THERE WAS NEVER NO TOMORROW:
NUYORICAN PEDRO PIETRI IN HIS OWN WORDS
So, I come out of recovery, and this jerk came into my room with crushed pieces of paper, and one of those crushed pieces of paper was my medical record. They told me, 'What you have is incurable.' I told them, 'What you have is incurable.' They were making it real hopeless, you know? And that isn't the approach. It's by being positive. That can heal. They made it like life was over, so, I called Papoleto to the Intensive Care Unit, because I refused to stay there. Papo came with the suitcases and everything. I don't know how much time they gave me to live, but I gave them the same time to live also. At least that way, I can rest in peace. That was the beginning of the end, and the saddest time in my life.
take you back, I was born in 1898, during the climax of the Spanish/American
War. I say 1898 because that was the year that the
I also say I was born in 1949, because that's the day I went to the first theatre with my grandfather, who felt deceived by Operation Boot Strap and committed hara-kiri, but I don't think it was suicide. He was killed by the system that deceived him, the system that made him sell his land in Borinquen. What happened was the disillusion. The voices in his head were of the Central Intelligence, compelling him to sever his jugular vein. Think about his friends. There's nobody to talk to, nobody to communicate with, and there's nothing to go back to, but the industrialization of the island that had deceived so many people. So, that was the first theatre I went to, at Monje's Funeral Parlor, in a brown suit. Actually, that was my first teaching, or my first awareness of Puerto Rican history. Puerto Ricans die and go to a Puerto Rican funeral parlor. And Monje was a ghoul; he looked like a ghoul. How you going to have the name Monje, and be a proprietor of a funeral parlor? You'll scare the customers away, but he didn't scare us away.
There were five of us, four guys and one girl. My elder brother had a heart attack, and my younger brother went joyriding one night, and I haven't seen him since. So, there's a total tragedy, because then there were only three of us. So then, we went back to Monje, and we kept going back to Monje for other people. Every week there was a different funeral, and after a while, I said, 'Let me just stay dressing in black.'
when we came to
before I was drafted to the army, they said I was incapable of adjusting to
military discipline, and I celebrated it. Then the Vietnam War escalated, and
they said, 'You're okay! There's nothing wrong with you! You're not crazy!' So,
they send the freaks to the front, and that's why my prize is the fondest
memories of that country, and being an accomplice to assisting
I return to
First draft is you scribbling it on a notebook, or a paper, or a napkin and you read it there. And if you make mistakes, man, it makes the poem much more interesting and exciting, and that's when history started being made. At the time, it was the decline of the Beat Generation, and poetry went back to the universities and became an academic thing, but here come these street poets, man, and we pushed academia out of the way and took over the scene. What this movement did was give an audience to all of our talented, the kind of poets that didn't have an audience. Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan and the ghost of Pablo Neruda even read at the Café. We were all there because of the poetry, and it was all poetry.
Nuyorican Movement set an alliance with the Royal Chicano Air Force, and we
became honorary members, because the Chicano and the Nuyorican Movements are
the same. We all suffer the same destiny and the same experience. We've both
had our land stolen from us, our culture stolen from us. Once you have a
movement, you have all these other people who want to also make history, and
they start their own movements. We just needed a cultural outlet. Spanglish is
not an indication of an inferior mind, but it is an indication of an
imagination that should be completely fertile. You got to be brilliant, not
dumb! Everybody had a different outlook, and that was good. We weren't
competing against each other. We were just sharing the interpretation of what
this cultural dynamic should define. We were making history and didn't know it
at the time, and sometimes we should've known it. But now?
Everybody knows about the Nuyorican Poets Café. I went to
We're still together writing poetry. We're still not trying to impress anybody, and too, you have new generations of poetry. You have the Welfare Poets and Mariposa Fernandez. There's people that come up to us and say, 'You invented us.' So, where's the movement now? It's where it began. It's flourishing, and that's futuristic.
They gave me a life sentence at Bronx-Lebanon. They sentenced me to my death, and the sad thing about it is that there are many patients there that don't have any options. You get a month to live in and that's it, they close the pieces and then they start radiating you, and the radiation could kill you quicker. I told the guy, 'You know, you should get some radiation yourself, 'cause you don't look too good to me.' I told him, 'You get some radiation and if it works, then I might do it.' So, they released me from the hospital and sent me home to die. But I refuse to die, because my destiny is a decision that only I can be solely responsible for making, and that was it. That was the first and last time I went there.
I want to get better. I am getting better, but not by following orders. I have to do my own thing. So, Papo found a place out here that's nice. It's private, they speak my language, and it's legal to smoke whatever treatments you need to get the message across to that part of your spirit that conveys you to that territory of your soul, and in no time, you will be outta here. There's no end to the phenomenon, The First Draft Nuyorican Poetry Movement.
[Feb. 3, 2004. Edited by Raymond R. Beltrán. La Prensa-San Diego. February 5, 2004. Pedro had sought out holistic healing at Oasis of Hope Hospital in Playas de Tijuana, México, for a tumor in his stomach, one side effect related to the exposure to Agent Orange while serving time as a draftee in the U.S. Army during the climax of the Vietnam War.]