"Silenciosa tierra" found on Main Street tonight

...We need inspiration,
we need to define our dreams,
overcome challenges and frustrations
and give birth to something new

Is this evolution or revolution?

-- "Sacred Convergence" Group Poem, Merced High School, April 27, 2007

…People the color of my cravings
Chocolate skin, caramel tones, cinnamon

Dance in a pearl of wonder
Their steps melt in the river, the
Rushing river of shadowed blue
Its ripples lock a secret hard to foretell
Its surface an illusion to impel
Perhaps, what lies beneath is a
Painters’ heart … “ Gurpreet Kaur, Livingston High School, 10th grade “Painting of Harp Strings II”

...We live in a world
we’ve come to understand,
The focus of our existence
Is brotherhood.
The sole existence
For human beings
Is the presence of one another …” Pa Thor, 11th grade, Golden Valley High,

Trees ... trees are just life
Arboles ... arboles solo son vida ... Maria Barocio, 9th grade, Merced High School, "To a Tree/Para un arbol"

There is a pleasant custom among writers of sending each other “found” poems and lyrics. I am always grateful when I receive these gifts. This evening I am sending one out I found in Merced, one among many excellent poems read and performed in the hottest venue on Main Street last night.

There was a fantastic poetry reading at the Merced Multicultural Center tonight. It was called the eighth annual Valley Voices River of Words Convergence Environmental Poetry reading. Three writing clubs, from Livingston, Golden Valley and Merced high schools, read and performed their work. It was a stunning two hours of poetry produced by the Merced Union High School District.

“The theme of convergence,” Project Director Ocean Jones said, “connects to the environment and the whole civilization.”

Several hours ago I set myself the task of giving readers samples of the striking lines I heard and tried to jot down during the performance and look up later in the collection published by Heyday Books and the MUHSD Education Foundation, titled Valley Voices: Writers’ Clubs Project. Perhaps Ms. Jones has extra copies of the collection for sale. Her email address is: ojones@muhsd.k12.ca..us. The book contains very good poetry. The video of the evening, however, should be a real treasure.

I found myself unable to convey the delight of the evening with fragments of a number of poems or, for example, by trying to describe the wonderful choreography of nine or ten Livingston High women poets, who alternated between dancing and chanting in unison and resting motionless while a single poet would recite her poem. If you purchase, for $5, a copy of the book, I am sure you will agree: these young poets and their poet teachers are telling important truths about us and our complicated, threatened local world. This is the truth and beauty of Merced. Actually, I mean that exactly as it sounds. Each of these poets had something important to say about themselves and us and the world and they all said it beautifully. Together, they created a miracle down on Main Street tonight – the expression of the creative power of one of the most complex cultural scenes and environmental regions on the planet. Why anyone would not want to preserve and protect our unique, evolving Valley culture, why anyone would wish to harm it or destroy the land from which it comes, why anyone would not instantly see how valuable these poets are to all of us, is beyond us. There are members of our editorial board who have been poets, poets in the schools, and farmers. We were blown away by the talent and the execution of the work tonight. Valley literature lives another year in free emergence from the din of bulldozers, commuter traffic and political corruption -- or greed and class, as the Livingston poets darkly chanted between their songs.

The newspaper has a tabloid sports section but if one reporter showed up for this incredible event, I didn’t notice. However, perhaps that was because Badlands was informed of the event through an email flyer protesting Valley air pollution. The paper should publish the whole book as a special section. "Valley Voices" is the lyric of excellence in our public education.

However, I had another problem. One poem jumped out at me. How an individual poem instantly becomes a part of you for the rest of your life is one of the most mysterious processes there is. The poem is not exemplary of the rest of the poems read and performed tonight. None of the poetry read tonight was exemplary of other poems. Despite thematic unity, each was unique, stand-alone works. However, the poem that realized the theme of “convergence” of the evening for me and struck me the way other poems might have struck you if you’d been there was “Quiet Earth/Silenciosa Tierra,” by Gabriela Torres, Merced High School 10th grader. In English the power of the image startled me. But, in Spanish, Torres totally nails it. And, to hear this poet talking to the earth as if trying to persuade a strange, silent little sister to say something, is also miraculously humorous.

Get the video.

“Silent Earth”

No protest, no screams
No happy faces, no noise
No nothing, but silence around
Quiet earth! Earth so quiet!
Who made you quiet down?
Are you sad? Are you proud?
Why don’t you cry aloud, laugh
Or make any noise?
Oh! Quiet earth!
Earth so quiet!
You make the people on this world
Too upset because of your quiet
And mysterious mood.
Why don’t you accelerate your life
Make it easier for you and us?
Oh! Quiet earth! Earth so quiet!
Are you sick?
Something hurts?
Why are you so quiet?
Don’t you know we worry about you?
We, who try to take care of you.
We, who know you exist. Only us.
Oh! Quiet earth! Earth so quiet!

“Silenciosa tierra”

No protestas, no gritos
No rostros felices, no ruido
No nada, pero silencio alredor
Silensioca tierra!
Tierra tan silenciosa!
Quien te hizo callar?
Por que no lloras recio
Ries o haces algun ruido?
Oh! Silenciosa tierra!
Tierra tan silenciosa!
Tu, haces que las personas
En esta mundo
Se entristezcan por
Tu silencioso
Y misterioso modo
Por que no acelaras tu vida
Y la haces mas facil
Para ti y para nosotros?
Oh! Silenciosa tierra!
Tierra tan silenciosa!
Estas enferma?
Algo te duele?
Por que estas tan silenciosa?
No sabias que nos preocupamos por ti?
Nosotros, quienes sabemos de tu existencia?
Nosotros, quienes tratamos de cuidarte?
Solo nosotros.
Oh! Silensiosa tierra. Tierra tan silenciosa!