Ms. Read: Sexual Assault is on this horror of a list too! Oh, the irony!
A man caught on video bragging about sexual assault before the election, still becomes the President of the U.S.A and now we get to watch him celebrate as he makes sexual assault a preexisting condition?!
News: French presidential elections.
Ms. Read: Are we really about to see another fascist, racist, Russian puppet leader rule France?
News: North Korea’s latest allegations.
Ms. Read: Are the US and North Korea really going to go to Nuclear war??
News: Delta Airlines.
Ms. Read: Wow, that dad really kept his cool. Where are the people speaking up, helping him out? Why does it seem everyone is just passively observing? If I was on that plane…
A quick glimpse at the news and Ms. Read’s spiraling thoughts finally turn to
“Blood on the Wheel,” by Juan Felipe Herrera’s
This unrestrained protest poem, published in 1999, about the injustices in America and the world feels as if it could have been written this morning. It evokes the same outrage in the daily headlines. Herrera, America’s first Latino Poet Laureate, a descendent of Mexican migrant workers, takes this poem beyond the Chicano life in California to humanity. There are no borders placed on subject or style, just a thread of the word “blood” holding the poem together.
Just take that word blood and sit with it a moment. Then make a rapid fire of list of all the meanings this word holds. Here’s an abbreviated version of mine:
Crime, guilt, sin, tragedy, sex, passion, hard work, family, life-saving, humanity.
Then the phrases come— “caught red handed” meaning I committed the crime. I am found out because I have “blood on my hands.”
This is the idea, I feel, the speaker is trying to make the reader realize through repeating “blood” at the start of the majority of lines. We all have blood on our hands.
This poetic form of “anaphora” used here keeps the reader at, even when realism lends itself to surrealism, full attention. The message of this poem yearns for our connection, whoever we may be. We need to realize we all bleed. Blood connects us all. Just as this poem is held together, so are we connected. Life, just as a wheel, is cyclical. The idea of Fortune's wheel (Wheel of Fortune, Rota Fortunae) originating with the classical philosophers, is a symbol of the unpredictable nature of Fate. The goddess Fortuna spins it at random, changing the positions. Some on the wheel suffer great misfortune, and the others gain great rewards.
“Could this be yours? Could this item belong to you?
Could this ticket be what you ordered, could it?"
These are some of the few lines in the poem that do not start with blood. They question us.
This couplet is the second to last stanza in this weighty, textured poem coming after the naming of all the misfortune: crime, destruction, pollution, injustice, racism, sexism, rape culture, fear mongering, capitalism, ignorance and more (unfortunately so much more).
We should realize by now how our outrage gains no reward if we are just going to sit by idly. By the time we get to these lines, we should realize we are all culpable by our sheer participation in society—buying
"Blood in the tin, in the coffee bean, in the maquila oración"
and just being.
"Blood on the couch, made for viewing automobiles & face cream"
We are the crowd who sit passively by--the observers gaining no rewards.
But, Herrera does leave us with hope. He has not given up on us completely. He knows that by the end of this poem that if we understand what is wrong, we can work together to make it better. But it has to be urgent. It has to happen as rapidly as he has fired at us. His ending to the poem is our call to action: “Blood be fast”
So read the poem and get to work. I will be doing the same.