Monday, December 27, 2010

Year of the Book #43 Benjamin Alire Sáenz


imageI did not know of the existence of Benjamin Alire Sáenz till this evening when I was desultorily surfing poetry sites. Come to think of it, I don’t even know how to pronounce his last name.

All I know is that I found this poem and I was hooked

According to various bios,  Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in New Mexico, spoke only Spanish till he was in elementary school, yet has done all his writing in English. He studied theology, was a Catholic priest for 3 years. He also won a slew of awards including the American Book Award in 1992 for his first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, the Paterson Prize, and the Americas Book Award…

“I did not grow up speaking English—though English has become my dominant language. I have struggled with words and language all of my life. I have learned that language is used to dominate people. I have learned that every language is a way of translating the world and that no language translates the world without a particular bias. It is difficult for me not to dismiss writers who do not understand the political nature of language. Like everything else, language is a weapon that can be used for ill or for good. “

All of which is great. But as far as I am concerned, what matters is if you can write a love poem which other will read and think – will someone one day love me like that? Apparently Benjamin Alire Sáenz  can….


To the Desert

I came to you one rainless August night.

You taught me how to live without the rain.

You are thirst and thirst is all I know.

You are sand, wind, sun, and burning sky,

The hottest blue. You blow a breeze and brand

Your breath into my mouth. You reach—then bend

Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

You wrap your name tight around my ribs

And keep me warm. I was born for you.

Above, below, by you, by you surrounded.

I wake to you at dawn. Never break your

Knot. Reach, rise, blow, Sálvame, mi dios,

Trágame, mi tierra. Salva, traga, Break me,

I am bread. I will be the water for your thirst.

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