Francisco X. Alarcón

cantfindit

Chicano poet and educator Francisco Xavier Alarcón was born in Wilmington, California, on February 21, 1954. During his childhood, Alarcón straddled the line between cultures, spending time living with his parents outside of Los Angeles and his other relatives in Guadalajara, Mexico. This diverse upbringing would significantly influence Alarcón’s work, leading him to become, as he says, a “binational, bicultural, and a bilingual writer.”  Alarcón has published numerous poetry collections, including Canto hondo/Deep Song (University of Arizona Press, 2015), and Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems/Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas (Poetic Matrix Press, 2014). An advocate of bilingual education and using poetry as a tool of empowerment, knowledge, and understanding, Alarcón has published several Spanish language instruction textbooks and written a number of award-winning, bilingual poetry books for children. His honors include the 1993 American Book Award, Carlos Pellicer-Robert Frost Poetry Honor Award, Chicano Literary Prize, Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 1993 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Alarcón was a lecturer of Spanish and the director of the Spanish for Native Speakers program at the University of California, Davis. He died on January 15, 2016. Source

In a Neighborhood in Los Angeles

translated by Francisco Aragón

 

I learned

Spanish

from my grandma

 

mijito

don’t cry

she’d tell me

 

on the mornings

my parents

would leave

 

to work

at the fish

canneries

 

my grandma

would chat

with chairs

 

sing them

old

songs

 

dance

waltzes with them

in the kitchen

 

when she’d say

niño barrigón

she’d laugh

 

with my grandma

I learned

to count clouds

 

to recognize

mint leaves

in flowerpots

 

my grandma

wore moons

on her dress

 

Mexico’s mountains

deserts

ocean

 

in her eyes

I’d see them

in her braids

 

I’d touch them

in her voice

smell them

 

one day

I was told:

she went far away

 

but still

I feel her

with me

 

whispering

in my ear:

 

mijito

Published:

2002

Length:

Regular

Literary Movements:

Contemporary

Anthology Years:

2022

Themes:

Bilingual

Death & Loss

Family

Literary Devices:

Enjambment

a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line

Metaphor

a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic

Tercet

A stanza of three lines of verse that rhyme together or are connected by rhyme with an adjacent stanza.