I Speak of the City: Lorna Dee Cervantes

Everybody’s Hometown
Originally uploaded by hhsc/Greg

[The best thing I got from this last weekend’s RE:DEFinition Hip-Hop Conference was the feeling that I can come back to hip-hop, my own personal roots, without having to start listening to TI, Chris Brown and Soulja Boy. And so while this may make me tragically unhip to most of the yougins, I can still represent without having to sport saggy jeans cuz you know the saggy look doesn’t let me floss my Fluevogs to the fullest.

This idea of coming back to your old ‘hood has me thinking to a poem from Lorna Dee Cervantes. When you read through this poem, you never do get a sense of arrival. The speaker is really caught between staying and going, as if this place that she once called home is more like a motel room on a business trip with a focus on objects and a memory of warmth where others have stayed and left there mark. In the end, the speaker leaves to where they’re from, an ouroborous like return to the first line of the poem with the caveat that there’s still one last (more?) chance to connect with the past.]

On Touring Her Hometown

I’m going away to where I’m from.
I’m fleeing from visions, fences
grinning from the post. Give me
a hole with a past to it. Fill up
this mess with your wicked engines.
Give me the gun of holidays, calendar
shards, disarray on the avenues
unending as the streets of my vast
memory. There are marigolds six feet
under. They eat the names of the dead.
There are hovels under these caverns
where liquids marry and paint themselves
a mauve display. There’s a place
in the mists of the city where a silence,
lean as ghosts, beckons, is archaic
in the workclothes of my otherness.
There is cedar, ash sage, an owl
on the grave of this town the width
of sin. And crying’s like hating,
it won’t ever pay. I’m going away
to where I’m from. I’m leaving,
last condor, last chance.

© Lorna Dee Cervantes from From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger

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