Love Poem For My People


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It’s time to fall back in love with poetry. If you haven’t guessed by my lack of updates, I’m currently in a rocky relationship with my poetry. I keep looking at my work and feeling distant from it wondering what I have to do to get it alive and kicking again. Luckily, I have a couple of live readings coming up and nothing makes me more excited about the wonder of poetry than a live reading. My goal is to have at least one extended piece memorized and then also have a cover poem I can recite from off the dome. The fact that I’ll be reading for PAWA’s Arkipelago Reading Series makes me think about Manong Al Robles and how his poetic storytelling instantly raptured the Bayanihan Center. And thinking of Al always brings me back to Rev Pedro Pietri, how his poems/stories/dialogues/chismes/plays would blend in and out of each other with ease. How the live audience was the sole concern and how far away things like conferences, panels, debates and politics seemed when he got to the nitty-gritty of poetry. I make it sound like I got to hear Pedro read a ton of times and the truth is I only got to hear him once but that’s all it took and now I get to read him a lot and am grateful his work is captured in print. (Some hard to get print, for sure, but it’s out there if ya look.) Which brings up quite the conflict—I have two voices in my head, Rev Pedro and Manong Al, both who lived their poetry and had little concern for publication but the way I know most of their work is from publication. Ain’t dat a bitch? To be caught in the middle of this intersection of orality and print with both traffic lights saying GO at the same time? But that’s what makes it exciting! To run into the middle of that mess and not worry about who is saying to wait and who is saying to keep on, to trust my own instincts and do the thing because I need to do the thing. And do it all with love, for me, for my poetry, and for my people.

Love Poem For My People
by Pedro Pietri

do not let artificial lamps
make strange shadows out of you
do not dream
if you want your dreams
to come true
you knew how to sing
before you was issued a birth certificate

turn off the stereo
this country gave you
it is out of order
your breath is your promised land
if you want to feel very rich
look at your hands
that is where
the definition of magic
is located at

Author: Oscar Bermeo

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of the chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn. He lives and works in Oakland, CA.

2 thoughts on “Love Poem For My People”

  1. “How the live audience was the sole concern and how far away things like conferences, panels, debates and politics seemed when he got to the nitty-gritty of poetry.”

    Yes, I need to be reminded of this all the time too. Though I’ll add that I value not in abstract the “page” audience, the brave soul who picks up my book after being live audience, or after finding my poem in a journal or mag or anthology.

    But yes, the debates, conferences, etc. I have been caring less and less about. I’ve been fearing this waning interest in taking part would kill my career, like if I do not attend AWP no one will read my book?

    Anyway, poetry, not po-biz, is definitely still worthy of your love!

    1. Yes, on the varied definition of audience. Live has its value in the immediate exchange of energies. Page has its value in the unexpected exchange of energies. While it is wonderful to have an audience member tell you they felt your poems in the sound of your voice, it’s another kind of wonderful to have someone come up to you and tell you they felt your voice in the sound of your poems.

      Again, yes to poetry and to the love that nurtures it.

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