A friend from many years ago, a teacher, Samuel Ramos, whose classes I loved to bring poetry to because of his love and regard for his students, invited me to be the featured poet as part of a reading series at El Epazote Restaurant in Hollister. “Some of the students will be there,” Sam promised.
Not only did the now grown-up students come, but Sam bought copies of Step into Nature for each of them. And one student, Mary Villegas, during the open mic, got up and read the poem she’d written for her great grandfather when she was nine. Listening, you could feel the loss of so long ago still upon her and you could see it in her brother’s eyes. Another, Mario Jimenez, drove all the way from Los Baños with his wife and four children.
The students weren’t the only ones there; the restaurant was full—standing room only, 70 – 80 people! There were folks I’d not seen since the early 90’s who I was so happy to see. For whatever we may read about community, this was the real thing, and Sam knows how to bring out a crowd.
Before it was my turn to read we were serenaded by Eduardo Robledo and Daniel Valdez. The audience was jubilant in appreciation of that beautiful music, and I got nervous.
For the most part my stories and poems are quiet. How could a group transition from hand-clapping, foot-stomping music to a single voice reading a story? How? Remarkably. Rarely have I been listened to with such love and attention. “You don’t need to applaud till the end, and then only if you like it,” I said, but that didn’t stop them. After each piece I read the group responded. And then they bought my books.
Last night was one of those rare evenings in a life that lasts for always. I wanted you to know.
Mil gracias to Samuel Ramos and Rachelle Linda Escamilla and also to Bob Hammond who brought me to the Hollister schools those many years ago!