Women's Day Series: Cenzontle/Mockingbird

“Goddess” © CCBenji

by Daniel García Ordaz  

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to

kill a mockingbird.” ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

  And what makes a mockingbird special, anyway? Why it’s the trill from her tongue, the cry from her lungs, the sway of her lips, it’s her dusty, rusty, crusty cries, the trail of tears in her eyes on sheet music playin’, floatin’ and swayin’ to the beat, beat, beating, way-laying, saxopholaying, assaulted, accosted, bushwhacked and busted, cracked open, bruised, banged and accused, flat broke and broken terror bespoken— a token of survivin’, of thrivin’, of juke joint jump jivin’

of death cheaten daily through unwanton wailin’.

Why a mockingbird’s got diamonds at the souls of her blues, whip-lashed back-beats at the edge of her grooves, croons of healing above strangely-fruited plains of grieving. She lets loose veracity with chirps still rising at the edge of a knockabout life, troubled and toiled beat-boxed, embroiled, de-plumed, defaced, ignored, encased,

caged and debased ‘cause of the color of her skin.

But as the din fades and the cool of eve rolls in, there she stands—chest huff-puffed and proud, unbowed and loud, endowed with the power of flight, under the big dip of night, echoing the ancient Even cry of a lioness defending her pride in that sweet mother tongue: I rise up, and, Adam,

I shall not be moved today!

The mockingbird sings what the heart cannot pray.
The mockingbird sings what the heart cannot pray.

*Cenzontle is the Nahuatl (Aztec) word for the northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos.

poem: Daniel García Ordaz is the founder of the Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival and the author of You Know What I’m Sayin’? His new collection, Cenzontle/Mockingbird: Songs of Empowerment (Poetry*Drama) is forthcoming. García, who recently completed his MFA in Creative Writing from UT-Rio Grande Valley, is an English teacher at McAllen High School. His work appears in Poetry of Resistance, La Bloga, Juventud!, and several anthologies and journals.

photograph: Covenant Chimnonso Benjamin (IG: is a writer and photographer with special interests in portraying the human condition – what it is and what it should be. He’s an aspiring photojournalist and documentary filmmaker and loves to observe people when he’s not checking puns on the internet.

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