachella Le dijieron que “uno veinte” Pa’ Delano pronto péla (Coro) El picket sign... Y ahora organizando la raza en todos los files Y ahora organizando la raza en todos los files Porque muchos siguen comiendo tortillas con puros chiles Me dicen que soy muy nécio, nécio,y alboroto pueblos Me dicen que soy muy nécio, nécio y alboroto pueblos Pero Juarez fue mi tío y Zapáta fue mi suegro Hay unos que no comprenden aunque muchos les dan consejos Hay unos que no comprenden aunque muchos les dan consejos La huelga es buena pa’ todos pero unos se hacen pendejos


Lorna Dee Cervantes would have been inspired by this song because it would be a song that she could relate to in the way that the song reveals that Chicano and other kind of race threat each other differently and I think that everyone should be treated the same and should't be judge differently.

TRANSLATION



(The Picket Sign) We’ve been more than seven years fighting for this strike We’ve been more than seven years fighting for this strike One grower bit the dust, another’s a granddaddy (Coro) El picket sign… When the strike first started My uncle was in Coachella When this strike first started My uncle was in Coachella They told him “one-twenty” Ta’ Delano he peeled off quickly (Coro) El picket sign… And now organizing the workers in all of the fields, And now organizing the workers in all of the fields Because many continue eating tortillas with nothing but chiles They tell me I’m too head-strong, headstrong and incite people, They tell me I’m too head- strong, headstrong and incite people But Juarez was my uncle, my father-inlaw, Zapata There are many who don’t understand Though favored with advice, There are many who don’t understand Though favored with advice The strike is good for everybody But many play the stupid fools (translated by Abby Rivera, 02/05)