The Sunday Poem: Richard Vargas... milagro #14, for Joy

From the poet:

"The milagro series is my attempt to bring some quiet into the perpetual cacophony of social, political, and economic injustice that confronts me every day. Anyone who is taking a stand, confronting these issues head on, knows what I'm talking about. You struggle to not lose your center, the essence that is you. The trick is to not become what you are fighting against. Once the poisons of bitterness and cynicism take over, then art ceases to exist. And when that happens, we are lost. I realized I had to start looking around me, rediscover the wonders and small "miracles" that are taking place around me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I found them happening right outside my door, in the garden that my girlfriend initiated last Spring. Here is where I have learned to re-focus on what is truly important in the world. I wake up every day knowing I am responsible for a minute piece of dirt on this planet, that the life growing there is dependent on me to thrive and produce. I sit and watch the tiny pieces of a small ecosystem interact with each other, knowing that the same things I observe on my little plot of dirt are happening all over the rest of the planet. When a poet sharpens the ability to quiet the mind, pay attention and observe, his/her work takes one more step closer to Truth. The difference it is making in my life is beyond words... it is sacred. I can face the ugliness of the world we've created with a new perspective."


milagro #14, for Joy

“It’s true the landscape forms the mind. If I stand here long
 enough I’ll learn how to sing.” Joy Harjo, Secrets from the Center of the World

after watering the garden
in the late afternoon
i pick out a cigar and
an ashtray and pour
cognac into a small
brandy snifter
i select a book of
poetry bought earlier
in the day to read
while sitting outside

where i light up
blow clouds of smoke
rising up into the air
watch desert spirits
take shape
then vanish

lifting the glass to my mouth
the liquor’s rich flavors
soak my tongue with
the taste of  vineyards
from a faraway land
as strong vapors tinted
with the essence of oak trees
tickle my nose before
i swallow its liquid

i read poetry written by
a wise and gentle warrior
(she once scolded me
for stepping on a red ant
that was headed for my
sandaled feet)
her words make me forget
the pains of my past
the uncertainty of
my future

it is a dream state
as i look around me
surrounded by my garden
i can hear the focused buzz of
bees gathering that last
bit of pollen before
the sun sets
and on the ground
by my feet is a growing
melon the size of
a baseball gathering
girth and circumference
like a small planet
being born

reading a poem aloud,
the garden and i
sing together
with one

--Richard Vargas

Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 252

Comment by Margaret Randall on July 8, 2012 at 8:33am

"The trick is to not become what you are fighting against." That's a big challenge. The current state of the nation and the world evoke so much rage, sometimes it's really hard to avoid being poisoned by it. At least that's my experience. This poem is a perfect answer to that dilemma. Vargas zeros in on the focused buzz of bees gathering that last bit of pollen and a growing melon the size of a baseball gathering girth at his feet. The poem draws the reader into a reality we overlook at our loss and peril. I think Vargas is one of our very best poets. I always welcome his work, and this one speaks to me especially. Thank you!

Comment by Dee Cohen on July 8, 2012 at 9:08am

Really enjoyed this. Sometimes the smallest moments make the biggest impact, personally & politically. Happy to read this peaceful poem on a nice Sunday morning. Dee

Comment by JeSais on July 8, 2012 at 11:58am

I love the idea of this milagro series.  So important to know what you have, to see the beauty, to know what we're fighting for...

Comment by Mr. Potato Head on July 8, 2012 at 12:30pm

Thanks for this gem Richard.  I'm going to take a few deep breaths and go visit the garden.  You and Margaret are right - its hard not to be defined by what you are fighting against.

Comment by Julie Brokken on July 8, 2012 at 12:31pm

Thank you Richard! and thank you, The DitchRider, too, for sharing Richard's beautiful Milagro.  Richard, as always,  I am awestruck by your courage as you reveal your depths, our depths, and beauty.  Just direct honest reflections.  You shine.  You are so generous.  You take us deeply into what matters most.  As Joy Harjo once replied to me,  "Thank you for your kind words.  They matter."  Namaste man!  namaste!

Comment by Adelita on July 8, 2012 at 4:54pm

Always a treat to read the words of Richard Vargas! Beautiful poem.

Comment by Richard V on July 9, 2012 at 4:42pm

thanks to everyone for stopping by and leaving comments. i enjoy reading your feedback. and thanks to ditchrider for doing this every sunday.

Comment by Richard V on July 10, 2012 at 8:42am

aaron, thanks for your thoughtful comments. i don't think true artists try to portray themselves as messiahs. and as for art being a commercial commodity, i feel that considering art as something to be bought and sold, hoarded and privately displayed, is a difference in perspective between those in the ruling class and those who are outside of the ruling class. sure, i'd love to make a decent living off my writing, but it's apparent by now that won't be happening in this lifetime. but it won't deter me from continuing to write poetry, because it is what i am. i realized years ago that what i am, and what i do for a living are two different things. our society encourages people to identify with their job, because somehow that equates to success, i.e., wealth and material goods. i would say this way of seeing ourselves leads to more alienation and dysfunction than we can handle.

your comments remind me of the movie "The Cradle Will Rock." if you haven't seen it, i highly recommend it. at a crucial time in this country's history, art of and for the people is put up against the beginning of corporate appropriation of the arts in this country. the result is visible today, all around us. but the idea of art for the people, by the people, still exists. here and all over the world. the political upheavals across the globe are full of accounts in which artists, usually writers, disappear in prisons, or are taken out into the countryside and conveniently shot in the back of the head. this happens in nations where the populace memorizes their favorite poems, and attend art/literary festivals the way we attend rock concerts.

the spirit of art. true art, is to be a voice for the voiceless, to illuminate a different way of looking at things, to provide an alternative form of expression that (in this country) goes against what corporate marketing schemes would have us believe... whether it's their vision of beauty, ethics, morality, or why we need to purchase one brand of sneakers over another. and being a part of those who are taking a stand and yes, making a difference, is all the reward most of us require.

Comment by Margaret Randall on July 10, 2012 at 9:09am

This discussion between Aaron and Richard is thought-provoking. It makes me think about my years in Cuba, when many artists received subsidies from the State and thus were paid for their art--not as a commodity but simply as what we did. This worked to some degree. But then the subtle and not-so-subtle pressures entered the picture. Could we write or paint something outside the framework of the revolution? Was it okay if it didn't attack the revolution but simply concerned itself with other issues? WAS there another issue? And then, what about copyright? For years Cuba didn't recognize international copyright, freely publishing the world's literary classics so as to educate a literate and book-hungry population. In time, Cuban writers and artists and musicians wanted their intellectual rights protected. There will always be galleries in Santa Fe and New York, catering to the wealthy who want to purchase a painting to go with their couch... or worse, as an investment. But I think true art has a life of its own, beyond the fashion of a particular time or the ups and downs of economic markets. A great poem is born, it makes its way in the world, it speaks to people. And it continues to do so long after the poet is gone. Sadly, in the here and now of this society most of us cannot dream of living from our art. But that doesn't stop me from dreaming of a world where that is possible.

Comment by Richard V on July 15, 2012 at 3:59pm

I think your argument (and that seems to be what this is turning into) depends if one considers themselves the "maker" of the art, or if they are the person moved to appropriate the art for aesthetic or investment purposes. I don't know you personally, so I can't say one way or another if you create art or just like to purchase the occasional piece for aesthetic or investment purposes. You might say it has no bearing in how we both view the importance and worth of art in our society. I would say it is the center of where our views are coming from.

I disagree with your comment that not all artists are seekers. They are, unless the artist sells out solely for the purpose of creating something they think you will want to buy. I won't argue that there are many who practice their craft for that reason alone. Granted, a successful artist can create work without compromise, and still develop a market for their work. Good for them. But even if the market didn't materialize, they would continue on their path. Because they are seekers. And I stand by my belief that art does change the world. To accept your point of view is to throw up my hands and walk away feeling that no matter what I write, things will continue to take their course:  and there’s nothing that writers, painters, musicians, playwrights, film makers, etc., can do to make a difference. But after all these years, I know that is not the case. And that’s how things roll in my “universe.” I wish you best of luck with yours.


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