By Robert Rivard

Carmen Tafolla, San Antonio’s first poet laureate, was on the job a little more than a month when she was called on to do why poet laureate’s do: compose and recite a “public poem.” Her poem “DO IT,” which she read Saturday morning at the TriPoint YMCA before an audience of several hundred people, appears below. The poem starts softly, then builds force and velocity as it progresses, exactly the aim of SA2020 on its near-decade long trajectory into the future. Tafolla read it clearly and forcefully, standing behind a podium. The ancient Greek in me wishes she had been standing alone on stage, with a microphone as the only concession to modernity.

Tafolla is a prolific writer, lecturer and educator. She’s held numbers faculty positions at different universities and is both a senior lecturer and writer-in-residence at UTSA. She’s published six volumes of poetry, eight children’s books, a collection of short stories, and now is at work on a biography of San Antonio labor activist Emma Tenayuca. You can peruse and buy her work here. Tafolla’s own impressive rise from San Antonio’s Westside barrio is an inspiring story in itself and makes her an ideal choice as the city’s first poet laureate in a time when creating equal education opportunities for inner city students is key to San Antonio achieving its potential as a great American city.

Mayor Julián Castro quoted the Athenian poet Plato in his own remarks yesterday, so it’s worth noting that the honor of poet laureate harkens back to the early Greeks and recalls the mythic image of Apollo wearing a laurel wreath, and such laurels later being awarded to great poets and athletes alike.  Now there’s an idea: Accord our poets the same respect we give athletes. I am unaware of an actual laurel being presented to Tafolla, but if the City were to commission such a physical representation of the office, who better to create it, perhaps, than Gini Garcia?

Here is San Antonio Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla and her first official poem. Please share it.

Dr. Carmen Tafolla
Dr. Carmen Tafolla

DO IT

                                                                          May, 2012, San Antonio

a whisper of algo posible

a breath of dream

a shadow of vision

a twilit profile

of some possible future

Could we visualize?

Could we even

hope?

Could we put into daring words

our unborn yearnings

our unwritten goals

pale sprouts of wishes

not yet rooted enough

to have claimed their soil?

The meetings were set

for a building so large

we feared it would be half-empty

But the people came

and they came

and they came

arriving eagerly in cars and on bikes

in wheelchairs and on foot

by bus and by word of mouth

till the building overflowed

and a second space was needed,

absorbed the filling to the brim

Where CEOs met Homeless,

both passionate about the yearnings of their souls

and the beauty of their goals

Educators and Information Specialists

Environmentalists and Engineers

Historical Preservers and Advocates for Health

Parents of Young Children, Senior Citizens

Artists, Office Workers, Road Builders, Civil Rights Defenders

Guardians carving a sacred protection

gently, bravely, insisting on the possible

“PLEASE build everything Green, or not at all,” they said,

“Education is the Key that opens ALL the doors,” they said

“Fearless Innovation,” they said

“More Parks”, “Better Roads”

“Protect the People”

“Build it, Dream It, See it –

Big.

Clean.

Smart.”

Our pleas and plans waited  —

breathless,  carefully anointed.

Where Art students displayed their painted treasures

and the community college Jazz Band teased our ears, our lives

Where Travis High students wore placards that shouted

“Ask me about MY College Plans”

and a chanting chorus of 5th graders

performed the power of multiplication.

Where the homeless made the sandwiches for the meeting

Where the dreamers scribbled the questions for the next agenda

and the next

and the next

for a year of Dream It, Map It,

Dream It, Map It

*          *          *          *

Now the seed of an idea grows tall,

the sweep of its cool shade consuming us

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The dreaming, the mapping

become something we can ALMOST touch…

a passion stirs us

a possibility

a new surge of hope

From so many divergent paths

these people, the people of our pueblo

joined only by a vision

for a new world

one city, one family, many colors, many chords

Each meeting –a bold step forward on the path,

a new note in this symphony

of voices

all whispering, murmuring, drumming, shouting,

pulsing from their veins

the common, unspoken prayer

Just Do it

Do it

Do-o-o-o

It-t-t-t

Make It Come–brick by brick, stone by stone, law by law

life by life,

doors opening wide like the sunrise,

opening our eyes till at last, we see

what we CAN touch

what we WILL

reach.

–       Poem by Carmen Tafolla,

      Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor and publisher of the Rivard Report.