Luis Rodriguez is one of my heroes. I met him in Chicago years ago and we instantly and passionately talked books, poetry and life. In 2001, at the closing of the Mosaic Multicultural Conference in the redwoods near Mendocino, Luis uttered a simple sentence that changed my life: "The world needs more poetry." I took him seriously and more than ten years later Power of Poetry is thriving.
Luis grew up in the barrio of L.A. and became entangled in La Vida Loca, the crazy life of gangs, drugs and violence. His magnificent new memoir, It Calls You Back, tells the story of how he disengaged from the insanity and through difficult struggle, became a prominent poet, writer of fiction, journalist and social activist. Luis was named as one of the world's 50 unsung heroes of compassion by the Dalai Lama. His warmth, honesty and passion permeate all that he does. With his wife, Trini, he opened Tia Chucha Cafe Cultural in the San Fernando Valley, an oasis of art, music and the spoken and written word.
My wife Trini loves chuparosas.
One often comes to her, praise in its wings,
Sister to sister, as Trini walks up to the red
Bloom in the bushes and it hovers
In silent recognition of bird
And this flower called woman.
A chuparosa once got caught below the window awning.
It moved end to end, fear in its flutter,
As I watched it try to escape.
Unable to do anything, I directed its path
With my eyes. For a moment, it was Trini held,
In the paralyzing mud/mode she often falls into.
I knew the bird would find a way out
As Trini always does, drawing on her
Intensity of decency that scares
Most people whose decency
Is mostly a burden below thin veil.
In the chuparosa's work—nectar seeker
And midwife to all blossoms
I see Trini. In another life, they
Are mother and daughter,
Feed to all color and sweet nature.
There's dance and grace
In their motion, suspended around
The ugly hard things
Like gnarled tree—or me—
Struggling with mountains to persist.