a few weeks back, i was lucky enough to catch louis reyes rivera’s feature at cornelia street and was luckier still to have a pretty in-depth discourse with the man through the streets and rain. if i was with anyone else i would say that i had a conversation or discussion but louis (all 4’10” of him) is a living history/poetics/economics lesson all the time and his function is to educate through anecdote and analogy. while louis doesnt put the fear of poetry god in me like a very select few do, he does have a stare that says “when you’ve lived as much as i have, youngster – YES! i can call you youngster – then you can feel free to contribute to this conversation but otherwise you best stay shut, learn something and reflect on that” of course, i love this about the man.
having learned my lesson from previous meetings, we walked through bleeker st as the rain threatens to come down hard. if it was anyone else, it would be preferable to get out of the humidity and possible soaking in favor of some nice cafe but louis’s voice is as urban as it gets and hearing his words ring above the crowds is jus about as natural as pigeons descending on popcorn from trash bags.
our talk wrapped up with a reading recommendation, “find the poems of otto rene castillo” this came after my thanking louis for his time and insights while also offering a lil praise. sucking up? no. more like saying to people how you feel about them while you have the chance or as another mentor puts it “dont wait for the funeral/give me my flowers now/while i can enjoy them” werd
this all comes together into a pretty package with the hand knotted bow as i revisit carolyn forche’s “against forgetting” and come across señor castillo’s work. can ya say flabbergasted? i knew ya could.
castillo’s work cuts to the quick and brought the taste of separation from out of my gut and right to the roof of my mouth. ima have to take some time out to transcribe his EXCELLENT multi-layered work “Distances” but for now i leave you with this poem that (as far as i’m concerned) says YES! to the idea of poet/artist as a precursor to history versus the tabloid reporters & bombastic propagandists i continually encounter.
Before the Scales, Tomorrow by Otto Rene Castillo
When the enthusiasm
of our time is recounted
yet to be born,
but who announce themselves
with a kinder face,
we will come out winners,
we who have suffered most.
To be ahead
of one's time
is to suffer much.
But it is beautiful to love the world
with the eyes
to be born.
to know oneself already victorious
when everything around
is still so cold, so dark.