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By Tino Villanueva

Translated by James Hoggard

                                     Listen, you
who transformed your anguish
into healthy awareness,
put your voice
where your memory is.
You who swallowed
the afternoon dust,
defend everything you understand
with words.
You, if no one else,
will condemn with your tongue
the erosion each disappointment brings.

You, who saw the images
of disgust growing,
will understand how time
devours the destitute;
you, who gave yourself
your own commandments,
know better than anyone
why you turned your back
on your town's toughest limits.

Don't hush,
don't throw away
the most persistent truth,
as our hard-headed brethren
sometimes do.
Remember well
what your life was like: cloudiness,
and slick mud
after a drizzle;
flimsy windows the wind
kept rattling
in winter, and that
unheated slab dwelling
where coldness crawled
up in your clothes.

Tell how you were able to come
to this point, to unbar
History's doors
to see your early years,
your people, the others.
Name the way
rebellion's calm spirit has served you,
and how you came
to unlearn the lessons
of that teacher,
your land's omnipotent defiler.

Remember how,
from the first emptiness,
you started saving yourself,
and ask yourself what,

after all,

these words are good for
in this round hour now
where your voice strikes time.

Tino Villanueva, "You, If No One Else" from Chronicle of My Worst Years. Copyright © 1994 by Tino Villanueva.  Reprinted by permission of TriQuarterly Books.

Source: Chronicle of My Worst Years (TriQuarterly Books, 1994)

  • Living

Poet Bio

Tino Villanueva
Poet and painter Tino Villanueva was born in San Marcos, Texas to a family of migrant workers. He was drafted into the army and served for two years as a supply clerk in the Panama Canal Zone before earning a BA at Southwest Texas State University, an MA at State University of New York at Buffalo, and a PhD at Boston University. Writing in both Spanish and English, at times sliding back and forth between the two languages, Villanueva writes poems exploring themes of memory, longing, and history. See More By This Poet

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