Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Baca’s unpretentious poems are presented by him as mirrors that send signals to his readers as the Western films of his youth showed groups signaling each other with mirrors. In the movies, he saw lives depending upon the receipt and the understanding of the signals. Baca’s belief that his life was literally saved by poetry is inherent in his attempt to signal salvation to others in his poem “Ancestor.”

Baca, an unconventional poet of Chicano and Apache heritage who found the poetry of his salvation in prison, presents in this poem an unconventional father figure who gives both life and salvation to his children. The poet Baca is priest as the father is priest: Both perform a natural and sacred ritual. Transubstantiation is the experience of this poem—the natural is rendered divine on the altar and in the scripture of life.

As he holds the children of his body and his blood up for the world to see, the father of the children says, “Here are my children!” The priest, father or pastor of his congregation, during Mass says, “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” Baca, likewise, is a priest in offering his poem as lifeblood for the consumption of his congregation of readers. The venue of each priest is both different and the same. The father offers his children to “the wind,/ to the mountains, to the skies of autumn and spring,” asking that they be cared for and infused with the holiness of life. The priest offers his...

(The entire section is 568 words.)