Rafael Jesús González, Prof. Emeritus of literature and creative writing, was born and raised biculturally/bilingually in El Paso, Texas/Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, and taught at University of Oregon, Western State College of Colorado, Central Washington State University, University of Texas El Paso (Visiting Professor of Philosophy), and Laney College, Oakland, California where he founded the Dept. of Mexican & Latin-American Studies. Also visual artist, he has exhibited in the Oakland Museum of California, the Mexican Museum of San Francisco, and others in the U.S. and Mexico. Nominated thrice for a Pushcart prize, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and Annenberg CPB for his writing in 2003. In 2013 he received a César E. Chávez Lifetime Award and was honored by the City of Berkeley with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th Annual Berkeley Poetry Festival 2015. He was named the first Poet Laureate of Berkeley in 2017. Visit http://rjgonzalez.blogspot.com/.
DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS – 11/4 (JOE & MAX) by Ivan Argüelles
i Brooklyn a park bench a quart bottle of malt liquor and a brother how did that happen late spring early death drone of skies ready to annihilate themselves an ear wrenched from its rock formation a buzz of intonations from the Mahatmas stoned and iridescent in their vanishing perched like quetzal birds on the telephone wire high above planet Nothing all comes back to this moment realization of these deaths the masks of infancy withering yet beautiful and Hey ! did you hear the eloquence emanating from the jazz trumpet of Miles Davis ? basements in accolades of marijuana smoke decadence and livelihood waiting for births for nomenclatures to disclose their irate vowels in a backyard next door to Betty Carter mind soaked in tequila playing boyhood one Last Time and it all falls down the sudden repetition of a life experience the onset of seizures the rest of breath reduced to a red parenthesis inside which the conflagration of ideas and love recycled eerie representations of store windows masked and hooded figures demons alluring and baleful and after that what is there to know a trip to the outback a dozen hospitalizations mysterious tumors ventilators bad x-rays memories of Mayo Clinic cold spells long periods before and after that no one remembers but for the poignant high notes the small echo in its shell and the massive but absent seas
ii the little red clarinet case pushed under the bed sheets wrung out turning yellow from ichor of the gods transpiration and head-wounds tilted off the moving wagon on to the sidewalks of inferno and whatever could that mean the isolation wards and always the stranger at the door bare-knuckled with a bag to capture whatever malignant spirits trying to escape the maps were drawn tight around the peninsula and causeways and trampolines for the kids to jump up and down inside the coma where an excised cosmos auto-destructs with all its plastic passengers most of whom have traveled to the Yucatan and harbored nights in Teotihuacan with vessels of ether the countdown hasn’t even started before the finish is a fait accompli the forlorn hills of dialect and twilight the way they reappear in dreams half-beings bereft of intellect and side-swiped by planetary diesels plunging like headless horsemen down the Pan-Am Highway motels and endless waiting rooms dismantled telephones ambulances and more ambulances the wrong address and finality of sliding curtains hanging like angels left to dry from the wars and the doctors of hypnosis and mercury just staring into the abyss devoid of language the cuneiform of their brains working overtime to excuse themselves from all culpability and soon it’s another Halloween trick or treating on the doorsteps of a missing basement and phantom music ascends The Monster Mash with calaveras de azúcar and the jingles and marionettes of memory dancing sing-song in the cavities I got the shakes I’m going fast
iii cada día es el día de los muertos
Ivan Argüelles is a Mexican-American innovative poet whose work moves from early Beat and surrealist-influenced forms to later epic-length poems. He received the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award in 1989 as well as the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 2010. In 2013, Argüelles received the Before Columbus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. For Argüelles the turning point came with his discovery of the poetry of Philip Lamantia. Argüelles writes, “Lamantia’s mad, Beat-tinged American idiom surrealism had a very strong impact on me. Both intellectual and uninhibited, this was the dose for me.” While Argüelles’s early writings were rooted in neo-Beat bohemianism, surrealism, and Chicano culture, in the nineties he developed longer, epic-length forms rooted in Pound’s Cantos and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. He eventually returned, after the first decade of the new millennium, to shorter, often elegiac works exemplary of Romantic Modernism. Ars Poetica is a sequence of exquisitely-honed short poems that range widely, though many mourn the death of the poet’s celebrated brother, José.
death’s many signatures in Sicily’s quicksilver seas the moon and its argent micronauts uncounted in the recesses of Sierra Madre actors with faces of timeless burros named Cárdenas foraging in sugar cane coldness at the center of the sun seventeen years or forty-nine years the instant is the same for whatever happens the body is only the thought of the body incense and wharves of the conquistadores liana and ivy snares at the hour’s second end how often this occurs and cannot recall the why and which the who and wherefore the canals of Tenochtitlán lose their way among withered rooftop garlands I remember nothing after pushing the green button but salutes of armless angels the rose through which a river pours and summers that belong to memory’s only syllable and heat the roar of Aetna’s ovens twenty marigold flowers Narcissus and Hyacinth eye and pulp of repercussion blindness of water and depths where night’s riddle threads an unheard harp calacas y calaveras ! thousands at play with missing fingers nameless deities in a single afternoon making rosaries of light smoke snaking through vowels of perpetuity toys that imitate sleep’s small noises tender the hair that falls around the wing shimmering hues of nacre consonants why is speech so difficult today ? colibrí ! ruby-throated messenger of death clouds the size of silence and glass motion and gravity have lost all sense evening fades in the vestibule of echo one hand seeks the other in an abyss of shape darkness of words dos mariposas de la noche !
Ivan Argüelles is a Mexican American innovative poet whose work moves from early Beat and surrealist-influenced forms to later epic-length poems. He received the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award in 1989 as well as the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 2010. In 2013, Argüelles received the Before Columbus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ofrenda por/by Rafael Jesús González, Oakland Museum of California 2017
Por/by Rafael Jesús González
Consejo para el peregrino a Mictlan (al modo Nahua)
Cruza el campo amarillo de cempoales, baja al reino de las sombras; es amplio, es estrecho. Interroga a los ancianos; son sabios, son necios:
— Señores míos, Señoras mías, ¿Qué verdad dicen sus flores, sus cantos? ¿Son verdaderamente bellas, ricas sus plumas? ¿No es el oro sólo excremento de los dioses? Sus jades, ¿son los más finos, los más verdes? Su legado, ¿es tinta negra, tinta roja? --
Acepta sólo lo preciso:
-----lo que te haga amplio el corazón --------lo que te ilumine el rostro.
Ofrenda with/con cempoales (marigolds), at Oakland Museum of California, 2013
Advice for the Pilgrim to Mictlan (in the Nahua mode)
Cross the yellow fields of marigolds, descend to the realm of shadows; it is wide, it is narrow. Question the ancients; they are wise, they are fools:
— My Lords, My Ladies, What truth do your flowers, your songs tell? Are your feathers truly lovely, truly rich? Is not gold only the excrement of the gods? Your jades, are they the finest, the most green? Your legacy, is it black ink, red ink? --
Accept only the necessary:
-----what will widen your heart ----what will enlighten your face.
Note: Mictlan is the Nahua people’s name for the land of the dead.