by Alberto Rios
Submitted by Jane Nickodem
You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen— You are a hundred wild centuries And fifteen, bringing with you In every breath and in every step Everyone who has come before you, All the yous that you have been, The mothers of your mother, The fathers of your father. If someone in your family tree was trouble, A hundred were not: The bad do not win—not finally, No matter how loud they are. We simply would not be here If that were so. You are made, fundamentally, from the good. With this knowledge, you never march alone. You are the breaking news of the century. You are the good who has come forward Through it all, even if so many days Feel otherwise. But think: When you as a child learned to speak, It’s not that you didn’t know words— It’s that, from the centuries, you knew so many, And it’s hard to choose the words that will be your own. From those centuries we human beings bring with us The simple solutions and songs, The river bridges and star charts and song harmonies All in service to a simple idea: That we can make a house called tomorrow. What we bring, finally, into the new day, every day, Is ourselves. And that’s all we need To start. That’s everything we require to keep going. Look back only for as long as you must, Then go forward into the history you will make. Be good, then better. Write books. Cure disease. Make us proud. Make yourself proud. And those who came before you? When you hear thunder, Hear it as their applause.
Published with permission of the author.
Alberto Rios is the author of seven books and chapbooks of poetry, and three collections of short stories. Rios has won numerous awards, including the Walt Whitman Award, the Western States Book Award for fiction and has served as the Poet Laurette for the state of Arizona.