The lover's footprint in the sand the ten-year-old kid's bare feet in the mud picking chili for rich growers, not those seeking cultural or ethnic roots, but those whose roots have been exposed, hacked, dug up and burned and in those roots do animals burrow for warmth; what is broken is blessed, not the knowledge and empty-shelled wisdom paraphrased from textbooks, not the mimicking nor plaques of distinction nor the ribbons and medals but after the privileged carriage has passed the breeze blows traces of wheel ruts away and on the dust will again be the people's broken footprints. What is broken God blesses, not the perfectly brick-on-brick prison but the shattered wall that announces freedom to the world, proclaims the irascible spirit of the human rebelling against lies, against betrayal, against taking what is not deserved; the human complaint is what God blesses, our impoverished dirt roads filled with cripples, what is broken is baptized, the irreverent disbeliever, the addict's arm seamed with needle marks is a thread line of a blanket frayed and bare from keeping the man warm. We are all broken ornaments, glinting in our worn-out work gloves, foreclosed homes, ruined marriages, from which shimmer our lives in their deepest truths, blood from the wound, broken ornaments— when we lost our perfection and honored our imperfect sentiments, we were blessed. Broken are the ghettos, barrios, trailer parks where gangs duel to death, yet through the wretchedness a woman of sixty comes riding her rusty bicycle, we embrace we bury in our hearts, broken ornaments, accused, hunted, finding solace and refuge we work, we worry, we love but always with compassion reflecting our blessings— in our brokenness thrives life, thrives light, thrives the essence of our strength, each of us a warm fragment, broken off from the greater ornament of the unseen, then rejoined as dust, to all this is.
From Selected Poems/Poemas Selectos, by Jimmy Santiago Baca, translated by Tomas H. Lucero and Liz Fania Werner. Copyright © 2009. Used by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.