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1. Philly Cop Is Monster. News 'n Notes.

Review: Sabrina Vourvoulias, "Skin In The Game," Tor.com


Michael Sedano

The first video of a black devil fish showed the creature flexing its huge jaws, the mouth gaping with needle-like teeth that cage-in a creature attracted by the phosphorescent lure dangling in the deep sea darkness from the black devil fish’s head.

In an idle flash, I thought the fish could be the model for some outer space monster only a science fiction writer could think up. Sure enough, someone has.

I don’t know if Sabrina Vourvoulias saw that marine footage, but the critter she has roaming the zombie ghetto of Philadelphia could be the devil fish’s terrestrial prima:

The taste of her fear-driven flop sweat, her death, washes over my tongue, takes the edge off the hunger that’s always nested inside me. Taste prompts image. I see the girl, face upturned as she waits for her fix, then something striking fast at her chest. Not a knife, but a mouth with scimitar teeth that pop out like double switchblades.

Monsters like that go around emptying out innards and leaving human carcasses in their wake. Blanca is a cop and her job is to identify and cleanse. Of course, things grow complicated and dangerous.

Vourvoulias’ story, “Skin In The Game” will hit the streets in the December 2 issue of Tor.com. It’s not to be missed. “Skin In the Game” holds the reader’s interest with a fast-moving first-person story and a collective of interesting personages. The author’s use of short thematic paragraphs set the pace. Cultural materials inform the story's logic with linguistic, orthographic, nicknaming, and food datos that add richness but without complexity that could confuse exogenous readers.

The story’s notable for its raza characters and setting. Boricuas, Dominicans for instance. The central character is a Mexicana cop-of-sorts from South Philly. The City of Brotherly Love suffers a terminal case of advanced irony. Social services have all gone to hell. Cop uniforms include heavy-soled boots to guard against discarded hypodermic needles that pave the sidewalks of this barrio.

Vourvoulias writes an arresting story with an eye-opening surprise that adds dimensions to the character’s personality while confirming suspicious the author cleverly plants like a sneeze in a greek tragedy. The author passes along matter-of-fact information about cultura. Tamaleras use platano and maíz hojas. Mejor, the Tamágicos have herbal concoctions that help people make good decisions and love one another. That's soul food of the first order.

Without making a big deal of her characters' latinidad, Sabrina Vourvoulious shows how diversity in specific should work. “Skin In the Game” is one of those subversive stories science-fiction is noted for, helping people see with new eyes, to notice diversity but not make a big deal of the natural order of things, even if things are all dystopic.


Mark Vallen Eulogy for Richard Duardo


QEPD Richard Duardo. Artist and serigraphy master, Duardo played a key role in the technology of art.

Mark Vallen's recent eulogy for his contemporary offers a critical appreciation for Duardo and his influence in United States arte. Click here for Vallen's essay.  Don't miss Vallen's essay on the 43 missing from Azotzinapa.


Mail Bag
Before it Goes to Video


No one who's seen Water & Power has walked away from the motion picture disappointed. Disappointment comes from the paucity of gente who bought tickets during its premiere theatrical run.

In the best of all possible cinema worlds, word of mouth would have ignited a frenzy of ticket-buying that snowballed enthusiasm to a point a major exhibition chain would pick up the title and just like that, chicano film would earn a place as a filmic investment vehicle.

Instead, like the Cesar Chávez biopic earlier in the year, the film faded after a short burst of enthusiasm.

The producers are showcasing the film at select theaters, using an internet-based ticketing service, tugg. It's a method of assuring a seat for the audience while reassuring theater owners of a likelihood of selling tickets, popcorn, and candy. But there's much more.

Producer Richard Montoya reminds, via email that this Los Angeles-area showing "will be one of the final opportunities to see W&P the way it was meant to be seen and heard - big screen and projected from the DCP drives - not high-def or blue ray but deeply saturated picture ingested into the projection system - the purest form and great sound."

Montoya invites you to share news of this special program. Find the details and link to the tug event in Monterey Park at this link.


Gifting Season: Books Always Reliably Welcome

Arte Publico Press makes buying holiday presents thirty-five percent easier with an offer every book-lover may want to consider, especially with Christmas a month away. Visit Arte Publico's website for their catalog. The offer via telephone ordering expires on the 19th.


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2. An interview with Frederick Luis Aldama regarding his new book, “The Cinema of Robert Rodriguez”

 

Frederick Luis Aldama is Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor of English as well as University Distinguished Scholar at The Ohio State University. He is prolific: Aldama is the author and editor of more than twenty books. Aldama also founded and directs the award-winning LASER—a Latino focused academic mentor system from 9th through college.

His latest book is The Cinema of Robert Rodriguez recently published by the University of Texas Press. Aldama does more than hit his marks: he has created an exhilarating, accessible and much-needed study of one of the most inventive and multifaceted directors to come along during the last thirty years. It is a “must read” for anyone who wishes to become a filmmaker or who simply loves movies.

DANIEL OLIVAS: Can you remember the first Robert Rodriguez film you saw and your reaction to it?

FREDERICK LUIS ALDAMA:I was one of the many who sold out opening shows of El Mariachi in Berkeley. The UC Theatre double-billed it with his short, Bedhead. As an undergraduate at UC, I was finding my way to Latino popular culture. I was a grader for a Latino Cinema course with Dr. Mario Barrera. Both films blew me away. In only a few minutes Bedhead took me places only film could: a recognizable everyday but where things could happen that defied the logic of this everyday reality.

My eyes peeled wide with El Mariachi. I’d seen—and even studied—films like Born in East LA and The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, but never seen a Latino film made in the spirit of a comic book, and yet that took me into the serious—deadly even—underworld of Mexican narcotraficantes. The intercut of a dream-like sequence with the little boy and the turtle stayed with me long after the film’s end.

DO: Rodriguez’s early filmmaking style was driven, in large part, by a lack of funding but a great deal of imagination. And you observe that his “independent” work ethic does not fit well with big studio production culture. Was Rodriguez destined to be an “indie” filmmaker?

FLA: Rodriguez seemed destined for the straight-to-VHS, B-flick Spanish-language market—all those films we used to pick up during our weekends at La Pulga/”Flea Market.” But it’s that same DIY approach (together with a huge amount of skill) that allows him to energize and make real (reel?) a vision that steps to a different beat.

To put it in your terms, then, I’d say he’s indie but with an imagination that fills to the edges super blockbuster screens. He’s a Latino director who pushes the envelope—constantly—both in terms of story and the way he gives cinematic shape to story. But he’s not the guy we go see at an art-house fest to then have polite tête-à-têtes over the Lacanian significance of a turtle crossing the road. His films entertain—and each superbly so with each of their respective audiences in mind: kids with Spy Kids and geeked-out Fangoria crowds with From Dusk Till Dawn, for instance. They make you think but never demean or belittle us as an audience. Mostly, and this from Spy Kids to Planet Terror to Macheteto El Mariachi—they stay with us long after they’re over.

Frederick Luis Aldama

DO: If you were to choose one Rodriguez film for adults and one for children, which would they be and why?

FLA: Rodriguez hit the sweet spot with the Spy Kidsfilms. With the exception of the third installment (Game Over) that’s creatively straightjacketed by the video-game conceit, everything about the films speaks to children, tweens, and young teens: from the gadgets, to the gags, to the concerns and anxieties—and the daydreams and unrestrained imagination.  In a sea of films ostensibly made for kids (Shrek, for instance) but where the humor bites with an adult-directed sarcasm, irony, and innuendo, there’s no outdoing the Spy Kids flicks as films for kids. 

Rodriguez managed to pull off an extraordinary feat with Machete. It’s over the top, and it’s meant to be in that comic book way where anything goes. This elastic container, if you will, allows Rodriguez to bring to light some serious issues: anti-immigration laws, racial profiling, and anti-Latino racist sentiment generally. Masterfully, he makes a film that simultaneously entertains—and sometimes with bellyaching laughter—and that has us churning in our minds a reality filled increasingly with barbarous acts.

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3. The Body With Diabetes: Interview with Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and for today’s La Bloga posting, I’m so happy to introduce you to Diabetes Activist, Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez.  Christina is a Chicago native, and is active with the Diabetes Online Community, has her own blog at kikisbetes.com, and is on twitter:  @kikisbetes.  Look her up!

Before we get started, I’m adding a few introductory facts regarding diabetes.
First, definitions:  there are four types of diabetes.  Click on each one for more information:  (1) Type I, (2) Type II, (3) gestationaldiabetes, (4) pre-diabetes.  
Second, technology:  The glucose meter is essential for individuals with any of these four types of diabetes, because it measures blood glucose levels.  With the meter, individuals know exactly what is happening in their body. Guessing glucose levels simply by how one feels can be dangerous, because assuming your glucose number is in no way accurate.  
Testing reveals how much glucose is present in your blood at that moment. The components of the meter are: (1) the meter, (2) glucose strips, (3) lancet.  To test, you take a glucose strip and insert it into the meter.  Then, you pierce one finger with a lancet, placing the drop of blood on the glucose strip. In a few seconds, the glucose number will appear on the meter. There are also continuous glucose monitoring systems and pumps. 
Third, what the meter says:  A normal blood sugar level is considered less that 100 mg/dL when fasting (morning numbers) and less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating your first bite of a meal. Christina was diagnosed with diabetes Type I when she was 7 years old.  During her lifetime, she has been a passionate seeker of knowledge, wanting to understand her body in order to assist what is not working.  I found her on twitter and have been continually inspired by her passion, her commitment to understanding diabetes, and, in turn, assisting others in diabetes education.  She is a truth seeker!  I had the opportunity to speak with Christina recently and want to share with you our conversation: 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Thank you so much, Christina, for taking the time to talk with me about a chronic disease that greatly affects the Latina/Latino communities.  First, tell me about your tattoo.

Christina's tattoo
Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  It’s a blue circle to represent diabetes.  I took the Chicago flag and instead of two blue lines, I made it into one circle and then added the Chicago stars, the four stars across the middle of that circle.  I feel the empowerment with this tattoo.  People see the tattoo and say, “That’s cool, is that Chicago?”  I say, “Yes, BUT, it’s also representative of diabetes awareness” and then this gives me the opportunity to talk about diabetes with them. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  And you mentioned that you also wear a pump. 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  People see the pump and ask me if it’s a pager or ask if I’m a doctor.  And I think of responding with crazy answers, but then I think, where will that get me?  So I explain what it is, and what it means to me. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  So, in what creative ways do you educate people so they will remember details (because diabetes demands learning so much information)?  For example, how do you educate people about the differences between Type I and Type II Diabetes? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I call Type II a “Disorder,” and Type I a “Disease.”  I call Type II a “Disorder” because your body has a malfunction, whereas with Type I, diabetes is an autoimmune disease.

Amelia M.L. Montes:  You’ve had diabetes (Type I) since childhood. Does the disease limit you in any way? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I don’t want to let chronic illness limit me from doing anything, but there are days when I can’t physically do something due to exhaustion, hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia, and it can weigh on me as a psychological issue.  There are many studies that connect Type II diabetes to depression, but this doesn’t mean people with Type I don’t have depression. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Agreed.  It’s definitely false to think that depression only manifests itself in individuals with Type II.  Also, some people feel that Diabetes Type I and Diabetes Type II are two very different diseases.  In some of your articles, you have said there are similarities.  Where are the connections?

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  The cause—the causes are all different but the reasons they’re all called diabetes are because the symptoms and the ultimate effects are the same.  With Type I, I feel all the symptoms twice as fast as those with Type II.  With Type II, their blood sugars are elevated for so long, that they don’t know how normal feels.  With Type I, my moods and symptoms change multiple times [a day] and are so different every day. 

I remember the first time I was on a twitter chat and we were asked how we feel when we do everything right, and then you check your blood sugar, and it’s still high.  I saw answers like:  “I want to throw it [the glucose meter] out the window,” and “I get angry, and then my blood sugar goes higher.” Just reading that helped me feel I was not alone. 

Checking your blood sugar.  Placing a drop of blood on the glucose strip that has been inserted into the meter.  
Amelia M.L. Montes:  I get that—reading diabetes online community comments and feeling less isolated.  You’ve made sure to reach out, educate yourself, be involved with diabetes communities.  How can readers who have diabetes break through the stigma, the shame connected to this disease, which sometimes makes them hide?  How can we talk to each other? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  You have to talk about it, and let them know just what they’re doing to their bodies if they don’t take care of themselves.  I always said that if we taught Latino families together [those with and without diabetes] about the treatment of diabetes, the person that actually developed it would be better off.  It really takes a village to cure individuals.  If you get everyone to understand, make healthier choices, and even change their lifestyle, the entire family (or community) will be better off.

Amelia M.L. Montes: How do we do this with our various communities.  Also--do you belong to other communities and how do you navigate diabetes in all of these communities? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  Sometimes I feel I’m in three different communities.  The first community is the general every day.  I go to work, and I mingle with people who are not Latino and don’t have diabetes.  Total market experience.  You don’t care what color anyone is—you are just “being.”  The second community is the Latino community who has less resources.  I am very tied to that culture, from the art I have in my house, to the way that I say my name.  The third community is the Diabetes community.  Not only am I usually the only Latina with diabetes, but I also have Type I which is not as common as Type II among the Latino community.  And then I say, how are we going to get these different communities together?  What are we going to do to upkeep your health?  Diabetes isn’t racist, sexist, gender neutral.  When you have diabetes, you can get comments like, “pero no estas gorda” [“but you’re not fat”].  And there is where diabetes education is most needed. So I try to speak from a general diabetes perspective.  I may not know what medication you’re taking, but I know exactly how you feel.

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Was there a time where you were able to educate “on the street.”

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I was on the bus, and there was an older woman with a woman who seemed to me to be in her 40s.  I heard them talking, about the older woman’s husband who was going blind and how her eyesight was going as well because of diabetes.  And the younger woman also had diabetes and was talking about her A1C (a test that measures the amount of blood in one’s sugar over the period of three months), and I thought, “Holy cow—there really is someone who understands diabetes.”  The younger woman got off the bus and I was trying to figure out how to start a conversation with the older woman without seeming like I had been eavesdropping on their conversation.  So I ended up taking out my glucose meter on the bus, and she said, “Ahhh—tu tambien!  Pero tan jovencita!” [“Ahhh—you too!  But you’re so young!”] And we started talking.  I asked her about her family, and if they talked to their family about diabetes.  I said, “Talk to your kids about it, they may be able to help you.”  It was the most memorable diabetes experience I’ve had.  I ended up overshooting my bus stop by 20 blocks so I could keep talking to her. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  That is such an important story that, again, speaks to the need for education.  What kind of diabetes education do you feel should be in place for Latinas/Latinos? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  The one thing that we have realized is that fear does not educate anyone.  We’ve seen HIV campaigns in Mexico gone wrong, and now Ebola is another perfect example.  We need to put a positive spin on education.  What I’ve found completely useful is that I learned how the body is supposed to work and then I learned why my body is not working the way it’s supposed to. A health class shouldn’t be about just medication or carbohydrate counting.  It should be about how your body is supposed to function and how to get it back there.  I’ve always been interested in the science portion of diabetes. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  So what are some ways to talk to the public that may be helpful? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  Don’t say:  “If you don’t check your blood sugar, you’re going to lose your leg.”  That doesn’t educate.  In order to manage diabetes, it’s important to not let it take you over.  You have to be the one who is leading diabetes, and that’s where education comes in—not scaring people.  There has to be more positivity and empowerment. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Agreed!

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  For example, I was at Northwestern, and a doctor explained that if you check your blood sugar only three or four times a day, that’s like taking a thousand piece puzzle, and only having three pieces of it.  The more you know, the more you own the situation.  It’s in your power to do it. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Yes—so important.  And regarding checking one’s blood, I’ve become used to testing more often on days when I’m not feeling well.  So, Christina, where do you feel we are now with diabetes education?

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I feel like there’s a cure for this issue already.  World wide, diabetes costs over 240 billion dollars a year.  I volunteer with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and sit on the committee for the ADA EXPO that happens every year.  The Chicago ADA chapter is the biggest one in the country.  Everyone who sits on the committee wants to do something to further community education, but it seems that the funding is always for something big:  “The Walk,” or the EXPO that happens once a year draws about 14,000 people.  What I’ve noticed is that the most congested area of the EXPO is the screening section where they will check your feet, your eyes.  It’s a free screening, but without any education. But if you look at it that way, what does it tell you?  You learn that people clearly aren’t getting the attention they need outside of that EXPO.  That means that there needs to be more education, health services, and guidance and that’s just not happening.  There’s nothing in regards to community building.  Community building is about having the time, energy, and efficiency to do it. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Are hospital clinics different? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I didn’t have insurance for about a year, and I used this state-funded healthcare situation as a learning experience.  Throughout the experience, I had to ask the right questions and demand proper health care.  I had a nurse once who told me I didn’t have to check myself so often.  Why?  Because the state only gives you enough strips to test once a day.  They will not insure you for more than one strip a day.  How are people supposed to take care of themselves?  So if you can afford it, it comes out of your pocket.  But what happens when you can’t? 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  When you say that you “had to ask the right questions and demand proper health care,” I think about the average patient who will not at all think about asking questions, but instead, simply “following doctors orders” without bringing a healthy dose of skepticism into the doctor’s office.  But that comes with empowerment.  Because you are active with the ADA and are familiar with medical corporations, what do you say to them? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I’ve been approached by pharmaceutical companies.  I tell them: “You have to teach people about themselves, and how they can manage this on their own.”  This is why, if I ever won the lottery, I would give donations to clinics – not to foundations.  You can donate and donate to foundations, but you don’t know where that money is going.  If there were more funding for community clinics where the underserved go for medical attention, they would have more resources for education and servicing the people who really need it. 

A visual explanation of diabetes
Amelia M.L. Montes:  Your openness and forthright discussions are vital for the rest of us, Christina.  For example, here’s an excerpt from the “Discuss Diabetes” posting introducing you:  “Growing up with diabetes has given Christina a unique perspective.  ‘Ever since the beginning, I’ve always had this perception that I didn’t do anything to get Diabetes,’ she said.  ‘I didn’t choose to have this condition, and if people don’t like me because of it, it’s not my problem.  It’s theirs.  People often say, they’re sorry when they hear I have diabetes.  But I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t have it.  I likely wouldn’t be such a good multi-tasker or as ambitious.  I want people to know that I believe I can still do everything I want to do.’”  Comments?

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I’ve grown extremely honest.  When I go to the endocrinologist, there are times when residents who are working with the doctors come in to see me first.  The last time I went, I gave her [the resident] a run for her money.  She asked how I was doing, and I told her I’m tired.  I’m exhausted from having to be my pancreas.  There’s this thing called a burnout, where having diabetes literally gets you down and you’re doing things just to get by.  So I gave her this scenario.  For me, a burnout happens about every six months.  When I told her how I felt, she didn’t know how to deal with it, which is fine.  She was just learning.  But sometimes doctors are also shocked at how open I can be.  I figure, the more they know, the more they can help me.  Being vocal and open and talking about it as much as possible is going to eventually make diabetes less of a stigma and more something that can be managed:  Talking about it and making it a lifestyle change. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Are there other challenges for you that are linked to diabetes? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I developed vitiligo, which is skin discoloration.  There are no health repercussions.  It starts off as white patches.  This is another autoimmune disease, and when you have one, you can get more.  There are worse things than having your skin color go away—like diabetes. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Christina—thank you so much for your passionate and important words.  La Bloga honors November Diabetes Awareness with your interview today. Gracias! 










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4. Letras. Letters. Palabras. Words.



My author name, Rudy Ch. Garcia, contains the middle initial Ch., as if it were an abbreviation. It's not. I adopted it to focus Internet searches around me, instead of on the millions of latinos on the planet who also have my given name. Besides to "market" myself, the Ch. emphasizes both my bilingual elementary teacher career and my bilingualism. The Ch. Draws questions and remarks, but hasn't propelled my fame. People can imagine it stands for the famous Che--an association I don't mind--or Chicano, which is also bien.

not the prisoner's, but similar
I recently received three handwritten letters and one story, in the mail, from a man who's in prison for a non-violent crime. So few people write lettrs anymore. His intimidated me, which surprised me. Theoretically, I now had the obligation to answer, not necessarily with a pencil, but with a letter I'd have to send through the mail. I haven't gotten over that and neither have I responded. The story that the incarcerated Chicano wrote is at the bottom of this post. I think it's surprisingly good, detailing his last day before beginning his sentence.

His letters reminded me of some of mine, my half of an exchange of correspondence that went on for about a decade, between me and an English teacher from my junior and high school. In the mid-70s she presented me with a velo-bound, Xeroxed copy, what's called a self-published book, today, containing almost two hundred pages of our letters. To some extent, seeing my words in print influenced my writing mania.
what my teacher gave me
I still have the book but am leery of reading it again. Hearing your teenaged-to-20s self can be unnerving. What immaturity! What self-centeredness! What impassioned introspection about one little life. I intended to give excerpts from the introduction, but I can't do it. If I did, I'd be blushing, nearly shamefully, from what I feel was an over-kind assessment of my "vision, drive, sensitivities, and intellect," among other things. I haven't heard from my co-author teacher in decades. She may no longer be alive. But she left something--there's other copies!?--of herself, and me. The handwriting is gone, but the words between us are here.

Make up our own genres?

I'm going to borrow an artists' word and invent a new, genre term for my written works--fabulist mextasy. There, it's done. I might have to stop using it if the originator(s) feel it's counter to the intended meaning.
 
Hammond's new book, not fabulist mextasy
Why invent a new genre? At the end of this piece, are Warren Hammond's thoughts that initiated this. I've heard the same idea from Chicano authors. Would Mario Acevedo's books do better as Chicano thriller or paranormal vampire stories? Are Manuel Ramos's books crime or detective or Chicano or all of that or other combinations? Genre is what literary agents, publishers, and readers want. It can make or break.

From this point on, I consider much ofmy writing to be fabulist mextasy. The original definitions are below. I do write somewhat in a fable tradition. I believe the term mextasy applies to much of contemporary, Chicano stories, whether they are speculative or not. And its play on fantasy seems descriptive of some works.

where mextasy began?
From weekly posts, news and diatribes that I read, I've had it up to here (5'7.5") with exclusionary attitudes in the "American" publishing and writing world. It's a mostly white, mostly male, mostly oldsters dominated business. Getting our patasin the door, getting their conventions and organizations to include and welcome us is somebody else's lifetime task. Not mine.

So, I'd rather my unpublished works be true to themselves and my art--I call it--rather than be pigeonholed for the sake of marketability. If an agent or publisher insists on different, established genres, okay, I'll concede. Until then, welcome to the first author of fabulist mextasy. You have my unneeded permission to borrow, use, alter or propogate it, if you want.
my 1st fabulist mextasy, in Revista Iguana
Definition of fabulist: “For two decades, a small group of innovative writers rooted in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror have been simultaneously exploring and erasing the boundaries of those genres by creating fiction of remarkable depth and power”, thus extending the definition of “Fabulist,” which generally does not include fantasy, science fiction or horror. Fabulist, is generally taken to mean magic realism without geographical boundaries, in other words, not necessarily Latin American. New wave fabulist simply stretches that definition to include other more non-realistic forms."
Why mextasy: "Mextasy is more than a representation of ecstasy about or for Mexico; it is about the sensuous tracings Mexican culture leaves both sides of the border. More existential state than archive, Mextasy speaks to the living organism of Mexicanicity as it moves between the bodies of Mexico and the United States--an overt and covert delicious miasma that arouses as it excites, excites as it provokes. ¡Que viva Mexico!, within and without its borders . . . the image of Mexico in the United States."

"The human mind wants to categorize. When people go shopping, they want to be able to find things that they know they like. Categorization can be a double-edged sword. If you say, 'I am this,' and there's a whole audience out there that likes this, then it's good. But I think we as genre writers sometimes run the risk of categorizing ourselves too much.

"For instance, as I was writing my KOPbooks, I was thinking, this is great. Mystery readers will read them and science-fiction readers will read them. I'll appeal to two audiences.' What tend[ed] to happen instead, as I learned, was that mystery readers say, 'I don't read science fiction,' and science-fiction readers say, 'I don't read mystery.' So sometimes you actually end up marginalizing yourself. We geek ourselves out too much, and we become a little insular." I was excited that I won [the Colorado Book Award], and I do think KOP Killer is noir mystery first and science fiction second. I was pleased the science-fiction elements weren't held against me."

The letter from the prisoner
I left this story largely unedited. What I found intriguing was how it reveals the thoughts of a man on his way to prison. The minutiae somehow seem appropriate, however mundanely trivial the content might usually be. It's no literary masterpiece, but it made me wonder what I would write if I were on the bus. Or, what about if it was the day before my execution?

The Bus to Nowhere
On this particular morning I woke up early. I knew I would be taking the Metro to my court appointment. My intention was to meet a reporter outside the courthouse. Today I would turn myself in to do a ten-moth stretch in the state jail. 
     I showered and dressed in clothes I had preselected the evening before. I proceeded to prepare breakfast for my wife, as I normally did. By 6:00am she was in the shower. Her radiance made up for the sun yet to rise. I finished my morning tasks, then entered the bathroom. I handed her my wedding ring and asked her to hold it for me until my return. We kissed goodbye. I exited the back door. I drew the gate open and walked down the alley, six blocks to the bus stop.
     Almost immediately, the bus approached. I sat my able body in a handicapped seat. Four older women occupied the seats behind and across from me. They were either on their way to work or returning. Either direction didn't matter. The years of domestic labor was recorded by the callous texture of their motherly hands. Housekeepers, maids, janitors, that mattered, neither. Their American dreams long ago swept away and disposed of. 
     A stop forward, another woman entered and took a seat. It must have been here that the importance of me and my day exited. 
     As one of the four departed, another waved gently, saying goodbye. "Until tomorrow." The exiter replied, "Si Diós quiere," meaning, "If God wills it." 
     The newest rider thumbed through her purse. She withdrew a few dollars--fifteen would be my estimate. Unnoticed, she passed it to the woman behind her. Obscured by the roar of the moving bus, she thanked the other woman. In response, the loaner said it wasn't necessary that she pay her all of it. The borrower looked up, commenting, "No, no, money only brings trouble." In her purse were a couple of other bundles with paper notes attached, as she had sorted these out the night before, her pending debts
     Onward rode these women with lives as routine as the bus they rode. So, too, of the other six or eight passengers. A bunch of nobodies? For, after all, everyone knows--on these seats, unreserved, no one rides the bus.  --fin--

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG., man of letters, and cartas, and spec stories, and author with the Spanish ch in his name

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5. Interview with L.A. Poet Laureate: Luis J. Rodriguez

Melinda Palacio

Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez

Bringing poetry to an entire city is a tough job. Mayor Garcetti chose the right man. Welcome Los Angeles Poet Laureate, Luis J. Rodriguez. His generous interview answers show a man who can take on tremendous responsibilities, especially those of elder and poet to the city of angels. As a Tia Chucha Press Poet, I'm a little biased but very humble and grateful for this interview with the 2014-2016 Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Luis J. Rodriguez. Luis offers his personal website and email as venues to receive suggestions for bringing poetry to the center of our culture. 



Melinda Palacio: What are some of your expectations as poet laureate?

Luis J. Rodriguez: First to magnify what I do already—speak to students; conduct workshops in as many schools, libraries and communities as possible; to attend and help establish poetry events and festivals in our vast terrain of a city; to represent with dignity the city’s myriad voices, flavors and tongues, including reaching out to the forgotten or pushed out—such as those behind bars, undocumented, LGBT, or homeless. And, of course, I’ll write poems.



MAP: How do you plan on making Los Angeles a more creative space and what can the city expect during your tenure?

LJR: My plan is to help poetry, and all the arts, explode.  Poetry should be an everyday and every occasion thing.  I want to help bring poetry to the center of our culture, where it needs to be.  Presently, poetry in our city, state and country is highly marginalized, concentrated in a few hands, un-promoted and mostly unused.  People are much more engaged in popular culture, sports teams, video games, reality shows, celebrity gossip—which is all entertaining, but very much pushed on the rest of us.  There’s big money in this.  Poetry is not that easily appropriated.  You don’t need an industry to do poetry.  Anyone is capable.  Poetry like most art is internal.  Provide skills, mentoring, cultural spaces, and poetry can come alive for anyone.  Poetry is deep soul talk, truth derived, and therefore immanently scary.  It’s a prophetic act, not in the sense that poetry or art “predicts” the future, but that it pulls from the threads of the past, the dynamics of the present, to imagine and point to a possible future free of the limitations, uncertainties, inequalities, and angsts we face.  I plan during my two-year assignment as Poet Laureate to bring out the healing and revolutionary qualities of poetry to a city hungry for this energy and power.



MAP: This position is sponsored by the LA Public Library, will there be some coordination between the LA Public Library and Tia Chucha's?

LJR: The cultural space and bookstore I helped establish in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, will continue doing what it does during my time as poet laureate.  This includes reaching out to libraries and schools.  I want Tia Chucha’s to be key to my position—it’s a positive example of how art, including poetry, transforms lives.  As for literature, we have writing circles, an outdoor annual literacy festival, weekly open mics, and a renowned poetry press.  I will definitely work with the vast L.A. Public Library system to reach out and broaden our reach.  Tia Chucha’s will be honored to assist and collaborate in any way possible.



MAP: Is there also a role that Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural and/or Tia Chucha Press will play in the near future?

LJR: Most Angelinos do not know about Tia Chucha’s and its small press, Tia Chucha Press. In fact, L.A. has amazing small presses, including Kaya Press, Writ Large, the well-known Red Hen Press, and others.  The area also has amazing independent bookstores like Eso Won, Book Soup, Skylights, Vroman’s, Seite Books, Libros Smibros, and Tia Chucha’s.  We plan to cooperate in a number of events within the next two years, including in 2016 when the largest writers (and teachers of writing) conference in the U.S. is held here—the Associated Writing Programs conference that has had up to 12,000 participants from all over the country.  We may have an anthology of youth work.  Many ideas have already come my way. Yes, definitely, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and its press will play a big role.  Anyone can go to www.tiachucha.org to find out more.





MAP: Can you share any immediate activities slated in the near future in either your roles as LA Poet Laureate or Tia Chucha Publisher and Founder of the Centro? Any dates or events you'd like La Bloga to list?

LJR: Presently, the L.A. Public Library and the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs have not sat down with me to work on all the plans I have.  But I’ll make sure they will be publicized.  I do have a “Love Poem to Los Angeles” that I wrote just before the Poet Laureate position was announced by Mayor Eric Garcetti in early October.  I’d like to get this published soon—in a major publication first, and then elsewhere.  We plan another “Celebrating Words” festival in Pacoima next spring.  I will make sure to inform La Bloga and its readers about our final decisions.

MAP: What can the public do to assist in your vision for the city and what can Tia Chucha Press Poets do for you?

LJR: I’d like to hear from local libraries, schools, or community organizations about possible readings, workshops, and events in which children, youth, and families can be invited and engaged.  In more than just English as well.  I’d like to see more Open Mics—where people feel free to express themselves in words, songs, performances, and such.  I will accept proposals at my website at www.luisjrodriguez.com.  People can also reach me at SevenRabbit54@gmail.com.  Obviously, not all ideas can be done.  But what I’m thinking can happen with inspiration, a seed planted, a flower of creativity watered.  It can happen with or without me.  My job is to help push or create social energy toward healing and authority through poetry and the arts.

The Wedding of Margarita Lopez and Silverio Pelayo at Tia Chucha's
Officiated by Trini and Luis Rodriguez


MAP: Recently, you and Trini officiated a wedding at Tia Chucha's. This must say so much about how Tia Chucha's is truly a cultural center. Was this the first wedding at the center? Your energy seems boundless. How do you find time to fit in all of your roles? Do you have plans to seek public office in the near future?


LJR: In the thirteen years we’ve been in the Northeast Valley, we’ve seen young people grow up.  Some get married, have babies, continue to develop into wonderful and whole human beings.  Many learned guitar, Son Jarocho musical traditions, Mexican Danza (so-called Aztec dance), photography, mural painting, keyboards, drumming, puppetry, theater, and more at Tia Chucha’s.  Many read books, often for the first time, there.  We’ve had two weddings at our space where Trini and I were asked to officiate—and I have officiated three other weddings outside the space.  We’re honored to do this.  This is recognition of our eldership, our connection to new generations.  Trini and I are both in our early 60s; this is one way we can give back in a meaningful and respectful way.  How do I make time?  Community, including the poor, the exploited and oppressed, energizes me.  I’m energized by the possibilities of full justice and equity for all.  Ideas and actions together; learning, teaching and realizing—where there are no unreachable gulfs between these.  I’ve also been sober for 21 years—this helps tremendously.  I no longer live hidden lives, drinking, carousing, squandering time and relationships.  I’m more integral than I’ve ever been, and what an ordeal it has been to get here.  I’m revolutionary to the core, and this helps.  I won’t get “settled in,” complacent or satisfied with achievements.  But I also know—this is not about me.  It’s class, community, a new world. I may seek public office in the future—I don’t think we can turn over any political or cultural ground to the one percent, the wealthy or powerful that aim to control all this.  But for now, for the next two years, I’m concentrating on being Poet Laureate—to extend the important conversation about deep, systemic and healthy change, and how poetry can help.

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6. New Book: Letters from Heaven / Cartas del cielo


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Celeste is heartbroken when her grandmother dies. But everything changes when a letter mysteriously comes in the mail—from Grandma! As letters continue to arrive from the beyond, each with a recipe of a favorite food her grandmother used to prepare, Celeste consoles herself by learning how to cook the dishes.

Meanwhile, without Grandma’s Social Security check Mami needs to get a second job to make ends meet. Celeste has to quit dance lessons, and a bully at school gloats that she will replace Celeste as the star in the upcoming recital. To top things off, her friends think that she has gone crazy . . . dead people can’t send letters!

Soon Celeste realizes that all the recipes combined make an entire meal: café con leche, guava and cheese croissants, congrí, plantain chips, ropa vieja and flan. Can she really make a Cuban feast to celebrate her cherished grandmother’s life?

Published in bilingual "flip" format by Arte Público Press, this middle-grade novel celebrates the cultural traditions of the Spanish Caribbean while tackling challenging subjects, such as trouble with friends and the death of a grandparent. The book includes six traditional Cuban recipes with easy-to-follow instructions.

 “A tender depiction of a child’s acceptance of the death of a beloved grandmother and the cultural importance of traditional foods.”
—Kirkus Reviews

 “This delightful novel is a Like Water for Chocolate for young readers. Celeste rises out of her grief by replacing her sadness with el sabor of life, by living as her grandmother did, with love and flavor."
— Judith Ortiz Cofer, author of Call Me María

 “Add one girl who misses her abuelita to a handful of coveted Cuban recipes, stir in a pinch of magic and you get a heartening tale of love, loss and the healing power of family and friendship.” 
—Laura Lacámara, author of Dalia’s Wondrous Hair / El cabello maravilloso de Dalia

 “A poignant and uplifting story about the special bond only a grandmother and a granddaughter can share. Delicious and magical!” 
—Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us



Letters from Heaven / Cartas del cielo
by Lydia Gil ISBN-13: 978-1-55885-798-8
Available now from Piñata Books, Arte Público Press

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7. November 2014 Picture Book Month Passes the Halfway Mark



“When we reached the top, there were over a hundred children gathered on the hillside, some of whom had walked miles to hear a story.” – Sophie Blackall from her Picture Book Month Essay

“If a picture book and an iPad got into a fight, a picture book would totally kick an iPad's butt.” – Aaron Reynolds from his Picture Book Month Essay

Picture Book Month has just passed the halfway mark. Around the world, schools, libraries, booksellers, and book lovers are coming together to celebrate the print picture book during the month of November. Now in its fourth year, the initiative is a viral phenomenon.

The website, PictureBookMonth.com, features essays from thought leaders in the children’s literature community. Each day in November, a new essay is posted. This year’s Picture Book Month Champions are: Chris Barton, Aaron Becker, Kelly Bingham , Sophie Blackall, Arree Chung, Anna Dewdney, Johnette Downing, Ame Dyckman, Jill Esbaum, Carolyn Flores, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Robin Preiss Glasser, Deborah Heiligman, Marla Frazee, Stefan Jolet, Kathleen Krull, Rene Colato Lainez, Loreen Leedy, Betsy Lewin, Ted Lewin, Brian Lies, Kelly J. Light, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Alexis O'Neill, Sandra Markle, Ann Whitford Paul, Aaron Reynolds, Judy Schachner, Linda Joy Singleton, and David Schwartz.

New features this year include “Curriculum Connections” by Education Consultant, Marcie Colleen. Every day, a new activity and curriculum connection is posted based on the Author/Illustrator’s book. In addition, the multi-page Picture Book Month Educator’s Guide, correlating picture books across the curriculum, is available as a free download for educators and teacher librarians.

We are pleased to also announce that Reading Rainbow has recently joined as a Picture Book Month partner. Support for the initiative continues with partners such as the American Booksellers Association, the American Association of School Librarians, the Children’s Book Council, Reading is Fundamental, and SCBWI as well as industry trade journals such as Hornbook, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. New 2014 partners also include The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and Friends of Tennessee Libraries.

A downloadable promotional kit is available as well as certificates, posters, and bookmarks created by Joyce Wan. Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books Podcast, the #1 kidlit podcast on iTunes, is dedicating the entire month of November to Picture Book Month with new episodes airing every Friday. The PBM calendar created by Elizabeth Dulemba lists all the Picture Book Month Champions as well as the daily theme. The daily themes are used to plan story times, book displays, and blog posts.

Founder Dianne de Las Casas says, “People are joining the celebration from countries such as Ireland, Jamaica, and Singapore, as well as across the entire United States. We love that school libraries are reporting virtually empty picture book shelves. It’s not too late to join the celebration!” Follow Picture Book Month on Twitter, @PictureBkMonth, and Facebook, and use the hashtag #PictureBookMonth. Visit www.picturebookmonth.com.

“A picture book is a simile that shivers. A metaphor that melts. A not-a-poem, yet Every. Word. Counts. Picture books excite the eye, the ear, the heart.” – Alexis O’Neill from her Picture Book Month Essay


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8. ¡Faltamos 43!


Michael Sedano

When I was in the Army I decided I would kill anyone who faced me in war, but I found myself on a Korean mountaintop and didn't face the truth. My friend Mario Trillo, who was getting shot-up in Vietnam the same time I was in Korea, wrote the other day that each successive kill lightened the load on his conscience. Killing another person, the thought of it even, weighs on a person.

So what is it that allows people to kill forty-three fellow people in an act of pitiless deliberateness? Who gives the orders? And when mass grave after mass grave after mass grave turned out to be not the 43, hope for the missing teaching students dimmed:

43 estudiantes de la Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos, de Ayotzinapa, Tixtla, en el Estado de Guerrero, México, están desaparecidos desde el 26 de septiembre de 2014. Vivos se llevaron. Vivos los queremos.

The students murdered in Iguala were locals. The narcos were locals. The cops were locals. They saw each other on the street. They'd looked into each other's eyes before. Some grew up together.

The imperial couple were cosmopolitan, de la primera clase. The students, the professor, the campesino--the 43--were los de abajo. They would have been teachers, the victims. They could have been teachers, the gunmen. Two roads diverged not long before Iguala.

Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda. I grieve. You grieve. We grieve. Today, 13 poets grieve the 43. !Faltamos 43!

On-line Floricanto: 13 for the 43
Iris De Anda, Marcela Ibarra Mateos, Betty Sánchez, Sonia Gutiérrez, Xánath Caraza, Sharon Elliott, Viva Flores, Daniel Vidal Soto, Patrick Fontes, Jan G. Otterstrom, Andrea Mauk, Nephtalí De León, Carolina Torres



"Ayotzinapa: Rojo Amanecer" Por Iris De Anda
"Mamá, si desaparezco, ¿a dónde voy? / Mother, If I Disappear, Where Do I Go?" By Marcela Ibarra Mateos (Trans. Sonia Gutírrez)
"Todos Somos Ayotzinapa" Por Betty Sánchez
"Los huesos hablan / Bones Speak" By Sonia Gutiérrez
"Espuma Sangrante" Por Xánath Caraza
"Semillas de Ayotzinapa" By Sharon Elliott
"Lucecitas, para Ayotzinapa" Por Viva Flores
"A Poster Asks to Find the Missing 43" By Daniel Vidal Soto
"La Llorona Weeps Once More" By Patrick Fontes
"Hijos perdidos" Por Jan G. Otterstrom
"Mexico, My Mirror" By Andrea Mauk
"43 Howls of the Soul" By Nephtalí De León
"Nudo" Por Carolina Torres


Ayotzinapa: Rojo Amanecer
Por Iris De Anda

tápame los ojos
que ya no puedo ver
el duelo de mi país
otro rojo amancer
el gobierno es maestro de oscuridad
los estudiantes ejercen la luz
es por eso que los de arriba
dan órdenes para apagar
el fuego del pueblo
pues les ilumina
su corrupción
pero les falla su matanza
porque por cada vela que apagan
se enciendien 43 más y más y más
cuarenta y tres semillas de luz digna rabia
se estremece el mundo entero
la humanidad está de luto
y los 43 viven en su llanto
no dejes que te llenen de miedo
la justicia es tu arma
y el sol tu aliento
porque otro rojo amanecer
no podemos aguantar
sigue luchando
mi gente presente
la luz es de quien la enciende
tu voz es un altar
recordamos a los caídos
los levantamos en nuestro gritar
Ya Basta Ayotzinapa
tu sembraste un campo de ideas
ahora la cosecha despierta
ombligo de México
nace tu revancha
el gobierno no se queda impune
porque el pueblo se levanta
levantate hermano
levántate ya
tus compañeros te apoyan
desde el desierto y la montaña
cruzamos fronteras
unimos las manos
tu duelo es el mío
y tu noche la mía
marchamos con luz de dia
exigimos justicia
- Abel García Hernández
- Abelardo Vázquez Peniten
- Adán Abrajan de la Cruz
- Alexander Mora Venancio
- Antonio Santana Maestro
- Benjamín Ascencio Bautista
- Bernardo Flores Alcaraz
- Carlos Iván Ramírez Villarreal
- Carlos Lorenzo Hernández Muñoz
- César Manuel González Hernández
- Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre
- Christian Tomás Colón Garnica
- Cutberto Ortiz Ramos
- Dorian González Parral
- Emiliano Alen Gaspar de la Cruz.
- Everardo Rodríguez Bello
- Felipe Arnulfo Rosas
- Giovanni Galindes Guerrero
- Israel Caballero Sánchez
- Israel Jacinto Lugardo
- Jesús Jovany Rodríguez Tlatempa
- Jonas Trujillo González
- Jorge Álvarez Nava
- Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza
- Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño
- Jorge Luis González Parral
- José Ángel Campos Cantor
- José Ángel Navarrete González
-José Eduardo Bartolo Tlatempa
-José Luis Luna Torres
-Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz
-Julio César López Patolzin
-Leonel Castro Abarca
-Luis Ángel Abarca Carrillo
-Luis Ángel Francisco Arzola
-Magdaleno Rubén Lauro Villegas
-Marcial Pablo Baranda
-Marco Antonio Gómez Molina
-Martín Getsemany Sánchez García
-Mauricio Ortega Valerio
-Miguel Ángel Hernández Martínez
-Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarías
-Saúl Bruno García



Iris De Anda is a writer, activist, and practitioner of the healing arts. A womyn of color of Mexican and Salvadorean descent. A native of Los Angeles she believes in the power of spoken word, poetry, storytelling, and dreams. She has been published in Mujeres de Maiz Zine, Loudmouth Zine: Cal State LA, OCCUPY SF poems from the movement, Seeds of Resistance, In the Words of Women, Twenty: In Memoriam, Revolutionary Poets Brigade Los Angeles Anthology, and online at La Bloga. She is an active contributor to Poets Responding to SB 1070. She performs at community venues and events throughout the Los Angeles area & Southern California. She hosted The Writers Underground Open Mic 2012 at Mazatlan Theatre and 100,000 Poets for Change 2012, 2013, and 2014 at the Eastside Cafe. She currently hosts The Writers Underground Open Mic every Third Thursday of the month at Eastside Cafe. Author of CODESWITCH: Fires From Mi Corazon. www.irisdeanda.com







Mamá, si desaparezco, ¿a dónde voy?
Por Marcela Ibarra Mateos

Solo sé que si desaparecieras te buscaría
entre la tierra y debajo de ella.

Tocaría en cada puerta de cada casa.

Preguntaría a todas y a cada una de las personas
que encontrara en mi camino.

Exigiría, todos y cada uno de los días,
a cada instancia obligada a buscarte
que lo hiciera hasta encontrarte.

Y querría, hijo, que no tuvieras miedo,
porque te estoy buscando.
Y si no me escucharan, hijo;
la voz se me haría fuerte
y gritaría tu nombre por las calles.
Rompería vidrios y tiraría puertas para buscarte.

Incendiaría edificios para que todos supieran
cuánto te quiero y cuánto quiero que regreses.

Pintaría muros con tu nombre
y no querría que nadie te olvidara.

Buscaría a otros y a otras que también
buscan a sus hijos para que juntos
te encontráramos a ti y a ellos.

Y querría, hijo, que no tuvieras miedo,
porque muchos te buscamos.

Si no desaparecieras, hijo,
como así deseo y quiero.

Gritaría los nombres de todos aquellos
que sí han desaparecido.

Escribiría sus nombres en los muros.

Abrazaría en la distancia y en la cercanía
a todos aquellos padres y madres; hermanas
y hermanos que buscan a sus desaparecidos.

Caminaría del brazo de ellos por las calles.

Y no permitiría que sus nombres fueran olvidados.

Y querría, hijo, que todos ellos no tuvieran miedo,
porque todos los buscamos.


Mother, If I Disappear, Where Do I Go?
By Marcela Ibarra Mateos

I do not know, son.
I only know that if you would disappear
I would search between the earth and beneath her. 

I would knock on every house door. 

I would ask every and each person
who would cross my path.

I would demand each and everyday,
every instant obliged to search for you
until you are found.

And I would want, son, for you not to fear
because I am looking for you.

And if they would not listen to me, son;

my voice would grow strong,
and I would bellow your name through the streets. 

I would break glass and tear down doors to find you. 

I would burn down buildings
so everybody would know
how much I love you
and how much I want you to return.

I would paint murals with your name,
and I would not want anyone to forget you.

I would search for others who are also
looking for their children, so together
we would find you and them. 

And I would want son for you to not be afraid
because we are looking for you. 

If you would not have disappeared, son,
as I wish and want. 

I would bellow the names of all
those who have disappeared. 

I would write their names on walls. 

I would embrace in closeness
and in the distance all those fathers and mothers;
sisters and brothers who are looking for their disappeared.

I would walk arm in arm with them through the streets. 

And I would not allow their names to be forgotten. 

And I would want, son, for all of them
not to be afraid because we all searched.

Translation by Sonia Gutiérrez

La Dra. Marcela Ibarra Mateos es profesora e investigadora de la Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla  en el Departamentos de Ciencias Sociales con experiencia de investigación en migraciones transnacionales; jóvenes rurales, participación comunitaria, y migración.

Sus publicaciones y ponencias han sido presentadas en foros internacionales, nacionales y locales. Publicó el libro Entre Contextos Locales y Ciudades Globales. La configuración de circuitos migratorios Puebla-Nueva York, co-coordinado con Liliana Rivera Sánchez y que reúne textos sobre migración poblana. Recientemente publicó el libro Jóvenes, migración e identidad, como resultado de un proyecto de investigación financiado por INDESOL.

Desde sus inicios ha impulsado el trabajo de investigación articulado a iniciativas de desarrollo local. Particularmente en localidades de Puebla se ha desarrollado trabajo participativo transnacional con organizaciones de migrantes y con familiares en sus localidades de origen.







Todos Somos Ayotzinapa
Por Betty Sánchez

Mi nombre puede ser el tuyo
Yo soy Ayotzinapa
Estudiante normalista
Residente de Guerrero
Padre hijo hermano amigo
Culpable del crimen
De desear superarme
De enseñar en un aula
De defender mis derechos
Y oponerme a la injusticia

Pienso luego desaparezco
En un auto gubernamental
En una burocracia a favor
Del poderoso e influyente
En un sistema municipal
Federal y judicial corrupto
En un gobierno que vende
Impunidad al que puede pagarla
En manos de sicarios
Al servicio del mejor postor

Protesto luego desaparezco
Me encontrarás de rodillas
En el patio de la policía preventiva
En una fosa clandestina
Con el cuerpo calcinado
Brutalmente torturado
Desollado con las cuencas
De los ojos vacías
Símbolo del abismo sombrío
En que vive mi gente

Mis opresores no dan la cara
El Presidente municipal
Huye con permiso y gastos pagados
El Gobernador niega estar involucrado
El Presidente de la República
Se dirige a su pueblo
Diez días después de lo acontecido
Pronunciando un discurso
Con cara de aflicción
Y balbuceando promesas endebles

El silencio ya no es una opción
No soy un caso aislado
Soy un crimen de estado
Victima del terror blanco
El reflejo de una sociedad
Donde la muerte violenta
Es un asunto cotidiano
Noticia internacional
Evento del momento
Como lo fue Tlatelolco y Acteal

No somos los primeros
Pero queremos ser los últimos
Ahora somos 43 desaparecidos
Antes de nosotros
Decenas cientos miles
Todos somos Ayotzinapa
Su lucha y su dolor son los nuestros
Únete a mi grito de indignación
Y solidaridad

¡VIVOS SE LOS LLEVARON
VIVOS LOS QUEREMOS!

Betty Sánchez
En respuesta a los acontecimientos
ocurridos el 26 de Septiembre del 2014
En Iguala Guerrero

Photo by Andres Alvarez
Betty Sánchez, madre, maestra, poeta, ciudadana indignada por lo acontecido en Iguala Guerrero en Septiembre del 2014.







Los huesos hablan 

Por Sonia Gutiérrez

“Ayotzinapa: río de las calabacitas”
Los perros se comportaban 
como si fuera el último hueso. 
Pero los dueños sabían 
que había toneladas
de huesos almacenados
en sus casas blancas, 
en Los Pinos, y en los palacios 
de gobierno. Esos patrimonios
achicaban las casitas de Ayotzinapa.

Pero los huesos no eran mudos;
hablaban. Los huesos se asomaban 
por los cimientos, y por eso los dueños
mandaron crear jardines botánicos 
para apaciguar su conciencia
y distraer a sus invitados importantísimos.

Quinientos años después,
debajo de la avaricia y del odio continuo
contra nosotros mismos,
los dueños nos dejan
máscaras rojas sin piel y con los ojos picados.
Y desde el río de las calabacitas,
los huesos se apoderaron
del sentimiento de la nación
y lo encendieron.

Pisamos fuerte por nuestros
hijos e hijas con y sin huaraches,
con tenis o zapatos,
con sandalias o botas,
este suelo sagrado
que nuestros antepasados caminaron,
dejando atrás el miedo 
haciendo temblar a los domadores
que olfatean el dinero,
el miedo y se arman
hasta los dientes.

Está claro;
los huesos sí hablan:
ustedes, los cuarenta y tres
valientes, sembraron semillas sin miedo—
existe el sueño mexicano
digno de cultivar.


Bones Speak 

By Sonia Gutiérrez

“Ayotzinapa: river of little squash”
The dogs behaved 
as if it were the last bone. 
But the owners knew 
there were tons
of stored bones
in their white houses, 
at Los Pinos, in government
palaces. Those patrimonies
dwarfed the little houses
of Ayotzinapa.
But the bones were not mute;
they talked. Bones peered through
the foundations, and for this reason the owners
created botanical gardens
to appease their conscience
and distract their very important visitors.
Five-hundred years,
underneath continues greed and hate
against ourselves,
the owners leave us
skinned red masks with minced eyes,
And from the river of little squash,
the bones took over
the sentiment of the nation
and lit it.

We step firmly for our
sons and daughters with orwithout huaraches,
with tennis shoes or shoes,
with sandals or boots,
this sacred ground
our ancestors walked,
leaving behind fear,
making the tamers,
who sniff money,
fear and arm themselves
to the teeth, tremble.

It is clear
bones do speak:
you, the valiant forty-three,
planted fearless seeds—
the Mexican dream exists
worthy of cultivating.


Sonia Gutiérrez is the daughter of two Michoacanos. She teaches English Composition and Critical Thinking and Writing at Palomar College. La Bloga is home to her Poets Responding SB 1070 poems, including “Best Poems 2011” and “Best Poems 2012.” Her vignettes have appeared in AlternaCtive PublicaCtions, Mujeres de Maíz, City Works Literary Journal, and Huizache. Her bilingual poetry collection, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña (Olmeca Press, 2013), is her debut publication. Kissing Dreams from a Distance, a novel, is under editorial review.  To learn more about Sonia, visit SoniaGutierrez.com.







Espuma Sangrante
Por Xánath Caraza

Para los 43 estudiantes de Ayotzinapa

Este mar que lame el arena
Olas hambrientas
Testigos sonoros
Luna de agua con ojos quietos
Inmóviles palmeras mudas frente a mí
Caminan los rayos del amanecer en las calles
Marchan ante el contenido rugido del mar
Aves migratorias en el horizonte
Con ellas vuelo
Arena salmón lamida por la espuma sangrante
Mientras cuarenta y tres niños perdidos
Gritan en tus líquidas rojas entrañas
Aullidos sordos, aullidos sordos
En este mar estático que ruge
Ruge mar, ruge, ruge sus nombres
Para la eternidad


(11 de octubre de 2014, Acapulco, Guerrero, México)
Bleeding Foam
By Xánath Caraza

For the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa

The sea licks the sand
Hungry waves
Resounding witnesses
Moon of water with quiet eyes
Mute, immobile palm trees before me
Dawn sunrays walk through the streets
They march before the restrained roar of the sea
Migratory birds on the horizon
I fly with them
Salmon sand licked by bleeding foam
While forty-three lost children
Howl in your liquid red entrails
Silent screams, silent screams
In this static sea that roars
Roar, sea; roar, sea.  Roar their names
For eternity

(October 11, 2014, Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico)



Xánath Caraza’s bilingual poetry and short story collections are Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind (2014), Noche de Colibríes: Ekphrastic Poems (2014), Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings (2013), Conjuro (2012), and Corazón Pintado: Ekphrastic Poems (2012).  She writes the column, “US Latino Poets en español”.  Caraza is a writer for La Bloga and for Revista Zona de Ocio, and teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).  She is an advisory circle member of the Con Tinta literary organization.





Semillas de Ayotzinapa
By Sharon Elliott

I hoped
I could construct a barrier
between us
like surgical gauze
or a
blanket
made of fir needles
from the forest floor
to keep the horror
at bay
pero a veces esperanza no sirve

instead
a dream
came gently
on a warm south wind
to a room with whitewashed walls
worn wooden floors
for dancing
llena de estudiantes
gozando la vida

in one corner
an argument
loud voices
arms gesticulating wildly
hands raised in clenched fists
above heads
sure of themselves
como compañeros
sure that even if
agreement was not reached
the truth would be told

in another corner
a muchacho with hands soft
tender
touches the face
of his beloved
yearning
she receives his caricias
con una sonrisa
and a delicate sigh

at a long scrubbed table
a portly guy
with a laugh
big and jovial
like his stomach
fills a plate
tamales and chicharrones
and all the joy it can hold
while his friends bring cerveza
to wet his whistle
so he will tell a joke

on the stage
a boy plays his guitar
virtuoso
notes rain from strings
like pearls and bullets
his throat forms words
nuggets of gold

those waiting
outside
go for the gold
leave their humanity behind

when I wake I know
los jovenes son nuestros
they are our children still
grown though they may be

desaparecidos
they might be dead
or unable to come back
from a different kind of death
we may not understand

my lips say “soy  Ayotzinapa”
my body growls “soy Ayotzinapa”
my brain shouts “soy Ayotzinapa”

my heart cries “los jovenes de Ayotzinapa son yo”

“they tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds
trataron de enterrar , que no sabían que éramos semillas”

Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.


Born and raised in Seattle, Sharon Elliott has written since childhood. Four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador laid the foundation for her activism. As an initiated Lukumi priest, she has learned about her ancestral Scottish history, reinforcing her belief that borders are created by men, enforcing them is simply wrong.  She has a book: Jaguar Unfinished, Sharon Elliott, Prickly Pear Publishing 2012, ISBN-13:  978-1-889568-03-4, ISBN-10:  1-889568-03-1 (26 pgs); and has featured in poetry readings at Poetry Express and La Palabra Musical in Berkeley, CA.  She was awarded a Best Poem of 2012, The Day of Little Comfort, in La Bloga Online Floricanto Best Poems of 2012, 11/2013, http://labloga.blogspot.com/2013/01/best-poems-of-2012.html.







Lucecitas, para Ayotzinapa
Por Viva Flores

“Ahora que/vamos a hacer/buscando cuarenta y tres
luciérnagas/ con/
frascos de miel/
ahora que/vamos a hacer.”

Dice la alquimia que las esencias se transmutan
solo con intención-
leña a polvo,
polvo a leña
los ciclos acaban como se
empiezan y
no hay materia que se transforma
a nada.

Históricamente, el silencio del fuego nunca ha servido para
ocultar los gritos de las bocas
cerradas
y
la gasolina no fue hecha para derramar en las caras,
en una pila de cuerpos.

Hay una madre en su cama llorando como niña en su
infancia,
exigiendo justicia como alimento
pero no le dan
nada.
Una mañana guardando el silencio
esa misma mujer carga a su arma.
Cuidado con la que ha perdido todo-
ya no le pueden quitar
nada.

México, cuarenta y tres luciérnagas calcinadas
han encendido las puertas de tu casa,
dieron luz a tu palacio empolvado-
un manojo de gusanos
retorciéndose por plata.

A Cuauhtémoc le quemaron los pies los europeos
pero el Tata nunca se dio. Sus huesitos derritiendo
candentes de valor.

Los guerreros nunca mueren
solo se transmutan, cambian de
color.
Copyright 2014 Viva Flores. All rights reserved.



Viva Flores is a regular contribute at Balck Girl Dangerous. She studied Literature at University of Texas at El Paso.











A Poster Asks to Find the Missing 43
By Daniel Vidal Soto

I

You’ll never find them
Take the posters
And wrap them in a sailboat
Headed to the moon
Across la frontera through the bridge
To America’s house

Weep even for those who cross in safety
Safe enough to begin a family
For the kids, weep again
Into the realization
The American Dream does not exist
The schools really are also a prison
If we survive even this

Do it because
Alhambra has forgotten
Nahua’s agua through the well
Take the poster into a solid dream
Write poems and death notes
Stepping stones
Drowned beyond tomorrow

II

A crushed bag
Bottle of
Bibs and bitings
Teeth inked
Beyond
Gold badge and copper wire
Silent eye
Talisman crosshair
Silentium
Silentium
beyond the fire

III

Crushed van
Bone paint
Some moan
A splint of femur
In the neck
The neck breathing
Aveoli and
An eye
beyond the fence

IV

Mayor’s wife
Cheaper than
Yesterday’s piss
Golden locks
And thinking
She’s white
Uncle Sam’s
Cock sucker
Ass bender
Money fucker
Spirit twister
Cold eyed non-sister
Hope the furnace forgive
What the earth
And all our – not your – children
Can sing again in bigger choir

V

I see
My friend
Being arrested
And I tell him
It’s no different
Jamaican, Trinidadian
Dominican, Haitian
Puerto Rican
Moreno, Indio, Mestizo
The Trinidadian Parade
Announced We Ready
Habibi has already played
Through the warm Egyptian air

VI

There’s a beat
Coming in my stomach
My fingers touch
Through the cotton
Singing incantations
What was it she said –
Sana, Sana
Taking the knife
And cutting away the cloud
An egg shell appears
Brighter and more promising
Than the eye
It is an oval and white
As is its halo




Daniel Vidal Soto is author of "Demon in Plastic", and has been published in Cloudy City Press, Brooklyn Paramount, thosethatthis, La Bloga Floricanto, and the Nerds of Color. He currently pursues an MFA in poetry at Long Island University - Brooklyn, where he teaches and is working on his second book of poetry.  He roots himself in Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico and the North Side of Fort Worth, Texas.







"La Llorona Weeps Once More"
by Patrick Fontes

Last night I heard La Llorona weeping
Echoes along the shores of Texcoco
In anguish along Chapala
The Pánuco
And Rio Grande
Her hands bloodied
Stained with the sangre of her hijos
Slain in her madness in Guerrero

Copyright 2014 Patrick Fontes. All Rights Reserved.




Currently I am a PhD candidate in history at Stanford University. My research involves border issues, Mexican religion, the Virgin Mary, immigration into the Southwest, and the criminalization of Chicano culture.

I grew up in Fresno, in a working class Chicano home.
During the Mexican revolution my great grandfather, Jesus
 Luna, crossed the border from Chihuahua into El Paso, then on to Fresno. In 1920 Jesus built a Mexican style adobe house on the outskirts of the city, it is still our family’s home and the center of our Mexican identity today. Nine decades of memories adorn the plastered walls inside. In one corner, a photo of Bobby Kennedy hangs next to an image of La Virgen de Zapopan; in another, an imposing altar to Guadalupe.

The smells, voices, sounds, hopes and ghosts of familia who have gone before me saturate my poems.








HIJOS PERDIDOS
por Jan G. Otterstrom

Tengo siete hijos
no se encuentran entre
los desaparecidos, pero
en una pausa momentánea
comparto el dolor de padres,
madres, su carga preciosa
carne de su carne
pequeñas voces riendo
pateando sus balones
oraciones sinceras cuando
los pusieron a dormir, asegurando
el amor de una familia
ahora en peligro o para mal
Padres indefensos
solamente pueden recurrir a Dios.

© Jan G. Otterstrom F.
Noviembre 12, 2014


Poet, Jan Otterstrom Fonnesbeck, born 1944 in San Francisco, California presently living in Costa Rica, Central America.  Retired: BA Brigham Young University (English) Hart-Larson Poetry prize 1967.  J.D. Gonzaga, University 1972, MBA INCAE Costa Rica 1992, Poetry books "Ibis Of Imaginings A poetic Diary 1965-1994" Costa Rica; "Telar" 2005 Ediciones Union UNEAC Cuba; "Suite De La Habana" 2008 Coleccion Sur UNEAC Cuba; "Gatherings Collected poems 2006-2011" 2011 Xlibris, USA: "Portal Fragments of Journal Entries 2011-2012"  Y Mountain Press BYU; "To Return Home" 2013 Y Mountain Press, BYU; "Eleven Degrees North" 2014 Y Mountain Press BYU 2014; "Often There Post-Script and Orchid" Y Mountain Press 2014. His books are available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, BYUBookstore.com, UNEAC, La Habana Cuba and Cuban Bookstores.  “Telar” is in a second edition of 5000 copies and sold in South America. Web page: www.janotterstrom.com







Mexico, My Mirror
by Andrea Mauk

If I did not believe in divine connection
between everyone and everything
I could write this poem solamente about 43
43 from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero
43 estudiantes innocentes
43 normal teachers to be
pobres destined to teach más pobres, not unlike me,
but I can no longer see one incident
isolated
individually
There are 43,000,000,000 stars above that tell me it isn't so,
y ya me cansé.

I must peel the cataracts from my eyes,
unstitch the lips silenced by promised kisses of butterflies,
patch together my heart cut to pieces by control and lies.
I can cry for the parents, wail with los abuelos,
stand in shock con las novias, in despair with los hijos.
I feel the pain of towns full of citizens that clang together hollowed with fear,
the people that watch over their backs each day in narco states,
those that now pray for faster relief from blinged out narco saints,
I can question Our Lady as to how can she let this be,
but I cannot stop there.
Ya me cansé.

Mexico is my mirror that shines on the world.
I slide it up, turn it towards our 50 states,
examine one side of the coin in exchange for the other,
Grand white houses and bellies filled with greed reflect upon each other.
People starved of caring and meaning and faith
Silenced by a system that rules with the gun
But no longer represents,
And all of us normales fragmented like splintered stars
scrapping to fight for this cause or that,
grappling for change that's just beyond reach,
not able to unburden ourselves from history's scars.

Leaden soldiers have no hearts, puppet leader have no brains
and whoever runs the show is buried at the core of the nesting dolls
that we've yet to discover. And the drug trade that exists for whom?

(Long Pause) y ya me cansé.

My eyes no longer jaded, stitches removed from my lips,
the smoke in my mirror has vanished.
I can take it no more.
No more senseless poverty, judgment, death or war
in the name of God or glory or power or oil.
And the meek shall inherit whats left of the earth
for La Revolución 43 has begun.
Ya me cansé en Mexico.
Ya me cansé in the Middle East
Ya me cansé in Africa
Ya me cansé in the deadly American streets.

The dust of 43,000 crushed bones
and 430,000 dientes pulverizados
and uncountable fragments of hopes and dreams
float above this world of chaos,
marking the unknown graves.
The universe forms clouds of shame,
persistent memories of war.
Doesn't that truly reflect who we are...

Connect the stars. Connect the dots.
The mirror reflects back on us.

November 13, 2014


 Andrea Garcia Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul. She currently calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction, poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won awards. Several of her writings are included in the 2011 anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality. She currently teaches elementary theatre for the Los Angeles Unified School District. She is producing an original musical with her 5th grade students this December in Cudahy, CA. She is also in the midst of a cookbook project in which she seeks to make recipes classic healthier. Visit her cookbook website at http://www.corazonenplatillo.com








43 Aullidos del Alma  
© by  Nephtalí  De León

sad pigeons in Iguala
wept in Juan Álvarez Street
when the government police
shot at Ayotzinapa
Aldo was hit on the head
busloads of students were dead
43 of them corralled
prisoners taken ahead

vuela vuela palomita
limpia tus lágrimas de oro
dí que’l más grande tesoro
las joyas de Ayotzinapa
las mutilaron del mapa

cerca de Cocula un río
lleno de ranas y peces
tiemblan pero no de frío
es el llanto de un hallazgo
bolsas de plástico hundidas
gente desaparecida

fue el 28 de Septiembre
del año 2014
un tiempo sin igualdad
como duele recordar
allá  por Iguala Guerrero
cuando entregan a los presos
43 normalistas
al cartel de los Priístas
que´s que Guerreros Unidos
degenerados bandidos

a  Julio Cesar lo hallaron
desollado de su cara
his eyes and his skin were missing
sin ojos ni piel en cara
y el presidente de lujo
paseando por el mundo entero
ni al propio gobernador
se le ocurrío penar luto
the national signs of mourning
were Mexico´s tears next morning

dígame gobernador
diga señor presidente
dónde los 43
si vivos se los llevaron
¡ vivos los quiero presentes !


43 Howls of the Soul
By © Nephtalí De León

tristes palomas de Iguala
por calle Juan Álvarez lloran
al ver policías del gobierno
con balas para Ayotzinapa
una en la cabeza de Aldo
muertos camiones de alumnos
43 ya redados
prisioneros del estado

take wing little dove take wing
wipe off your teardrops of gold
tell the world  of the treasure
the jewels of Ayotzinapa
massacred without measure

close to Cocula the river
trembles with fish and with frogs
it shivers but not with the cold
there´s 43 howls in the waves
plastic bags full of remains
lost in their watery graves

on the 28th day of September
in the  year 2014
it hurts me so much to remember
the things of inequity days
when in Iguala Guerrero
the 43 Normalistas
by police they were delivered
to Priístas and Cartel
Guerreros Unidos both bandits
degenerates all from hell

when Julio Cesar was found
his face was peeled back unbound
two empty holes in his sockets
where his eyes should have been found
the president in full luxury
travels around the world
not even the governor said
there´s mourning and we´re all sad
el dolor se hizo presente
de México al día siguiente

governor will you tell me
Mr. President will you tell me
where are the 43
you took them from us alive
alive do we want them back !




Nephtalí De León, is a poet, author, playwright, and muralist painter. A migrant worker, he published his first book while a senior in high school, which was the last experience with formal education that he cared to be involved with.  Some of the author´s  publications are:  Chicano Popcorn (poetry),  Chicanos: Our Background and Our Pride, (essays in prose), -- Coca Cola Dream;  Hey, Mr President Man! (both, poetry),  I will Catch the Sun (for children), and others. Translated into Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Catalan and other languages, he has been published in USA, Mexico, France and Spain. His latest activity has been collaborating with the making of movie “Vamos al Norte” in Spanish with English subtitles, awaiting theatrical release. His dream is to have Mexica Chicano Natives de-colonize themselves from misnomers such as “Latinos” and “Hispanics,” which he says hold us as psycho/physical hostages of ourselves in a self-colonizing perpetuity that needs chains broken.






Nudo
Por Carolina Torres

Hoy te gritaré
con la desesperación
de 43 voces
hasta que incontables puños
encendamos los cerillos
que desaten la esperanza,
arderá el amor
y no necesitaremos más carteles
con fotografías
empapadas en llanto de madres,
nunca más será domingo
así no tendrás permiso de muerte,
ni bala,
ni fuego,
ni fosas,
no, no habrá verde olivo
con pestilencia de Estado
capaz de atravesarte,
hoy correrás a los brazos
de la ternura
y ya no tendremos que clamar
por vivir o morirnos,
hoy
desaparecemos los dinosaurios.


Carolina Torres. Tegucigalpa, Honduras (1989). Estudiante de la carrera de Medicina en la Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras. Su poesía ha sido incluida en Honduras: Golpe y Pluma, Antología de poesía resistente escrita por mujeres (2009-2013), Miembra del Movimiento poético Las de Hoy. Miembra activa de la Asociación Nacional de Escritoras de Honduras, ANDEH. Ha participado en Festivales internacionales de Poesía de Centroamérica.


QEPD los 43

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9. If I Go Missing by Octavio Quintanilla y más


Por Xánath Caraza

 
If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014) by Octavio Quintanilla
 
 

If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014) por Octavio Quintanilla es un poemario de sesenta y cuatro poemas en tres partes.  El poemario está escrito en inglés con algunos versos en español. Tiene una combinación de poesía concreta y poesía de estructura más tradicional.  Es un poemario del que he disfrutado en las múltiples lecturas que he hecho de éste.

 

Perder es clave en If I Go Missing de Octavio Quintanilla, perder una mano, perder un cuerpo, perderse a sí mismo.  Llamó mi atención la paradoja entre el título, que implica la posibilidad de ausencia de masa corporal, y la constante mención de partes del cuerpo en casi todos los poemas. 

 

La conexión entre la posibilidad de pérdida y las partes del cuerpo como constante en el poemario y, en especial, la estructura de los primeros poemas de Quintanilla, me llevó a los surrealistas.

 

Digo los primeros poemas porque la estructura de estos es precisamente la de un sueño fragmentado y lo que interpreto como metáfora de lo deseado.  Las imágenes que usa y la forma en que crea la secuencia, en los primeros poemas, es hasta cierto punto gratamente incongruente, no se me mal interprete, porque así es como suelen ser los sueños, y lo que traduzco como deseos contenidos.

 

I’m tired of having the same dream

every night, I said.

the dream in which I lose my left hand

doing a job I wasn’t born to do…

…You can’t see me but I see you,

and the night returns, and so does the river,

and the hand that rides the current

to the ocean

and refuses to drown. (8-9)

 

I carry my destiny like a corpse

Of someone I’ve known…

…then you know the human heart

Is made of words (16)

 

Quintanilla a manera de petit homage reacciona a otros escritores y los incorpora en algunos de sus poemas.  Crea un diálogo con autores como Borges, Roberto Bolaño, Mark Strand entre otros, autores que debemos conocer y no dudo de la preferencia de Quintanilla.

 

After Reading Roberto Bolaño

 

I’m in one of Borge’s dreams.  He chases me like a dog.  I try

to dream of the word labyrinth.  Borges doesn’t let me.  He tells

me it’s impossible to give it shape.  In his dream I’m not allowed

to dream.  He said. (11)

 

El poemario no se detiene ahí, después de este toque surrealista, y bellamente caótico en los primeros poemas, pasa, en una segunda parte del poemario, a lo político, a la frontera entre México y los Estados Unidos, a la incertidumbre colectiva, a los miedos colectivos de una nación que tiene la conciencia de que pudiera ser secuestrada o de los que cruzan la frontera, o simplemente poemas de un México romantizado pero con sus muy reales turbulencias sociales cotidianas.

 

My parents can’t recognize the country of their birth.

On the streets, children know the names of their enemies.

Grandmothers no longer close their eyes at the sound

of gunfire breaking a neighbor’s window. (32)

 

Take care of them.  If they want water,

                        Dump them in the river.  If they crave

Freedom, let them loose among rattlesnakes.

                        If they want to breathe, let them breathe dust. (35)

 

Now we are going somewhere.

Let us rejoice, then, and remember the days

when our tongue was the only meat

we could bite into.  (54)

 

En la última parte del poemario Quintanilla pasa a lo personal y nos cuenta historias tanto de la vida diaria como también de presupuestos, a manera de juego de lógica con sus múltiples posibilidades, sobre lo que pudiera pasar.

 

We are alone now.

The man with the hat leaves

his ulcer sitting at the table.

The waitress, not sad enough

to speak to me, pours herself

out of the window. (66)

 

But instead you taste

manzanilla, estafiate,

yerba buena, herbs

your grandmother sweetened with fire

to make you strong. (67)

 

What if we’re taken in the middle

of our daughter’s ball game, or from our beds,

minutes after making love,

never to be seen again? (82)

 
 
Octavio Quintanilla

OCTAVIO QUINTANILLA's work has appeared in Salamander, RHINO, Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Texas Observer, Texas Books in Review, and elsewhere. He is a CantoMundo Fellow and holds a PhD from the University of North Texas. Currently, he teaches Literature and Creative Writing in the MA/MFA program at Our Lady of the Lake University. He's the author of the poetry collection, If I Go Missing, published by Slough Press (2014).

 

 

In Other News

 

Metro Poetry on Buses Project, Seattle, WA

Brava! Bravo! Big Congratulations to Seattle's Latino and Latina poets, the members and family of Los Norteños and Seattle Escribe for their winning presence in the Metro Poetry on the Buses. There is a roaring poetry renaissance going on across the world, and Seattle must be proud of its part in it, displaying the beauty of poetry in Spanish, and bilingually in English. Please visit the Bus Poetry audio files with Nora reciting bilingually and enjoy the photo with Catalina Cantú of Los Norteños and her poem on a bus, qué cool!


Catalina Cantú and her poem on the bus
 

Here is my reading schedule for the months of November and December

 

Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon & Open Mic organized by Juliet P. Howard in New York City on November 23

 

 

 

Donnelly College in Kansas City, KS on November 25

 

Great Writers, Right Here! Second Annual Literary Fair in Topeka, KS on December 6

  

Seattle University, Seattle, WA, on December 11


 
El Centro de la Raza, Seattle WA, on December 12 & 13

 


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10. Open 24 Hours: An Interview With Suzanne Lummis

Olga García Echeverría
 
 


It's not surprising the Suzanne Lummis' newest collection of poetry, Open 24 Hours, was the winner of the 2013 Blue Lynx Prize. These are poems full of texture and poetic sass; they're urban dwellers that live in gritty places, where "...The rubble of smashed / glass makes the sidewalk shine..." In these poems "tenants bitch" and poets get stopped on street corners and asked, "Are you saved?"
 
These poems, born of earthquake and the "art of disaster" ride elevators, witness car crashes, dream about red shoes that do not quite fit. They are heavy-eyed in the A.M. and wide-eyed at night. They're Open 24 hours and they're over-caffeinated. You can hear the racing heat beat in verse...
 
because you've stayed up
all night on nothing
but blues and black
coffee and the sound
of windy traffic
outside your door
which reminds you
of death or is that
the coffee?
 
And although there is lost love and death and even a prisoner in a Chinese fortune cookie factory in this book of poems, there is no whimpering. Only late night Facebook posts that rage against bozos who insist that Obama is a Muslim, who call Oprah "fat," who write things like, "Let the socialists Marxist Libtards / go out and wash all the oil off the fish / and birds, ha, ha, ha." Lummis fires back with:
 
Maybe you just popped out this way,
an ignorant, crude baby determined
to get worse. Oh there's no hope, no hope
for you, except--this: read books, books of quality...
Read the true news or, at least, news
that's closing in on the truth, watch smart TV--
it exists! Aspire to be less stupid.
 
Not even the Sacred Word gets a free pass in Lummis' poetic world. Hey, if it doesn't pay the rent, crown the poet "Most Celebrated Aging Poet Princess in the Land," or birth worthwhile images, then Lummis declares:
 
Pack your bags. Take a hike.
Make yourself scare. Hit
the road, Jack. Blow
town. Split the spot. Buzz
off, push off, shove off. Go fish!
 
Packed with honesty and humor, Lummis delivers a solid collection of verses and curses in Open 24 Hours, and because she rocks she also joins us here today for an interview.
 
Suzanne, welcome to La Bloga and congratulations on your recent publication of Open 24 Hours and on receiving the 2013 Blue Lynx Prize. That must feel pretty wonderful.
 
Yes, I’d like to thank the screeners who did not pass earlier versions of this manuscript on to contest judges, because if it had won a prize and gone to press a few years earlier it wouldn’t have been as good. And some people’s favorite poems, fairly recent ones, wouldn’t have been in it. Moreover, Lynx House Press here on the West Coast is a better publisher for me than some of those others might’ve been. Yes, it was the right publisher, right time, and great good fortune for me.
 
That is very interesting and inspiring. As writers we sometimes think that rejection (of publication, for instance) is a tragic dead-end, but as you mention, sometimes being denied entry in one place/space leads to other possibilities. Are there others you'd like to thank for rejecting your work?
 
I’d also like to thank the two lesser literary journals that rejected “How I Didn’t Get Myself to A Nunnery,” because their rejection made it possible for Paul Muldoon to accept that poem for The New Yorker. (However, let me be clear, I would not like everyone to reject all my writings from here on out, with the idea that rejection is probably in my best interests. I think I’ve had enough for this lifetime, thank you very much.)
 
I love the cover and the title of Open 24 Hours. It feels like a welcome sign at a diner where the everyday and the odd-houred can enter. Is this what you meant by it or does the title mean something else entirely?
 
I’m so glad you like the cover—yes, it makes a forceful impression, nothing wispy about it. For me the title evokes the idea of night owls, restless people awake while others sleep, maybe leaning over a Styrofoam or porcelain cup in one of those low-end hangouts that stay open all night in L.A., donut shops and chain coffee houses. I mean it to refer to a marginal, nocturnal world. 
 
Did you have any challenges with deciding on the final title of your book?  
 
It came to me fairly early on, maybe a third of the way into the manuscript. I was feeling perplexed about what I might call this collection-in-progress. Then I glimpsed a particularly striking Open 24 Hours sign and new that was it. I knew I wouldn’t come upon anything better, and I didn’t.
 
The first section of your book, “Substandard Housing,” has a very strong sense of place. How did this section of your book evolve? Did you plan on creating a series of interconnected poems that lived in the same building or was it more of an organic process?
 
It’s odd, in a way, because I haven’t lived in that building for over 15 years. I wrote many of the poems while there, but continued to write about some of the tenants and memorable incidents after I’d left. I didn’t scope out a design for the manuscript ahead of time, no, in fact, it changed shape many times. At one point the middle section, now called “Broken and in Need of Repair,” was called “Hopeless Desire and Other Common Complaints.” It was damn hard to get these poems to lie down next to each other, because in terms of voice, and sometimes even style, they vary wildly, crazily. It’s not as noticeable now, not jarring anyway, because I finally did organize them so that one leads into the other without causing the reader to yelp in alarm. 
 
My favorite poems in this first section were "7.3" and "664-8630." The former because the poem, like any good earthquake, rattles. I love all those things you worry about in the poem as the earth's tectonic plates are rumbling beneath your feet. I think many of us Angelinos can relate. I've included an excerpt of "7.3" here for our readers to enjoy:
 
But I don't have time to review this life flashing
past my eyes like the preview of a low budget movie,
 
there's death to work on.
Who has copies of my unpublished works?
 
If my cats crawl out of the wreck, how will they live?
Does this mean I'm off the hook for those parking tickets
 
and credit card debts? Like a fool I follow
everyone's advice, leap for the doorframe,
 
which will snap like breadsticks when the floor
caves, the ultimate letdown.
 
When it stops my sense of The Real won't quit
shaking. Bad
 
Earth. The blue-dark mother holds us and her love
turns.
 
Your other poem "664-8630" really spoke to me because a dear friend of mine, tatiana de la tierra, died in 2012. We used to spend a good amount of time on the phone talking and texting. It was one of the things I missed most when she was gone. After she passed, and long after her phone had been disconnected, I used to sometimes send her random texts with some crazy hope that maybe she'd reply. Your poem that ends in that ringing with no answer really struck a cord and made me feel less crazy about wanting to reach the unreachable via a phone number.
 
Olga, thank you for this comment. Yes, it does seem this poem might apply to many lives, and many losses. The phone number was Ted Schmidt’s—he produced both my plays at The Cast Theater, which flourished from the 80s through the mid 90s, and an important playwriting award is named after him here in Los Angeles. However, years later I kind of wished I’d saved that poem for the phone number of the family home in San Francisco, the number that was in use for my entire adult life. When my father died, I called it one last time and felt it ring and ring in the house that would soon be sold. 
 
That childlike question in the poem (why do people die?) is so simple, but I am sure it resonates with anyone who has lost a loved one. Here is the poem you wrote for Ted Schmitt (1940-1990) and for so many others:
 
I pass this number
in my phone book, the seven everyday
digits a sequence I won't dial
anymore--
 
like passing a house abandoned but
filled with echoing
rooms that were lived in. Till
now.
 
If I called I would hear
...what? A buzzing like a station
shut down for the night,
the TV screen filled with
snow?
 
Or has the phone line snapped
overhead, the late messages
heading for a long
fall?
 
No good asking like a child
why do people die? I call
 
but in a room where a man's
things have been folded and packed
as if to follow him on the next train
after
 
a phone rings,
rings, and there is no
answer.
 
In the second section of your book, “Broken and In Need of Repair,” you take some writing rules given by poet professors and friends, such as “No self-pitying poems,” and you purposely break them. What inspired this cool rebellion?
 
During a UCLA lecture open to the public, the late short fiction writer Donald Barthelme mentioned a rule he advised his students never to break, and quite instantly I imagined a way I could write a poem that avoided the problem Barthelme seemed to warn against. That started me on the series. I collected these rules from poet professors, and some were serious, some given to me in a spirit of fun.
 
Did certain rules inspire more rebellion than others?
 
I discovered the rule had to present a real challenge or I couldn’t come up with anything good, and it had to come from a poet or reader who knew what they were talking about. Once, some random person I’d mentioned this series to said something like "I think there should be a rule no more poems about dogs and cats, because there are already so many of those." Well, that’s absurd. There isn’t really a super-abundance, and, anyway, most poems about animals, so long as they’re written by real poets, poets of talent, tend to be quite good. 
 
Do you have a favorite?
 
Above all I love the poem that closes The Selected Poems of Weldon Kees, the one that begins “What the cats do/To amuse themselves/When we are gone/I do not know.” And the reader is aware that Kees would eventually end his life by throwing himself off the Golden Gate Bridge (presumably, his body was never found). But the cats go on, “crying, dancing.” It’s such an innocent, almost childlike poem on the surface, but it takes on an eerie power because of what we know. Talk about structure—brilliant of Donald Justice [the editor of the collection] to place that poem at the end of the book.
 
Can you share a source of inspiration you keep returning to?
 
I continue to like a poem you don’t see anywhere anymore, very early W. S. Merwin, “The Sands,” and one that’s easy to find, “Sheep in Fog,” by Plath, and one that you can’t find anywhere, by someone few have heard of—and, indeed, I hadn’t heard of him-- “Looking for Bluefish” by Jon Swan. Oh, and one that can be found with a bit of luck, “Smudging,” by Diane Wakoski. Gorgeous, the way it gathers to a force at the end. Levine’s “The story of Chalk”—yes.
And as for the unruly side of the poetic spirit, Gregory Corso’s “Marriage,” and the fantastically wild and outrageous “Me viene, hay dias…” by Cesar Vallejo. I don’t know why that one isn’t used in creative writing workshops around the country—it’s so freeing.
 
In closing, here is an excerpt from one of Lummis' own unruly, freeing, and spirited poems.
 
This pale, feverish presence
inside your life is you,
and those are loud strangers
gripping beers. But why die,
ever, while stores shout out
their bargains, hot CD's,
and one can gaze at the bodies
who've stopped dancing now
and stand about jaggedly
because the doorways
of rock clubs pumped them
into open air? No doubt about it,
all this is for you.
Some Doo Wop tune
on the airwave says the night's
thousand shifting eyes
are on the watch. You guess
two of them are yours.
Tonight Mr. Good
or Bad might pluck you
from the crowd.
There's some place you're
supposed to be, some fun
you're supposed to have.
It's fate, your fate, and it's open
twenty-four hours.
 
 
To find out more about Suzanne Lummis: http://suzannelummis.com/
 
Photo by Phil Taggart


Suzanne Lummis' book Open 24 Hours won the Blue Lynx Poetry Award, and was just released by Blue Lynx Press this fall. Her poem "How I Didn't Get Myself to a Nunnery," appeared in the November 3 issue of The New Yorker. And—for contrast—she has two poems in the new anthology of noir poetry and crime fiction, Noir Riot, from Gutter Books. Suzanne is a long-time, influential teacher for the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, and the editor of the anthology to be published in 2015, Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond, from The Pacific Coast Poetry Series, which was founded by Henry Morro.

 
 

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11. Sasquan. Latino Kids Lit List. Ask A Mexican. Política in kids lit.

WorldCon 2015 - How inclusive of Latinos & Native Americans?
 
The world's biggest SF/F convention will be held in Indian Country of Spokane, Wash., next August. Since I participated in many "Spanish strand" workshops/panels in WorldCon 2013 in San Antonio, I've suggested they should continue the Latino inclusion and involve some Native American speakers on panels and workshops. Officially, I've received no response. The one move they made at changing their all-white, very-old/male speakers list was to add Tananarive Due. Questions about Latino and Native American author-inclusion and workshops remain.

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) produces WorldCon. It's part of the long-running F/SF establishment that's dominated speculative lit for decades. Its old direction of good-old-boy club has changed somewhat to include women. Then blacks. Then Asians. But it's an uphill climb for them to change themselves into a group better reflecting 21st Century North American spec lit. How is it that Sci-Fi people are so retrograde conservative?

Another piece of that establishment is The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, SFFWA. Here's recent posts about them

"In the early 90s, I applied and was first denied entrance (I'm from Mexico, but still live here) until I argued that America is the whole continent and that Mexico is in America and thus I should be admitted to SFWA (I had done everything asked for). They eventually relented, letting me in as the first Mexican in SFWA, and a few years later managed to drop me when I was late paying my annual dues (by no more than a week). I agree: let´s do something new and multinational about it."

"I decided not to join (not based on this update)."
"I am definitely ready for a multinational thing."
 
Spec author Silvia Moreno-Garcia just posted this on FB: "SFWA sucks [something]. Sorry if you like it, but I am so bored with it…. Next year I'm spending my membership money on some other banal thing that brings me more joy. Like a fancy octopus plush toy."

I don't know exactly what Silvia is referring to. But there's NO reason that Chicano, Latino, Native American, black and other historically underrepresented authors should have to worry about anything other than creating their art. PERIOD. Exclusion, privilege, bureaucracy, chauvinism of any form have no place in speculative literature. Or much of anywhere else.

If you're thinking of maybe attending Sasquan next year, here's what they say about being included in workshop/panels: "Sasquan would like to hear from you if you’re interested in being considered as a panelist and/or a performer. We don’t know everyone and Worldcons always find a few good panelists/performers by encouraging volunteers to apply."
You can add your ideas on their website. Maybe I'll see you there.


Remarkable Latino Children's Lit of 2014

Just in time for gift-giving season, here's one group's list of kid's books--some written by Latino First Voices--with Latinos as the main characters.

"Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL) announces our annual "Best of the Best" children's literature titles written by or about Latinos. Selections include award-winning authors such as Duncan Tonatiuh and publishers ranging from household name New York presses to community-focused, independent companies.

"Why publish this list now? At the end of the year, "tastemakers" such as The New York Times and National Public Radio (NPR) publish their "best of" lists. Inevitably, their selections feature few, if any Hispanic authors. The L4LL Remarkable Latino Children's Literature of 2014 selections spotlight this glaring absence, rooted not in Hispanic authors' lack of talent. Rather, their exclusion reflects the tastemakers' significant professional blind spots and institutional flaws."
 

¡Ask a Mexican! Happy Birthday: Thoughts on 10 Years of Raising DESMADRE

History will decide the Chicano authors and their literature that should be called classic. But I don't know how history could omit Gustavo Arellano and his works. In the guise of humor and satire, el hombre has produced some of the tightest, most precise, chignón funny writing of our generation. Here's a message from him:

"This week marks the 10-year anniversary of this infernal columna—10 pinche years already! The Mexican is not much for retrospectives—that's a gabachothing—but I do want to take a moment to offer thanks to a couple of cabrones: former OC Weekly editor Will Swaim for giving me the idea for the column; VICE Media chingón Daniel Hernández for writing the Los Angeles Times profile that changed my life; Scribner for printing ¡Ask a Mexican! in best-selling book form; mi chula esposa for all her support and pickling my peppers (and that is not a metaphor); Tom Leykis for hosting a call-in-version of ¡Ask a Mexican! all these years (subscribe to his podcast at www.blowmeuptom.com); all the haters, whose vile words remind me why I started writing this in the primera place; my friends and familiafor the obvious reasons; the Albuquerque Alibi for being the first newspaper besides my home periódico to have the huevos to run the column; and, lastly but not leastly, ustedes gentle readers, whose eternal curiosity about Mexicans makes this weekly rant an eternally rollicking bit of DESMADRE. To the next decade or 50!"

If you'd like to send him best wishes, or another windmill for him to use his lance on and dissect, do so.


Should Latino/a authors do YA lit with la política?

If you're a Latino/a writer who thinks the political has no place in Latino kid's lit, that it can't be engaging to young people, that it won't earn good reviews, that such novels won't be successful, here's a Sunday NYTimes book review of Paolo Bacigalupi's new YA, The Doubt Factory. He's no Chicano, but he's got otras sangres that spice up his prose. Here's a snapshot of what he did:

"Paolo Bacigalupi [and Alaya Dawn Johnson] are attempting a path in their latest books, thrillers that don’t just marry the personal to the political, but exploit the fantastical conventions of genre to make a head-on critique of the contemporary political landscape.

"To be a teenager is to be acutely aware of power, in all its forms — by virtue of having so frustratingly little of it. Which means adolescent protagonists impose a limiting factor on political fiction. They turn to science fiction and fantasy and play politics to their heart’s content: There’s no believability ceiling to how teenagers in futuristic societies can change their worlds. Following up award-winning Y.A. dystopian novel, Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, an impassioned astonishment of linguistic ingenuity and innovative world-building, but also an attack on the politics of poverty and oppression.

"Now, Bacigalupi uses conventions of genre to attack a thoroughly unconventional brand of evil: the public relations experts and scientists-for-sale who conspire to replace certainty with manufactured doubt, nicknamed The Doubt Factory: “The place where big companies go when they need the truth confused. . . . The place companies go when they need science to say what’s profitable, instead of what’s true.” Tobacco industry lobbying, pharmaceutical companies’ manipulation of the F.D.A. — Bacigalupi doesn’t shy from indicting real-world doubt merchants by name and deed.

"In our proudly post-postmodern world of antiheroes and shades of gray, the value of nuance, in fiction and beyond, is almost axiomatic. To see the world in black and white is to see it through a child’s eyes. Bacigalupi is challenging this conflation of simplicity with naïveté, which makes for a somewhat flat narrative, but a stirring cri de coeur. Compromise, complication, doubt: These are his enemies. Maybe there’s nothing childish about moral clarity; maybe to understand that some stories have only one defensible side is what it means to grow up.

a VERY Chicano-political fantasy novel
"In the end, this is the message for young readers: Wake up. Ask questions. Challenge authority. Form your own opinions. Fight injustice, no matter the cost. These days, suggesting that a book has an overt message is almost an insult, as if purpose is incommensurable with art. Maybe so: these are not perfect novels. But they’re bold and ambitious, unafraid to charge into territory too often avoided, their authors keenly aware: Some messages are too important not to deliver."

You can read the entire article and then decide whether you'd like your next kid's book to get a review like this. I wish it so.


Es todo, hoy,

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12. The Blank Screen - Pedazos y Pedacitos

The Blank Screen


So I said to myself one day earlier this year – “Self, why not write another book? After all, you’re retired, the assumption is that you now have all the time you could possibly want for writing, and your life has been too quiet lately. What else you gotta do?”

Heh-heh.

Now I find myself 24000 words into the story and, right on schedule, the Great Doubt sets in.

Great Doubt is an old acquaintance. He made his first appearance back in high school when my father moved us from the small town (Florence – pop. 3000) in which I had grown up to the big city (Colorado Springs – not so big after all, as it turned out.) All of my life (I was 14 when we moved) my small town friends and I had been looking forward to when we would be the cool guys, the older guys, the guys having all the fun. Driving cars. Trips to Pueblo, the land of smooth Chicano soul music and soulful Chicanas who seemed to know more about the important things in life than any young lady in Florence. Making out. The Wiggle-Wobble. Hanging out with musicians, star athletes, and friends home from basic. Fake I.D.s to get in the clubs that had live music.

Instead, I ended up in a school where I didn’t see many “cool” guys – just a lot of white boys who had been together since kindergarten and who were not exactly welcoming to the new Mexican kid. That is, until I made the varsity wrestling team and started winning matches and the squad earned the right to be called a genuine challenger for the league championship. Then Great Doubt would show up before every match and I would have to force myself not to throw up on the mat until I had the first takedown. We won the championship but I flubbed my second district match and messed up my chance to go to the state tournament, even though I was a #2 seed. Great Doubt laughed so hard he fell down and rolled around the mat with his legs wiggling in the heavy gymnasium air like a dying chicken.

I went through stages of college and law school antics – political, social, and artistic. Each stage had its own share of frustration and success, but always good ole G.D. was right there. So on and so forth through marriages, children, trying to establish a law practice. Eventually, I returned to writing.

I repeat: Now I find myself 24000 words into the story and the Great Doubt sets in.

Where the hell is this going? Who would want to read this stuff? What if I can’t finish it? What if I do finish it and no one wants to publish it? What if I get it published and no one wants to read it? What if people do read it and don’t like it? What if they not only don’t like it, they hate it? What if they hate me because the book is so terrible?

Whoa.

Calm down. Chill. It helps to remember that I’ve been down this road before. I have always made it to the end. If I don’t, what’s the worst that can happen? I tell myself that no one has a gun to my head. I can always do something else. I hear collecting stamps is an interesting and educational hobby. And one can’t get too much exercise, can one? How about homemade wine? Origami?

Maybe I don’t have enough suspense in the plot? Plot? More dead bodies? More anti-hero angst? Who the hell came up with the idea of Chicano noir?

The questions continue until eventually I realize that the only way to answer them, and, thus, stop them, is to write.

Write. What a concept.

Where’s the inspiration when I need it?

Just saw a t-shirt with the phrase “You are dangerously close to being killed off in my novel.” There’s a thought. Revenge writing. Who deserves it? Better yet, who's entitled to it? Oh, that one guy, the s.o.b., yeah. But ... what if he recognizes himself and wants an apology? What if my apology isn’t enough? What if …


________________________________________________________________________________


Pedazos y Pedacitos - News

Denver writer Antonio Garcia passed on the good news that his book, The Portal of Light, has been selected as winner of the 2014 USA Best Books Award for the category Non-Fiction: Multicultural.

The Portal of Light was also a finalist for the category Religion: Eastern Religion.

Here's part of the press release about the awards.

LOS ANGELES – USABookNews.com, the premier online magazine featuring mainstream and independent publishing houses, announced the winners and finalists of The 2014 USA Best Books Awards on November 12, 2014. Over 400 winners and finalists were announced in over 100 categories. Awards were presented for titles published in 2012-2014.

Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of USA Book News, said this year’s contest yielded over 2,000 entries from mainstream and independent publishers, which were then narrowed down to over 400 winners and finalists.

Congratulations to Antonio.

________________________




Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Alma Lopez Gaspar de Alba, esteemed author and artist, as well as educators and activists, are featured in this month's cover story of the Mexican magazine LeSVOZ. Congrats to Alicia and Alma.


________________________

Holiday Mercados from Denver to Chicago, etc.



































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UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center
Event Announcement

Writers and photographers present
Lowriting and ¡Ban This!   


Tuesday, November 18, 2014
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
CSRC Library - 144 Haines Hall
Free, no reservation required

The CSRC welcomes nine artists whose work appears in Lowriting: Shots, Rides, and Stories from the Chicano Soul, featuring the photography by Art Meza (Broken Sword Publications, 2014), and ¡Ban This! The BSP Anthology of Xican@ Literature(Broken Sword Publications, 2012), both edited by Santiago J. Rivera. These writers and photographers will talk about their contributions to the anthologies and share stories about the cars, music, and events that have shaped Chicana/o history in Los Angeles and beyond. Both books will be available for purchase.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm participating in this event - will read and have books for sale. 
 
December 11th
Mystery and Mistletoe

Writer's Showcase and Book Sale
Emcee: Helen Thorpe
Where: The Historic Denver Press Club,
1330 Glenarm Pl., Denver CO

When:
Thursday Night, December 11th.
Time: 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. hors d'oeuvres, readings and a cash bar
Cost:
Tickets are $10. Please order your tickets in advance! Click the Buy Now button below to make your payment. Questions can be directed to our Caterer Director, Donnell Bell at Donnell Bell or by calling 719 540 8632. The deadline for reservations is Monday, December 8th, 2014. 


________________________________________________________________________________

 Later.


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13. Chicanonautica: Another Damn Election in Arizona



The midterm election was low key in Arizona. Hysteria and paranoia levels were remarkably low, though signs announced candidates as being against Obama -- and he wasn’t running for office in this state -- and repeated the word conservative.

There was no wooing of Latinos. I know when I’m being wooed, and it wasn’t happening.

The polling place at the library where I work was quiet. If the usual English as a Second Language class hadn’t been displaced, and I hadn't had to help move the tables and chairs, I might not have noticed it was even open.

The Republican winner of the race for governor, Doug Ducey, former CEO Cold Stone Creamery, played it cool. The joke going around is that voters expected free ice cream. He was anti-Obama anti-illegal immigration, and a businessman, who likes the term “job creator,” despite the fact that his business failed.

All things that a lot of Arizona voters like to hear. Especially the businessman thing. You keep hearing it: “Get a businessman in there -- that’ll fix things!”

They don’t remember Evan Mecham and Fife Symington, and what disasters they were.

The Democratic candidate, Fred DuVal, was practically invisible. I voted for him, but probably wouldn’t recognize him it if saw him on the street.

There was some of the usual Arizona weirdness: We kept getting calls from the same mysterious number. Out of morbid curiosity, my wife answered. Someone claiming to be taking a survey asked things like, “If you heard that Fred DuVal killed and ate Christian babies, would you still vote for him?” 

My wife said, “Yes.”

I would have been tempted to say something like, “Of course, the best thing about Christians is their nutritional value.” 

Back in West Covina, California,where I grew up, they practically knocked on your door and walked you to the polls. In Arizona they make voting hard, always moving polling places. Registered voters who have moved or gotten divorced often end up running around all over town. And I once saw a little Native American lady treated like a criminal because she showed up at the wrong precinct.

These days, my wife and I get early ballots.

And I vote, even though I know I’m outgunned and outnumbered, because when the rest of the world is dropping their jaws at what Arizona’s elected officials are doing, I can say that I voted against the bastards.

Besides, in my districts, we just elected Ruben Gallego to Congress, Martin Quezada to the State Senate, and Richard Andrade to the State House. 

Don’t tell anybody, but we’ve been electing Hispanic Democrats for a long time . . .

We’re in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jurisdiction, and who knows what would happen if he found out.

But then, I haven’t seen his deputies cruising around here lately. Maybe it’s all those rumors of cannibalism and human sacrifice. Or all the new businesses run by brown people who speak Spanish.

Ernest Hogan writes crazy books and stories. Living in Arizona helps.

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14. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces


By Isabel Quintero

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press (October 14, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935955942
ISBN-13: 978-1935955948


July 24
My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn't want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it's important to wait until you're married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, "Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas." Eyes open, legs closed. That's as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don't mind it. I don't necessarily agree with that whole wait until you're married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can't tell my mom that because she will think I'm bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: Cindy's pregnancy, Sebastian's coming out, the cute boys, her father's meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.


Isabel Quintero was born and raised in Southern California. Her love of reading and writing comes from her mother reading to her before she went to bed, and from the teachers and professors who encouraged her to keep writing. Her love of chorizo and carne asada tacos comes from her dad grilling on Sundays during summertime. She is an elementary school library technician and loves sharing her passion for the written word with students. She also teaches community college part time and works as a freelance writer for the Arts Connection of San Bernardino. Quintero works as events coordinator for Orange Monkey Publishing and assistant editor for Tin Cannon, a literary journal. She still lives in SoCal and enjoys going on adventures with her wonderful husband, Fernando.

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"In writing Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, I felt that music was important to the narrator because she is a poet, and poetry and music go hand in hand." From Lupe Fiasco to Bob Dylan to Cornelio Reyna, Isabel gives Laregehearted Boy's Book Notes her ultimate Gabi playlist hereand offers readers an inside look into her personal connection to her main character: "I wrote this book because some of it is my story. In a lot of ways Gabi and I share the same issues; we both had (have) body image problems, a bicultural experience, a natural distaste for imposed gender roles, and confusion about sex and its role in our life. As I grew older, I realized I wasn't alone, and that the women who had had similar experiences, also felt alone throughout their teenage years.

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15. Veterans Day 2014 • Review: Take This Man • On-line Floricanto Eleven Eleven

Veteranspeak, or 5 Questions To Ask a Veteran

Michael Sedano


MiG Alley below, Homing All the Way Killers above

I’ve been a Veteran since August 1970, forty-four years since I walked away from Ft. Lewis Washington, discharge in hand but still in my Class A uniform. In a curious parallel, that was early in the predawn darkness, just like that January day in 1969 when my busload of inductees stood in the predawn fog of Ft. Ord.

Ever wonder what to say when you learn someone was once boots on the ground? Veterans of my era will spin you some memories to one or more of these conversation ice-breakers. I was Army, other services have similar answers. Kids from Bush and Obama’s Iraq and Afghan wars are likely to understand the questions--the answers are the cement that links a majority of Veterans with one another.

What was your MOS?
Military jobs have code numbers, the Military Occupational Specialty, M.O.S. The best known is eleven-bravo, 11B, Infantry. Me, I was trained as an oh five bravo intermediate speed morse code radio operator, a defunct trade in military communications, even then. Assigned to a rugged anti-aircraft missile site guarding MiG Alley at the Korean DMZ, I worked an oh five charlie field wireman's job. Mid-tour I lucked out and took a job in the Colonel’s office, writing military propaganda as an acting 71Quebec Information Specialist.

Short and Shorter. Sedano 3d from right, with shades.
When did you DEROS?
Short, short-timer. We counted the days until we would “get back to the world.” Upon arrival overseas, clerks calculate your Date Estimated Return from Overseas. If all goes as planned, you’ll be heading for the airport on your "dee-rhos" date. Not every Veteran served overseas. A stateside post meant serving the full two year hitch. Draftees doing one of the hardship tours—Vietnam and Korea—often put in a thirteenth month in order to earn discharge upon DEROS. I put in thirteen months, two weeks, three days, seventeen hours seven minutes and thirteen seconds in Korea, but who’s counting, que no?

RA or US?
Did you sign up, or were you Drafted? Draftees were assigned US serial numbers, volunteer tipos were Regular Army. On the sidelines were ER and NG, Enlisted Reserve and National Guard. The latter pair did Basic Training then went home. Everyone in today’s military are RA, or in barracks vernacular, Lifers. For a long time I knew my serial number by reflex. It was stamped on the dog tags to identify our bodies. I've forgotten the number now, and that's a good thing.

Would you want to see your grandchildren in uniform?
Not involuntarily.

Would you do it again?
Gente I know, to a man and woman say, Yes. I told an Army recruiter friend that I would go if I could take the place of one of the kids he was signing up. No way in Hell would I volunteer for the Draft, but if they called me again, I'd go.

Veterans and active duty wearing a uniform get free chow at  a number of chain restaurants today. A DD214 gets you fed, too. So there's that.

Veterans get to understand important yet amorphous concepts like Duty and Honor. I remember telling a friend about my cannon fodder post had the north invaded. The friend asked why I would hold my ground instead of running before it was too late? I told him it was my Duty. His eyes told me I was a fool. Así es.

Not short.

Take This Man Grossly Captivating Memoir

Review: Brando Skyhorse. Take This Man. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.
ISBN 9781439170878

Michael Sedano


Take This Man, along with its author Brando Skyhorse, occupy a unique spot along the continuum of U.S. ethnic literatures. These people, Brando and his mother, aren’t chicanos, but could have been. And they aren’t Indians, but they’re passing. His mother prefers fantasy history and invented Indianness, she becomes Running Deer Skyhorse, her son Brando Skyhorse, son of a chief. This is Identity run awry.

Take This Man revolves around Maria Skyhorse’s story, but at the memoir’s core lives a boy looking for a father in the men his mother regularly brings home. They all leave. Then she finds a replacement. Herein lies a challenge for readers: don't judge.

Maria’s acts gouge with such ferocity they steal the spotlight from Skyhorse’s more intimate explorations, overwhelming the author’s memories in his struggle to sort out identity and family and fatherness from his mishmash of an upbringing.

Skyhorse engrosses his reader with sordid details that make it tough to like that woman, Brando’s mother. While disgusted readers will grow furious at events, the author denies them an ally in their feelings. Skyhorse's tone is nearly emotionless, he refuses the reader's escape valve for the horror. The only release is turn the page, there's more.

It’s hard not to judge the people Skyhorse had in his life, not to want to spread chisme about those lowlife fathers, so consistently awful the child’s memory of fathering is a guy ferreting out hiding places, robbing piggy banks to buy a night’s drinking and gambling. Mother's not dumb but the easy way out is her route, such as her work-at-home telephone sex worker job. It brought in good cash and she didn't have to give up her food stamps. Marie laughed, ate well, and grew fat.

The little boy’s life is so gutwrenching I find myself wondering that people like this live among us, asking myself, he can’t be making up this stuff, can he? Skyhorse pulls off a tour de force voicing  disarming neutrality. Animated wit and punch-line paragraphs add depth to the mostly fast-moving account. It’s a challenge separating the creative from the nonfiction. Just turn the page.

The crud just piles up for this boy. Five husbands, lots of boyfriends, flings on the road, Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, ritualized humiliations. One example suffices to illustrate the savagery of Brando’s mother, her insanity, and Skyhorse’s own neutrality as he recounts a time he couldn’t produce some coupons to pay for a bus.

The mother shouts, I’ll just leave you here! You’ve taken enough of my life from me! Mother’s fury and hatred for men finds at-hand Brando easy pickings, normally with her mouth. In this instance, however, Maria gets lethally physical.

My mother grabbed my throat. Then she pulled me across the trailer the way a girl would drag a lifeless doll up a flight of stairs. She threw me shivering onto the bathroom floor and then snatched one of Nakome’s leather knife holsters and stabbed at my neck with it…. My mother wrapped her hands around my neck again and pushed my face in the toilet water while I flailed my short arms trying to reach the flush handle.

After Maria locates the boxtops she explains to the son how his carelessness led to the bathroom incident. Skyhorse matter-of-factly clarifies her logic for the reader, Not being given the box tops wasn’t an excuse; I should have asked for them.

The slight bitter aftertaste here is among the few instances where the memoirist’s otherwise controlled voice deviates from its straightforward, low-affect style. This son does not judge his mother. The author, ever a good son, won’t have readers criticize her, either. That’s just the way she was, this is what is available to remember.

Which, of course, is not what happens. Brando Skyhorse, the writer, isn’t disingenuous in what he’s chosen to recall and detail. That mother so burdens his life it takes over the book. The son-writer runs out of room for his main goal, and only skims the surface of the boy’s understanding of fathering and his relations with his biological father and daughters. Then again, the author notes, he hasn’t got this worked out yet.

With Take This Man, Brando Skyhorse should have exorcised the demons of his mother and fathers. He said good things about most of the men. He was kind to his mother and in that way gets back at her. Now the author can rekindle the spark seen in Madonnas of Echo Park, and hinted at in the Bukowski homage of this memoir, to drop the "creative non-"and get on with it.


On-line Floricanto for November 11, 2014
Elizabeth Cazessús, Henry Howard, Ashley Garcia, Jackie Lopez, Iris De Anda

Los Rehenes, Elizabeth Cazessús
Guilty of Being Brown (Showdown in Arizona), Henry Howard
Illegal, Ashley
Blessing for James' Place, Jackie Lopez
#bringbackourgirls, Iris De Anda


Los Rehenes
Por Elizabeth Cazessús

…el viento del crimen a la altura del delirio.
Rodolfo Hasler

es la hora de escribir un poema acerca del mundo
de diagnosticar las formas en que amedrenta
con su odio y deslava el rostro de la sinrazón
para justificar mil malabares políticos

es hora de escribir que estamos al acecho
de ladrones, de gangsters, de la avaricia
de la falta de libertad y la zozobra
de la mezquina relación de las entelequias

es hora de callar lo escrito
aquello que no tiene razón en la sobremesa
congestionadas las entropías mediáticas
ante verdades telúricas y tan llanas

es hora de nombrar en lo oscuro
la íntima ejecución de los días
la denuncia, el porvenir y la esperanza
con un silencio atroz que no deje dudas

es hora de contar metrallas, muertos, a los que corren,
de ver la película en las calles y al desnudo
dilucidar acaso en la espesura
de ciertas e inexplicables densidades

es hora de escribir un poema acerca del mundo
de éste y no del otro repleto de metáforas
ya no podemos escapar, no hay letras de salva
Somos rehenes de la impunidad que nos cohabita.

(del libro Hijas de la Ira)



Guilty of Being Brown (Showdown in Arizona)
By Henry Howard

I had a nightmare the other night.
I dreamed I went to buy the morning paper,
And the headline screamed
For all the world to see,
“SB1070 Declared Fully Legal!”
And I cried, because I knew
I was now legally unwelcome here.

My mother took the paper and milk from me
With trembling hands,
And told me in her soft Mexican voice
That Papa had been arrested on his way to work.
For the crime of driving without a Green Card,
He was found Guilty of Being Brown.

We did not have time to kiss him goodbye,
Or even make him a sandwich
On his way back to a country he had not seen
In twenty years.

I woke with my heart pounding,
And my eyes full of tears.
I slowly relaxed,
Realizing it was just a dream.

Then I drove to the store in my first car,
And the morning paper screamed
For all the world to read,
“SB1070 Declared Fully Legal!”

It was my 16th birthday,
and now I, too,
Had been found Guilty of Being Brown.



I am a Los Angeles activist and Peace Poet, whose literary focus has been on human rights since 2001. Published most notably as a featured writer on Quill and Parchment.com, and the legendary Sam Hamill's global anti-war poetry protest, Poets Against the War (beginning in February, 2002), my most recent work was published as a full-length compilation of peace and justice poetry called "Sing to Me of My Rights: Poems of Oppression and Resistance" (editor/publisher Mark Lipman, Vagabond Books 2014). Immigrant rights have been a focus of my street-level activism since 1980, when I learned in college of the murder of El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero--followed, of course, by the rape/murder of the four U.S. churchwomen that December. I was active in the Sanctuary Movement from 1984-98, and a member since 1986 of Refuse and Resist! and La Resistencia. I have never been to our Southern border, but it looms large in my consciousness. The horror of our country's involvement in the collective Central American slaughter, and the residual xenophobic policies towards immigrants, both documented and undocumented, reflected in legislation such as SB1070, haunts me to this day, and inspires me to take to the streets. I have one philosophy that sums up all my activism, including my writing: NO HUMAN BEING IS  ILLEGAL!

Contact me about the poem or order my book. I am also available for readings at public and private events, and will travel to Arizona, Northern California or Nevada to share my work at open-mic events. EL PUEBLO UNIDO! JAMAS SERA VENCIDO!




Illegal
By Ashley

You say I am illegal because of my flesh,
Racism-pigmentocracy,
Separation-marginalization,
Apartheid, a race apart.
Even after the laws change,
Discrimination still exists
Cradling fear and fight of flesh-hood
Same flesh, different color.
Illegal,
So is it my flesh, my body, or my being?

You say I am illegal because of the land I stand on.
I do not belong here.
The land sits underneath the sky,
Shall we fight over clouds?
However, this is no different than the land I was born from.
Migration to illegal immigration,
I am, me, the im- in immigration,
The prefixed knot in the rope,
The prescribed not of ‘im’ and ‘il’
Illegal,
So is it the land, my body, or my being?

You say I am illegal because of love,
An endearing criminal at best,
Same heart, different passion,
Love is not a crime.
What matters is within:
not the shape of our skin
377: I went sleep in 2013 and woke up in 1860,
Illegal,
So is it my heart, my body, or my being?

You say the I of me, the me of I is- Illegal.
The law versus: Land, love, and life,
No! No being is illegal,
Neither my body, flesh, nor heart,
Not even my soul,
It is time,
To set my soul afire and let it free.

This poem was first published on Orinam on Dec 20, 2014 at http://orinam.net/illegal/ and is being republished with permission of the author


Ashley was born and raised in Southern California. Her parents are from Mexico. Ashley has been published both online and in-print. A poet, aspiring writer, and is currently learning classical dance. This poem "Illegal" was first published on Orinam on Dec 20, 2014 at http://orinam.net/illegal/ and is being republished with permission of the author




Blessing for James' Place
By Jackie Lopez

James, I bless you from the tip of my hat to the bottom of your feet.
James, never covet another’s house because your place is blessed for having feasted.
I do believe you are entitled to a blessing.
I do believe you become disjointed at the ends when I don’t come around.
Don’t worry.
I will come around every Thursday night at 7 in between meals.
I happen to have happiness around.
I happen to have a misnomer claiming that I am “mad,” but that is how it should be
because I am quite the crazy little pajama party girl.
The mockingbird is singing outside of your studio.
The melancholy moon is twisting in her bed.
She heard you have blasted fun.
The pavement to your studio has been watered by daffodils.
The encouragement of the nonchalant is ever present.
There’s an artistic renaissance running around naked in your studio.
There’s a show girl at your doorstep.
There’s a criminal lurking around, but you know better, there is never a love that can be considered a crime.
If you watch your watch words, you will find me misbehaving.

When I was lost and had no matrimony to offer,
you took me in.
When the painters, poets, musicians, prophets, dancers, and one-night-stands came by,
you gave them an apple dessert to eat.
It so happens that I have come a long way from my home,
and I am able to salute you on a happening basis.
When the ticket to the train I was going on fell through,
I took to hiding in between the sheets.
Now I have you to call friend.
If ever you need a helping hand, if ever you are lonely and blue, call me telepathically.
I shall send the angels to rescue you because you deserve it, James Watts-and you, too, Juan Pazos.
Thursday night dinner is for dancing and being ludicrously in love.
It is for harnessing a misbehavior and going about town.
It is for the young at heart and for the philanthropists.
I summon all the powers of the Universe Complete to bless your studio now
and forevermore or for as long you endeavor to stay home.
When I saw your rocket scientist artwork, I became a lucid woman.
Simple things mean so much more when they are shared with friends.
So, keep on trucking.
I shall meet you on the other end of a transcendence.



Jackie Lopez is a poet and writer from San Diego. She was founding member of the Taco Shop Poets and has always pursued a study of history of which has influenced her writing. She has taught in San Diego City Schools and has been published in several literary journals. She has just finished her Magnum Opus titled “Telepathic Goodbye” described as a long poem of 25, 333 words. She is now looking for a publisher for this. You can catch her work on facebook under “Jackie Lopez Lopez” where she shares her work with a daily poem. She has a radio interview that will come out later this year. Her email: peacemarisolbeautiful@yahoo.com






#bringbackourgirls
By Iris De Anda

ruby rage shouts escape
as our young girls disappear
there is no sleep
when night falls without them near
days and days and days have passed
can you remember their bright eyed brilliance
forsaken flowers with petals that wither
under boots of beatings and men with guns
they are killing them softly
raping them daily
silencing their spirit
every time one of them dies
can you feel it in your body
walk around so heavy
carry unseen sadness
on the bridge of our backs
they are our future failing
mountains crumbling
deserts flooding
stars extinguished after lightyears of shining
blood moon tainting the night sky
mothers wailing to the goddess
bring back our schoolgirls
bring back our daughters
they are the martyrs of this modern plague
where men get away with murdering women
while the world looks away
closed eyes to our girls plight
makes the whole world blind
you do not want to see
what you would rather neglect
because it’s not your daughter, sister, or niece
you pretend to respect
can you protect morning dew from the blazing sun
the young woman from the older man
a system that teaches a girls life is worth less than his pen
there is no gentle here where our daughters cry
only rivers of pain
flowing back to the Niger
years of disdain
growing darker by the hour
bring back our sisters
bring back our feminine
bring them back
backdrop of africa
blackout of femicide
backbone of generations
backyard of transgressions
giveback our girls
payback our pain
paperback our stories
comeback our angels
we are waiting
arms wide open
feet tired from running with you and for you
tongues chanting
all the ways we could pray for you
hearts broken
night and days we wait for you
bring back our girls
bring back our girls
bring back our girls


Iris De Anda is a writer, activist, and practitioner of the healing arts. A womyn of color of Mexican and Salvadorean descent. A native of Los Angeles she believes in the power of spoken word, poetry, storytelling, and dreams. She has been published in Mujeres de Maiz Zine, Loudmouth Zine: Cal State LA, OCCUPY SF poems from the movement, Seeds of Resistance, In the Words of Women, Twenty: In Memoriam, Revolutionary Poets Brigade Los Angeles Anthology, and online at La Bloga. She is an active contributor to Poets Responding to SB 1070. She performs at community venues and events throughout the Los Angeles area & Southern California. She hosted The Writers Underground Open Mic 2012 at Mazatlan Theatre and 100,000 Poets for Change 2012, 2013, and 2014 at the Eastside Cafe. She currently hosts The Writers Underground Open Mic every Third Thursday of the month at Eastside Cafe. Author of CODESWITCH: Fires From Mi Corazon. www.irisdeanda.com

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16. A short interview with Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz regarding their second collaborative effort, "A Most Imperfect Union"


Fourteen years ago, Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz had a surprise hit on their hands with Latino USA: A Cartoon History (Basic Books). It was a strange alchemy: Stavans is a prolific writer and editor not to mention the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst, while Alcaraz is the creator of the first nationally-syndicated, politically-themed Latino daily comic strip “La Cucaracha” that is syndicated in many newspapers including the Los Angeles Times. A strange alchemy, yes, but it worked judging by critical response as well as sales.

The Stavans/Alcaraz team is back with A Most Imperfect Union: A Contrarian History of the United States (also published by Basic Books) and they have another hit. With raves from such respected voices as Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Martín Espada, Gary Shteyngart and Noam Chomsky, this new illustrated history is a New York Times Best Seller, not to mention a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

A Most Imperfect Unionis as edifying as it is entertaining—a must-read for those who have come to realize that what was taught in history class is not the whole story. Another triumph for Stavans and Alcaraz. 

The team agreed to answer a few questions about their latest joint venture.

DANIEL OLIVAS: This is the second time you’ve collaborated after the well-received Latino USA. Did you approach this book any differently?

ILAN STAVANS: With Latino USA, I learned two lessons: the first one is that collaborating with Lalo Alcaraz is lots of fun; the second is that he can drive me insane. So I approached A Most Imperfect Union with an altogether new ingredient: patience. And guess what? It worked… The endeavor took a while to be assembled: three years. But what is that in the span of a nation’s history? A burp! Readers seem to have liked that we took our time because they have put the book in The New York Times best seller list.

Ilan Stavans

LALO ALCARAZ: I had to switch to digital drawing, as the workload seemed bigger than previous projects with Ilan. If you knew how old school I vowed to keep my work, then you would understand how much this switch in mediums was revolutionary for my process. Otherwise I continued the same work methods as before, which is to physically avoid Ilan for the duration of the project. The guy drives me crazy!

Lalo Alcaraz

OLIVAS: What historical revelation do you think readers would find most surprising in this contrarian history of the United States?

STAVANS: To be a contrarian is to approach reality with a skeptical eye. People believe—foolishly—that the present is malleable, the future unknown, and the past unchangeable. False: the present is rather inflexible, since things happen in it rather tyrannically; the future is the only dimension where all things are possible since nothing has yet happened in it; and the past…well, the past is always changing because it depends on interpretation and interpretation is never static. Now to your question, Daniel: well, to be honest, I don’t like the word “revelation,” not in this context—it smells of religion. What I want readers to come away with in A Most Imperfect Union is doubt: that exceptionalism makes the United States superior; that this is a truly compassionate country; and that our society is made of individuals working together for a higher goal. Truth is, we’re Darwinian to the core. American society is cut-throat. ¡Sálvese quien pueda!

ALCARAZ: I don’t know about what the readers are going to learn about, but I am always amazed at how much more history there is to continue digging into every time Ilan and I do this book thing. Oh, and I always learn about legions of authors and bits of their personal histories because Ilan has a thing about “literature.” Who knew? But, en serio, this time around I was fascinated to learn about the stories of early slave authors. You don’t usually pick up info like that in many US history classes.

OLIVAS: Has A Most Imperfect Union been banned yet?

STAVANS: Yes, in my house. Ask Alison, my wife. Or better, don’t ask her! You’ll be better off.

ALCARAZ: Nah, but it should be banned from the List of Books that you have not bought!

***

IN OTHER LITERARY NEWS...

Pasadena City College School of Humanities and Social Sciences Presents
A Reading by Author Susana Chávez-Silverman


WHEN: Monday, November 17, 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Circadian, Pasadena City College, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
COST: Free!

Susana Chávez-Silverman is a professor of romance languages and literatures at Pomona College in California. She is author of Killer Crónicas: Bilingual Memories and Scenes from la Cuenca de Los Angeles y otros Natural Disasters and co-editor of Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representations of Latinidad and Reading and Writing the Ambiente: Queer Sexualities in Latino, Latin American and Spanish Culture. She will be reading in Spanglish from her books.

For more information, please contact Pilar Ara at (626) 585-7435 or email pxara@pasadena.edu.

IN MORE LITERARY NEWS...


In case you missed it, KCRW’s Madeleine Brand interviewed me on her radio show, Press Play, about my most recent book,  Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews (San Diego State University Press, 2014). You may listen to it here.


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17. Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of _Massacre of the Dreamers_: Interview with Ana Castillo


Ana Castillo, a Midwest born and raised Xicana (from Chicago, Illinois), has been writing novels, poetry, and prose since the 1970s.  Her accomplishments are many (click here!).  This year she has two publications recently released:  the novel, Give It To Me, (which our own La Bloga writer, Michael Sedano reviewed) and a new edition of Massacre of the Dreamers.  

Let me take you back to 1994:  Ana Castillo creates a visual link between our Mexican and Indigenous antepasados when she takes the capital “C” from Chicana and replaces it with a strong and decisive “X”:  Xicana.  In her book, Massacre of the Dreamers, this new concept of Xicana becomes a pivotal point in cultural and literary history and theory.  While working on my dissertation two years later, (at the University of California, Santa Barbara), I noticed a number of Xicanas changing their names to indigenous names: Xochitl, Xandra (for  Alexandra), Ximena.  It marked a transformation.  Castillo’s book provided Xicanas the necessary historical and cultural background to broaden and deepen their understanding of identity, and to encourage their participation in the world as a politically active and socially conscious mujer. 

2014:  University of New Mexico (UNMP) publishes a 20th Anniversary Edition of Massacre of the Dreamers and we are again reminded not to forget our antepasados, our complex background that brings to bear the indigenous and the colonizer. And, for Ana Castillo,

Amelia Montes: Felicidades, Ana, on this important 20thanniversary edition of Massacre of the Dreamers. How did this anniversary edition come about with University of New Mexico Press?

Ana Castillo in San Francisco, 2012
Photo by Lisa Paul Streitfeld
Ana Castillo: Gracias.  UNMP published the original edition.  I had asked if they were interested in a new edition.  (I felt the impulse to update for some time.) As it turned out, the book came out exactly twenty years after the first publication.  Therefore, it is updated and a 20thanniversary edition.

Amelia Montes:  There are so many reasons why Massacre of the Dreamers was an important read twenty years ago.  I also see how it is important today. What is it about this historical moment that brings us back to your book?  

Ana Castillo:  I began to work on the project, Massacre of the Dreamers, in the mid-80s.  Latinas, specifically Chicanas weren’t embracing the term feminism then.  Therefore, I came up with a relevant term:  Xicanisma.  By this example, you may see how the work and challenge was there for such a study.  So much material, theses around the world, have flourished as a result of  such works.  I thought the task of updating would be tremendous.  The good news was that it wasn’t.  (To some degree because of the Internet.)  The bad news was that there wasn’t all that much to update and the premise of the book still held up.

Amelia Montes:  ClarissaPinkola Estés writes the Introduction to this new edition.  Tell us about Clarissa and her relationship to this book. 

Ana Castillo:  La Dra. Pinkola Estes is a brilliant Jungian feminist.  She has been very affirming of my writingsince my early poetry in My Father Was a Toltec.  I’m touched and privileged to have her friendship and endorsement.

Amelia Montes:  The first part of this book is about feminism, activism, and the roots of machismo.  What has changed in twenty years regarding these three areas in our culture.

Ana Castillo:  As for the “Roots of Machismo,” they are much what they were in the first edition.  The updates I made in the new edition were mostly related to some new laws to protect women around the world.  Do they truly protect women?  It’s difficult to say. 

Ana Castillo, 2013 "in the Valley"
Feminism over all has morphed in various directions.  But (and not just in “Western” society) capitalism has usurped much of it.  We have new generations (they go by five year increments in my estimation now) that enjoy the benefits of earlier women’s struggles to full advantage as they engulf lives that perpetuate the notorious feminist arch-enemy:  patriarchy.  Do I consider Beyoncé a feminist because she calls herself that?  Not so much.  But it was due to feminist struggles that she is where she is and has what she has.

There is still great need in the world for selfless activism on many fronts.  Communication has advanced so that we can and do a lot of it on computers but that in and of itself is not the thrust of the work.  Information is now made available so that hopefully many of us with conscientización see the social and political connections that affect the lives of the majority in suppressive ways.  Anyone with conscientización can decide which of the many areas that negatively effect communities s/he may support.  It is crucial to know how you best can do that so that you don’t get frustrated or burnt out. 

Amelia Montes: In the sixth chapter, you use C.G. Jung's idea of the “animus” to have readers think of the feminine and masculine as one.  How are these descriptions important for us today? 

Ana Castillo:  Without formal study in the field, I nevertheless have been partial to Jung’s ideas.  One reason is that I come to my scholarly investigations from the perspective as a poet.  A poet, a brown woman from a modest background who has lived her life that way, a brown woman proud and intent on demonstrating the worthiness of her indigenous ancestry.  The studies of Jung and Joseph Campbell, both white men who approached their curiosity about humanity through mythology, connect with me through my own fascination with my rich ancestry.  We can apply Campbell’s hero’s journey to a girl’s journey into womanhood.  We can apply Jung’s studies about archetypes to those of our Mexican antepasados. 
Ana Castillo in Silver Springs, New Mexico.  2013 photo by Robert A. Molina
A long, long time ago as any feminist worth her salt knows, woman’s power in society began to be taken away.  Maybe not everywhere in the globe but it is fair to say, in most places where civilization was ‘advancing.’   This incessant pattern of splitting the consciousness seems, at least, on an emotional level.  I’d like to think we can work on unifying feminine/masculine split. 

I do believe there are physiological differences between men and women, and I do believe that they do affect our behaviors and emotions.  I think that more understanding of this is coming about with sex re-assignment. 

Amelia Montes: The Brujas and Curanderas chapter is updated to include twenty-first century discussions.  Today, such as UC Berkeley, there are curandera course offerings for students, when in the 1980s, this was not possible.  Comments?

Ana Castillo:  I was in the Bay Area in the 1980s (when I began work on this book) and spoke several times at UC Berkeley.  The groundwork was being laid then by the Chicanas.   We must never lose track of how these things are a continuum.  They don’t naturally evolve.  For that continuum to have ‘legs,’ those who do “the work matters” must be tenacious.  Apparently, it has been.

Amelia Montes: In your last chapter, “Resurrection of the Dreamers,” you write:  “When we profess a vision of a world where a woman is not raped somewhere in the United States every three minutes, where one of every three female children do not experience sexual molestation, where the Mexican female is not the lowest paid worker in the United States—we are not hating, but trying to change the facts of our conditions.” So true.  What are some strategies twenty-first century Xicanas have done to “change the facts of our conditions.”

Ana Castillo:  “Conscientización,’ a term brought to us primarily today through the strength of Paulo Freire’s book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (by the way, the foremost book that has provoked the notorious case of the Tucson school book ban) is everything.  Because of conscientización we have the courage to act.  Because of it, we communicate.  We have entered fields where we were rarely, if at all, seen—medicine, law and of course, letters.  With this courage to act, we make change.  We are going against not just a thousand-year-old grind, but one that is in full swing now so it isn’t as evident or at the speed of what some of us would wish to see in our lifetimes.

Amelia Montes:  What is most interesting to you about the process in re-publishing a twenty-first century edition of Massacre of the Dreamers?
Ana Castillo in Silver Springs, NM, 2013
Photo by Robert A. Molina

Ana Castillo:  Interesting is a word I like to use when suggesting some reservation.  Today, twenty years later, it is interesting how little has changed for the majority of the women of color in the world.  It is interesting that today, like then, the book comes out and is welcomed first by women like yourself, a Chicana with concientización.  I’m grateful and am deeply touched to know of the women the book has affected, but it is interesting how in 2014, the second decade of the twenty first century, the majority of Chicanas, Mexicanas, and Latinas are living the lives they might have led not just twenty years ago, but two hundred years ago.

Amelia Montes:  Is there anything you would like to add?

Ana Castillo:  Today, thankfully, we do have many more women studying and pursuing degrees.  They know they must publish.  I’m sure your readers know these studies don’t make anyone rich or (necessarily) famous as it was once thought about publishing a book. The motivation is to get the word out, to hopefully give others encouragement to move forward. Thank you for the opportunity to let your readers know of my humble efforts.  I hope it speaks to the new generation of Dreamers.  Gracias Amelia, and to La Bloga.


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18. A taste of 3 Chicano spec stories

--> I'm sapped. By election results, doctors' ignorance about strange pains that I might go half-Stephen-Hawking about, and from not having gotten really drunk in over a month.


To meet a mental-lull that hit this week, below I include short, opening passages from three manuscripts. First I'll describe them so you can check whichever might interest you. Thet're teasers, intended to lure your into reading the entire tales, whenever they're published.

Previews of what's below:
#1: Sleeping Love - is set in Mexico's ancient times, when the people of Aztlan searched for the prophecy of the eagle, nopal and serpent. It begins with an elder proto-Azteca and some kids.
#2: Fatherly, Dragonly - is a cross-genre SF/F of so many elements, I can't list them. But it starts with a Diné water monster, then a Chicano shaman, then alien lizards, then….
#3: 5-Gashes Tumbling - is set in Aztlán. A castaway mexicano mestizo and Aztec indio find a First Peoples tribe who take them in, for a time. I call it an "experimental" roller-coaster of prose. If you read SW historical novels, try it.

What the children would create in Anahuac
#1: Sleeping Love
 In the ancient times on the Central Continent, the day seemed to be ending as usual. But this time, dozens of boys and girls suddenly sprinted far ahead of their tribe. They stopped at the mountaintop and shaded their eyes against the late afternoon sun. Their clothes made of animal skins let some of the cold through, but their run had warmed them. What they saw steamed them. Their faces lit up and they hopped around, screaming, "Grand Ta, Grand Ta, come look at it all!"
Grand Ta's chest felt like it glowed. It did that whenever young ones wanted to share their discoveries with Ancient Him. He touched his wrinkled cheeks and smiled to smooth them out, but they could never be smooth again. Removing his rabbit-hair cloak, he dropped it by his nagual. Though only he could see it, the mountain lion-spirit had always been with him.
As he reached the children, Grand Ta wondered, Have we finally found it? They let him through so they could show him. Gigantic ahuehuetl cypress trees held up the sky over an endless, deep-green valley filled with wonders. He was so amazed, he didn't hear every child.
"See, Ta, see?" He saw armadillos fleeing into the jungle. The children saw the hunter, a spotted ozelotl jaguar, and heard its grunt-coughs. Imitating those gave them the giggles.
"Look at them!" He saw red-green-blue-feathered parrots and quetzals splotching the rainforest. Youngsters instead saw dancing pieces of rainbow, which they playfully copied.
"Just listen to those!" Scores of ozomatli monkeys swung from branch to branch and chattered in funny tongues, making the children giggle louder. Grand Ta too caught the giggles.
He thought, This place is so bewitching, they could forget their heritage and the Ancestors. I will be remembered as a good teacher only if I use this moment to strengthen their minds and hearts. When they were almost out of wind, he signaled for them to gather where he was starting a sacred circle. Adults moved aside for the children and stayed back.
The young people sat and squeezed one another's hands. They hoped there would be time to play before night fell, but they could wait a bit longer. The tribe had traveled thousands of miles and years. Searching for a prophet's vision.
Grand Ta clapped once and everyone crossed arms. Quieting, they focused on him. "We reached here because our souls are strong. But where did we come from?" He perked his eyebrows and hoped they kept all the answers close to their hearts. We'll see how close.
A plump little girl rose and moved black bangs off her face. "Lost is our land, its name was--uh--is Aztlán."
It's good she corrected herself.He asked, "And did we change?"
"Yes, but we sing that we are still Aztecas!" Her friends grinned that she had done well.
Ta clasped his hands. "Why did we survive?"
An older girl stood up. "We hold our tribe tight to us." She grasped her shoulders, then the sides of her head. "We think our own thoughts!" Her face showed, Please ask me more.
Ta's knees shook from the hard climb. But resting must wait. "How do we treat others?"
"We harm no form of life or other tribe, except if we must," the girl said firmly.
Some black-haired monkeys howled and children fidgeted, yearning to go see. Remembering the Elder's teachings, they calmed themselves. [you also will have to fidget until this is in print]

Non-Diné image of Diné entity
#2: Fatherly, Dragonly
Tieholtsodi didn't always enjoy awakening in subterranean darkness; his grotto reminded him of the solitary eons during the First World, when only creatures walked the Earth.
"What, no children? They're always up and out earlier than their old dad." He imagined himself fossil-like, since his body required inspection for ageing decrepitude. Opening his three-foot-wide mouth, he flexed to limber up muscles anchored about his ovate head.
Drawing on spirit-power, he appealed to the super ascendants. "Blessed Holies, grant me more light." No answer. "As usual, they're as responsive as a sacred mountain." He shot out one of his five tentacles and nabbed a blue catfish busy chasing trout. Crunch, crunch!
Old as a mountain himself, Tieholtsodi was wise enough to know the Blessed Holies rarely responded. "What's the point of having goddesses who won't lift a finger to help?" And the next best idea for relieving the darkness--a shaman? "Like people on the reservation say, there's never a good one around when--"
Stretching tentacles made him feel younger. He'd been a great-looking, water dragon, at the onset of the Third World when humans appeared. "Now I'm like a fat octopus with squashed head and fewer tentacles. Oh, and how the amber skin fades." He scraped tiny pill clams latched to his hide, seeking a nest. "So much of me fades. If my Diné worshippers saw me now, they'd laugh their little red nalgas off."
Feeling into the dimness, he traced cavern walls. Not much had really changed in the millennia since he'd claimed the haven for his family. "They better return soon. Can't venture far and risk detection by men. Or alien beasts."
#
Both little creatures had been warned not to venture far from home, but today the world was filled with new wonders, sounds and smells. What's a kid supposed to do?
Stronger than usual, an underwater current carried them for miles, banging them against rocks, dragging them through deep, smooth silt as if the lake wanted to play-wrestle. Just like Daddy!Colorful, flashing lights appeared in the distance, but no matter how hard and fast they swam, they couldn't catch up. Smell tasty, little fishes! Waters tasted of burnt trout, to fill their achy bellies. Might be a present from Blessed Holies! The odor lured them toward the mystery.
#
Commander Brondel had to cackle. "At least from this new, salt dome, our castaway troops can venture into canyons above, their forays unbeknownst to Earth dwellers. To those we let live, anyway."
He switched off a hologram of the flowchart he fine-tuned each morning. "Father, not everyone's ready to see the culmination of our dream." A small hologram displayed Father's image--stark against gunmetal gray walls--in officer's uniform, a fine figure of his species, tyrannosaurus-like but with shorter tale and thicker forearms. The image had adorned his limestone casket.
Brondel straightened his pale-green tunic, scraped claws over the olive-tinted scales of his hand. He pumped a fist-salute toward the image and chanted his regular pledge, "Father, you'll soon be proud. Our day approaches." Breathing deep through croc-like nostrils, he added something new, "I can almost smell it." He grimaced. Oil-sodden walls smelled of the raw fuel humans had extracted. The filtration system's air scrubbers constantly hummed, never sparing Brondel's nostrils.
After relocating to their first quarters under dry land, Brondel had used his Council, advisory position to loosen restrictions about surface ventures. He'd advocated, "A four-foot taller, superior reptilian species--two hundred pounds heavier, with twice the intelligence and technology of homo sapiens--shouldn't be denied fresh air!" He received applause, and laughter.
Brondel rechecked the holoscreens were functioning, and that his ten-foot-wide, rock-milled desk appeared orderly. He brushed lint off his tunic, prepped for his second-in-command's report. "That everything's going as planned. Father always said face-to-face is the only way to be sure." He rubbed his belly, anticipating good news. Including about the little monsters.
#
Rising too quickly, Tieholtsodi scraped spikes running down his back against the ten-foot ceiling. "Gagh! Serves me right. Should've taken us to the open seas where we could've found a big, bright cavern with scrumptious starfish and plump octopi. What was I thinking!"
Necessity, not thought, had landed him here. Over eons, the Four Winds dried up the Great Inland Sea. As it receded, it left the Colorado River to gouge the rolling hills and desert plains dotted with juniper and piñon. Tieholtsodi and his siblings had taken refuge deep in the humans' Lake Powell.
He brushed his body's rough bristles and sniffed under tentacles. "I should head mid-lake to rid myself of bottom-rot smell from the filthy waters. So few places left for a decent bath. I'll find one after my babies return.
"Of course,"--his eyes widened--"first they'll want to play Pile-on-Daddy." Pretending interest in something else, his children would suddenly jump and knock him down, then pummel him with their little bodies.
He chuckled and checked his blue talons for splits that might cut the children. "Should've been born with suction cups, like the octopus." He withdrew talons and spikes, like when hugging his young. "Ah, if fatherhood was my only duty. But no! That would've been too easy. I had to be a monster dragon. A tailless, wingless, flameless one. Fire-breathing would've been nice. Like Estranged Dragons have, sort of."
Dangling tentacles into the cold current, he hoped to lure one of the last, great fishes, that added spice to eternal life. His tentacles sensed manmade chemicals and the lake's rising temperature and falling volume. "Eventually, it'll snuff out larger fishes, like the red people prophesized." For a hundred years, he'd worried about the lake dying. "Someday, we'll escape to the open seas, even if I must dig us a way out. Hopefully, those aren't desecrated."
He nabbed at teeth latching onto his tentacle. "What?" Pulling in the catch, he exchanged bared fangs with a five-foot alligator gar thrashing to escape. "The children will be pleased! Haven't seen a meaty one your size in hundreds of moons. From where--" Something was wrong. The great catch had been too quick and easy.
He thought, Is this gar, bait? Someone send it, thinking I'm a stupid monster? Not native believers who respected him, or any "civilized" humans who thought he was myth. "That only leaves the Estranged Dragons."
If he'd gorged on the gar, he would've missed the far-off squeals. "My babies!" He bashed the fish against the wall and flung it aside. He flattened himself manta-ray-like, tentacles to the Four Directions, and one upward for Centering. He focused, probing for the youngsters' auras. "Found them!" Sighing in relief, he radiated an eddy that rolled a boulder onto the gar.
Still, more was wrong. "They aren't inthe lake! They entered a river, miles away. Blessed Holies, why'd they stray-- Have to get to them, before they're spotted or--"
#
When the two young ones reached a river delta, they sensed strong the tasty morsels and funny lights. We're so close!Daddy might be mad later, but they were just little babies, as he always called them. What could it hurt? [find out, when it's in print]

#3: 5-Gashes Tumbling
What Chaneco tumbled down
Your Lordship, I attest that in Anno Domini 1599, Tomás Chaneco--unjustly conscripted out of the capitol of Méjico to become the expedition's cook--and I, as cook's helper, found ourselves lost and abandoned in the northern deserts of Nueva España. Since our skills were limited to shamanism and journalism, respectively, our leader, the Conquistador Don Juan de Oñate, promoted us to Lead Scouts the year in which we reached what that Oñate christened, Santa Fe de Nuevo México,which we peones quickly shortened to, Santa Fe. The pendejo Oñate enjoyed naming things more than he relished charging windmills, unto the hinterlands, providing his men ample opportunities to, among other pastimes, infect native women with the pox, much as the otherwise useless priests also spread Catholicism.
Shaman that he was, Chaneco excelled at turning water into wine, and I, at turning wine into news, but our scouting skills lacked mucho, causing us to become separated from Oñate's rabble. "But, good riddance to bad basura," Chaneco said, to which I concurred, especially after menso Oñate had the feet cut off of every adult male in the Acoma Pueblo and enslaved its women for indecencies, which your Lordship knows of. At the last, from what we heard, Oñate galloped off in search of the Quivira city of gold the indios had made up to rid themselves of him. I admit I prayed he'd encounter los Apaches en Téjas.
Your Lordship, rather than backtracking--not one of our fortes--and following that fool's errand, or heading south where we predicted we'd face charges of desertion, Chaneco and I trekked north where turquoise, much revered by our Mexica kin, and tribes renowned for their fantastic legends--such as, of monsters--were said to reside, hoping los indios there would treat us better than others had received and that the monsters were as genuine as Quivira.
Months later, by a tributary of the great river the Lilliputian-brain Oñate had imaginatively named Colorado--from its red color--los indios Havasupai granted us temporary sanctuary in Supai village. We two mestizos, luckily browner than we were facially hirsute, greatly learned from the somewhat shorter People of the Blue-Green Waters, until our eventual kidnapping by monsters of our own making that, hopefully, never terminates in a sentencing, your Lordship.
 On one of Supai's delightfully cool mornings of however many more remained of Tomás Chaneco's "nagging" longevity--he claimed he was close to two hundred--he chose, for whatever reason, to scale the fifty-five-degree incline above the twin Supai Sisters' alamo-yeso cabin. There, beneath the cascadas of Hualapai Falls, soaking in its travertine pools, the tribal elders had blessed the peach pits we gifted them and regularly joked about our worth as lost explorers, or recounted tales about los espiritus who frolicked in the pools after midnight. Or they deliberated over the dinosaurio petroglyphs inscribed in sorcerer's blood--not those along the big cañones that Spanish priests would later condemn as "Abominations!", but others higher up the narrow arroyos where elders assured us even the espiritus de las cascadas dared not venture. [you can venture there when this reaches print]
# # #
In the last year and a half, I completed a YA alternate-world fantasy with two teen Chicano protagonists (boy and girl); a children's indigenous mexicano fantasy retell; one lengthy, SF/F mexicano-indigene-Chicano short story; a SF time-travel story into Denver's past; a short, mexicano-indigene fantasy; and a YA fantasy novella. They're all in agents' and editors' slush piles, their fates, to be determined. From this peak you've gotten, of course, let me know your opinions, suggestions or criticisms about any of them. Y gracias por eso.
Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, a.k.a. the Chicano spec author, Rudy Ch. Garcia, on his way to vote again, in case this week was simply a mirage

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19. 2014 Halloween / Día de los Muertos

Denver's dead trick-n-treatin'. Students dead/Mexico rising from the dead? Not-voting suicide. Latino/a Rising will live.

The two holiday observances ironically portray death from two opposing perspectives, as Flo Hernandez-Ramos explained yesterday. Today's post relates to different news bits about "death." It ends with good news.

Denver's dead trick-n-treatin'

We're such a nation of scared sheep, I'm not surprised. For over a month the Colorado press and media, politicians, police and fear-mongers have been sensationalizing a Non-threat: "Denver Police Warn Parents About Pot-Laced Candy During Trick-or-Treat Season." Give me a break, with more than a Snickers.


We're a richly self-medicated nation, abusing a lot of prescription drugs. For decades we've had bathroom shelves of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, given out for pain, so much that some is usually left over. Those are cheap compared to what THC spray costs. Were warnings issued every year about codone-laced candy?

When Denverites complained about the police's fear-mongering, the cops made a video posted on Facebook! They got slammed for that, too, but it was too late. At least in some Denver neighborhoods, on a Halloween night warmer than many previous, we had the lowest turnout ever. I'm guessing why. People in other areas report similar low turnouts, though not everywhere.

What will we hear next year to make us keep kids "safe" and inside and not walk the neighborhoods? ISIS terrorist sympathizers giving out hand-grenade treats! Disgruntled African immigrants giving out Ebola-licked gummy bears! Listen in to your fave shock-brained radio jock to find out. And be scared. It's as American as apple pie laced with GMOs. Oh, that's right--that's a real threat.


43 Students dead / Mexico rising from the dead?

U.S. drug habits and drug laws, gun mania and shipments into Mexico are now responsible for the likely murders of 43 students from Ayotzinapa Normal teacher-training school, missing since Sept. 26th. Big deal. Drugs, drug lords, killings, kidnappings, decapitations, "disappearings", cartel-bribed politicians, police and soldiers are always in the news. That's the Mexico the U.S. helped create and we're not surprised to hear more. However, this time, more than mierda has hit the fan.

"Most of the students were in their teens, in their first semester, and from impoverished communities that a majority of Mexicans identify with. The voids in Mexico’s government are all too obvious now. The country seems to be trembling at the edge of a terrible cataclysm or, for the hopeful, an inspiring transformation.

Mexico City rally for the 43
"There will be a march in Mexico City on Oct. 31st, coinciding with the Day of the Dead, and a “mega march” is scheduled for Nov. 5th, the day Mexico’s universities and colleges are planning a national strike. How many universities, colleges, and institutes will stick with it, and for how long? Will it spread to other areas of society, to the high schools, for example, as recent student strikes in Chile did, bringing about significant changes in the country? When masses of students boycott classes, it fills a country with an air of emergency and danger.
"What many Mexicans have been telling me is this: It’s either now or never."

Chicanos, mexicanos, latinos from the U.S. will no doubt support as they can whatever arises from the probable deaths of the 43. A new Revolución, across the river from El Paso, San Diego and Brownsville? It wouldn't be sci-fi or fantasy to imagine how our government, politicians and military would react to that. Or the gun lobby and industry, anti-immigrant racists and radio shock-jocks. I can hear them now. But for the rest of the country, it would be a true gauge of a "commitment" to democracy. Maybe they'd be spared the agony of having to decide. Yo espero que no.


Not-voting suicide

Earlier this year, I was among those advocating NOT voting. I was wrong. "We" are not united enough for that to have an effect. A discussion about when that time might come doesn't matter at the moment.

In the meantime, I'm voting because the Koch brothers, the anti-science crazies, the pro-oil conglomerates and the anti-immigrant racists are trying to elect their kind. They're even going after judgeships so justifiable claims against corporations will be more frequently overturned by "their" judges in the future.

Wherever I look on the Internet, TV or the press, and whoever I talk to, I could almost believe Armageddon is here, and Dystopia is our only future. Many people (including me) are negative, bitter, even reverting to political hermits. For that reason, I have been Facebooking the points below--one per day--trying to answer typical reasons you hear about why somebody won't vote next week. Use them, elaborate and improve them, if you want.

Many idiots, but make sure they're yours
#1 - Why you don't have to vote: Because you don't believe in the lesser of 2 evils.
What! Satan's not worse than a demon?
Frostbitten's not worse than shivering?
The 1% has robbed us of plenty. Did they steal your vote yet?

#2 - Why you don't have to vote: Because you think corporate ads already bought yours.
What! You think the 1% can control and even predict the future?
Hiding your head in the sand is smarter than sticking it in a voting booth?
Yes, the 1% has bribed most politicians. But you go alone into the voting booth.

#3 - Why you don't have to vote: Because the polls already canceled out your vote.
What! You think pulling one lever matters less than 1,000 opinions?
Ask the condemned man who he fears more--the hangman or the mob out front.
No, you might not have much to pick from. But which end of the rope do you prefer?

#4 - Why you don't have to vote:  Because there's only a few hours left, and you've got too much to do.
What! You don't want to spend a few minutes to avoid years of suffering?
Only terminal cancer patients (my apologies) could say voting does them no good.
No, you never have enough time. But voting could make the future, worth living.

#5 - Why you DON'T have to vote: Because you only care about who the President is, not a bunch of politicians.
What! You think if your President is elected, he/she will take care of everything?
Congress or your state legislature make the laws. The Prez and governors sign them, or not.
Your vote next week adds or detracts from the next President's or governor's power; that's the math.


Latino/a Rising will live!

I apologize to everyone who this week received too many bits from me about funding and supporting the anthology, Latino/a Rising, the first collection of U.S. Latino/a science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative genres. I do believe it is worth supporting and buying copies of once it's published. And I did have a personal stake in it, since a story of mine might be included. Even if it's not, I expect it to be a precursor of latino contributions to come. Echando más salsa en la literature Americana.

The good news is that the Kickstarter campaign surpassed its $10,000 goal but there's still time, until midnight, for you to kick in and get some cool perks, like autographed copies, T-shirts and swag.

I was just one of many who participated in reaching that goal. At times, I felt ambivalent: Why do we Latinos have to ask for money for a first-ever anthology when so many are produced in the U.S. every year? That's a because that I won't get into. What made me feel better were the non-latinos who responded, sometimes directly, letting me know they had contributed. It made me remember that we're not alone. There are some progressive Anglos, and others, out there. We just need to re-educate more of them.

Es todo, hoy, ni un treat más,
RudyG, a.k.a. Rudy Ch. Garcia, Chicano spec author with too much left-over candy

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20. Los Muertos En Este Dia: Testimonios, or Little Stories (some true, some not)


by Amelia M.L. Montes

“Sometimes when I’m working late into the night, they gather all around me.  They sit and watch me. Sometimes it’s my tia Chala, sometimes Pepe, others I don’t even know.  Some are a combination of two spirits.” 

“When my aunt died, all the lights of the house went out. I had to talk to her, to calm her down so all the lights would go back on.  It took a few minutes.” 

“It’s true what they say about us Chicanos—that we know the other side, and I’m not talking about the physical border which we know too well.  We know the other side because we are not afraid.” 


“She was so loud despues que se murio.  Everyone had a dream about her, or they felt her. But it wasn’t anything scary.  I think of it this way:  She was so excited to be in this other dimension, she was determined to share at least a wisp of it with us.”

“We eat the bread, the pan de muertos.  I always save some of mine and break it into little pieces.  I put some on the altar, but then I put some on the table by the bed, just in case.  I drink my atole, and leave the bread, para que tengan, si quieren.” 

“Once, a Catholic nun told me: ‘we know more of what death, God. or heaven is not, than what death, God, or heaven is.’  Imaginate! —a Catholic nun said that.”


“The tall lady with the red pencil skirt and high heels pointed at me.  She wanted me to make a ‘Day of the Dead Altar’ for her and her group because my last name sounded Hispanic to her.  N’ombre.  I’m no His-panic, and making an altar, pues, I don't do that for gente ajena--something so personal.  It's not Halloween trick or treat.” 

“We bring the table mi papa built 50 years ago to the front room, and we cover it with el mantel that mama loved—and we go from there.  The kids bring whatever they want:  their drawings, figs from the tree in the backyard, the bread, candles, flowers too.  Last year we made incense, and Gustavo brought the candles.  He also made new frames for the pictures. It always looks warm and inviting.  They all come, and we eat.” 


“We never painted calavera faces until I got together con Cecilia.  She said her familia always did it.  Mine never did.  Now we take turns painting each other’s caras every year. I'd like to do it more often.  I like taking the time to really look, I mean really look at her when I paint her face. The way we look at each other . . .”

“Three generations have been born and died in this house.  So we remember them today.  Their umbilical cords are buried over there near the maple tree and, pues, since we still haven’t scattered the ashes—we just put them on the altar.  We talk, we eat, we drink, we dance.  It's a good time.  Then, we put everything away.  The ashes go back in the closet.  I guess we just want to keep them with us.  I doubt we’ll scatter them any time soon.” 


You know what they say:  “Al vivo todo le falta, y al muerto todo le sobra.” 

José Guadalupe Posada

0 Comments on Los Muertos En Este Dia: Testimonios, or Little Stories (some true, some not) as of 11/2/2014 4:15:00 AM
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21. The Lost Letters of Mileva by M. Miranda Maloney ¿Qué hacen los escritores para Día de Muertos? Y más


Por Xánath Caraza

 

THE LOST LETTERS OF MILEVA BY M. MIRANDA MALONEY
 

The Lost Letters of Mileva by M. Miranda Maloney (Lobo Estepario Press, 2014)

La voz poética en The Lost Letters of Mileva es una que viene de lo onírico y nos envuelve en un ritmo lingüístico que hace participar al lector, no tan sólo, de los poemas pero en el sueño y la recreación de Mileva misma.  Esta plaqueta es una que atrapa al lector, que lo hace parte de las páginas con el lirismo y la belleza de sus versos; es un libro que volvería a leer una y otra vez.

 

Miranda cuida en cada momento, en cada verso, el lenguaje que usa en The Lost Letters of Mileva.  Hay un delicado y arduo trabajo entre las páginas de esta plaqueta.  Con maestría coloca las palabras entre los versos y los hace de una calidad casi cristalina, como de encaje elaborado de frágiles y finos cristales.  Cada signo de puntuación está colocado en el lugar correspondiente y pensado con intencionalidad.  Esa fue la impresión que tuve cuando leí la plaqueta por primera vez y que he vuelto a confirmar en lecturas posteriores.

 

We are blind and delicate.

We try to take back our words,

to unravel our time together, untangle

our language of starts,

but the force

of attraction is inevitable,

as is the last breath.

 

I wait and dance with my agony.

Cold in bed.  In the morning,

the coffee is lukewarm in my throat. (2)

 

Mileva Maric, la primera esposa de Albert Einstein, es canalizada en los poemas de Miranda.  Esta plaqueta nos cuenta una historia que no conocíamos, se descubren secretos, leemos confesiones y escenas de la vida cotidiana desde la perspectiva de Mileva, una voz poética femenina, que dice lo que la historia oficial ha querido borrar.  Ya sean ritmos oníricos o ritmos que describen una realidad cuidadosamente guardada, lo cierto es que estos poemas son gratificantes al ser leídos y despiertan el interés en el lector, hasta el punto de no querer detenerse hasta alcanzar la última página.

 

Take heart. Heidelberg is laced in moods, swallowed in moonless nights.  I retreat to your letters like a feeding bottle.  I am obedient to your biding when you ask I should write only when I’m bored.  My waiting has been in vain.

I pick up this pen.  Make love to you.  (5)

 

 

My belly fills with you.

Your spirit into my body, your

history, your dreams.

In the thread of light,

I devour repetition.  Spit it out.

The sun, our sun remains only.

I wait like a trembling leaf

            for your return.

Wait, dying with love,

a piece of you growing inside

of me.

 

I want to see you.  (8)

 

The Lost Letters of Mileva están llenas de vida.  Una vida pulsante pero que hasta ahora había estado enclaustrada, que ve la luz a través de la lectura de cada uno de nosotros.  Son palabras, poemas, que se resisten a ser olvidados y se convierten en versos universales, de otras tantas mujeres, que casi se perdieron en la historia.  Mileva ha encontrado una puerta que con nuestra lectura ha sido abierta.

 

            I spread

            my age like autumn

            under tres—

           

            color hardens, shape softens

 

            Wind carries everything

 

                                                Take me

 


M. Miranda Maloney



M. Miranda Maloney is the founder of Mouthfeel Press. Her poetry and essays have appeared in theBellevue Literary Review, MiPoesias, The Mas Tequila Review, BorderSenses, The Catholic Reporter, and others. Her recent chapbook collection The Lost Letters of Mileva was published by Pandora lobo estepario press. She's also the author of The City I Love (Ranchos Press, 2011), and is Educational Outreach Writer for the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum and poetry editor forBorderSenses Literary Journal. She lives in the outskirts of El Paso with her husband and three children. 



In Other News

 
También de Lobo Estepario Press en Chicago.

 

CHIAROSCURO/CLAROSCURO BY ÁLVARO TORRES-CALDERÓN
 

 

UNVEILING THE MIND BY BEATRIZ BADIKIAN-GARTLER
 

 

 

¿Qué hacen los escritores para Día de Muertos?

The 2014 Day of the Dead Celebration at The Writers Place in Kansas City, MO will be on November 7 at 7 p. m. featuring Jose Ballesteros and Gloria Martinez Adams, Azteca Dancers, music and more.

 

Next a series of photos of writers celebrating Day of the Dead
 
Aurora Anaya-Cerda, La Casa Azul Bookstore, in New York City
 

Liliana Valenzuela in Austin, Texas

Mark Statman in New York City
Pop Up Art Gallery in Kansas City, MO

Adriana Manuela in Puente Genil, Spain
Alberto Lopez Serrano in San Salvador, El Salvador

Rigoberto Gonzalez in New York City

Norma Cantu in Kansas City, MO

Diana Pando in Chicago

Raul Sanchez, Los Norteños Writers, Seattle, WA


University of North Georgia


University of North Georgia


The Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum, Dead Poets Reading & Open Mic: Liliana Valenzuela, Rosa, Viva Flores, Celina Villagarcia, Xanath Caraza, Melissa Carrillo, M. Miranda Maloney
 

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22. On-line Floricanto for DDLM

Memorial Poetry Reading for James Foley

Among LA's hardest-working poets, Luivette Resto, Iris de Anda, Gloria Enedina Alvarez


La Bloga friend and fútbol poetry contributor, Yago S. Cura, sends news that will have gente circling their calendars to remind of a spectacular reading of Los Angeles poets. Here's Yago's email:

Gente/Folks!

On Sunday, November 23, from 2-4 PM the La Palabra reading series will host a reading for American Journalist, James Foley, at Avenue 50 Studios (131 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042 / (323) 258-1435) in Highland Park.

The reading hopes to celebrate Foley's work as a combat journalist, fiction writer, and English teacher. The event will also serve as an opportunity for people to donate to the James Foley Legacy fund and the James Foley Scholarship  at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Please come celebrate his legacy with some of L.A.'s hardest-working poets: Dennis Cruz, S.A. Griffin, Billy Burgos, Annette Cruz, Millicent Accardi, Matt Sedillo, Luivette Resto, Angel Garcia, Ashake M. Jackson, oConney Williams, Ryan Nance, Rebecca Gonzalez, Gloria E Alvarez, Daniel Sosa, Iris De Anda, Karineh Mahdessian, and William Gonzalez



On-line Floricanto for Día de los Muertos

"If I Could Weigh My Memory" by John Martinez
"Baile" By Jose Faus
"Two Dia De Los Muertos Tales" By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Ancestor Dreaming" by Christine Costello
"A beautiful day in the neighborhood" by Sharon Elliott
"Holyhand" By Jolaoso Pretty Thunder
“My Own Louie” By Paul Aponte
"CALAVERA A GRACIELA B. RAMÍREZ" Por Betty Sánchez
"Tinta roja"/"Red Ink" Por Sonia Gutiérrez
"Altar en el desierto / Altar in the Desert" by Francisco X. Alarcón


If I Could Weigh My Memory
by John Martinez

If I could weigh my memory
Like a sack of something,
It would have the weight
Of my loving dead

My Uncle in an empty church,
Red carpet beneath
Pressed soles

My mother holding her arm
Like a wounded baby

My brother, opening
Another door to a lesson,
Still seated in the center
Of his room
Where loss and imagination
Are riddled about
And the exhale of the dying,
Is distant and furling
Through trees

If I could weigh my memory,
On the scale,
Like a gunny sacks of chili's
And beer hands reaching,
And burning sun
Scorching our skin
Browner than brown,
I would weigh it with a smile

Because the weight
Of my  memory,
Summons a sum paid

And so I walk away
With the grin of a child,
Walk into a perfect landscape,
With my reward secure
In my dusty pockets

(c) John Martinez 2014
All Rights Reserved



john Martinez has published poetry in several journals, including, LA WEEKLY, EL TECOLOTE, Red Trapeze and this will be his 17th poem published in LA BLOGA. Martinez studied creative writing in the early 80's at Fresno State University under, the now, U.S., Poet Laureate, Phillip Levine and has attended seminars with several established American poets. For the last 30 years he has worked as an Administrator for a Los Angeles Law Firm and has recently complete his long awaited Manuscript of 60 poems entitled PLACES, which will be published by IZOTE Press.








Baile
by Jose Faus

She came to my door last night
like so many times before
At first I do not see her
hiding in the bushes
Turning back into the living room
her bony legs trip me
and I land on the floor

I love it when that happens
She laughs and heads for the altar
helping herself
to the ofrendas on the shelf
Hey what gives señorita
You know these are for the souls
that will come tomorrow night
Do you really think I am a señorita
She smiles coyly
the blush coloring her bleached bones
Of course my lovely

And for the umpteenth time
since we first met
I lead her to the table
and serve her tamals
baked in banana leaves
a tall glass of avena
with a hint of cinnamon
On the stove
arroz con pollo
spiced with cloves and
littered with green olives
simmers

I pour her a cup of vino de casa
and in the dim light we reminisce
Tio Jaime and tu primo Sancho
send their regrets
Emerita tu abuelita
cries over her Cuco
Give me a picture to take to her
Then she takes her finger
and slowly strokes my beard
and with the hollow of her eyes
looks deep into my heart

You know someday
I will come for you

Don’t think of work tonight my dear
I reach behind her on the table
and grab the long stem rose
She puts it in her mouth
and stands apace
I push the player to shuffle
and in a tight embrace we sway
to boleros and tangos
the rattle of her bones
an eerie metronome
I ply her with vino
until she is tipsy in my arms
Any moment she will fall asleep
and then suddenly she glides
awkwardly across the floor
stops and holds the rose
on the tips of her weary bones

These advances are so nice
to feel and be what I was once
but it is futile to resist
someday I will come for you
and what will have been
the point of this

Nada chica nada
But you can’t blame me for trying
Besides how many can claim
to have danced
with such a lovely death
cheek to cheek
in a tight embrace
Alma de mi vida
you can really shake and bake



José Faus is a founding member of the Latino Writers Collective and Writers Place board president. He is a 2012 Rocket Grant recipient for the community project VOX NARRO. His writing appears in the anthologies; Primera Pagina: Poetry From the Latino Heartland, Cuentos del Centro: Stories From the Latino Heartland, Raritan, Whirlybird Anthology, Luces y Sombras and I-70 Review. He is the 2011 winner of Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange award.





Two Dia De Los Muertos Tales
by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

La Calaca's
bones rattle
make sounds
como when los músicos
play la marimba
Calaca dances
down the hall
looking for people
to mesmerize
with its fancy jiggly steps
it dances street and wise
La Calaca wants to steal
anyone’s last sweet breath
and twirl them dazed
into its bony arms
of death


ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ ஜ


La Llorona they say
drowned her children
because their father left her and
she lost the love of her life
but others say it was because
she could no longer provide
on a single mother campesina’s wages

didn’t know how to care for them on so little
that was not the life she had envisioned
she despaired for her children’s future and
went crazy from so much worry
about how to pay for care for them
while she was at work   or sometimes even
where their next meal would come from

one night after crying and crying and
ravaged with so much guilt and fear
she decided it was better
to return them to the water
so they’d swim happily back
to that calm calm place
where all life begins
again



Odilia Galván Rodríguez, eco-poet, writer, editor, and activist, is the author of four volumes of poetry, her latest, Red Earth Calling: ~cantos for the 21st Century~. She’s worked as an editor for Matrix Women's News Magazine, Community Mural's Magazine, and most recently at Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She facilitates creative writing workshops nationally and is a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070, and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and wellbeing of many people. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, and literary journals on and offline.





Ancestor Dreaming
by Christine Costello

(Idle meandering thoughts of an insomniac)

Eyelids flutter as my curtains blow to the same beat
Flutter whoosh whoosh
Window open like a restless mind
The wind seeks sleep
perhaps a dream
Flutter snap wind
A dream awaits
A shadow passes by in the hall
A spirit conjured by the wind paces back and forth
Waiting for the sound of tires on a wet street
dripping with a hope of rain.
Dream.
Flutter.
Storm.
Spirit.

Insomnia holds me captive
under the weight of a dream
waiting to be released to a sleeping mind
Ancestor I hear your whispers
Ancestor I feel your strength
Ancestor
sleep doesn't live here anymore
Only a deep flutter of a restless night
Dancing.
Flutter.
Snap.

Sweet slumber
I beg you to quick grab the key
The key
It opens to the dream
Please open
Wrong key
Missing is the slumber
the evasive sleep I crave
Is there a key
I can't remember



Born and raised in San Francisco Christine Costello is a 6th generation San Franciscan who grew up in the Mission District. She was the recipient of the Benny Bufano Art Scholarship and attended the San Francisco Art Academy majoring in Fine Art. She has been keeping illustrated journals for 40 years. Christine still resides in the City's Duboce Triangle neighborhood. Christine was a union labor activist for many years, working for various unions after being inspired by the farm workers movement, For the last 14 years she served as Business Agent for Theatrical Stage Employees Union Local B18, Christine volunteered her services for many years as the event planner for Instituto Laboral de la Raza’s annual fund raiser.  An early retirement  due to a disability has once again spurred her writing, journaling and illustration. She is a priest of Yemaya practicing the Lucumi traditions as well as an espiritista.





A beautiful day in the neighborhood
by Sharon Elliott

copper calavera
helicopts
above blue seas
grey sand

gyrates
a white flower
coffee cup
dance
at the inlet

drives a car
strewn with branches
green
scarlet
periwinkle

leaves are
woven into noise
grate against
ears
too full of sound

bird
of unknown origin
calls to children
playing in the street
they shout at each other
without answering her

wings gifted to
the calavera
stop her tortuous flight
allow her
to settle on a skylight
blocks away
knock three times
dissolve through it
fluff her bony
caderas
over a purple pillow
drink a lighted candle
blow wax through her ears
smile toothily
at humans
choosing to ignore her

she decides to stay

Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.




Sharon Elliott was born and raised in Seattle and lives in Oakland. Four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador laid the foundation for her activism in multicultural women’s issues. Her book, Jaguar Unfinished was published in 2012. She was an awardee of the Best Poem of 2012, The Day of Little Comfort, by La Bloga On-Line Floricanto; and has been featured in poetry readings in the Bay Area. She is an initiated Lukumi priest of Scot/Sámi/African Carribbean ancestry; ally to people of color and to the earth.





Holyhand
By Jolaoso Pretty Thunder

I am saying datura grows in colonies
on abandoned roads on the hips of the interstate
I do don't remember what she says
lost several hours, days even
ghost rattle
I am saying the dumb sky above looked down
on my galvanized roof, my castle
and two bucks locked antlers
In front of the house
03:00 am
dragging each other 150 feet
I call the dream helper by name
It's that time again
dirt
ash
mist captured
The women of my clan tossed the family name into the pit
I too burn the bridges
goodbye
My vision can change with the invisible borders that
I see, then cross
Trespassing
Yet further
I push it, reach the edges, some kind of darkness that brightens
Don’t look in the skeleton closet
you will find me there
The town dump, ocean, ravine, last stand of redwoods
I am the rubbish of the compound
Being eaten by the village chickens
I shapeshift into the sailor, a crossroads
Then the common wife, the storm flower, perfect whore, your queen
I am on the porch tethered to a cinderblock that lays in the crabgrass
This is exile self chosen
I nap in the sun
Irresponsible
Drawing it out with a stick in the dirt
I am the green hoop around the sun
on far away days
I see you in your manner
I speak in your Way
Dressing the house in tea and cakes
Spirit plates left for the dead
I know the songs for war, love, invisibility and undoing the sorcery
I tie knots in the rhythm
I say outright you have abandoned your own self
I say to you, those matching dishes and pillows are your spirit, malnourished
That formal garden, the same
I speak that I fear my own black magic and what I can do
what I have already done
I say I know these trees and which way to glance to accomplish it all
Blood in the hollow
1234567
This is what I am saying
This is the language I speak




Jolaoso Pretty Thunder is an initiated Apetebi and Orisa priestess of Oya in the Lukumi tradition. She lives in the woods of Northern California with her two dogs Rosie Farstar and Ilumina Holydog. She is a certified practitioner and student of herbal medicine (Western, Vedic, TMC and Lukumi) and  is an ordained minister of First Nations Church. She is a well traveled poet and  loves southern rock, porch swings, pickup trucks, cooking, camp fires, lightning, steak, long drives, hot cups of coffee, gathering and making medicine and singing with her  friends and family.







My Own Louie
by Paul Aponte

Andábamos en su ranfla
down Capitol Avenue.
You know, Capitol Avenue en SanJo.

Way Before some güey
decided to express it
by demolishing cantones
and turning it all
into a cesspool
of boiling concrete & cars.

Anyway,
Andábamos en su ranfla
down Capitol Avenue.
El Louie was driving Dad's
46 Plymouth Coupe
From Story Rd
down Capitol Avenue
approaching el Payless.
Payless:
with the huge drive-in type parking lot
where jainas and vatos hung out at night,
listened to "Angel Baby" and "Hanky Panky".
.
but right now it was daytime,
and two of his buddies
con su ranfla chingona
came up right next to his window.
.
With lip-bobbing cigarette he said:
"Ey, Louie you got a match!"
"Órale.  Hold on.
Poly, drive the car.
"Qué?"
Just grab the steering wheel!
El Louie sat on the window sil
paper matches in hand
lit up three together to make sure,
lit the vatos trola,
and sat down
before the carrucha
complained
about the 8 year old steering it.
.
He gave me a couple of looks
and on the 2nd gave me his signature laugh:
"Puh-th-th-thuh".
He drove me to Mark's Hot Dogs,
the place with the juiciest,
crispiest and most delicious dogs,
making me feel welcome again.
.
My summer vacation from el Defe,
starting off pretty well.
.
He'd been there, himself.
Got a tough guy reputation
in a place filled with the toughest.
Constantly came back to our Tlatelolco apartment
beat up for taking on too many at once.
I imagine they called him el Tlate-loco.
So the uncles had to send him back to SanJo.

I never saw any meanness.
I only saw crazy funny,
or quiet, wistful, pensive Louie.
Though, most times he was out and about.
.
Even so, I do have some memories.
Like that hot summer night
when he was stuck at home for some reason.
He gave me a note, and instructions:
"All you have to do is knock on the window.
When Sylvia opens it, tell her Louie sends this.
Now, go!"
I knock, and Sylvia opens the window
immediately grabs the note without asking
and tells me to wait.
She comes back out with her thick eye-liner,
and puffy hair with the flipped out ends
and straight cut bangs barely above her brows.
she gives me another note to give to Louie.
Then I become a ping-pong ball on the
table of grounded teenagers.
I know at some point it stopped,
but I actually don't remember that moment.
I think the ghost of me or parallel universe me
is still out there doing it.

.
He was definitely the ladies man,
and even though he was tall & studly,
with light skin & light blue eyes,
he liked them gorditas, prietitas y bien Chicanas.
Le gustaba la guitarra just like Dad,
and he impressed the ladies just like Dad.
.
The summer was over.
Back en el Defe things began boiling.
Just like everywhere around the world and the U.S.
.
1968 came around - a horrific year.
The beginning of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.
Labor strikes and riots in Poland, France & Italy.
Race riots throughout the U.S.
President Johnson refused to run for re-election.
Martin Luther King - assassinated.
Bobby Kennedy - assassinated.
Student riots in Mexico City.
Estudiantes contra granaderos.
In Tlatelolco where I lived -- many students were murdered.
and in 1968 ...
Mi carnal Louie died.  He was 18.
He died March 30th, 1968.
.
The newspaper said he drowned in Coyote lake.
Maybe he drowned in sorrow
after his good friend
committed suicide.
Maybe he abused his body
and just couldn't come back out.
Maybe, as they say, he was involved with gangs
and was killed when he chose to lead a different gang,
beaten up and thrown in the water
at a supposed "going away" party.
.
Don't want to know.
.
Years after:
My sister's daughter was born ... on March 30th.
My son was born ... on March 30th.
There is a supernatural feeling about that.
.
I think it was 1970
cuando me retaché a mi dulce hogar
for the summer.
I remember getting a high fever, almost delirious.
In the depths of my illness
I actually felt myself feeling like I might die.
Casi estiraba el teni.
Then I had a dream.
I was in the middle of the main road
in a typical western town of the old wild west
a strange town, unknown to me
deserted dirt streets
rolling tumbleweeds.
I realized I was going to be in a gun fight.
The other guy showed up at a long distance
on this main town road
in a hero's style cowboy outfit
with a red scarf blowing in the wind
I knew it wasn't my town
I knew this man meant business
and I had no business being there.
His arms slightly out, hands wide open by the holsters.
Then I saw it was Louie.
His message was “this town, his town, ain't big enough for the both of us”.
.
After I recuperated from my fever,
and was playing outside on a windy day,
I thought I heard in the wind, his signature laugh.
"Puh-th-th-thuh".















Paul Aponte is a Chicano poet born in San Jose, California USA, and now a proud citizen of Sacramento.   Paul, was a member of the performance poetry group "Poetas Of The Obsidian Tongue" in the 90's, and now is a member of "Escritores del Nuevo Sol". He is the author of the book of poetry "Expression Obsession" published in 1999, and has been published in "La Bloga" and in the book "Un Canto De Amor A Gabriel Garcia Márquez" which was put together by Alfred Asis from the country of Chile to honor Gabriel Garcia Márquez with poems from around the world with 31 countries represented. Through his many poems in English, Spanish, and Spanglish he conveys a connection to his culture that transcends the material.  He does this while retaining a voice that is very clearly his own, one which he commands with sincerity and a truthful, even wise sense of humor, and of self. Facebook website.





CALAVERA A GRACIELA B. RAMÍREZ
por Betty Sánchez


Se ha esparcido la noticia
Usted no lo va a creer
Graciela Brauer Ramírez
Ya ha dejado de ser

Con el Creador hizo un trato
De llegar a los sesenta
Pero al llegar a esa edad
Se fue a comprar indulgencias
Y rebasó los ochenta

Se murió placidamente
Esbozando una sonrisa
Logró lo que tenia en mente
Cruzó esta vida sin prisa

En vida fue muy activa
Practicaba el Tai Chi
Tenia otras perspectivas
Eso apenas descubrí

Tres maestrías completó
Se la pasaba leyendo
Sus memorias registró
Como le hizo no lo entiendo

La muerte llegó en carreta
A recoger sus huesitos
Vio dormida a la poeta
Y se robó sus escritos

El sol de los escritores
Se ha eclipsado de momento
Muy tristes le llevan flores
Perderla es el peor tormento

Los ángeles y el chamuco
Por su alma se pelean
Han armado un emboruco
Uno y otro forcejean

Ni pa’ ti ni para mi
Dijo el demonio enfadado
Esto ya lo decidí
Echémonos un volado

La parca que no es paciente
Les arrebató a su cliente
Se fue directo a los cielos
Para evitar mas recelos

En la puerta la esperaban
Con maracas y tambores
José Montoya y Phil Goldvarg
Para hacerle los honores

Tremenda pachanga armaron
Que les costó el paraíso
Al infierno los mandaron
Para volverlos sumisos

En la tierra los mortales
Añoran a su poetisa
De vez en cuando hay señales
Que nos visita la occisa

En México se aparece
Por la calle Bucareli
Ahí transcurrió su infancia
Sus recuerdos no perecen

Alguien asegura verla
En las aulas de Sac State
Acaso eso nos sorprende
Si por veinticinco años
Su enseñanza aun trasciende

El averno esta de gala
Se organiza un floricanto
La calaca se acicala
Luciendo su mejor manto
Graciela es la invitada
Que a todos deleitará
Con su épica chicana

Si una grulla ven volando
No es una pájaro cualquiera
Es ella que esta extrañando
Sus hijos nietos y amigos
Los árboles y los ríos
de ésta su amada ciudad
Que aun sigue visitando

Adiós viejecita linda
En mi corazón te llevo
Con respeto se te brinda
Ésta plegaria que elevo.

Con todo mi cariño y admiración para mi querida Graciela B. Ramírez
28 de Septiembre de 2014



foto:Andres Alvarez
Betty Sánchez, miembro activo del grupo literario, Escritores del Nuevo Sol desde  Marzo del 2003.

He colaborado en eventos poéticos tales como el Festival Flor y Canto, Colectivo Verso Activo, Noche de Voces Xicanas, Honrando a Facundo Cabral, y Poesía Revuelta.

Ha sido un privilegio contribuir en la página Poetas Respondiendo al SB 1070, Zine 10 Mujeres de Maíz y en La Bloga.








Tinta roja
por Sonia Gutiérrez

“Si tú mueres primero, yo te prometo . . .”
—Julio Jaramillo, “Nuestro juramento”

Hace unos minutos
vino mi Lola.
Estuvo aquí.
Sentí su presencia
como un zarape
cálido sobre mi cuerpo,
y sus colores
como rayos de luz
llenaron mi corazón.

En el cuarto junto
a mi alcoba,
donde nuestros cuerpos
florecían y perfumaban
las noches, ella misma
encendió la música
con su llanto.

Me visitó mi Lola
para que juntos
escucháramos
la guitarra,
las palabras,
y los gemidos
de nuestra canción.
Y entonces las paredes
y los santos recordaron
nuestros besos, nuestras caricias.

Estoy contento.
Estuvo aquí mi Lola;
cumplimos nuestra promesa,
y Ay como le agradezco
su visita para que ella vea
que tomé la pluma roja
y recordé
nuestro juramento.


Red Ink
by Sonia Gutiérrez

“Si tú mueres primero, yo te prometo . . .”
—Julio Jaramillo, “Nuestro juramento”

A few minutes ago,
my Lola came.
She was here.
I felt her presence
like a warm
zarape over my body,
and its colors
likes rays of light
filled my heart.

In the room next
to my bedroom,
where our bodies
flowered and perfumed
the nights, she herself
turned on the music
with her cry.

My Lola visited me,
so together
we could listen
to the guitar,
the words,
and the moaning
of our song.
And then the walls
and the saints remembered
our kisses, our caresses.

I am happy.
My Lola was here;
we kept our promise,
and Oh how much I appreciate
her visit, so she could see
that I took the red pen,
and remembered
our oath.

Translation by Sonia Gutiérrez



Sonia Gutiérrez is a poet professor, who promotes social justice and human dignity. She teaches English Composition and Critical Thinking and Writing at Palomar College. La Bloga is home to her Poets Responding SB 1070 poems, including “Best Poems 2011” and “Best Poems 2012.” Sonia recently joined the moderators of Poets Responding to SB 1070.

Her vignettes have appeared in AlternaCtive PublicaCtions, Storyacious, and Huizache. Her bilingual poetry collection, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña, is her debut publication. Kissing Dreams from a Distance, a manuscript written in the Tomás Rivera and Sandra Cisneros literary tradition, is under editorial review. “Tinta roja” first appeared in Tijuana poética #7 / octubre 2014.





Altar en el desierto / Altar In the Desert
by Francisco X. Alarcón

foto:Javier Pinzón




foto:Javier Pinzón

Francisco X. Alarcón, award-winning Chicano poet and educator, was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now lives in Davis, where he teaches at the University of California. He is the author of thirteen volumes of poetry, including Borderless Butterflies / Mariposas sin fronteras (Poetic Matrix Press 2014), Ce • Uno • One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press, 2010), From the Other Side of Night / Del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2002), Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company, 2001), Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books, 1992), Of Dark Love (Moving Parts Press, 2001). He is the author of six acclaimed books of bilingual poems for children on the seasons of the year originally published by Children’s Book Press, now an imprint of Lee & Low Books. He has received numerous literary awards and prizes for his works, like including the American Book Award, the Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award, the PEN Oakland – Josephine Miles Award, the Chicano Literary Prize, the Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement Award, the Jane Adams Honor Book Award, and several Pura Belpré Honor Book Awards by the American Library Association. He is the creator of the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB 1070.”

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23. The LA Latino Book & Family Festival – Great Books, Humble Souls

By Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri

          
Victor Villaseñor getting read to sign his books.


The Los Angeles Latino Book and Family Festival took place last Saturday, 11-01-14, at East Los Angeles College. Even though the weather was chilly by LA standards, many came to check out this fantastic cultural and family event.  I was excited to partake in a Q&A session with noteworthy children’s authors, René Colato Laínez and James Luna, as well as other indie authors like myself.
René Colato Laínez shared he was celebrating ten successful years as a published children’s author. I’ve read many of his picture books and I use them often in my classroom. I even bought a copy of his latest, Señor Pancho Had a Rancho, a fun twist on Old McDonald Had A Farm with a Latino flair.


               Books Written by René Colato Laínez

James Luna has written two picture books and both have been well received.  The Runaway Piggy also received the Tejas Star Book Award – Wow!  The coolest thing about meeting these two successful children’s authors is that they are both teachers and have over 20 years of teaching experience. Imagine how amazing it must be to be a student in their classrooms. I would love to be a fly on the wall to see how they motivate their students during Writer’s Workshop.



After the Q & A I got to sell and sign alongside these two gentlemen.  The author sitting to the left of me, Juan Villegas, shared that he couldn’t believe he was sitting next to the Victor Villaseñor, a Mexican-American writer, best known for the New York Times bestseller novel Rain of Gold. I giggled because I understood what he meant. Juan and I looked at the super long line of fans waiting to meet and have their book signed by Victor Villaseñor because we were more than happy to sell a few books.  And in just one hour Victor Villaseñor sold out boxes and boxes of books. I then discreetly pointed to René and James who were sitting to the right of me and said, “I hear you. Those two are the real deal in Latino Children’s Publishing.”


            Malín Alegría, James Luna, René Colato Laínez

I also had the pleasure of meeting Malín Alegría, an established Latina YA author who’s written a bunch of books as well – like the Border Townseries.  And while we newbies sat amidst these established and recognized authors, I noticed how humble and unassuming they all were. They didn’t once mention any of the accolades their books had received. They didn’t bring an entourage or display a lavish signing area. It was just them, their books and a pen for signing. But what they did bring to the book festival was an ernest desire to encourage others about the power of telling one’s own story, of writing it and sharing it.
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24. Luis Cruz Azaceta in New Orleans (and in print)









PAINTING OUT LOUD
is Luis Cruz Azaceta’s 8th exhibition with the Arthur Roger gallery in New Orleans.



Exhibition Dates: November 1 – December 20, 2014 
Gallery Location: 434 Julia Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 10 am–5 pm



The featured recent medium- and large-scale paintings and works on paper reflect the artist’s distinctive bright-colored abstraction and figuration and continue to encourage a dialogue regarding the current political climate, social injustices, war and ecocide. 




Janet Batet describes Azaceta’s dystopian landscapes as revealing, “the imminent disintegrating character of our current surroundings.” In a recent catalogue essay, she states, “There is a sense of apprehension that underlies the landscapes of chilling beauty that form the Falling Sky series, marked by the abstract sensibility where the delicate trace from the drawing and weighed down handling of colored areas are contrasting with the sense of disaster that animates them.”

 Cuban-American Painter Luis Cruz Azaceta

Luis Cruz Azaceta left Cuba as a teenager in 1960 and has now been exiled from his homeland for over fifty years. After immigrating to the United States, Azaceta lived in New York and studied at The School of Visual Arts. He relocated to New Orleans in 1992. He has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally and has been awarded grants from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, The Joan Mitchell Foundation, The Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, The National Endowment of the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.  His work is in the permanent collection of The Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Miami Art Museum, Miami; The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; The Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Museum of Art in New York.



 
Luis Cruz Azaceta
By: Alejandro Anreus
Foreword by: Chon A. Noriega

A Ver: Revisioning Art History, Volume 10
University of Minnesota Press
August 2014 
 
Cuban American artist Luis Cruz Azaceta addresses what author Alejandro Anreus calls the “wounds and screams” of the human condition. Although Cruz Azaceta’s work is widely shown and widely collected, this is the first book-length monograph on the artist’s life and work.

Anreus traces Cruz Azaceta’s career and explores the themes that are the focus of his singular art. Anreus assesses how the Cuban diaspora, above all, has shaped the artist and how the experience of exile has found expression through starkly forceful self-portraiture in many of his works. Anreus also discusses the artist’s ongoing concern with current events. Cruz Azaceta has responded to national crises, such as the AIDS epidemic, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, with graphically powerful paintings, mixed-media pieces, and installations.

Over the past four decades Cruz Azaceta has experimented with his visual vocabulary, moving from the flat, pop style of his early canvases, through neo-expressionism, and into the abstraction of current work. His commentary on humanity, however, has not changed. His art continues to remind us that there are no easy solutions to the presence of violence and cruelty, exile and dislocation, and solitude and isolation. 


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25. Anti-Gravity Drills and Halloween in New Orleans


Month 4 of My Broken Leg
 
            For the past couple of weeks, I've been receiving treatment for my broken leg at the Southern Orthopedic Specialists in New Orleans. Although a friend recommended Tulane for physical therapy, the place where team members of the Saints are treated, the same institution that operated on my leg suggested that I stay within their network. Since my insurance covered the physical therapy treatment, I was happy to oblige.
 
Physical Therapist, Marsh, manipulates my foot.



            When I tell most people that I am undergoing physical therapy, they look at me with extreme pity, as if the doctors were water boarding me for days on end. I actually enjoy physical therapy, probably because I enjoy exercising in general. I spend most of my day in front of a computer and often feel the need to engage in some sort of exercise, preferably yoga. In fact, although I couldn't walk for the first three months of my accident, I was able to keep up my yoga practice in bed. Special thanks to my teacher, Julie Nail who emailed me non-weight bearing poses. She helped me remain, positive, strong, and flexible during those early months of infirmity and not being able to walk .

Julie Nail (photo by Lerina Winters)
            At the Southern Orthopedic Specialists (S.O.S.), I experienced a very fun type of weightless therapy, the Alter G, Anti-Gravity Treadmill. This doesn't mean I have the training to go for a spacewalk. However, walking in the bubble of air, allowed me to feel a type of weightlessness and I was able to improve my gait. With a neoprene pair of shorts, I zipped myself into the Alter G machine, while air filled the bottom of the cage with air, allowing me to eliminate much of my body weight. I felt like a baby being hoisted by the armpits as my legs re-learned how to walk. And then the fun part began, walking backwards in the Alter G treadmill.
The Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill

Clicking my heels for a speedier recovery
            I must admit, there are two things I highly dislike about physical therapy. After the stretches and exercises are done, the therapist manipulates your foot and uses a hands on approach to get a feel for how much your range of motion has improved. I could do without the pulling and twisting of my foot in ways that a broken ankle should not be moved. Each therapy session ended with an arctic blast of an ice cold pack wrapped around both of my feet for fifteen minutes. I don't even like ice in a glass of water, let alone, wrapped around my foot for what seems like hours. The therapists laughed at my pained facial expressions each time they applied the ice packs.

There's No Place Like Home

            One of the perks of physical therapy in New Orleans, during the month of October, meant I had the opportunity to participate in the city's Halloween Festivities. New Orleans is a spooky and haunted place on any given night, but the place to be on is Molly's bar in the French Quarter. The bar hosts a parade with a brass band, carriage riders, and marchers. The best part is anyone can join the parade.  Since I wanted to be in that number, I made sure to wear comfortable shoes. I glittered a pair of comfortable leather and transformed them into Ruby Slippers for my Dorothy costume. Thanks to the therapists at S.O.S. and my yoga teachers, I was ready to march, walk, and strut. 
In front of Molly's
Catching Throws from the Carriage Riders
Glittering Shoes is Fun

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