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 Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2)

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Victor D. Lopez
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Victor D. Lopez

Number of posts : 984
Registration date : 2012-02-01
Location : New York

Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) Empty
PostSubject: Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2)   Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) EmptyThu Feb 02, 2012 11:12 pm

Although I stand on the shoulders of giants,
I fail to see much farther than the bridge of my nose.
The fault in mine. The shame is mine.
For I am unworthy of you, my beloved dead.

Emilio (Maternal Grandfather)

Your crime was literacy,
And the possession of a social conscience,
That made you yearn to see your beloved Spain remain free,
And prevented you from suffering fascists lightly.

You did not bear arms,
For you abhorred all violence,
You did not incite rebellion, though you
Rebelled against the foreign and domestic enemies of freedom.

As best I can tell you were an idealist who,
In a time of darkness,
Clung passionately to the belief,
In the perfectibility of the human spirit.

You would not abide the lies the regional papers carried,
And translated news from American and British newspapers,
About the gathering storm,
Sharing the truth freely with all who would listen.

You gave speeches, and wrote speeches delivered by others, in support of a doomed
Republic collapsing under the weight of its own incompetence and corruption.
You were warned by friends of your imminent arrest and offered passage back to the
U.S. or to Buenos Aires where so many of your friends had already found refuge.

But they would not get your wife and nine children out,
And you refused to leave them to their fate.
They came for you, as always, in the middle of the night,
Those cowards with stern faces hiding behind machine guns.

They took you prisoner, not for the first time, to the Castillo de San Antón,
A fortress by a most beautiful, tranquil bay,
Where they tore out your nails, one by one, and that their
Gentlest caress, while they asked you for names.

You endured, God knows what else there, for months,
And were sentenced to be shot as a traitor at La Plaza de María Pita.
But the Republic had friends, even among the officers of the fascist forces,
And one of them opened your cell door on the eve of your execution.

You had contracted tuberculosis by then, yet, according to grandmother, you
Managed to swim miles across the bay in a moonless night, to safety in the home
Of another patriot who risked his life and the lives of his family to hide you in
His cellar and made a trip of many miles on foot to find your wife.

He found your home and told your wife of your unexpected reprieve,
And asked her to send some clothing and some shoes to replace your dirty rags.
You eldest daughter, Maria, insisted in accompanying the stranger back on foot,
Taking clothing and what provisions she could quickly gather and carry to you.

From time to time you accepted the hospitality of an overnight stay
In the attic or hay loft of a Republican sympathizer as these were not hard to
Find in the fiercely independent Galicia under the yoke of one of its own.
But mostly you lived in the woods, with active guerrillas for years.

You lived with all the comforts of a hunted animal with others who would not yield,
Whose greatest crime consisted of being on the wrong side of a lost cause.
I hope it brought you some comfort to know you were on the right side of history.
It brought none to your wife and none to your youngest children.

As you paid your long penance for your conscience, once a month or so, after some
Time passed, you visited your wife and children. You were introduced to the little ones as
An uncle from afar. They did not know the bearded wild man who paid these visits in the
Middle of the night and left wearing dad’s old, clean clothes long before the dawn.

The older ones, Maria, Josefa, Juan and Toñita, all in their teens, told the little
Ones that their “uncle” brought news of their dad. The younger children, still
Wearing the frayed cloaks of their innocence, accepted this, not questioning why
He stayed in mom’s room all night and was always gone before they awoke.

Your unimaginable grief at playing a stranger in your own home, of not embracing your
Children on whom you doted, one and all, for their protection and yours, as there
Were no shortage of fascists who tried to ply them with pastries and candy,
At a time of hunger, seeking to use their innocence as a weapon against you.

Your parents were relatively wealthy business owners who farmed the sea but
Disowned you—perhaps for your politics, perhaps for choosing to emigrate and
Refusing to join the family business, or perhaps for marrying for love in
New York City a hard working girl beneath your social station in their eyes.

You lived just long enough to see Spain delivered from war,
Though not freed of its chains.
You were spared the war’s aftermath.
Your wife and children were not.

No books record your name. Most of those who knew you are dead.
Yet flowers have long perpetually appeared on your simple above-ground burial
Site in Sada that holds your ashes, and those of your eldest son, Juan, and
Second-Eldest daughter, Toñita, who died much younger than even you.

Your wife has joined you there, in a place where
Honor, goodness, decency, principle and a pure,
Broken heart,
Now rest in peace.

Remedios (Maternal Grandmother)

Your husband died at 40, leaving you to raise nine children alone.
But not before your eldest, hardest working son, Juan, had
Drowned at sea in his late teens while working as a fisherman to help
You and your husband put food on the table.

You lost a daughter, too,
Toñita, also in her early teens, to illness.
Their kind, pure souls found
Their way back home much too soon.

Later in life you would lose two more sons to tragedy, Paco (Francisco),
An honest, hard working man whose purposeful penchant for shocking
Language belied a most gentle nature and a generous heart. He was electrocuted
By a faulty portable light while working around his pool.

And the apple of your eye, Sito (José), your last born and most loving son, who
Had inherited his father’s exceptional looks, social conscience, left of center
Politics, imposing presence, silver tongue, and bad, bad luck, died, falling
Under the wheels of a moving train, perhaps accidentally.

In a time of hopelessness and poverty, you would not be broken.
You rose every day hours before the dawn to sell fish at a stand.
And every afternoon you placed a huge wicker basket on your head and
Walked many, many miles to sell even more fish in other towns.

Money was tight, so you often took bartered goods in
Exchange for your fish, giving some to those most in need,
Who could trade nothing in return but their
Blessings and their gratitude.

You walked back home, late at night, through darkness or
Moonlit roads, carrying vegetables, eggs, and perhaps a
Rabbit or chicken in a large wicker basket on your strong head,
Walking straight, on varicose-veined legs, driven on by a sense of purpose.

During the worst famine during and after the Civil War, the chimney of your
Rented home overlooking the Port of Fontan, spewed forth black smoke every Day.
Your hearth fire burned to feed not just your children, but also your less
Fortunate neighbors, nourishing their bodies and their need for hope.

You were criticized by some when the worst had passed, after the war.
“Why work so hard, Remedios, and allow your young children to go to work
At too young an age? You sacrifice them and yourself for stupid pride when
Franco and foreign food aid provide free meals for the needy.”

“My children will never live off charity as long as my back is strong” was your
Reply. You resented your husband for putting politics above family and
Dragging you and your two daughters, from your safe, comfortable home at
Number 10 Perry Street near the Village to a Galicia without hope.

He chose to tilt at windmills, to the eternal glory of other foolish men,
And left you to fight the real, inglorious daily battle for survival alone.
Struggling with a bad heart, he worked diligently to promote a better, more just
Future while largely ignoring the practical reality of your painful present.

He filled you with children and built himself the cross upon which he was
Crucified, one word at a time, leaving you to pick up the pieces of his shattered
Idealism. But you survived, and thrived, without sacrificing your own strong
Principles or allowing your children to know hardships other than those of honest work.

And you never lost your sense of humor. You never took anything or
Anyone too seriously. When faced with the absurdity of life,
You chose to smile or laugh out loud. I saw you shed many tears of laughter,
But not once tears of pain, sorrow or regret. You would never be a victim.

You loved people. Yours was an irreverent sense of humor, full of gentle irony,
And wisdom. You loved to laugh at yourself and at others, especially pompous
Fools who often missed your great amusement at their expense, failing to grasp
Your dismissal, delivered always with a smile, a gentle voice and sparkling eyes.

Your cataracts and near sightedness made it difficult for you to read,
But you read voraciously nonetheless, and loved to write long letters to loved ones
And friends. You were a wise old woman, the wisest and strongest I will ever
Know, but one with the heart of a child and the soul of an angel.

You were the most sane, most rational, most well adjusted human being
I have ever known. You were mischievous, but incapable of malice.
You were adventurous, never afraid to try or to learn anything new.
You were fun-loving, interesting, kind, rambunctious, funny and smart as hell.

You would have been an early adopter of all modern technology, had you lived
Long enough, and would have loved playing—and working—with all of my electronic toys.
You would have been a terror with a word processor, email, and social media and would
Have loved my video games—and beaten me at every one of them.

We were great friends and playmates throughout most of my childhood.  You followed
Us here soon after we immigrated in 1967, leaving behind 20 other
Grandchildren. I never understood the full measure of that sacrifice, or the love that made it
Bearable for you. I do now. Too late. It is one of the greatest regrets of my life.

We played board games, cowboys and Indians, raced electric cars, flipped
Baseball cards and played thousands of hands of cards together. It never
Occurred to me that you were the least bit unusual in any way. I loved you
Dearly but never went far out of my way to show it. That too, I learned too late.

After moving to Buenos Aires, when mom had earned enough money to take
You and her younger brothers there, the quota system then in place made it
Impossible to send for your two youngest children, whose care you entrusted
Temporarily to your eldest married daughter, Maria.

You wanted them with you. Knowing no better, you went to see Evita Peron for Help.
Unsurprisingly, you could not get through her gatekeepers.  But you were
Nothing if not persistent. You knew she left early every morning for her office.
And you parked yourself there at 6:00 a.m., for many, many days by her driveway.  

Eventually, she had her driver stop and motioned for you to approach.
“Grandmother, why do you wave at me every morning when I leave for work?”
She asked. You explained about your children in Spain. She took pity and
Scribbled a pass on her card to admit you to her office the next day.

You met her there and she assured you that a visa would be forthcoming;
When she learned that you made a living by cleaning homes and washing Clothing,
She offered you a sewing machine and training to become a Seamstress.
You thanked her but declined the offer.

“Give the sewing machine to another mother with no trade. My strong back and
Hands serve me well enough and I do just fine, as I have always done.”Evita must
Have been impressed for she asked you to see her yet again when the children had arrived in
Buenos Aires, giving you another pass. You said you would.

You kept your word, as always. And Evita granted you another brief audience,
Met your two youngest sons (José and Emilio) and shared hot chocolate and
Biscuits with the three of you. You disliked and always criticized Peron and the
Peronistas,  But you never forgot Evita’s kindness and defended her all your life.

You were gone too quickly. I had not said “I love” you in years. I was too busy,
With school and other equally meaningless things to keep in touch. You
Passed away without my being there. Mom had to travel by herself to your
Bedside for an extended stay. The last time I wrote you I had sent you a picture.

It was from my law school graduation.
You carried it in your coat pocket before the stroke.
As always, you loved me, with all of my faults that made me
Unworthy of your love.

I knew the moment that you died. I awoke from a deep sleep to see a huge
White bird of human size atop my desk across from my bed. It opened huge
Wings and flew towards me and passed through me as I shuddered.
I knew then that you were gone. I cried, and prayed for you.

Mom called early the next day with the news that you had passed. She also
Told me much, much later that you had been in a coma for some time but that
You awoke, turned to her without recognizing her, and told her that you were
Going to visit your grandson in New York. Then you fell asleep one last time.

I miss you every day.

From Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems (C) 2011 Victor D. Lopez (Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace

Last edited by Victor D. Lopez on Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:40 am; edited 2 times in total
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Number of posts : 9633
Registration date : 2008-12-05
Age : 76
Location : San Antonio

Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2)   Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) EmptyFri Feb 03, 2012 2:42 am

I like your work. The "Ode to Innocence" has a Wordsworthian quality that is just right for the content and theme.

"Unsung Heroes" is clearly your own style, unique, and very fluid, and also fitting your reflections on you grandparents lives.

I will have to check out the collection, very soon.


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Victor D. Lopez
Four Star Member
Four Star Member
Victor D. Lopez

Number of posts : 984
Registration date : 2012-02-01
Location : New York

Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2)   Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) EmptyFri Feb 03, 2012 7:51 am

Thank you very much for the kind words, Ann.

I wrote Ode to Innocence in my late teens. I am touched that you would find a Wordsworthian quality to it, with due apologies to my favorite poet laureate. I smile in thinking about a question asked of me by a provost many years ago during a job interview about the book that most influenced my life and my response after a very brief pause of "Wordsworth's Intimation of Immortality." It was I'm sure an unusual response, especially for someone interviewing for a legal studies position, but it was the truth.

I don't write poetry as often as I once did. Perhaps there is not pain or joy enough to fuel those flames, or perhaps I am afraid of being brought even closer to the brink of a precipice. But there is more of me in my little book of poems than in all the textbooks, scholarly articles and other books I have written or will ever write.

Thanks again for your kind words. I'll post some more sample poems in the coming days.

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Number of posts : 8594
Registration date : 2008-12-29
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2)   Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) EmptyFri Feb 03, 2012 8:06 am

I have lost my taste for poetry over the years; not sure why. Sometimes a line or two will catch my attention; but I prefer prose with a poetic use of words. Your poetry reminds me of poetic prose.
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Victor D. Lopez
Four Star Member
Four Star Member
Victor D. Lopez

Number of posts : 984
Registration date : 2012-02-01
Location : New York

Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2)   Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) EmptyFri Feb 03, 2012 9:44 am

Thank you, D.K.

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Victor D. Lopez
Four Star Member
Four Star Member
Victor D. Lopez

Number of posts : 984
Registration date : 2012-02-01
Location : New York

Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) Empty
PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2)   Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) EmptySun Jun 16, 2013 1:52 pm

Here were the original excerpts (1&2) to my longest poem, Unsung Heroes, posted some time back. I'm responding just to keep the whole thing together for the day on the off chance someone might actually care to see the whole thing.  Just me, dreaming again . . . .Rolling Eyes
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PostSubject: Re: Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2)   Unsung Heroes (excerpts 1 and 2) Empty

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