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By Laurie Ann Guerrero

-- an ode to the artists of San Antonio, Tejas

You must start small as our mothers were small,
our fathers, too, small.

In a pillowcase whip-stitched with roses
or in an old coffee can, collect your abuelos’

teeth; assure them you will not bury them
near the bones of the dog that froze

the winter that dogs froze.
Carry the teeth under your tongue.

Let them root there.
This is how you will learn to speak.

Be ready to cough up songs, corridos plucked first
by a revolutionary whose gunsmoke you wear in your hair.

The songs will be new in your throat. We are always
beginning. We are always beginning again.

You cannot be afraid to unhinge the jaw—
let the sun blister your mouth. Know thirst.

Cast your own eyes from their sockets like a confettied April
that you will know the bloom and battle of flowers.

Let your ribs draw across the ribs of another: el canto del violín.
Let your fingers dance: el guitarrón.

Needle or pen, brushed oil, machete or drum, leather,
cilantro, stomp—be patient in the tooling,

the weaving of experience one hundred, five hundred,
ten thousand years to here: love-making in the cotton and nopal,

battlelines and colorlines, birthing in the huts, in the casitas
under a grove of mesquite and huizache,

and, too, lynchings and genocide in the feathery strands
of our DNA that move our hands to do the work.

Trust your hands know the work 
even if you do not know the work.

You do not speak for the dead.
The dead speak for you.




Listen as Laurie Ann Guerrero reads "ARS POLITICA: HOW TO MAKE ART."

Added: Tuesday, October 16, 2018  /  From "Pariahs: Writing from Outside the Margins," (Texas A&M University Press, 2016). Used with permission.
Laurie Ann Guerrero
Photo by Mathew Mahon.

Laurie Ann Guerrero was born and raised in the southside of San Antonio. Winner of the 2012 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, her first full-length collection, A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying, was released by University of Notre Dame Press in 2013. Her latest collection, A Crown for Gumecindo, a collaboration with visual artist Maceo Montoya, was released by Aztlan Libre Press in the spring of 2015. It received the 2016 Helen C. Smith Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. Guerrero has held consecutive positions of Poet Laureate of the city of San Antonio (2014-2016) and the State of Texas (2016-2017). She holds a B.A. in English Language & Literature from Smith College, an MFA in poetry from Drew University, and is the Writer-in-Residence at Texas A&M-San Antonio.

Other poems by this author