Scene from the Movie GIANT – A poem by Tino Villanueva

by: By Editor
Posted: May 29, 2021

Editor’s recommendation and credits:

Tino Villanueva has graciously permitted us to publish his poem Scene from the Movie GIANT (1993).  We are certainly humbled. A few recommendations to the reader are in order.  First, Dr. Villanueva suggests that the reader watch the movie (or watch it anew) and pay particular focus to the fight  scene.  We have included a clip from the movie elsewhere here.  Dr. Norma Elia Cantu and Drs. Arturo Madrid (Prof. Emeritus, Trinity Univ., San Antonio) and Dr. Antonia Castaneda, among many others, recently organized the Fourth Annual Arturo Madrid Symposium in Latin@ Art (April 6, 2021).  We thank them and Trinity University for granting us access to the Symposium’s program, parts of which we have included in this edition of IberoAztlan.  Be on the lookout, Dr. Cantu advises that some recorded sessions from the Symposium may soon be made available. Perhaps we can include some of those in the June edition of IberoAztlan.

Finally, you must read Jaime Armin Mejia’s piece, entitled “Memories and Poems and Songs of the Radicalized Past In Texas.   Dr. Mejia shares his personal friendship with Dr. Villanueva.  That background may be helpful to interpret Villanueva’s deep poetic vault, including “Scene from the Movie, GIANT”.  Finally, if it is another layman’s review of the poem that might interest you, read my review of Scene from the Movie GIANT.

The poem follows in full in multiple parts and can be enjoyed over a period to time.  First, do watch the movie clip; then you might want to read Dr. Jaime Armin Mejia’s piece. After that get after the poem.  It is a hard read.  Hopefully, the added materials will be of some value to an understanding of the poem.


Scene From the Movie GIANT (1993)
by Tino Villanueva

What I have from 1956 is one instant at the Holiday

Theater, where a small dimension of a film, as in

A dream, became the feature of the whole. It

Comes toward the end…café scene, which

Reels off a slow spread of light, a stark desire


To see itself once more, though there is, at times,

No joy in old time movies. It begins with the

Jingling of bells and the plainer truth of it:

That the front door to a roadside café opens and

Shuts as the Benedicts (Rock Hudson and Elizabeth


Taylor), their daughter Luz, and daughter-in-law

Juana and grandson Jordy, pass through it not

Unobserved. Nothing sweeps up into an actual act

Of kindness into the eyes of Sarge, who owns this

Joint and has out for dark-eyed Juana, weary


Of too much longing that comes with rejection.

Juana, from barely inside the door, and Sarge,

Stout and unpleased from behind his counter, clash

Eye-to-eye, as time stands like heat, Silence is

Everywhere, acquiring the name of hatred and Juana


Cannot bear the dread—the dark-jowl gaze of Sarge

Against her skin. Suddenly, bells go off again.

By the quiet effort of walking, three Mexican-

Types step in, whom Sarge refuses to serve…

Those gestures of his, those looks that could kill


A heart you carry in memory for years. A scene from

The past has caught me in the act of living: even

To myself I cannot say except with worried phrases

Upon a paper, how I withstood arrogance in a gruff

Voice coming with the deep-dyed colors of the screen;


How in the beginning I experienced almost nothing to

Say and now wonder if I can ever live enough to tell

The after-tale. I remember this and I remember myself

Locked into a back-row seat—I am a thin, flickering,

Helpless light, local-looking, unthought of at fourteen.



The 8 O’Clock Movie

Boston 1973—Years had passed and I assumed a

Different life when one night, while resting from

Books on Marlborough Street (where things like

This can happen), there came into my room images

In black-and-white with a flow of light that

Would not die. It all came back to me in different

Terms: characters were born again, met up with

Each other in adult life, drifted across the

Screen to discover cattle and oil, traveled miles

On horseback in dust and heat, characters whose

Names emerged as if they mattered in a history

Book. Some were swept up by power and prejudice

Toward neighbors different from themselves,

Because that is what the picture is about, with

Class distinctions moving the plot along. A few

Could distinguish right from wrong; those who

Could not you condemned from the beginning when

You noticed them at all. Still others married or

Backed off from the ranch with poignant flare,

Like James Dean, who in the middle of grazing land

Unearthed the treasures of oil, buried his soul in

Money and went incoherent with alcohol. When the 40s

Came, two young men were drafted, the one called Angel

Dying at war. It’s a generational tale, so everybody

Aged once more and said what they had to say along the

Way according to the script. And then the end: the

Hamburger joint brought into existence to the beat of

“The Yellow Rose of Texas,” Juana and her child the



Color of dark amber, foreshadowing the Mexican -looking

Couple and their daughter, all in muteness, wanting

To be served, I climbed out of bed and in my head

Was a roaring of light—words spoken and unspoken

Had brought the obliterated back. Not again (I said,

From my second-floor room)…let this not be happening

Three and-a-half hours had flicked by. As the sound

Trailed off into nothing, memory would not dissolve.


The Benedicts (up-close)

Together with their daughter Luz, they

Are casually rich, self-assured, handsome—: have

Written their hoof-beats upon the land and

Named it; whose son is absent from this

Scene and is not a keeper of cows, but Harvard-trained

Instead, and thus a rebel who practices

The goodness of medicine alongside the

Ethnic good looks of his able nurse, Juana, who is

Here with her child trying to cross

The burning threshold of this pull-in café

And gets caught in the vast unwelcome which are the eyes

Of Sarge that fire upon the heart.


The Serving of Water

Tell the portly waitress to stay overtime and

She will do it. Dressed in white, she is a

Version of Sarge…Who follows orders well

…Who may have it in her mind she is “The

Sweetest little rosebud that Texas ever knew.”

Her whole embodiment is whatever she is doing—:

At a booth, here on the warm sketchy plain

Of day, it is water she sets out for the

Benedicts: the measurement of water is a ritual

That isolates a face from the many colors of the

Day, and she does so with her eyes aimed at

Anyone she has given a harsh name to—like Juana,


And her child, half-Anglo, who in Juana’s womb

Became all Mexican just the same. The waitress

Entirely conscious of her act, whose eyes, quick,

Flee back to Sarge and now call out in silence,

Brings this moment to the edge of something tense

That spreads to everything. Her sudden look of

Outward regard—then Sarge, stirring dense cloud

Gathering (entering left), standing over everyone

In tallness almighty. Ice-cream is what Rock Hudson

Wishes for grandson. “Ice-cream it shall be,”

His words a revelation of delight: “Give the

Little fella some ice-cream”…Summer is one long

Afternoon when Sarge, moved by deep familiar

Wrath, talks down: “Ice-cream—thought that kid’d

Want a tamale.” An angry mass of time travels

Back and Forth the distance between Sarge and

Rock Hudson, as I sit, shy of speech, in a stammer

Of light, and breathe a breath not fully breathed…


Claiming the Air

Sarge, the proprietor, has already claimed the air with

His eyes, squared off against Rock Hudson by slurring

His grandchild. The camera’s eye blinks, adjust its

Focus to the segment that follows, the one grown around

Me like a lingering first cause. I remember it frame

By frame almost: The little bell on top of the door is

Heard as the door opens: an old Mexican American couple,

And a woman, who could be an eldest daughter, come in.

Their image stays frozen, burns evenly around my brain: a

Tableau of himself, he is stooped in the ruts of old age,

Bits of gray hair fluffing out from under his hat, that

Courteous hat. The women, in uneventful-street clothes,

How their faces do not glow back from themselves, yet

Beckon with the color of sepia subdued—his also. Slow

In their gait toward the nearest booth by the door, they

Show a tired look as if from a journey begun long ago, one

Only their heritage could know. A woman I could be nephew

To and a couple old enough to call me grandson have walked

Into my life. They go unnoticed, except by Sarge, who walks

Among the greasy fires of his kitchen, comes to a stop and

Lets fly, heavy as lead: “Hey, you!” This is Sarge’s Place.

A hamburger joint risen like a voice against the good.


Text for a Vaquero: Flashback

Giant (1956), next-to-the-last scene: Old man Polo,

head vaquero on Rock Hudson’s Reata Ranch, has come

from sunlight, wife and daughter with him, to break

bread, where hamburgers might be enough for a family

who shall not be served. In my other mind I see him

in his youthful air—:

Dawns were easy in the branding camps

when he scrambled up

to the restless movement of the herd.

And when morning had lifted into noon

he didn’t choke on dust

because his lungs were stronger

than wind shifts.

He owned the language of the roundup

and each day experienced triumphed on the range.

I see him riding with others:

sombreros obeying the knowledge of the head:

chaparreras rough-riding

with their legs.

He is straight-backed, bandana at the neck,

and leather-brown face toughened by the sun

glancing off his sweat.

Now he’s moving warily

around stampedes he still remembers

in his bones.

So that if, for an instant, he grows quieter,

it’s because he remains a separate fact—

a silhouetted stoic in his saddle

like some vigilant bronzed god

pondering his fate.

Evening draws upon the plain

and the cattle have been managed

into place. And it becomes almost like desire

when he reins his mount

before the mingled odors

of leather and foodstuff

and beckons, in bated breath, a radiant sky

to show itself. Where the wind is cut off,

he lies with the flesh-tones of earth,

thinks about the history of the moon

and whether rain will come

to soothe the dust raving up from hooves

in the middle of July.

Bedded down, he’s an object

half-buried among the blankets and the chaparral,

counting stars to fall asleep.

And when he dreams

he dreams that in a hundred years

his sons can own the ground he roams

and that his can be near…

That was many years ago. Now the trail has led

to here: the false hell of the hamburger place that

consumes him…time denies him what he’s been:

where there’s no earth nor sky to make him free.

Chuy Ramirez is an attorney practicing law in the Rio Grande Valley since 1983, and dabbles in writing.

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