Other notable works by Marcelo Xavier Trillo and Jason Yurcic.
Jimmy Santiago Baca–
from C-Train (Dream Boy’s Story)
piano keys move by themselves
lamps shake by themselves
voices quake with laughter
down empty hallways-
my mind blinded by white light.
I wanted the taste of darkness
on my tongue,
and the dark rage of desperation
to clothe me.
I threw my soul on the table
like a jack of spades,
and said, Let’s play.
My days were a stack of white chips
and my nights a stack of black chips.
when you came in your leather coat,
camera bag slung over your shoulder,
curly black hair,
and moons below your eyes
from sleepless cocaine nights,
you threw ounces on the table and said, Let’s play.
It was just a game
and months later, looking out my window
at night, I wondered what had happened to me.
My bones had become black sticks
and my soul white ashes. With each gray breath
into the cold October night,
like the aftermath of a city burned to the ground.
I growled and gnawed at myself
in a world of charred horizons,
smoldering skies, and embering trees.
I blinded my eyes,
numbed my touch,
deafened myself to a still afternoon
with green umbrellas of trees,
lost scent of the morning-watered gardens.
I became a brute with a heavy goblet
slurring obscenities in whore dens,
burying my senses in white sand,
my eyes two jaded laid in the grave.
In the sweet darkness of my soul
cocaine fell like a Christmas snowfall,
and in a countless apartments I rose
from soiled beds and opened the curtains
to see death outside.
from Thirteen Mexicans
When Father’s ring
was passed down to me, I slipped it over my finger-
turquoise stone bordered by silver.
I was now conscious of my hand. At stoplights,
or waiting for a friend in a cafe, or off writing by
myself, I studied the landscape of the ring:
The center of the stone ridged with an arroyo,
and white waving lines as if autumn geese
flew in the blue stone.
I thought of the turquoise mines near Magdalena,
and the squat bronzed-face Apache Mejicano miner
who picked the stone. And the mountain that had formed
the stone into a blue raindrop
during the rains of universal beginning,
when all things were given faces and voices,
shaping the ring
into an epic:
clanks of iron cars’ wheels, picks and shovels
clanged against rocks, I heard
hidden within the stone
passed down generation
I’ve taken risks
starting as a kid
when I stole choir uniforms
from an Episcopalian church
so I’d have something to keep me warm that winter;
striding in six layers of robes through the streets
I looked like a biblical prophet.
When you turned up the ace you kissed the card
and when the joker scoffed at you
you were led away by authorities.
Second chances were for jive-time
It was beautiful,
in a way, to see us kids at seven and eight years old
standing before purple-faced authorities
screaming for us to ask forgiveness,
how irresponsible we were, how impudent and defiant,
and that same night
in the dark all alone, we wept in our blankets
for someone to love–but we never asked for second chances.
All works reprinted with permission from the author. C-Train and Thirteen Mexicans, Grove Press, 2002.
Jimmy Santiago Baca, born in New Mexico of Indio-Mexican descent, Jimmy Santiago Baca was raised first by his grandmother and later sent to an orphanage. A runaway at age 13, it was after Baca was sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison that he began to turn his life around: he learned to read and write and unearthed a voracious passion for poetry. During a fateful conflict with another inmate, Jimmy was shaken by the voices of Neruda and Lorca, and made a choice that would alter his destiny. Instead of becoming a hardened criminal, he emerged from prison a writer.
He is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award, the International Hispanic Heritage Award and for his memoir A Place to Stand the prestigious International Award. In 2006 he won the Cornelius P. Turner Award.
Baca has devoted his post-prison life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship.
Marcelo Xavier Trillo-
Someone can take a razor and make a deep incision from my wrist to my
armpit. There will be a faint tickle deep inside my chest, the outer edge
of my head will ring with pain as fast as a shotgun blast, then my mind
will be the clearest it’s ever been and more confused then thinkable.
I will place myself at the torture of the razor blade if I can have
my cousin back. He is the twin I never had; I get along with him more so
then my own blood brothers. We speak the same language.
But recently his language is of more suffering then I can stand to
listen to. His pain tickles my neck hair. I feel bad for pitying him and
feeling sorry for him at the same time. I could easily kill whoever makes
It’s never that easy for me.
How can you kill a drug that enslaves a person’s brain,
institutionalizes his mind and leaves his body an empty shell? I remember
when life ran through that body-dreams and feeling.
I remember when he would talk about playing baseball and we would
play basketball; shirts and brown skins we would call it. He was always
I tried talking to him. Now I know not to waste my breath. I will walk
with him but always wonder when I’ll be standing over him?
I was told to keep quiet about the addiction, so right now he’s not
the only one carrying his cross. And I’m the one that help feed that life.
Across the River I Wait
I’m in my car thinking, trying to find answers to problems. Why? Why
is it when I cross the Missouri river it’s like going to a different
Country? On the calm side, what many refer to as God’s country, I see new
roads, people at clubs without security, nice cars and few police.
When I cross the river I see many people walking the streets, Police
hovering like they are white blood cells fighting off infection. I go to
Kansas Avenue where the ese’s hang. I don’t have my gun on me like I used
to, even though I get cold stares.
I drive by the worst spots in Kansas City. Quindaro and Indepence
Ave. The areas where there is razor wire on the tops of Iron Gate fences of
area stores. And grass growing longer than knee-high and trash everywhere.
There are also many factories in these poor areas polluting our raza. I
guess the factory owners see Mexicans as people that have no voice, that
don’t count, that won’t stand up.
I have an urge to get lost, lose my car and just walk with my people,
fight with them. What am I doing here? Living in the suburbs when the war
is across the river?
Is this education really preparing me for something great? I don’t feel it.
I don’t feel any different than when I was living on the other side.
I am aware of what’s going on but just being able to open my eyes makes me
want to turn back to what I was before. And train my carnales to be
smarter. I know it’s not right. The life of crime won’t work anymore. And
the drugs would just cloud my vision.
And still I wait across the river…
Marcelo Xavier Trillo: I almost got murdered in Kansas, was saved by a gang, joined the gang, and later led the gang. My gang life ranged from the age of 15 to 20 yrs. old. I left and moved to Kansas City. I was surprisingly hired as a patrol officer; I worked there for two years, witnessed countless cases of police brutality and went to the Internal Affairs dept. When I noticed I had no voice, I decided to go to college.
An article about Trillo’s stay at Wind River Ranch.
A POEM FOR ME…
has never been about beautiful words
never been about pleasing
appeasing people with my intellect
or grand strokes with this pen
a poem for me
has been about the blood and guts of my life
has been like watching for the first time
a video of and Al Qida operative
sawing off someone’s head
and each poem changes me somehow
with that same errie skin crawling feeling
when the decapitated head is placed
on the back of the victim
while men stomp around in the sacred fluid of life
and yell about how great their god is
a poem for me
is like that
is like that first time i gutted a deer
in a forest covered with ice
when i split open its steaming belly
reached my cold hand in
to touch the faintly beating heart
at first repulsed when it beat in my hand
but then i began a ceremony in its honor
holding it up in all four directions
thanking the mountain
for its gift unto me
a poem for me
is like that
like the warm blood
streaking down my arm that day
as i held that heart
and later buried it in the frost line
with each poem
i take this heart
hold it to the sun
along with the hearts of all who have died
a young death
wait for the warmth of words to bathe it
and defrost this ice chamber
wait for the words to show me
cannot kill a heart
they may slay me
but with each poem
i awaken the dead
place it here
in the alter of my words
and give them my voice
my pen to write
a poem for me…
i love race cars
and i guess i’ve always been a race car driver
racing towards the light
this body is my ride
sometimes i clean it
wipe it down
change the oil
tune it up
give it the best gas money can buy
and i run full throttle
over my barriers
turn hard into the banked corners
of this crocked road of my life
i keep my foot down on the accelerator
work the brake with the other foot
race to complete this person i am becoming
race against myself
and sometimes i let it go
splash it through the mud puddles of this life
let the tires run flat
the paint fade
let the darkness
when i get tired at 4am
and i want to stop reading and writing
i push harder
try to shove my foot through the floor board
race for the dream
i can’t wait to become the man standing at the finish line
raising the checkered flag of my heart
waving it at a cheering crowd of my former selves
behind a fence
who take pictures to rememeber me a winner
i love race cars
i can’t wait to love myself…
Jason Yurcic was born in New Mexico while his father was in prison. Soon after release, his father was brutally murdered in a street fight.
Spending his childhood at his grandfather’s junkyard and armed with street smarts, Yurcic survived a tumultuous, lonely childhood to face a 16-year jail sentence. A professional boxer at 23, he became disillusioned with violence. He met poet Jimmy Santiago Baca who mentored him on how to express himself through writing. Jason now conducts workshops for prisons, schools and colleges.
Voice of my Heart, a collection of poems and prose is available at amazon.
All works copyrighted by the respected authors.