The day I cried was months later, when I went to my mailbox for his weekly letters and poems. The box was empty no letter, no poems. I was so alone. Lost. Confused.
The stanza from "The First Time" by Trinidad Sanchez Jr. carries a new layer of meaning now that its author — who wrote the poem upon the passing of his father — died on Sunday, July 30, in San Antonio, Texas. The 65-year-old Chicano poet and activist who went by "Trino" to friends was an esteemed regular on the Denver poetry scene when he lived here from 1999 to 2005. A former Jesuit priest, Sanchez's poetry spans multiple books and anthologies fromJalapeno Blues
andAuthentic Chicano Food is Hot!
to the bestsellerWhy Am I So Brown?
Over his 25-year career, he also logged in thousands of performances at venues across the nation, including spots like The Mercury Cafe, Brother Jeff's Cultural Center and Cafe, and La Taza Cafe & Market. Ted Vaca, a founder of the Denver Slam team, calls Sanchez "a role model, a dedicated Chicano and a damn fine poet."
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"I loved the Mexicaness of his passion, his passion for life — even if that sounds like a cliche," writes University of Colorado at Boulder poetry professor Lorna Dee Cervantes on her blog, which also includes several of Sanchez poems. "The only comfort I can muster is knowing that I am not alone, that there is a heart-force of his influence ready to help."
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Sanchez had suffered a massive stroke in mid July. Though he was allowed to return to his Texas home, his heath continued to wane and underwent surgery a week later. A funeral service was held Wednesday in San Antonio, and several benefits are planned to help his widow, Regina Chavez y Sanchez, cover the $600,000 in medical costs accrued by her late husband, who, like so many professional poets, was uninsured. In Denver, local poets are organizing an event on August 15 at Common Ground Coffee House, 1601 17th Street. Friends will share memories of their wordsmith mentor and conduct readings of Sanchez's poetry — perhaps even the final section of "The First Time":
The poet in me wants to share a poem with you, make you smile, laugh but all I can do is tell the children "...my father was a poet." I feel so proud, at the precise moment when I express your words with my voice: but I remember too well how the first time I told my father "I love you" . . . was not easy.
--Jared Jacang Maher