Perched on Nothingness

By Juan Felipe HerreraApril 30, 2012

Perched on Nothingness

Image:  St. Paul, Minnesota:  RNC 2008 (detail) © Joaquín Ramón Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera was recently named the Poet Laureate of California; he wrote this poem for LARB in remembrance of 1992.  The artist and photographer Joaquín Ramón Herrera is his son.


Perched on Nothingness

Broken sidewalk — bleach ragged

The tree to the right homeless

Man under the bush

There is a tower wood    the hawk

Perched on nothingness

Fields overturned gauged reddish

The face

Of Rodney King his hand scarred

His gaze          dubious television

My son J. lost too where is he

Decades now                   the flames

The question of race

Too many faces too many killings

Color dissipates only race remains

race beyond race — race


LARB Contributor

Born in Fowler, California — learned corridos and rhymes from his mother, Lucha, on the farm working roads and small towns. His father, Felipe, played harmonica telling tales of work in early 1900’s Wyoming. He graduated from UCLA, Stanford and the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop. His awards include the Guggenheim Poetry Fellowship, the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, LA Times  Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award and recently, the International Latino Book Award. He is Emeritus Professor from Fresno State’s Chicano and Latin American Studies program and UC-Riverside’s Department of Creative Writing. In the last decade he has served as a Chancellor of the Board of the Academy of American Poets, California’s Poet Laureate, and the Poet Laureate of the United States. Recent book is Every Day We Get More Illegal.


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