The Resurrection Cemetery is an oasis of green,
encircled by the rising structures of the Edison
Utility Company and new roads interwoven through
the felled homes that once flowered with families.
The hills are sprinkled with the remains
of wood-frame shacks, splinters of old
neighborhood that gentrification, progress,
and new "immigrants," this time with money,
It has been twenty years since I roamed these
earthen streets. Coming back, I am as new, alien,
except in that old cemetery where many of my
friends are buried: Dead by drugs, by gangs,
by police, by suicide, car crashes, and diseases
science conquered long ago.
In the end, what does it matter how they died!
The heart is only a beating thing. They left,
unconscious of the stars shimmering without them.
Still their time in the world echoes as secrets
in the rhythm of night. The earth may have their
fingers, but not what they touched: The contours
of skin beneath folds of an ocean's wave, the laminated
sweat on a browthe sinew of an open-wound dream.
Every death was new life, becoming like the pacing
in a waking sleep that pounds into the realm
of impelling memory. So many funerals. So many dark
cruises through these curbless paths; revenge,
as thick as mud, in the windless air. All that's left
of that time are the headstones under sodden skies;
the bleeding of wombs as revolution is birthed
through an open-mouth scream. Coming back,
the quiet becomes relentless in the repose.
I have carried the obligation to these names.
I have honored their voices
still reverberating through me.
Even now, as the fight flourishes through
the burden of days, the rage has only
subsided to deeper seas.
Justice is the long, crevice-filled road
I've been stranded on all this time,
trying to reach a destination that climbs
uneasy over the horizon. I owe it to them
to stay. I owe it to them to await the daybreak
tearing out of the long night in the battlements.
And I can see the first light coming into view.
And I can hear their pleas through the hush.
And I remember: Twenty years come
that don't make a day,
then comes a day
that makes up
for twenty years.
Luis J. Rodriguez, The Concrete River, Curbstone Press, 1995.