Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Know the Names of Things"

Know the Names of Things
for immigrants everywhere anytime

Know the names of things.
How 3+1 equals nada
in a barrio flat. How many 
unknowns there are in a single
bottle of pills. How much
it costs to breath through
the nicotine, the anxiety,
the three times a million lost
nickels in the foreign exchange,
in a bushel of sterile seed.

Know the names of things.
How to live. How to love
the you in all. How to call
out to the impoverished ancestors.
How to feed a future. Call
it what you will. Call power
in a name. Name the world
to own it. Learn hammer
and sickle. Learn the many
names for drought. Name the 
expedient past, the succumbing future.
Name what you will. Will what
you name. The power of the tsunami
in the syllables of truth, the reconstruction
of the hurricane in the uplifting vowels.
Learn the names of all the treaties
never honored by our government.
Name the dead, too.

Know the names of things.
How to count. Count the many ways 
life changes life and death
changes nothing and never gives.
There is a way if you name 
it. If you follow it the road
will come. Be the strings that hold
up this house of time held
by the wisdom of the abuelas
with words holding taut the strands.
In the beginning was an absence.
Name that, too.

Know the names of things.
How to tell the singer
from the song. How to swear 
on a star, become the jury 
of one. How to tell over
the cacophony of a thieving
crow. How to chant the mastery
of who enslaves whom, who orders
the gun, the bomb, the shock
and awesome truth. Name this, too.

Know the names of things:
auricle from ventricle, aorta
from vena cavae, arteries from
aurioles; all matters of the heart.
Save with the words for it.
Then be it, a savior
with your words. We, 
the named, we, knowers
know the power, the power to name,
to see, to know, belongs
to the perceiver, the receiver
of knowledge — all in a name:
our name, your name, the stolen 
names, the original names,
the slaughtered names, the slaughtering
names, names for The People for people
who need no names, who need food, 
who need the crystal water
because 3+1 in a barrio flat
equals nada. Name this, too.

Know the names of things.
and heal. 

Lorna Dee Cervantes


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