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.
I lay here in my pitch-black room with my eyes open wide. Tears dripping down my face as I wipe them aside. The sound of my dangling bracelet as I wipe away the tears. I've cried in silence like this for so many years. The sound of his snores as he fell fast asleep. No worries for him as I lay beside him and weep. I stare into the darkness with my mind in deep, deep thought. The demons returning, even the old ones that I fought. I fought those demons and won, or at least I thought I did. The boiling war in my brain and they removed the lid. That stench of darkness that never left, it was hiding deep inside. I tucked them away to forget, or at least I tried. A woman in my 40s yet I'm still that little girl, dancing in my homemade dress and gave a little twirl. Dancing took my mind off things and writing helps release. And just for those short moments, I brought myself some peace. As I lie here in this pitch-black room, I see a tiny light. The smoke detector floating from the ceiling, and then I get that feeling. That little light is my hope, amidst the battle in my head, the light gets a little brighter. One day at a time she said.
Kristy (Molina) Ward is 42, is of Mexican American descent and was born and raised in Corpus Christi, TX. She graduated from Moody High School in 1998 where she played multiple sports, but Cheerleading was her favorite. She achieved her Associates degree from San Antonio College in 2016 after being a stay-at-home mother for some years. Kristy is a licensed insurance agent that now resides in San Antonio, Texas, loves to TikTok, and represents her culture in many ways. She has two kids who are currently in college. Alyssa is studying to be a Physical Therapist Assistant and Aaron is going into Business. Kristy's husband Ricky is also a college student studying to be in Sports Management. When she is not working Kristy loves to dance, discover new restaurants, hit the trails and spend quality time with her family. Kristy has never been published and has been writing her poetry since her teen years.
My brother saw a lone hammer on the side of a building in Rockridge: “Take it,” he said; I said no, that’s somebody’s tool, like dad’s. “Then write a poem about it,” he said.
My father had every type of hammer:
Black-handled, rednecked claw hammer, Craftsman, ‘made in America’ (He was proud of that);
Black-handled, rednecked Ball-Peen hammer, Craftsman, ‘Made in America!’ (He made sure to tell me this);
Blondehandled claw hammer; then, a two-pounder, worn, worthy of a warrior who straightened things, metal and moral;
Finishing hammers, hammers that mom did not know about until much after he bought them “This is my money, mijo, don’t tell mama.”
He proudly stated, “look how well-made,” as he showed me the mallets and other hammers that fed us,
And which he used to build the addition to our house, build a garage, frame, shape
He was proudest of those that were his friends, his companions, those he altered, shaped, the steel worn, the ballpeen softened, the rounded ends flattened or bevelled;
For the fence he built on the side of our home, righthandside, as you looked at the house, he used his hammers;
For the metal door he emplaced on the lefthandside, a door he made from sheetmetal He welded, shaped, something from Mexico in the U.S., he used his hammers.
He hammered and hammered, his hearing going as he did so, and I oblivious, was frustrated when he asked me to repeat things.
In Mexico, Papa was a pailero, boilermaker; In the U.S. his work was as a welder, bumper-straightener and chrome-plater;
He wielded hammers at work and at home, forearms bigger than most men’s biceps, biceps rounder than most men’s deltoids.
“Mr. America” is what the pastor of our church called him, if not “Mr. Universe.” He sought priests for counsel and his hammers to shape.
He had a sledge, which as a boy I tried to heft but failed to raise above my shoulders.
He taught me later how to do so safely, effectively, deadly-right. What power I felt and what a gift passed on to me by way of his tool — I felt a warrior, finally.
The accuracy of hammering a nail he taught me, ‘no, mijo, not like that; do it over until you get it right,’ — this time, delicacy.
His hammers went to the four winds after he died: My brothers and their wives borrowed them. They ended up in the back of pickups — stolen; in garages, lost (divorces).
There is an emptiness in my heart and soul for those hammers, like the emptiness I filled when I visited Toledo, España where I found our name, Vela, amidst craftsmen,
Men using, wielding tiny hammers, making out of gold and silver earrings, pendants, wonders, tiny jewels they emplaced with tiny hammers brought me back to him
His work, his name, his purpose.
And I having found that forebears in Toledo used hammers to make of Damascus steel
Swords, shields, and armor for warriors felt closer to him, my hammer my pen, my page metal shape, my words the indentations, impact, bent ideas, but memory all the same.
David Vela was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada to Tlaxcaltecan and Pueblan parents, father and mother respectively. He is the ninth of nine children, five of whom were born in Apizaco, Tlaxcala, Mexico, one in Puebla, Mexico and the others in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Hijo de soldador y pailero, a mother who was indomitable and self-educated in three languages, David studied at Yale and the Claremont Graduate School literature in English, Irish and Latin American authors, and has devoted 25 years to teaching literatures of Native Americans, Latin Americans, French (in French), Irish and British authors; he also loves and reads and has taught authors in Italian, including Dante and Petrarch, Boccaccio and Eugenio Montale.
David was lead instructor in Paris in 2006 in a Study-Abroad program, teaching Latin American and American expatriate authors in a French Life and Culture course, and a course on terrorism and the French experience in Algeria during the Algerian war for independence. David has worked with military veterans and with Social Science professionals as writer and Editor. He was President of the Irish Literary & Historical Society of San Francisco, the only non-Irish or non-Irish American do be elected to that position for and continues to be a Board Member of that organization. He was Chair of the Irish-Mexican Association of the Bay Area for several years, recognizing the common historical and cultural connections between these cultures, and emphasized the prominence of heroes in first-responder professions from these cultures.
David has worked with ambassadors and political personages in valuing and in disseminating culture in Ireland, Argentina, Mexico and in the United States, Northern Ireland and in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada after living in the Bay Area for 28 years.
Ode to the Fears of Children / Oda a los miedos infantiles
by Byron López Ellington
The snakes and arañas that skitter through the night Cucos y creepies and ghostly, ghastly creatures Llorona and shadows and things that just aren’t right Death too young, life too old, vastly nasty features Abandon and lying and truths too grand to know Solo, con miedo, y nada hacer puedes The earth itself can scream and wither, be your foe And trap you in darkness por años o meses Alive in your veins, sentimientos de raíz They crawl and creep and slither and wriggle in strife Te forman, te moldean, you are them, so nice Y el mundo los necesita for its life —For who you are is what they were, that old mess-- —Porque tu ser será lo qu’estarán, después.
Byron López Ellington is a Mexican-American poet, fantasy novelist-in-progress, and silly fellow from Austin, Texas. As of fall 2022, he is a student of creative writing and Spanish at the University of Iowa. You can find his other published works at byronlopezellington.com.
I want to hold my food Feel it with my fingers The texture on my skin Before I taste it I want to feel The oily tortilla of my taco al pastor I want to feel that rough tostada de ceviche That loses toppings As I crunch it
I want a warm tamal in my hand Salsa y queso y crema Dripping off the sides I want to eat that birria right: Con tortillas, en tacos, quesabirria Consomé dripping off my chin I want that chile verde in the gorditas And on the sopes to end up All over my fingers So I can lick it off I want to mop the mole off my plate With a warm tortilla
My daughter wants to eat salad or eggs With her fingers? Enjoy Roll up a pancake and eat it Like a taco? Go for it Hold those little trees of broccoli Pick up those peas and frijoles one by one Like they’re gems Touch that food, shape it, arrange it Some call it “playing with food” I call it “art” and my mom let me do it Orange Mexican rice teokalli Little flat-topped pyramids de arroz Were my recurring sculptures
Table manners are for tables Not for people who know How to experience their food Long before it gets in their mouth
Some would judge my way of eating But so what if my elbows Are on the table At least I’m not putting My codo on the minimum wage
So what if I slurp my caldo de pollo At least I’m not slurping All the profit off someone else’s labor
So what if I lick my fingers, smack my lips At least I’m not licking or kissing Anybody’s anything para quedar bien
So what if I play with my food At least I don’t play With other people’s lives
So what if I burp It’s better than talking hot air Making promises I won’t keep
There are some things I’ll never know Like why I’ve never Eaten enchiladas con las manos – yet Or why there’s a limit to how high I can pile the pozole on my spoon
But what I do know is that When my napkin stays on the table You can bet I’m leaning over my food, breathing it, Holding it, savoring it, The way food was meant to be handled
I leave nothing on my plate Snatch up those bits of carnitas Every last crumb of milanesa Belongs in my mouth And I’ll enjoy the leftovers con salsa Mañana
That’s how to handle comida ¡Con las manos!
Crunch those buñuelos Let the crumbs of criticism fall On a tapete of repurposed judgment Reduced hierarchy Recycled capitalism
Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo is a visual artist, poet, and facilitator. Elizabeth's work is informed by her Indigenous ancestry, Mesoamerican philosophy, Mexika & Mixtec art, Mexican culture, Chicano history, and her experiences as a woman. Her paintings and sculptures have been exhibited across the United States and her poetry is published widely, including in print and online journals, and in anthologies such as: Nos pasamos de la raya/We Crossed the Line (2017), Azahares (2020), and Harvard’s PALABRITAS (2020). She was 2021 Creative Ambassador of the San José Office of Cultural Affairs. She is a Board Member of Poetry Center San José and Editor of La Raíz Magazine. www.ejmontelongo.com
Los hispanohablantes ya somos viajeros extraterrestres, ya hemos traspasado los límites de fronteras entre países, mundos, idiomas y la atmósfera misma.
Nuestras lenguas ya saben pronunciar los verdaderos nombres latinos de nuestro planeta, la tierra que recibe la luz de sol, con ocho minutos de retraso.
Para conocer el sistema solar y la vía láctea, solo hay que pedir el plano del metro de Madrid o un mapa de las islas Caribeñas donde allí se encontrarán toda la complejidad de una galaxia entera.
Los que hemos sobrevivido huracanes y tormentas ya hemos sentido los vientos feroces interestelares, habiendo pisado tierra firme cubierta en nieve y hielo como un asteroide.
La inminente destrucción cultural y ecológica de nuestra zona habitante nos impone a diseñar cohetes en Patagonia y construir bases de lanzamiento en el corazón de la cultura incaica cerca del ecuador.
Nosotros los que hemos sobrevivido lenguas cortadas por la conquista, memorias culturales asimiladas por los maestros en las aulas de inglés, ya sabemos lo que significa ir hacia las estrellas, ad astra per aspera.
Cuando las futuras generaciones cuentan nuestras historias, ya destacará la vitalidad de nuestras culturas e idiomas, la humanidad de esta tierra, sana y salva para nuestros descendientes.
Ad Astra, Our Motto
Us Spanish speakers are already extraterrestrial voyagers, we already have crossed the limits of borders between countries, worlds, languages, and our very atmosphere.
Our tongues already know how to pronounce the true Latin names of our planet, Earth that receive the light of sol, with an eight-minute delay.
To know and understand the Solar System and the Milky Way, simply request a map of the Madrid metro or Caribbean islands where all of the complexity of a whole galaxy can be found.
We who have survived hurricanes and storms have already felt fierce interstellar winds, having planted firm footprints covered in snow and ice like an asteroid.
The imminent cultural and ecological destruction of our inhabitable zone imposes a need to design rockets in Patagonia and design launch pads in the heart of the Incan culture, close to the equator.
We who have survived tongues cut from the conquest, cultural memories assimilated by teaching in English classrooms already know what it means to go beyond the stars, ad astra per aspera.
When future generations tell our stories, the vitality of our cultures and languages will emerge, the humanity of this earth, safe and sound for our descendants.
Angela Acosta is a bilingual Mexican American poet and scholar who grew up in Florida. She won the 2015 Rhina P. Espaillat Award from West Chester University for her Spanish poem “El espejo” and her work has appeared in Panochazine, Pluma, Latinx Lit Mag, and Eye to the Telescope. She has B.A. degrees in English and Spanish from Smith College, and she is currently completing her Ph.D. in Iberian Studies at The Ohio State University.
little boy toiling in the beet field watching white people gather for a track meet toil and soil and summer sweat rows extending to the end of dreams melt youthful vigor into puddles of warm despair
across the road they’re gathering ’neath the cover of umbrellas flowering like tulips blooming in the manicured turf they’re sitting on nylon camping chairs ’n sipping cold-sweat bottles of Gatorade pulled from coolers the colors of fire & ice
I’m so hot and thirsty tired and dirty said the little boy to the relentless sun but we don’t go home until the field is done while across the road cheers and laughter and idle chatter waft on breezes carrying the scents of sunscreen ’n privilege
Mom (right), Aunt Jennie (left)
Amah (left), Mrs Mitotes (right)
Aunt Mary circa 1930s
The photos above show some of the author's family members. The third photo the author mentions in his description below is the one used at the beginning of the feature.
In his words: The one of my mom and great aunt Jennie was taken at a migrant worker camp called a "Colonia." The next one is of my Great-Grandmother, the full-blood Yaqui from Mexico; my brother and sister and I called her Amah. Third one is my Great-Uncle and cousin in between members of one of the families who worked the fields with them. Those three were taken in Weld County, Colorado in the early 1940s. The fourth one is my aunt in a beet field taken some time in the 1930s. I included that one because it closely aligns with the poem's opening line even though it's not of a "little boy." They didn't take pictures of themselves working in the fields because once the work started, as the poem says, they don't stop until the field was done.
Joe Menchaca is an emerging writer of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction with a Master of Arts in Professional Creative Writing from the University of Denver. His poetry can be found in Dissident Voice. Joe’s writing is marked by an unpretentious, gritty, and raw yet lyrical style. Unflinching in his examination of self, literature, and culture, his distilled style reflects a sensitive and perceptive exploration of life. Joe, whose parents were migrant workers that settled in Colorado in the 1920s, was raised on farms in Northern Colorado, and in the summers, he worked hoeing beets and picking crops. According to family oral history, one of Joe’s maternal great-grandmothers was full-blood Yaqui from Mexico, and a paternal great-grandfather was full-blood Cherokee. Joe currently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his lovely wife of nearly forty years, and Tiny, their Chihuahua.
Listen to David A. Romero read "The Redemption of Roxy Salgado" (text below).
“This seatbelt Is suffocating The walls They’re closing in!”
These were the words of one Roxy Salgado From Rowland Heights, CA Psychology student at UCLA Before she unclicked her seatbelt And opened her car door to the 10 Westbound Psilocybin was pulsing through her veins A whole bag of magic mushrooms churning in her stomach Against the advice of members of her cohort Three of them in that car Couldn’t manage to calm her down Prevent her from tumbling out Somersaults and side rolls As her body went limp into the wind The black pavement under the night’s sky Illuminated by post lights.
It wasn’t Roxy’s obituary In the following morning’s paper But that of Patricia Guzman Mother of three Resident of Pico Union, Los Angeles Hailing from San Miguel, El Salvador Severe trauma to her neck and spine Blunt force trauma to her brain From collision with dashboard An airbag that never deployed According to her husband Victor Her last words were, “Me duele” “It hurts” And fragmented questions About the safety of their children.
Roxy awoke at a friend’s house in Southeast Los Angeles With a headache Sprained ankle Some cuts and bruises Unanswered texts and voicemails Clothes embedded with gravel And stained with blood and vomit.
Three months later Roxy is in a state between uppers and downers Leaning on a chain-link fence Across the street from a house in Pico Union, Los Angeles It is once again nighttime Roxy looks in through partially open windows Revealing the Guzman family inside Victor and his three children There is laughter There is screaming There are long silences and muffled whimpers Victor often walks around aimlessly Moves to start something And abruptly stops The youngest of the three Lusita Has a Dora the Explorer doll Sometimes she talks to it Clutches it tightly for hours Crouched in the same spot.
One month later It is the eve of Lusita’s birthday Roxy has gathered that from outside surveillance Roxy’s parents Have no idea she has functionally dropped out of school Roxy spends most of her days visiting friends and dealers Going to parties Kickbacks Afternoon hangs Walking the lampposts and pavements of Los Angeles But every trip eventually takes her back to the Guzmans On one walk Roxy found a discarded piñata on a curb An unlicensed paper mâché and chicken wire Dora the Explorer That day Roxy picked it up Took it with her on the bus and dragged it home Fashioned it into a costume.
Roxy stands now In the Guzman’s kitchen with it on After having broken in Her mind is swimming With guilt and hope The pain of something that happened to her long ago The little girl Lusita Walks into the room Sees Roxy As a shadowed paper mâché monster And screams Roxy lifts her costumed hands To try and comfort Lusita She wants to hold her for hours Tell her everything will be ok Lusita runs away Continues screaming Roxy hears rustling in other rooms Victor shouts, “¿Qué es eso?” Roxy panics Tears the paper mâché head off Sprints through the kitchen door Through an alley A block over Roxy can still hear Lusita’s terrified wailing Roxy is panting and sweating She leans on a fence still partially covered In the collapsing costume She weeps As the neighborhood dogs Awaken the neighborhood One snaps behind her Teeth colliding with the fence Roxy runs Eventually finding her way home.
Roxy never returns to the Guzmans’ She goes back to attending classes Asks for extra credit Graduates And in time Finds a job On her best days She forgets what happened On her worst She drinks Pops pills Starts doing something And abruptly stops Or sits for hours In the same spot.
The Guzmans struggle with the loss of Patricia For many years longer Lusita occasionally awakens with nightmares Of a paper mâché monster in the house But in time The nightmares abate.
Victor Keeps a copy of the paper On his antique wooden nightstand With the article about what happened the night Patricia died And within it It outlines how Victor Swerved into the shoulder of the freeway To avoid a head-on collision With a truck heading the wrong direction There is a statement Issued by the trucking company Giving their most sincere condolences Promising the immediate termination of the driver And in the cold calculations of the value of Patricia’s life The announcement of a settlement.
Nowhere in the article Is given mention to a Roxy Salgado Of Rowland Heights, CA Or any other person Who may Or may not have been In some way Responsible For the accident on the 10 Eastbound that night.
David A. Romero is a Mexican-American spoken word artist from Diamond Bar, CA. Romero has performed at over 75 colleges and universities in over 30 states. www.davidaromero.com
Excerpts from The Shadow of Time by Robert René Galván
The Shadow of Time New Year’s 2018 – Bear Mountain
The International System of Units has defined a second as 9, 192, 631, 770 cycles of radiation corresponding to the transition between two energy levels of the caesium-133 atom.
The star glares through the glass; A frozen lake between two mountains; The world turns on its spine as it has for billions of years.
What’s a year?
An accretion of eddies within a vast storm, An endless trek, but more than the distance Between two points, a resonance we feel compelled to track, First with arrays of stone, then with falling grains of sand And complex contraptions of wheels within wheels, The heartbeat of liquid crystal, the adumbrations of an atom.
I listen to what the geese tell me as they form a V in retreat, The toad as he descends to his muddy rest, The perennials as they retract beneath the frost, The empty symmetry of a hornet’s nest, And the choir of whales fleeing in the deep.
They all return like the tides, so tethered to the sun and moon, While we chop at time with a pendulous blade, Doomed to live in its shadow.
And then, the machine stopped; the sky began to clear when the great gears groaned to a halt; the ground ceased its shivering, stars appeared and beasts emerged in our absence, wings cast shadows over empty streets.
In the gnawing silence, a distant siren reminds us of a gruesome tally; we peer from our doorways for a ray of hope, long to walk the paths we barely noticed.
In the ebb and flow of life and death, we inhabit the low tides, a scant respite from irresistible waves.
After a time, most will return to normal, become mired in old assumptions and petty desires, to the ways that failed us,
But a few will awake to find that the world kept turning and changed:
They will walk into the sun And shed their masks.
Hommage à Neruda
What does the horseshoe crab Search for in the murk With its single hoof,
Or the she-turtle In her lumbering butterfly Up the shore?
Does the quivering hummingbird Find solace as it probes The dreaming delphinium,
Or the velvet worm As it reaches with its toxic jets?
Are the choral cicadas Worshiping the sun After emerging from seventeen Years of darkness?
What of the myriad species That have come and gone, The gargantuan sloth, The pterosaur that glided Over a vast ocean From the Andes to the coast Of Spain, Saw the seas rise and fall Back upon themselves,
Just as I slumber and wake For these numbered days.
L’heure Bleue – The Time of Evening
The sun has set, but night has not yet fallen. It’s the suspended hour… The hour when one finally finds oneself in renewed harmony with the world and the light…The night has not yet found its star. -Jacques Guerlain
As the world folds into shadow, A grey tapestry descends:
The coyote’s lament from the wild place Across the creek and the fading chorale Of the late train awaken crepuscular birds Who inhabit the rift like rare gods.
Abuelo sits in the cleft of a mesquite, His rolled tobacco flickering With the fireflies as a dim lantern Receives the adoration of moths;
A cat’s eyes glow green In the gloaming light And a cloud of mosquitos Devoured by a flurry of bats.
The outhouse door moans open And the boy treads quietly On the moonlit stepping stones, Through the corn and calabacitas, Under the windmill as it measures The October wind;
Pupils widen like black holes, Ingest the night spirits, And he cannot yet imagine A world beyond these stars, Or that he will someday Live in a place where it’s never dark.
for Zuzana Růžičková
She clutched the leaves in her hand as she waited to be loaded onto the waiting truck.
Somehow, an angry wind lifted the notes and they sailed down the street like runaway kites,
But the music rode along in her heart, persisted through every kind of horror, from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, antithesis of the camp accordion and broken strings’ blithe accompaniment to endless roll calls in the bitter cold, starvation, dehydration, executions and the merriment of the guards.
Those pages looped in her head even as she wrestled a stray beet from the cold ground, digging with her fingernails to feed her dying mother.
When she returned to Prague, her hands were ruined, and new monsters would soon appear in the streets, but the Sarabande sang in her insistent fingers until it circled the soiled world like a golden thread.
* Harpsichordist, Zuzana Růžičková, is considered one of the great musicians of the 20th century. She survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.
The work in question is J.S. Bach’s E minor Sarabande from the fifth book of English Suites. Růžičková had written it out by hand at the age of 13 to take with her during her internment.
Robert René Galván, born in San Antonio, resides in New York City where he works as a professional musician and poet. His previous collections of poetry are entitled, Meteors and Undesirable: Race and Remembrance. Galván’s poetry was recently featured in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Azahares Literary Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal,Gyroscope, Hawaii Review, Hispanic Culture Review, Newtown Review, Panoply, Sequestrum, Somos en Escrito, Stillwater Review, West Texas Literary Review, and UU World. He is a Shortlist Winner Nominee in the 2018 Adelaide Literary Award for Best Poem. His work has been featured in several literary journals across the country and abroad and has received two nominations for the 2020 Pushcart Prize and one for Best of the Web. René’s poems also appear in varied anthologies, including Undeniable: Writers Respond to Climate Change and in Puro ChicanX Writes of the 21st Century.
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.