Manuel J. Velez received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso’s Bilingual Writing Program in 1996. Since then, aside from pursuing his literary goals, he has worked as a high school counselor and Spanish teacher in San Diego, an English Professor at El Paso Community College in El Paso, Texas and is currently Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies at Mesa College. Manuel’s work has appeared in various publications including Raza Spoken Here Vol. 1, Many Mountains Moving, and Puerto del Sol. He is the winner of the 1996 Pellicer-Frost Binational Poetry Prize and the author of Bus Stops and Other Poems, published by Calaca Press in 1998. Calaca Press also published La Calaca Review, an anthology of Latina/o voices edited by Manuel. He is currently chair of Chicana/o Studies at San Diego Mesa College.
His poem, “A farmworker offers advice to hummingbird flying among the grapevines” appeared on the site on July 31, 2015:
Manuel will receive a $25 honorarium for the prize. We hope readers will be inspired to participate in this process by writing your own poems. Each month we’ll award a $25 prize for the best Reader Poem we receive.
Manuel Velez was inspired by the July dis•articulations prompts to write this poem:
A farmworker offers advice to hummingbird flying among the grapevines.
Never let them count the thrusts of your wings;
the sublte motions that stir in their minds
images of nightgowns floating across ballroom floors.
They’ll never see how each thrust tears away
at your body and weakens your soul.
Never let them see past your rainbow plumes;
the playful dance of colors that reminds them
of exotic pearls resting softly around their necks.
They don’t see that underneath the rainbow
lies the cold grey reality of a life spent at work.
Never let them measure the rhythm of your beating heart;
The soft vibrations that sing to them like a silent lullaby,
a serene moment of meditation.
They’ll never know that each beat is a growing
desperation for survival.
No, hummingbird, never let them see who you truly are;
A creature trapped in the monotony of labor.
A perpetual existence of constant movement.
A life whose dream is for only enough nectar
to survive another day.
Let them be mesmerized by your motions and captivated by your colors.
Let them believe that your true beauty is to be free.
Let them value that which least defines you
because it’s the only way they’ll find any value in you at all.