Buffalo Moon by Blas E. Lopez, a renowned San Antonio artist. Buffalo Moon is available at our Tienda. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Somos en escrito Literary Foundation.
Extracto de Sintaxis Ilegal, poesías de Iván Argüelles en inglés y español Traducciones por Arturo Dávila Sanchez, traductor y poeta
Extracto de la Introducción : Excerpt from the Introduction
Conocí a Iván en los años ochenta del siglo pasado. Neeli Cherkovski me sugirió contactarme con Iván, poeta mayor y bibliotecario políglota de UC Berkeley. Me dio un ambiguo retrato: afirmó que llevaría una chamarra de mezclilla azul y el pelo alborotado sobre la frente, con un copete cayendo lacio sobre los anteojos. Esa imagen no ha cambiado en casi medio siglo.
No lo he olvidado. En el caudaloso río de estudiantes que cruzaban Sproul Plaza, la explanada central del campus, vi a una persona que caminaba lentamente, libro en mano, leyendo. Lo que más me impresionó fue que pudiera caminar y leer a la vez, sin alterar el tráfico estudiantil. Un ojo al gato y otro al garabato. Era Iván Argüelles.
Hoy en día, los jóvenes manejan y textean, atienden a una clase y mandan correos electrónicos y selfies al mismo tiempo. Se jactan de ser la generación de los delfines, que pueden mantener cinco conversaciones simultáneas y estar atentos a todas, inmaculados. En aquella época, éramos distintos. Nuestros padres nos educaron al ritmo de adagios como: “El que come y canta, loco se levanta.” “Concéntrate.” “Una cosa a la vez. Lo demás es caos.” Tal vez Iván Argüelles se adelantó a su tiempo o, más bien, siempre ha sido atemporal. Maneja con destreza sorprendente muchas lenguas: griego, latín, sánscrito, hindi y bengali, inglés, español, francés, portugués, italiano, alemán, catalán, rumano, etc. Y piensa en todas ellas, sin mengua. Alguna vez le pregunté cómo podía sostener su conocimiento de tantos idiomas. Me comentó sin inmutarse que alternaba los días y leía un poema o fragmentos en las lenguas que conoce. Es una costumbre que guarda desde que lo conozco.
Jack Foley escribió en 2010: “Iván Argüelles es uno de los más finos poetas de este siglo; sin embargo, sólo lo conocen unos cuantos de sus apasionados partidarios. Su obra es ‘difícil’ pero no más difícil que la de otros poetas más conocidos, y su poesía es mejor que la de ellos.” Su estética se ancla en la imagen vertiginosa, anacrónica, multidireccional y explosiva. John M. Bennett afirma que debemos leer la obra de Argüelles “con una manera nueva de pensar / with a new mind-set.” Y añade este fino consejo: “Uno debe dejarse llevar, “ahogarse” en el océano de esta sorprendente y proteica obra, y ser receptivo a todas las ambigüedades y contradicciones que contiene.” En muchas instancias, Argüelles se vale de monólogos dramáticos--siempre con una especie de máscara—y “una suerte de conciencia surrealista desnuda” que (afirma con acierto Jack Foley) deliberadamente busca, como Yeats, “the face I had / Before the world was done.”
El método de Argüelles es inmediato y visceral. Hay que captarlo antes de entenderlo e incluso “no entenderlo.” Su poesía es panóptica y diacrónica: es decir, puede referirse, sin cortes transversales, al Gilgamesh y a olvidadas diosas fenicias, o recordar a su hermano gemelo subiendo las gradas de la pirámide de Teotihuacan, monologar con Caballo Loco, retratar a Dante, invocar los ojos de Elizabeth Taylor, silbar una tonada de Elvis Presley o un concierto de Mozart, monologar con Astolfo en la luna, o meditar sobre la nave de David Bowie que acaba de dejar el planeta y estalla en medio del polvo sideral. Sus imágenes son desaforadamente despegadas del significante y las palabras resuenan en múltiples lenguas, lanzadas sin sentido hacia inesperadas direcciones, como en una erupción gramatical de lava incontenible que, a sus 83 años, todavía arde y no se detiene.
Afirmé que su poesía es panóptica y diacrónica. Lo reitero. En aquel primer almuerzo del siglo pasado, en Larry Blakes, uno de los templos del blues desaparecidos, Iván Argüelles me regaló varios de sus poemarios; entre ellos Instamatic Reconditioning – Recondicionamiento instamático (1978), un título que todavía hoy no alcanzo a comprehender de manera cabal. Ahí encontré un poema admirable que ejemplifica los adjetivos que menciono. Se trata de “Antes de que llegara el Buda.” En esa visión panóptica hay algo misterioso que mueve fibras sensoriales arcaicas. Hoy se habla de memoria ancestral o información genética. El lector tiene la sensación de que Iván Argüelles estaba allí, en la más recóndita prehistoria, entre las primeras manadas de seres humanos, colgado de una rama, en espera del Avatar que otorgó conciencia al mundo. Tal es la plenitud y convicción de sus palabras. Con ese poema abrimos esta antología.
A memento of the translator and the poet meeting in San Francisco in front of City Lights Books: Neeli Cherkovski, Iván Argüelles, Steven Schwartz and Arturo Dávila, ca 1986
I met Iván in the 80s of the last century. Neeli Cherkovski suggested that I contact Iván, a major poet and polyglot librarian at UC Berkeley. Neeli gave me an ambiguous description: he stated that Iván would be wearing a blue-jean jacket, his hair tousled on his forehead with a pompadour falling straight over his glasses. That image has not changed in almost half a century.
I have not forgotten it. In the mighty river of students that crossed the central Sproul Plaza of the UC Berkeley campus, I saw a person who was walking slowly, book in hand, reading. What impressed me most was that he could walk and read at the same time without disrupting student traffic. Un ojo al gato y otro al garabato. It was Iván Argüelles.
Today, young people drive and text, attend class and send e-mails, snapchats, and selfies at the same time. They take pride in being “the generation of the dolphins,” who can hold five simultaneous conversations and be attentive to all of them imperturbably. In our time, we were different. Our parents raised us to the rhythm of adagios like: “He who eats and sings his brain spins.”“Excess is no success.”“One thing at a time. The rest is chaos.” Perhaps Iván Argüelles was ahead of his time or, rather, he has always been timeless. He handles many languages with surprising skill: Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Hindi and Bengali, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German, Catalan, Romanian, etc. And he uses of all of them interchangeably. I once asked him how he could sustain his knowledge of so many languages. He told me without flinching that he read a poem or fragments in each of the languages he knew every day, as much as possible. It is a habit he has kept since I have known him.
Jack Foley wrote in 2010: “Iván Argüelles is one of this century’s finest poets, yet he remains known to only a few passionate partisans. His work is ‘difficult,’ but it is no more difficult than the work of many better-known poets--and his work is better than theirs.” His aesthetic is anchored in vertiginous, anachronistic, multidirectional, expansive, and explosive images. John M. Bennett states that we must read Argüelles’s work with “a new mind-set.” He adds this fine piece of advice: “one has to allow oneself to be ‘drowned’ in the ocean of this stunning and protean work and be receptive to all the ambiguities and contradictions it contains.” In many instances, Argüelles makes use of masked dramatic monologues and a naked surrealist unconscious that, according to Jack Foley, deliberately reveals, like Yeats, “the face I had / Before the world was made.”
Iván Argüelles’ method is immediate and visceral. You must grasp it before you understand it and even “not understand it.” His poetry is panoptic and diachronic: id est, he can refer, without cross sections, to Gilgamesh and forgotten Phoenician goddesses, or remember his twin brother climbing the steps of the Teotihuacan pyramid, engage in a monologue with Crazy Horse, portray Dante, invoke Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes, whistle a tune by Elvis Presley or a Mozart concerto, ride with Astolfo to the moon, or meditate on David Bowie’s ship that has just left the planet and is about to explode in the middle of the cosmic dust. His images are wildly detached from the signifier and the words resonate in multiple languages. They are thrown aimlessly in unexpected directions, as in a grammatical eruption of irrepressible lava that, at age 84, still burns incessantly. I had previously stated that his poetry is panoptic and diachronic. I repeat this affirmation. At that first lunch with him at Larry Blake’s in the 80s, one of the longtime temples to the blues in the Bay Area, Iván Argüelles gave me several collections of his poetry, among them Instamatic Reconditioning (1978), a title that I still cannot fully understand today. I found an admirable poem that exemplifies the adjectives I mention in this collection. It is titled, “Before the Buddha came.” In the poem’s panoptic vision, there is something enigmatic that moves our ancient senses. Today we talk about ancestral memory or genetic information. The reader has the feeling that Iván Argüelles was there, in the deepest prehistory, among the first troops of human beings, hanging from a branch, waiting for the Enlightened One. Such is the fullness and conviction of his words. We open this anthology with that poem.
Arturo Dávila S. Laney College Oakland, California February 2023
1.- Before the Buddha came
there were many of them sleeping on the trees or awake just watching from a silvery distance the glistening backs of animals as if preparing the idea of the hunt faces composed of aspirin and fur teeth like combs riveted into the shoulders of their mates drawing a slow dream-like fluid with which to tread the new moon
they have forgotten the dusky witness of the stars now dwindling like orbs of dust in the back mind of the sky they have come down to the ground to spend years inside the hides of what they have killed soon they will be persons inventing units of thought or describing parallel selves with which to explain the strange inconvenience of dying
1.- Antes de que llegara el Buda
había muchos de ellos durmiendo en los árboles o despiertos tan sólo mirando desde una distancia plateada las espaldas relucientes de animales como si prepararan la idea de la caza caras compuestas de aspirina y piel dientes como peines clavados en los hombros de sus compañeras dibujando un fluido lento como un sueño con el que pisar la luna nueva
han olvidado al testigo oscuro de las estrellas menguando ahora como orbes de polvo en la mente oculta del cielo han bajado al suelo para pasar años dentro de los cueros de lo que han matado pronto serán personas inventando unidades de pensamiento o describiendo seres paralelos con los cuales puedan explicar el extraño inconveniente de morir
under our feet the grass has stopped rolling a single cigarette undoes the leaves metal appears for no reason at all where we need to sleep the horizon disappears in a zipper our hooves sink in miles of paper a thin flame piercing us flank to flank catalogs the function of our skin
in a still pool somewhere to the far west of here a god with a sky blue jaw with creosote heels with celluloid eyes with a magnificent tin lapel and a railroad ticket that works like a clock is eating the last of us
bajo nuestros pies la hierba ha dejado de rodar un solo cigarrillo deshace las hojas el metal aparece sin razón alguna donde necesitamos dormir el horizonte desaparece en un ziper nuestros cascos se hunden en millas de papel una fina flama que nos atraviesa flanco a flanco cataloga la función de nuestra piel
en un estanque tranquilo en algún lugar al lejano oeste de aquí un dios con mandíbulas azul cielo con tacones de creosota con ojos de celuloide con una magnífica solapa de hojalata y un boleto de tren que funciona como un reloj se está comiendo al último de Nosotros
22.- Illegal Sintax
where there can be only confusion... sleeping among the dead the glorious ones who came through fire remembering the shore where the shadows grew warm… dreaming in the dark oak-groves strangling in the ivy childhoods already violent with the future gods incarcerated in the pinnacle where a reading continues daily about the seas underfoot about the paths divine about the morphology desperately convulsed... orgasmic messages to earth the humus the detritus of that other reality ... watching the screen for some real significance for that burning for that ultimate signal on high as they bring their barks to this strand exhausted with the lie of delivery cattle in the meadow of their memory… bleeding hospices… dung ancient with a forgotten tradition how they lift their palms waving that one great feather of pampas grass and it is night already not the mild one with fragrances and the calling of exotic birds but the ruddy treacherous one where the planets acknowledge aloud the illegal syntax the dread omens… falling from the heavens the once considered pure the body and spirit the demi-gods “how can I touch the consecrated moment of the imminent echo?” … sluggish the source of the Meander the water of tragedy where they stepped convinced this is the hour or the life of Noon the meridian of philosophy the Holy the exchange of the sexes …………………………………………………….
what kind of guilt is blindness combined with total recall of the visible? each leaf extends its oratory to the eternal optic nerve… the sea returns its buried to the skin of the Universal Day and all around they cast their illicit glances waiting for History to incarnate them those for whom the Republic was an uncultivated Vine … the azure the crown the ring of day-stars dripping fiery dew Enigmas… who can elude their passionate and embryonic solitude?
22.- Sintaxis ilegal
donde sólo puede haber confusión... durmiendo entre los muertos los gloriosos que vinieron desde el fuego recordando la orilla donde las sombras se calentaban… soñando en los oscuros robledales estrangulando infancias de hiedra ya violentas con el porvenir dioses encarcelados en el pináculo donde una lectura continúa diariamente sobre los mares bajo los pies sobre los caminos divinos sobre la morfología desesperadamente convulsionada… mensajes orgásmicos a la tierra el humus los detritus de esa otra realidad… mirando la pantalla para buscar algún significado real alguna quemadura alguna señal definitiva en lo alto mientras traen sus ladridos a esta ribera exhaustos con la mentira de la entrega ganado en el prado de su memoria… hospicios sangrantes… estiércol antiguo con una tradición olvidada cómo levantan sus palmas saludando a esa gran pluma de hierbas de la pampa y ya es de noche no la suave con fragancias y el canto de pájaros exóticos sino la rojiza traicionera donde los planetas reconocen en voz alta la sintaxis ilegal los temibles presagios… cayendo desde los cielos los una vez considerados puros ¡el cuerpo y el espíritu los semidioses! “¿cómo puedo tocar el momento consagrado del eco inminente?” … perezosa la fuente del Meandro el agua de la tragedia donde pisaron convencidos de que ésta es la hora de la vida El Mediodía el meridiano de la filosofía El Sagrado el intercambio de los sexos ………………………………………………… ¿qué clase de culpa es la ceguera combinada con el recuerdo total de lo visible? cada hoja extiende su oratoria hasta el eterno nervio óptico… el mar devuelve sus muertos a la piel del Día Universal y a su alrededor lanzan miradas ilícitas esperando la Historia para encarnar en ellos a aquéllos para quienes la República era una vid inculta … el azur la corona el anillo de estrellas diurnas goteando rocío ardiente Enigmas…. ¿quién puede eludir su soledad apasionada y embrionaria?
Iván Argüelles is the author of many books, including: “That” Goddess; Madonna Septet; Comedy , Divine , The,; Fiat Lux; Orphic Cantos; Tamazunchale, and many others. Born in 1939 in Rochester, Minnesota, he has lived variously in Mexico City, Chicago, New York City, Macerata, Italy, and settled in Berkeley, California. A retired librarian, he was employed by the New York Public Library and The Library of the University of California at Berkeley. His collection, Looking for Mary Lou, received the 1989 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2010, he received a National Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for his early selected poems, The Death of Stalin. This collection, Sintaxis Ilegal, written in English, was translated into Spanish by Arturo Dávila and published by the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León.
Arturo Dávila S. is Chair of the Department of Modern Languages at Laney College in Oakland, California. He specializes in contemporary Latin American poetry and Colonial Literature (the conquest of Mexico). He is poet laureate in Spain and Mexico where he won the following prizes for his books: La ciudad dormida (“Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz” Prize, México, 1995), Catulinarias ("Antonio Machado" Prize, Spain, 1998), Poemas para ser leídos en el Metro (“Juan Ramón Jiménez” Prize, Spain, 2003), and La cuerda floja (“Nicolás Guillén” Prize, Caribbean Philosophical Association-CPA, 2015). Some other publications include, Alfonso Reyes entre nosotros (UANL, 2010), an extensive prologue on poems by the same author, Homero en Cuernavaca (2014), the anthology La Tinusa. Poetas latinoamericanos in the USA (Aldus-Secretaría de Cultura, 2016), Sátiras (Hiperión, Spain, 2017), and more recently Tantos troncos truncus (Casa Vacía, 2020), and También garganta el mar (Casa Vacía, 2023). At present he is compiling a second anthology of 21st century Latin American poets living in the USA and doing research on pre-Hispanic codices and re-visions of the conquest of Mexico.
Spring comes hard with alacrity, whether we like it or not. You came as hard on me with grace and tender touch Of maternal care that burned into passion and bloomed Bright red, orangefire, white, gold, then rosegray.
Your classic pose of leg over leg, left over right From that time you kissed me when I was twenty-two And you ripe, full-blossomed woman of twenty-six, Stays with me even in dreams of you sad,
Even as you repeated that pose last year at the roses that mirrored Your beauty when Death and Eros, twins at birth Visited us, made us whole, each one healing The other, tutelary deities, ancestors, overseeing us
In my mother’s bed, in my mother’s room, you on her side I on my father’s, we asleep after lovemaking, my hand in your Hand, arm draped over your head, our hands over your heart. And my heart all yours.
Though most of that time we had was bright, the happiest Of my life, fue - was so short-lived but so few so much Will ever live a passion so full - we knew, know, and I like Orpheus lament this so; The snake who took you, bit your heel
Was your mother, your conscience, your daughters, your Sister, your niece, your nephew and your past. The light You brought me was greater than any other, Tantric, ancient De los ancestros y del más allá, fulfilling, bright, dwarfing
Any other erotic love, wrapping mother, sister, prima Amada, esposa, bruja, creadora y destructora all in one.
David Vela, born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, now resides in Northern California where he writes poetry, short stories, book reviews and interpretive essays of literary criticism. David has taught in Paris where he researched and lectured on the Modern Intellectual and did research at the Institut du Monde Arabe. He taught for 22 years in the English Department at Diablo Valley College and previously at Dominican University, both in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has been a military veteran advocate throughout his professional career as teacher and writer. His two manuscripts, Irish Literary Influence on Jorge Luis Borges, and al-Andalus: What we inherit from Muslim and Jewish Spain in Jorge Luis Borges’ and Carlos Fuentes’ writing merge his interest in Latin America, Spain and Ireland.
Listen to Sylvia perform "...the city.s killing me..."
the mother in your memory movie reminds me. my own mother in real life. palpably uncomfortable. polite. Puetoricenio en tu vida. instead pero…skin tone…voice tone…thats them (thats us) same but different I want to hear your friend speak in Spanish. Will you tell him? …the street makes us a threesome…I'm Poly for the art scene. When it was once then for a life time, they remember. I see the halo glow of a martyr to a mind. Your brain shares that similar smile to mine and no one knows what resides inside. Between us. Asimilar. dissimilar. unsimilar. to the outside. Someone tugged you out under this sun and brought that bloodline out with it. Pushed out another one constantly cradling their own demons.
Now stuck with the only them, the only I. I dreamt I had your swagger. Alone in a city park at night imagining the world, I'd be terrified. I can't run. The fear comes up fast. Predicted from in between my legs. My night sky is a retired ceiling fan casting shadows like a flower with only half its petals remaining.
This is how I learned to bring a deadish body down the stairs.
Slipping to the trip, my shins would be scraped shreds. Lead legs. Head over heels my arrogance of the assumed ease brings me to the slip and slide plastic of a gurney ride I'm over the concrete edge. gums dangling meat threads ...curbstomp of consequence Sputtering up snake eyes in teeth. rolling against the roof
I've seen parts of this movie, watched gravity pull her to concrete like a desperate, disheveled…lover? beloved? hard-up darling? Flat down hard fuck. Only they share that collision despite those who watch and think they feel the crash. Bone to brick, rail against cheek. A mouth first tastes copper-lemon from the side. An unfinished european kiss
Sylvia Eugenia combines elements of fiction and memoir into a prose poetry. Her poems have no structure except, the pauses in her breath and metronome of her heartbeat. She graduated from Mills College, Oakland, California, with a BA in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She has presented her work at many small readings in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2013, she performed at Beast Crawl in Oakland and Lit. Crawl in San Francisco. She lives in Santa Cruz, Cali.
Excerpts from Z is for Zapatazo by Ruben Rivera published by Atmosphere Press
Z is for Zapatazo
I started learning my ABC’s before I could even read. The first lesson involved a woman collapsed in the back lot of the Bronx tenement where we lived. Something had scared her nearly to death. There in the pouring rain she lay writhing and screaming out her wits while neighbors watched from the covered balconies and fire escapes. R is for Rat.
Another lesson was connected to chickens in that time when “children should be seen and not heard.” The Spanish version had, as usual, more syllables as well as color: “Los niños hablan cuando las gallinas mean.” “Children talk when the chickens pee.” Those who relate to chicken only in conveniently dismembered extra crispy form may ask when or how often do chickens pee? Never. We Nuyoricans, Spanglish-speaking Gothamites, who had never seen a chicken except when it arrived steaming aromatically on a plate with rice and beans, nevertheless knew well that chickens don’t relieve themselves like little boys and girls. C is for Chickens.
We moved to California, that hub of social contradictions. There I was raised on breezy primetime shows, punctuated by interruptions about some protest march, police suppression, riot, space-race launch, cold war threat, assassination, or other scary event. For a while it seemed like “We Interrupt This Program” was part of the regular TV line up. Maybe that’s why there were so many sitcoms and family shows – diversions from the worry and sheer terror. The shows conveyed placid American suburbs lined with houses that never needed painting, populated by families like the Andersons, the Nelsons, and the Cleavers, lovingly and rationally ruled by parents that never yelled or hit or even had sex.
Meanwhile, on this side of the fourth wall, verbal and physical discipline was natural. So natural in fact that it was conveyed in a Spanish-language ABC book for children. The benign English version that the Cleavers read had, “A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat” and so on, to the last letter, “Z is for Zoo.” A logical entry for the Spanish Zeta (Z) would have been Zapato (Shoe), something every Latino child would know. But instead it read, “Z esporZapatazo” (paraphrased: Z is for Shoe Missile). The expounded letter was accompanied by a drawing of a dark-haired child with its wincing face cocked to the side from the impact of a flying shoe. A friend recalled the book to me years later and we responded with equal parts laughter and loathing at the kind of mentality that would include such a casually violent lesson in what is perhaps the most basic childhood introduction to an intelligible world.
History reminds me, however, that Anglo American ways of child rearing were not so idyllic as the TV shows portrayed. In colonial New England, a child’s education went hand in hand with physical discipline. The 1691 edition of The New England Primer for children had ABC lessons that included: “F: The idle FOOL is whipt at school,” and “J: JOB feels the rod, yet blesses God.” And even as the belt-free world of “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It To Beaver” was being beamed into televisions across North America, teachers in schools who looked just like Robert Young and Barbara Billingsley blistered our tender behinds with every device imaginable, from ping pong paddles to a cricket bat perforated in wood shop by one particularly sadistic misanthrope to cut wind resistance.
I can at least affirm that I advanced in my ABC’s fairly early in the game – my older brother, not so much. If I say that too frequently I followed a crowd of kids to an afterschool fight only to discover that my brother was one of the young gladiators, you’ll understand what I mean. The same feckless pugnacity repeatedly got him into needless trouble at home, where there was no immunity of non-combatants. K is for Knucklehead.
Years later, my mom and stepdad divorced. (My birth father I knew only through an old wedding photograph and mom’s spectacularly imaginative comparisons to our misbehavior.) By then I was married, living at the other end of the country and going to seminary. I did not know the degree to which their split had affected me. Then one evening, after my wife had gone to bed and I stayed up studying, I sank into an abyss of grief, crying and shaking uncontrollably.
Gone were the family parties when we kids listened to music and played while our parents did…whatever parents did at parties, until the sensuous Puerto Rican food appeared miraculously on the table to be gobbled up by gangly calorie-burning urchins, leaving the mess to be cleaned up by elves while we slept soundly wherever our bodies happened to land. Gone was the Monorail, and the Matterhorn, It’s A Small World, and the Adventure Thru Inner Space courtesy of Monsanto. Gone Knott’s berry pie. Gone the excursions to Pacific Ocean Park, Redondo Beach, and Newport Dunes, the broiling burgers, the quenching watermelon.
Gone the chilly early hours of Christmas when we’d sneak out of our beds to peek at the gift-wrapped silhouettes under the tree and imagine they were what we wanted. Gone a mother’s tender ministrations when any of us kids were sick. Gone her tears when she saw mine after a broken wrist ended high school gymnastics. Gone the rosary prayer circles and sleepless nights when my brother was in hospital with brain tumors. Gone the frantic calling for my sister lost in a Tijuana bazaar. Gone the tears of joy when she was found. Gone the dreaded daily tablespoon of cod liver oil and the sting of Mercurochrome on scraped knees and elbows.
Gone dad’s brutal six-day workweek that underwrote our lives. Gone when the family sat around the only television in the house after eating dinner at the same table, at the same time, and the wild symphony of everyone talking at once. Gone the laughter, I’m talking Puerto Rican laughter, the world series of laughter, now only faint bells in the distant steeple of my memory. Z is for Zapatazo.
The Fall of Middle Earth
One day, I went to that land between home and school, shocked to find it invaded. The scene looked like a horde of dragons, their plated skin clattering, their movement stuttering like some Harryhausean nightmare, and generals commanding troops in white helmets from blue paper battle plans. The noise cracked the sky’s thin blue shell and soot from organ pipe nostrils nearly blocked out the running yolk of the sun. Mandibles dropped open dripping an earthy stew then clammed shut with the metallic squeal of lightning, like colossal hinges on the gates of Mordor, maws of these steel-veined horrors engorging and disgorging dirt, rocks, grasses, trees, nests, warrens, dens and cloisters, secret gardens, fens and shires. Fangorn, Moria, Rivendell...
How I started hating conspiracy theories
How often the truth is just not sexy enough. But the lie? Now that’s an orgy. In the fifth grade I caught the flu so bad I missed two weeks of school. When I returned my teacher got down on one knee to look me in the eyes and said: “Ruben, are you OK? I heard you got in trouble with the law and went to juvenile detention.” “Home with the flu,” I said. “Nearly died. Didn’t you get mom’s letter?” “I heard you were really in juvie.” “Nope. Home sick. Nearly died.” He walked away disappointed, in the same way dogs find catching cars disappointing. That year I was “Juvie Rubie,” hang all my protestations for truth. Even today, I’m Juvie Rubie.
I Don’t Mean
I don’t mean to doubt your faith but why doesn’t it make you good to me?
I don’t mean to question your scriptures but why are the sweet parts applied to you and the harsh parts to me?
I don’t mean to be aloof but why does god love you unconditionally but me conditionally?
I don’t mean to sound unpatriotic but why does the god of the universe bless America over other nations, and before that Rome, or France, or Germany, or Spain, then England?
I don’t mean to risk your wrath but why does god look and act like the latest rulers?
I don’t mean to appear radical but why does god favor your race over mine?
I don’t mean to feel cheated, but why does god answer your prayers and not mine – when you got the job I didn’t, and the traffic lights you believe worked for you made me miss my friend’s last moments?
I don’t mean to impugn your justice but why does god love sinners like you more than sinners like me?
I don’t mean to question your motives but why does accepting your religion put me and mine under you and yours?
I don’t mean to sound bitter but why is there no room for me in the land, the neighborhood, your family, your heart?
I don’t mean to dislike your god of grace but why gift the one truth to you and leave others in damning ignorance?
I don’t mean to be impertinent but how come god welcomes prayer in any language but only English can be spoken here?
I don’t mean to be skeptical about the universality of your religion but why do I have to amputate my culture but you get to keep yours?
I don’t mean to be in your face but why can’t you see me?
I don’t mean to speak so loudly but why can’t you hear me?
I don’t mean to doubt your faith but why doesn’t it make you good to me?
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Ruben Rivera is Emeritus VP for DE&I and Associate Professor of History at Bethel University in Saint Paul, MN. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife Anita. Although his poetry has won awards in various contests, Z is for Zapatazo is Ruben’s first published collection.
Rinconcito is a special little corner in Somos en escrito for short writings: a single poem, a short story, a memoir, flash fiction, and the like.
“On The Car Ride Home” by Diana Aldrete
For my sister Griselda
Time is all but an illusion stuck in theory relative to Einstein sitting on a train.
Our point of departure, qualified by loss, always by those we left behind. The echoes of goodbyes in the rearview mirror and the reassurances that no matter space or time love and remembrance would persist.
They ripped us from our beds while it was still dark out, and dumped us into warmed-up car seats, the moss of furry blankets ready to cradle us back into slumber. Papi would say it was to beat the morning traffic, but Mami made sure to bring our focus back, “sleep,” she would say. But as if by the speed of light we would wake up past state borders: Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and then into the open arms of Mexico: Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Zacatecas, Jalisco.
For many months during the year, and for several years, we shared stories, family anecdotes, antidotes to scenarios – lessons to learn from the past inside that car. We would look out the window, finding our gaze upon others, cocooned in their world-on-wheels, like a rushing herd of buffalos onto the same greener pastures. Time passed before us like shadows on a screen, only able to catch on still motions of the mountains, the canyon drops, the desert plains, and the flat lands. The horizon – our point of destination, but we always arrived at night, greeted by the smell of manicured grass, or the occasional wafts of wet earth.
At arrival, we fell concave to our loved one’s embrace. Kitchen tables became radio stations flash reports of familial current events announced over cinnamon-spiced coffee, burnt tortillas, and mangoes.
As children, time blossoms slowly and memory seems vaguely dispersed. As the only accomplices to each other in the car, we now draw maps of stories, connecting coordinates back to an origin because memory fails us and we forget what it took to get here, from the dizzying spells of the altitude sickness to the hugging of curves down valleys of nostalgia.
Now with many roads already traveled, we fall witness to our displacement, we negotiate mother tongues in static spaces not sure if home was there or here, or if time is dilated. But a search for home, nonetheless, an oasis in a desert of despair.
Dr. Diana Aldrete is a bicultural, first-generation Mexican-Salvadoran-American living in Hartford, CT. She is a Visiting Lecturer of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College. She is also an abstract painter, a writer, and a musician. She was born in Milwaukee, WI before moving to Guadalajara Mexico where she did her primary education, and later moved back to the U.S. where she has been ever since. She has published a short fiction in Spanish “Los charales” in Diálogo: an Interdisciplinary Studies Journal, and the academic article “The Ruins of Modernity: Synecdoche of Neoliberal Mexico in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666” in Ecofictions, Ecorealities and Slow Violence in Latin America and the Latinx World, 2019.
This photo is of the Mireles family men who were vaqueros in South Texas. Third from the right, front row is the patriarch, Julio Samudío Mireles, my great, great, grandfather who was born in 1830. Next to him on the right are his son-in-law Dario Talamántez and his son. He also had 5 daughters with his wife María Francisca Silva, known as "Mama Kika."
Vaqueros by Robert René Galván
Inspired by the Moorish horsemen, the Castellanos set out in wooden ships across an alien sea with stalls of stallions treated better than men, fed and lovingly groomed for the day they would dance upon the land to the music of cruel spurs.
The Aztecas had never seen such a creature and thought it was an enormous, sweating stag of which the rider was a part – a mystical beast to be feared, and yet the indios became its master with lazos and chaparras, estribos and botas, and when strays escaped to the north and multiplied masteñeros gathered and broke them for the gringos.
Alla en el rancho grande, Grande Julio Mireles went out with his nine sons after a pot of café del campamento and cigarros, huevos rancheros.
He taught the Tejanos his craft, his charros begat Kings in the fields claimed by barbed-wire and rifles (to steal a horse meant hanging), and when the dueño learned all his secrets, vaqueros gave way to “buckaroos” with their chaps and lassos, stirrups and cowboy boots, mis padientes, mojados.
Robert René Galván 11.6.21
Robert René Galván, born in San Antonio, Texas, resides in New York City where he works as a professional musician and poet. His poetry collections include Meteors (Lux Nova Press), Undesirable – Race and Remembrance (Somos en escrito Literary Foundation Press), and The Shadow of Time (Adelaide Books). His poems also appear in Puro ChicanX Writers of the 21st Century and various magazines, including Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Azahares Literary Magazine, Gyroscope, Hawaii Review, Hispanic Culture Review, Newtown Review, Panoply, Somos en escrito Magazine, Stillwater Review, West Texas Literary Review, and UU World. He is a Shortlist Winner Nominee in the 2018 Adelaide Literary Award for Best Poem. Two poems by Galván have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and another for the Best of the Web for 2020.
On the first day of my twelfth year, I went into a room and locked myself in until today. I turned thirty now. My mother led me inside the room for a second; I stayed for an eternity. I saw cotton ball candy melting on the floor and knew I could stay there. Have you seen red cotton candy? There was red all over my skirt and underpants. She told me I had become a señorita. I followed my mom around, holding my legs together, afraid that something horrible could escape. I smelled her unmistakable scent in between my legs. The scene repeated stubbornly in my head. I began reading like a maniac and found out that if the bottom of my fanny gets blocked, I not only get constipated, but I can also grow insecure about my whole well-being, money included, that is. I told mom, but she thought I had gone mad. In truth, I was juggling my thoughts until they made sense.
Strangers were welcome in my house. Some of them came bearing orange colors in their eyes. The saffron people I saw again in India. I had forgotten I knew them so well. It was strange to see my mother talking in Hindi. We lost each other now and then. I took on the habit of shutting myself in the bathroom, washing tie-dye shirts. I looked more like a hippy then. I stopped combing my hair and began calling myself a Rastafari with Hindu aspirations. That stage died out as I couldn’t pray long enough. I joined the evangelical church and sang the scriptures like bachatas. Have you ever heard of such craziness? The pastor didn’t like my hair and thought I was bizarre because I told his daughter babies come out of the cuca. He packed and moved away. Then, a new pastor came. He played the guitar and tried kissing me behind the pulpit. I didn’t like his teeth and spat in his face. He expelled me from the church. That was when I discovered the Mormons with their manicured gardens and rules too strict for my hair. I passed the church, turning my back to all. I walked away so sure of my worth. Just for mere pleasure, I began playing with words, especially when there were none.
Corn is yellow. We learned to make majarete with it. Mom says I shouldn’t make it when I am bleeding from down there. I proved her wrong. That is when it tastes the best. There are corn people in my ancestry. The girls were plump and juicy, pretty much like me, minus the tongue. They were quiet, so quiet that now I have to say everything they didn’t. The girls at school also have serious issues. Some of them stopped eating altogether. Indigestion, said the school nurse. I knew it had something to do with how their bodies fit in their jeans. I tried feeding them words; they became so good at vomiting themselves onto the page. See how they still bend the paper silly?
One day, crazy day, mind you, I ventured into the kitchen, or was it the living room? I was wearing green. It seems like the whole yard spread itself onto me. I was green and magical. I was beating like any good heart. That is so lousy; beating and heart are such an easy construction. Why not say that I was green, with the sordid sound of leaves? Now, that’s better.
The heart was deranged and exposed, beating with the rhythm of the house, people coming and going—my mother, as always begging me to stay inside. I prefer the woods. At first, my mom laughed at my clinging hands and told me I would always be clumsy. Could it be why the heart palpitation became so real? I saw a group of girls leaving childhood never to come back. I wanted to do the same. I got in the habit of putting a hand on every girl’s chest. That is, if they allowed me to do it. I spoke about love and connection, and they heard me wrong, so wrong.
That was the year I learned to wrap blue on my throat. Everything blue, always blue. Blue was the voice singing in the morning. I wanted to be a rapper, but they say girls cannot be rappers. I took my place on the full bus, sobbing as other girls began singing around me. They all seemed to know the beat. I was so lost. We coalesced unintentionally. Is that even possible? The bus was full of voices; none of us knew where it was heading. When we finally arrived at our destination, we angrily dismounted. How can one go from singing loudly to being secretly anger? Ah, the magic of blue is not well defined. The bus driver was always turning blue. The bus was more like a bug crawling on the yard, we babbling children following along. I saw my mom kneel down to give me a piece of pale blue fabric. Here, you do something with it, for the virgin’s sake. I folded and put it on my shoulders, close enough to the throat. I heard the color of compassion and began to speak it.
I learned to draw purple circles with my eyes wherever I turned. The first time felt like an epiphany. Something fundamental was growing in my head, from in between the eyes to the crown, all in purple hues. Before that, I knew that symbols were important in the life of a woman. I also knew I needed to be a participant in my own life. My mother said my epiphany was all wrong and that I was going to get cross-eyed if I didn’t stop. That is the first memory of all her lies. I pretended she was saying nothing but the truth. She didn’t know how to love me, and I didn’t know enough words to let her know I knew. I knew her mother was not affectionate either and often begged my mom to let her fix me. That was the only time I heard my mom speak like a grown-up. She turned to grandma and told her I wasn’t broken. I tried hard to pass my purple onto mom. My grandma left in fury and shame. I keep finding her everywhere I turn. I hold her tightly in between my eyes; she is radiant and light, like a feather, almost iridescent. I spin the thousand-petalled wheel on the crown of my head, I know I can make a whirlwind of peace or violence — I have yet to decide. Alineamiento El primer día de mi decimosegundo año entré en una habitación y me encerré allí hasta ahora que cumplo treinta. Mi madre me llevó al interior de la habitación por un segundo y me quedé una eternidad. Ese día vi una bola de algodón de azúcar derritiéndose en el suelo y supe que podía quedarme allí. ¿Has visto algodón de azúcar rojo? Había rojo por toda mi falda y en los panties. Ella me dijo que me había convertido en una señorita. Seguí a mi mamá apretando las piernas con miedo a que algo espantoso resbalara hacia afuera. El olor inconfundible de mamá entre mis piernas. Esta escena se repite obstinadamente en mi cabeza. En el cuarto, comencé a leer como loca y descubrí que si la parte inferior de mi trasero se bloquea, no solo me estriño, sino que también puedo sentirme insegura por todo mi bienestar, incluido el dinero. Le dije a mamá, pero ella pensó que me habíavuelto loca. En verdad, estaba rebotando mis pensamientos hasta que cobraran sentido. Los extraños eran bienvenidos en mi casa. Algunos de ellos llegaron mostrando colores naranjas en sus ojos. La gente del azafrán que vi de nuevo en la India. He olvidado que los conocía tan bien. Fue extraño ver a mi madre hablando en hindi. Nos perdimos la una a la otra entonces y ahora. Adopté el hábito de encerrarme en el baño, lavando camisas tie-dye. Entonces parecía más hippy. Dejé de peinarme y comencé a llamarme rastafari con aspiraciones hindúes. Esa etapa desapareció porque no pude orar lo suficiente. Me uní a la iglesia evangélica y canté las escrituras como bachatas. ¿Alguna vez has oído hablar de tal locura? Al pastor no le gustó mi cabello y pensó que yo era extraña porque le dije a su hija que los bebés salen de la cuca. Hizo las maletas y se marchó. Luego, vino un nuevo pastor, tocaba la guitarra y trató de besarme detrás del púlpito. No me gustaron sus dientes y le escupí en la cara. Me expulsó de la iglesia. Fue entonces cuando descubrí a los mormones con sus jardines bien cuidados y reglas demasiado estrictas para mi cabello. Pasé por la iglesia, dándole la espalda a todos. Me alejé tan segura de mi valor. Solo por mero placer, comencé a jugar con las palabras, especialmente donde no las había. El maíz es amarillo. Aprendimos a hacer majarete con él. Mamá dice que no debería hacerlo cuando estoy sangrando por ahí. Le demostré que estaba equivocada. Entonces es cuando sabe mejor. Había gente de maíz en mi ascendencia. Las chicas eran regordetas y jugosas; muy parecidas a mí, menos la lengua. Eran calladas, tan calladas que ahora tengo que decir todo lo que no dijeron. Las muchachas en la escuela también tienen serios problemas. Algunas de ellas dejaron de comer por completo. Indigestión dijo la enfermera de la escuela. Sabía que tenía algo que ver con cómo encajaban sus cuerpos en sus pantalones jeans. Traté de alimentarlas con palabras, se volvieron expertas vomitando en la página. ¿Ves cómo todavía doblan tontamente el papel? Una vez, un día loco, fíjate, me aventuré a la cocina, ¿o era la sala? Vestía de verde. Parece que todo el patio se extendió sobre mí. Yo era verde y mágica. Latía como un buen corazón. Eso es patético, los latidos y el corazón son una construcción tan fácil. ¿Por qué no decir que estaba verde, con el sórdido sonido de las hojas? Eso suena mucho mejor.El corazón estaba trastornado y expuesto, latía con el ritmo de la casa.La gente iba y venía. Mi madre siempre me rogaba que me quedara adentro. Prefiero el bosque. Al principio, mi mamá se burló de mis manos tiesas y me dijo que siempre sería torpe. ¿Será por eso que las palpitaciones del corazón se volvieron tan reales? Vi a un grupo de niñas que dejaban la infancia para no volver jamás. Yo quería hacer lo mismo. Me acostumbré a poner una mano en el pecho de todas las muchachas. Eso, cuando me permitían hacerlo. Hablé sobre el amor y la conexión y me escucharon mal, muy mal. Ese fue el año en que aprendí a ponerme azul en la garganta. Todo azul, siempre azul. Azul era la voz que cantaba por la mañana. Quería ser rapera, pero dicen que las muchachas no pueden ser raperas. Ocupé mi lugar en el autobús lleno, sollozando cuando otras chicas comenzaron a cantar a mi alrededor. Todas parecían conocer el ritmo. Estaba tan perdida. Nos unimos sin querer. ¿Es eso siquiera posible? El autobús estaba lleno de voces, ninguna de nosotras sabía hacia dónde se dirigía. Cuando finalmente llegamos a nuestro destino, nos desmontamos enojadas. ¿Cómo se puede pasar de cantar en voz alta a enojarse en secreto? Ah, la magia del azul no está bien definida. El conductor del autobús siempre se ponía azul. El autobús era más bien un insecto arrastrándose por el patio; nosotras niñas balbuceando y siguiendo la corriente. Vi a mi mamá arrodillarse para darme un trozo de tela azul pálido. Mira, haz algo con él, por la caridad de la virgen. Lo doblé y lo puse sobre mis hombros, lo suficientemente cerca de la garganta. Escuché el color de la compasión y comencé a hablarlo. Aprendí a dibujar círculos morados con los ojos dondequiera que volteaba. La primera vez se sintió como una epifanía. Algo fundamental estaba creciendo en mi cabeza, desde entre los ojos hasta la coronilla, todo en tonos morados. Antes de eso, sabía que los símbolos eran importantes en la vida de una mujer. También sabía que tenía que participar en mi propia vida. Mi madre dijo que mi epifanía estaba mal y que me iba a poner bizca si no me detenía. Ese es el primer recuerdo de todas sus mentiras. Fingí que no decía nada más que la verdad. Ella no sabía cómo amarme y yo no sabía las palabras suficientes para hacerle saber que lo sabía. Sabía que su madre tampoco fue cariñosa y a menudo le rogaba a mi madre que la dejara curarme. Esa fue la única vez que escuché a mi mamá hablar como una adulta. Se volvió hacia la abuela y le dijo que yo no estaba enferma. Intenté pasarle mi púrpura a mamá. Mi abuela se fue con furia y vergüenza. Sigo encontrándola en todos lados. La sostengo con fuerza entre mis ojos, está radiante y ligera, como una pluma, casi iridiscente.Hago girar la rueda de mil pétalos en la coronilla de mi cabeza, sé que puedo hacer un remolino de paz o de violencia—aún no lo decido.
An Old Story What are these songs, and what do they mean? W.E.B. Du Bois The shame I thought gone rears its head through the only open door. I have forgotten the dark bodies massacred by history. Bitten by the story,I don't know what to say. Is it true that I was always unaware of the dying? Brown and black bodies keep falling in the common grave of denial. Picture muddy waters as the background, with a symphony of green, in crescendo. Death jumps out of the coffin. Looking the other way, I dance myself into USA soil. All dressed in white, the vultures scatter magnolia petals on the cement. Each one gestures to slam the door shut, locking me into blindness. Stray dogs are now losing their hair. My rage flings the door open. This one, the door of the poem, the only one I know. Is it useless now in the breaking of time? Una vieja historia ¿Qué son estas canciones y qué significan? W.E.B. Du Bois La vergüenza que pensé ida asoma su cabeza por la única puerta abierta. He olvidado los cuerpos oscuros masacrados por la historia. Ahora mordida por la fábula, no sé qué decir. ¿Es cierto que siempre he estado en la oscuridad? Cuerpos morenos y negros siguen cayendo en la fosa común de la negación. Imagina aguas turbias como trasfondo, con una sinfonía de verde, en crescendo. La muerte que nunca imaginé salta del ataúd, Miro hacia el otro lado, bailo hasta llegar al suelo americano. Vestidos de blanco los buitres esparcen pétalos de magnolia en el cemento. Cada uno quiere cerrar la puerta de golpe, confinarme a la ceguera. Los perros callejeros están perdiendo sus pelos mi rabia abre de un tirón la puerta, ésta, la puerta de poema, la única que conozco. ¿Será que es inútil ahora en este tiempo fragmentado?
Marianela Medrano was born and raised in the Dominican Republicand has lived in Connecticut since 1990. A poet and a writer of nonfiction and fiction, she holds a PhD in psychology. Her literary work has appeared in anthologies and magazines in Latin America, Europe and the United States.Herpoetry has beentranslatedintoItalian and French. Medrano’s individual publicationsinclude: Oficio de Vivir (Buho, 1986), Los Alegres Ojosde la Tristeza (Buho, 1987), Regando Esencias/TheScentofWaiting (Alcance, 1998), Curada de Espantos (Torremozas, 2002), Diosas de la Yuca, (Torremozas, 2011), Prietica (Alfaguara, 2013). Rooting (OwlfeatherCollective, 2017).
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.
Rinconcito is a special little corner in Somos en escrito for short writings: a single poem, a short story, a memoir, flash fiction, and the like.
Photo by John C. Mannone
Two Poems by John C. Mannone
I cannot see through glass frosted with shadows. Greener grass edges the pane, beckons.
Mosaic of rainbow colors, collaged on this side of the door, intones the music of promises
bound with hope, the strength of iron, to buttress my own frailty I pray will not easily fracture.
A dove perching next to me once whispered in the ears of my heart in a dream.
Though bedside promises blur with uncertainties, I hear your voice. I’m opening the door. I’m coming home.
My long-lost sister Lidia came from Argentina I rushed to be with her
but waited in the car that I left running, prayed for courage to climb the steps
and pass through the door so I’d see her once again even though she was gone Her body left in a casket
John C. Mannone, an Uruguayan-born Sicilian, has published poems (some bilingual, some in Spanish) in various magazines. In 2017, he was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian literature and served as the celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies in 2018. Two forthcoming collections are Flux Lines: The Intersection of Science, Love, and Poetry (Linnet’s Wings Press, 2021) and Sacred Flute (Iris Press, 2022). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. His parents migrated to the U.S. when he was 4-1/2 years old and he grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. A retired physics professor, John lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Four poems of remembrance and loss by Lupita Velasco
A note from the author: These poems were written after my father, Antonio, took his own life—losing his battle with depression and alcoholism.
No Me Quieren Escuchar I run around with my insides in my hands taking them to you, to him, to them. No one knows what to do, so you all watch as I stuff them back in and conceal them with a cloth. All is well even though the blood drips out. You can ignore it, just mop it up y ya se esconde. Todo está bien, no mal, just bien. Hay que seguir aguantando the pain. Porque él se fue sin tí, sin mí corriendo del dolor de aquí.
They Move On
I want him remembered, not forgotten. But, I’m not allowed to grieve. Obscurity, sadness, pain is what everyone sees. Uncomfortable, intolerable, so they don’t speak. As if erasing him erases the pain. Now that he is gone the pain is gone. Life goes on. All is well. Package it up with a neat little bow, and away it goes. Away from you. He lives in me. It’s hard for you to understand. So, we pretend that you don’t see, the sadness living in me. See, you walked away from him long before he walked away from me.
Lo Que Dejo
Will I ever feel safe again? Did I ever feel safe before? No yo creo que no, el alcohol siempre tuvo el control. Querían descansar de él, y no saber más.
Pero ya se fue, ya no está, y en el vacío no podrán descansar. O alomejor sí, pero yo no. Yo siempre lo espere ver mejor. Que algún día ya no iba tomar y ya nomás sería buen papá.
El, todos, yo, nomás ocupábamos amor, pero nos dejamos llevar por el dolor. Se nos olvidó, que para sanar el dolor nomás ocupamos demostrar más amor. Es fácil tenerles compasión a las personas buenas, pero la compasión también es para las personas enfermas.
Never Coming Back
A little girl looks to her dad for strength, the rock that keeps things in their place. I never knew how safe I felt until I went one day without the strongest man I ever knew the funniest one too. But he is gone, and this I know: I have never felt this much alone.
Lupita Velasco was born in Calvillo, Aguascalientes, Mexico; but grew up as an undocumented immigrant in Oklahoma. As a sheltered immigrant, Lupita found comfort, adventure, and refuge in literature from a very young age. Reading is Lupita’s favorite escape and writing her favorite form of expression. Lupita graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2011 with a bachelor’s in International Studies and a minor in Criminology. Lupita currently lives in Bethany, Oklahoma with her neurodivergent husband, two daughters, and four chickens.