The Bad is Really The Good Do readers believe that any one person can turn their life into something beautiful, even when all they have seen in their life is ugly? Based on this non-fiction poem the narrator finally realized his life wasn’t as bad as it could be. In Baca’s “Cloudy day,” readers find a speaker very attuned to the outer world while being incarcerated. Born in New Mexico of Indio-Mexican descent, Jimmy Santiago Baca was raised first by his grandmother and later sent to an orphanage.
A runaway at age 13, it was after Baca was sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison that he began to turn his life around: Jimmy learned to read and write and unearthed a voracious passion for poetry. During a fateful conflict with another inmate, the speaker was shaken by the voices of Neruda and Lorca. Baca then made a choice that would alter his destiny. Instead of becoming a hardened criminal, the narrator emerged from prison a writer. Baca sent three of his poems to Denise Levertov. Who is the poetry editor of Mother Jones.
The poems were published and became part of Immigrants in Our Own Land. Which was then published in 1979. That was also the year Baca was released from prison. Baca also earned his GED later that same year. Baca is also the winner of the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award, the International Hispanic Heritage Award, and for his memoir, A Place to Stand, the prestigious International Award. In 2006 Baca also won the Cornelius P. Turner Award. Baca has devoted his post-prison life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship.
His themes include American Southwest barrios, addiction, injustice, education, community, love and beyond. A cloudy day doesn’t have to be a day that is depressing, or gloomy. As the reader when first reading Baca’s biography it would be assumed the title may have had something to do with a specific day he remembers. Maybe even a day that does not give him good memories. The tone of the story based on the title seems down, or depressing. When starting to read the poem; the theme of it I would say is how choices in life can ultimately make you or break you.
Is this really what people are thinking when they are locked away in their cells, or is the narrator just having an epiphany. The first stanza in the poem says, “It is windy today. A wall of wind crashes against, windows clunk against, iron frames as wind swings past broken glass and seethes, like a frightened cat in empty spaces of the cell block. ” After just reading this first stanza it is realized that Baca was more than likely speaking about his own life. This then makes this poem non-fiction.
Baca seems to be able to give you the little details that someone would not be able to give without perhaps being incarcerated. The narrator also speaks about being incarcerated at the age of twenty in his biography, so you do know that he was at one time “in empty spaces of the cellblock. ” Everyone has been in a cloudy day, but not everyone has the same outlook that someone like Baca does. What about this “Cloudy Day” was so in particular? In the second stanza Baca talks about the wind again, and the guards on the tower. Something about this day makes Baca look at these details in jail even more so.
Here is what the speaker says, “In the exercise yard we sat huddled in our prison jackets, on our haunches against the fence, and the wind carried our words over the fence, while the vigilant guard on the tower held his cap at the sudden gust. ” As the reader at this point of the poem it would be assumed to think about the chances of Baca trying to escape jail. Like the day was going by so slow, and time was standing still. The third stanza of this poem makes the reader really start to look at the metaphors Baca used in the poem.
The narrator says this in the third stanza, “I could see the main tower from where I sat, and the wind in my face gave me the feeling I could grasp the tower like a cornstalk, and snap it from its roots of rock. The wind plays it like a flute, this hollow shoot of rock. The brim girded with barbwire with a guard sitting there also, listening to the sounds as clouds cover the sun. ” This seems to have a feeling like it is at this point in time during Baca’s imprisonment he was starting to wonder more and more what freedom would be like again.
Like maybe Baca was daydreaming about how he would escape the prison walls when he says, “gave me the feeling I could grasp the tower like a cornstalk, and snap it from its roots of rock. ” Baca had a way of bringing the reader into this poem, and to really try and have the “you” picture what he was experiencing. Baca says, “I thought of the day I was coming to prison, in the back seat of a police car, hands and ankles chained, the policeman pointed, “See that big water tank? The big silver one out there, sticking up? That’s the prison. Knowing that the speaker still remembers things that a policeman said the day he was incarcerated would make the reader think that this day was unlike any other, or that maybe the speaker thought about this day often. Did Baca repeat this day over and over in his head? Thinking about all the mistakes he made, and what he could have done better so that his life would not have been swept right out from underneath his feet. Our lives reflect certain parts of growth that we may not be proud of, but in everything you do you can either walk away knowing better or knowing nothing at all.
Here is where I believe the narrator begins to really think about his decisions. Baca says this, “And here I am, I cannot believe it. Sometimes it is such a dream, a dream, where I stand up in the face of the wind, like now, it blows at my jacket, and my eyelids flick a little bit. While I stare disbelieving…” The narrator makes it noticeable that his freedom is very spared. He is taking advantage of the smallest things, like the wind hitting his face. The speaker is finally starting to miss his freedom, while also being in disbelief about being in such a place for so long.
The last stanza in Baca’s poem is the part that makes you think about what the speaker is really trying to get across. What is the speaker trying to tell the reader? Baca uses the word “you” in this poem. Who is he speaking about? Is he using the word “you” to make this very broad, or is he talking to someone specifically? The speaker using this type of language to make the readers feel like he is speaking directly to them. While also making the poem sound as if maybe he is just talking to himself, because you read in his biography he really doesn’t have anyone he is close too.
When is it that a person’s life changes so drastically they feel as though they have everything in the world even when they are incarcerated? The final stanza says this, “The third day of spring, and four years later, I can tell you, how a man can endure, how a man can become so cruel, how he can die or become so cold, I can tell you this, I have seen it every day, every day, and still I am strong enough to love you, love myself and feel good; even as the earth shakes and trembles, and I have not a thing to my name, I feel as if I have everything, everything. The speaker again talks about “you. ” Is he referring to maybe the mother that gave him away, or the grandmother that put him in an orphanage? Baca is making this sound like he does still carry around some hurt for the way he was raised, but now he has let it all go. He is starting over and wants everyone to know that he is not holding a grudge anymore. In conclusion, a man that has been incarcerated for four years who openly talks about having nothing to his name can really have more to life than someone who has the freedom that a normal person does.
The speaker also talks about in detail how he sees men becoming cruel, men dying, or men becoming so cold. How is it that this one man can see all of these bad things in life, see all of this cruel intention in jail, and yet still become a better person than he was before he was incarcerated. People today who have money, cars, clothes, a roof over their head, everything they need do not walk around having the love for themselves that Baca recovered during his time of being incarcerated. Really, sometimes bad things happen to good people to show them what life has to offer and to take advantage of that.