Elm branches radiate green heat,
blackbirds stiffly strut across fields.
Beneath bedroom wood floor, I feel earth—
bread in an oven that slowly swells,
simmering my Navajo blanket thread-crust
as white-feathered and corn-tasseled
Corn Dancers rise in a line, follow my calf,
vanish in a rumple and surface at my knee-cliff,
chanting. Wearing shagged buffalo headgear,
Buffalo Dancer chases Deer Woman across
Sleeping Leg mountain. Branches of wild rose
trees rattle seeds. Deer Woman fades into hills
of beige background. Red Bird
of my heart thrashes wildly after her.
What a stupid man I have been!
How good to let imagination go,
step over worrisome events,
                               those hacked logs
                               tumbled about
                               in the driveway.
Let decisions go!
                               Let them blow
                               like school children’s papers
                               against the fence,
                               rattling in the afternoon wind.
This Red Bird
of my heart thrashes within the tidy appearance
I offer the world,
topples what I erect, snares what I set free,
dashes what I’ve put together,
indulges in things left unfinished,
and my world is left, as children know,
                               left as toys after dark in the sandbox.

  • "As Children Know" by Jimmy Santiago Baca, from Black Mesa Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Jimmy Santiago Baca. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp., www.ndpublishing.com.

  • Source: Black Mesa Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1989)

Poet Bio

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"I was surprised that I was able to select poems that are so out of my usual spoken word preference. The Poetry Out Loud website has hundreds of poems that I have never seen before, and the fact that I found 3 and was able to make it so far with them is amazing to me. I guess I learned that stepping outside of the box is okay!"
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2015 IL POL Champion