Tag Archives: revolution

In the Season of Blue Afternoons and Starry Starry Nights

Photograph by Jose Padua
It’s 1979 and I’m just out of college
and loving the landscape doing the
only kind of traveling I can afford
when the Greyhound bus stops along
the highway in Arizona and the man
with the uniform and gun walks down
the aisle, looks at my face, then asks
in that serious monotone voice that I
can hardly believe isn’t coming out
of the mouth of some science fiction
robot, “Do you have your papers?”
And I pause, because I’m wondering
if the rich kids went through something
similar when they did spring break in
Cancun, Jamaica, the Bahamas. Then
I look him in the eyes and say with
a slow, clear voice in an attempt
to demonstrate that I speak English
very well, “No, I don’t have any
papers, I’m an American citizen,”
and it’s then that I finally realize
that before a time of healing there
must come a time of great strife,
a period of tremendous noise and
the unceremonious toppling of
comfortable institutions, and that
for me—unlike the rich kids, the
other kids, the kids who had it
the easy way, the American way—
love and travel would always be
acts of revolution.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Because Even in the Darkest of Days Revolution Is a Movement Towards the Light

Photograph by Jose Padua
On the same day in August 1967
when American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell
was killed, my younger
brother was born:
one bad guy down, one new good guy up and running.
Four days later a girl was born
who would grow up smart and beautiful
like a flower by Georgia O’Keeffe
and who would marry me
and help me shine through sleepless nights
and wakeless mornings in the raising of our children
upon the gleaming landscape.
August 1967 was also the month
when Sam & Dave released their hit “Soul Man,”
a record that seemed to spin so steadily on the turntable
at 45 revolutions per minute
I swore it illuminated my concept
of what it meant to be an object in motion.
And somewhere in the universe
there is a city where dusty roads
and paved avenues intersect
like these days from 1967,
changing the world,
rearranging space,
changing what’s in the air
from sound to song,
always moving toward clear light.

-Jose Padua

Photograph of downtown Philadelphia by Jose Padua

Reflections on a Lesson that Would Soon Be Made More Clear to Me by Gil Scott-Heron

Photograph by Jose Padua
In 1971 I’m
thirteen years old
watching a big
Vietnam war protest
on television when
the bearded guy
speaking to the
crowd starts chanting
Fuck Richard Nixon!
Fuck Richard Nixon!

and the instant
the TV station
cuts the sound
is when I
realize that if
I want to
witness the revolution
I will eventually
have to turn
the TV off.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

On the Revolutionary Properties of Sound and Speech

Photograph by Jose Padua
Silence is the edge of everything that makes sound;
the slicing tone of the violin is preceded
by a pushing back of the border
of everything that is not that tone.
The saxophone’s squeal punches holes
in the numb hush of space
while the banging of drums builds
a cloud of rhythm that stillness
can never enter.
When they come at us
with the blunt flash of their bullets
and other flying death machines
let us not suffer in silence
nor lay down our instruments and be meek.
Let every stark tower tremble
from the force of our sounds
and other forms of sharp speech.
Let us speak of impractical things.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Revelation at a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant on a Sunday Night

Photograph by Jose Padua
We’re waiting for the cashier
so we can pay for dinner
after eating at our local
Cracker Barrel Old Country
Store and Restaurant
when my wife looks
to our four-year old son
who’s standing in front
of a rack of camouflage
colored jelly beans and
says, “Stay here, now.”
He pauses for
a long moment,
turns to his right to look at
and perhaps catch
a whiff of a chocolate
scented teddy bear,
then looks back all
slow and serious
over to my wife and to me
and his older sister
and says “Strange things
are going on,”
which reminds me
that revolution begins
not so much with
the ability to recognize
what’s wrong but
with the confidence
to speak it.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

The Beauty of Revolution Is in the Blood That Flows from Heart to Brain to Finger

Photograph by Jose Padua
When my toddler son sprinkles salt on the kitchen
floor then attempts to lick it up I immediately
understand the experiment and the risk he knows
he’s taking and the knowledge he expects to be
gaining. He’s at an age where the way a room tastes
is just as important as its dimensions and the way
sunlight enters it and hits the walls and bends yellow
into green, or the way wood floors expand and contract
depending on the temperature and how the sound
it then makes depends on the moisture in the air
and whether it’s morning or evening and the cat
is upstairs or downstairs and it’s a school day or
the weekend in that time of year when the weather
is moody like a child in need of a meal, then rest.
He knows enough to say “macaroni and cheese”
when the waiter comes by at a restaurant, and to
look him in the eyes in recognition and out of respect
for the service he offers at a reasonable cost, yet
doesn’t let the slender measure of civilization that’s
in him prevent him from throwing a whole grain roll
to the ground in disgust as a way of saying that he
doesn’t want any bread and would rather play
at the table with his tiny toy trains until dinner comes.
This, of course, is the dilemma we face. How to retain
the inner passionate child while at the same time learning
to work with one’s fellow inhabitants of the globe and
atmosphere for the purpose of keeping our species
and as many others as possible alive in the face
of the spectacular failures of man’s highest aspirations
and the dominant oppressions of predatory capitalist society.
This is not a joke. This is not another iteration of the necessity
of art and dance and language in the face of a cheapening
of the senses by facile, popular entertainments whose
sole purpose is the fortification of the regressive hierarchy
and oligarchy, but then again it is. And the trick to survival
is to support real work, revere and uphold the practices
of true teachers and educators, and disgrace the purveyors
of idiocy and disable the perpetrators of greed and perpetual
misery masquerading as citizen, celebrity, or institution.
We throw salt to the floor, then size up the breadth
and width of the room through the taste on our tongues.
We throw the stale bread to the ground. We flex our hearts,
we rise with our minds, we lift our fingers with our blood,
and woe unto them who wish that we spill a single drop.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Notes for the Coming Revolution

Photograph by Jose Padua
If I were better at facilitating
meetings I might have something
resembling a career by now. If
I could pursue a lifestyle instead
of just being alive, my coworkers
might be more comfortable sitting
near me at lunchtime when I
open my brown bag and fill the air
with the aroma of cinnamon and
garlic. If I thrived in a fast-paced
work environment and excelled at
putting out metaphorical business
fires, I’d have an office with a
window looking out over the alley
behind the building, which is where
the rats play at night. If I could
troubleshoot like a feasibility study
conducted by creepily upbeat sub-
contractors, I’d have a parking space
and season tickets for every professional
sports team in town. If I could apply
the word ‘synergy’ in a sentence while
speaking with the boss and not laugh
hysterically and make it look like I’m
trying to help, I could be making millions
by now, but of course I’m not. You are.
And I am coming to take your verbs away.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

The Process of Revolution As Manifested through the Voice of Smokey Robinson

Photograph by Jose Padua
In the car this evening, while I was taking Maggie to the store for some clothes she needed, she said from the seat behind me, “This guy is beautiful.”

I paused for a while. And it was a long time before I finally asked Maggie, “What guy?”

But I wasn’t all that interested in which particular person she was referring to, because what was going through my mind again was how her working on a play called “It’s Not Easy Being A Teen” really seemed to be turning her into one. She’s the youngest of the six girls doing the theater workshop for which this play is the product—and, since she’s only ten years old/soon to be eleven, she’s the only one who isn’t even a real teenager yet.

This morning, while I was on the way to take Julien to his morning session at summer camp, a song from 1987 came on the car stereo. Maggie, who was accompanying us, asked, “What’s that song?”

“It’s called ‘When Smokey Sings,’” I told her. “It’s by a band called ABC. It’s a tribute to the singer Smokey Robinson.”

“Ah,” she said.

“Why, do you like it?”


Later today, when I picked her up from her theater camp, Maggie said that “When Smokey Sings” was going through her head all day. I then told her how I had the song on a mix tape that I’d play on the train a lot when I was living in New York and going to or from DC. Then I remembered how when I was her age, one of the songs that I certainly must have had going through my head was Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown,” which is probably my favorite of all of Smokey Robinson’s songs—and just one of my favorite songs period.

I marveled, for a moment, at the Smokey Robinson connection. Though one thing that was different was that when I was ten I really don’t think I would have said to either my mother or father that I thought someone was beautiful. Being more on the shy and reserved side, I wouldn’t have been mentioning this sort of thing to them–or to anyone else for that matter—until I was a teenager.

Then, after all this went through my head was when I finally asked Maggie, “What guy?”

“What?” she answered.

“I said, ‘What guy?’ You said, ‘this guy is beautiful?’”

This time Maggie paused. “Wait, you thought I said ‘this guy?’ No, I said ‘The SKY.’ The sky is beautiful.”

“Oh, the SKY,” I said. And I was sort of relieved, because I didn’t know if I was quite ready for who she finds attractive to become a regular topic of conversation.

I parked the car, and as we got out of the car I tried to remember what age Maggie was when I finally didn’t feel I had to hold her hand whenever we got out of the car. I know I must have been doing it way past the age when other parents feel they need to do it. Maggie didn’t seem to mind, though, and I eventually moved on to the next stage. It’s not easy for me, but over the years, from when I was a child to now, I find that somehow I keep evolving, which reminds me—despite whatever the idiots out there may say—that evolution, in its many forms and processes, is life.

After dinner today Maggie played a song for Julien on Heather’s phone. I don’t remember what the song was—all I recall is that it was something current—but I imagine that years from now, Maggie may remember what this song was, and Julien too will remember. And they’ll remember this place, and these days, and all the things we did as acts of evolution and revolution. All the things we did because we had to.

-Jose Padua