Poem for the Grantmakers

Gwendolyn Zepeda

We used to go on journeys. A mile’s walk would end in
green swamps of the bayou, or among its cemeteries’ angels.
Another mile would get our little legs to blue downtown.
Its silver glass, pink granite, gray marble.
The building full of books that they would let us see and touch.
The copper fountains raining copper pennies.
Occasional stages with music, with dancers.
And mazes underground we could explore
alongside well dressed people just like you.
And maybe you were there?

We journeyed farther. Learned numbers and names of buses that
carried us past where we could walk. Learned the landmarks:
The sculpture like an abstract red Mickey Mouse.
The giant wood puppy in the pines.
The soldier named Houston who rides above the hill.

We pulled the cords that rang the bells that
opened the bus’s doors to improbable scenes.
Mansions with rooms high as ten of us
containing treasures barely watched by placid guards.
Palaces where young people lounged in cool air and
read all day or played guitars.
The walls were etched with names I never read.
And maybe yours was one of them?

We rode back home, or walked. Watched colors
fade from green/glass/water
to dirt, to gravel, to rotten wood.
Returned to the heat pushed by
box fans in windows. Returned to the cold. Left
harps and violas behind, re-submerged in the
noises of our neighbors. Sad babies,
mad roosters, and the nightclub on the corner.

At night I continued my journeys. Revisited colors.
Dreamed of grand statues and intricate
architecture. Imagined myself traveling further.

I’m looking at you now. And we might talk over
red wine tonight. Have witty conversations. We’ll
ride home in cars to green grass, polished wood. And
maybe forget each other’s names, but that’s all right.
Our lives are good.

My journey’s been scenic, had a happy destination.
So forget me. Think only of the child that I used to be —
of her brothers and sisters, some not even born yet.
The ones who won’t meet you downtown. The ones who
might never read your name.

Remember your place in their journeys. You’re the
one who rides forward and forges the path.

The poem was read by Zepeda at the 2014 GIA conference  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=406E6gA2GVM).