“The Jolly Chicano Poet A Chicano Poet Remembered: Francisco X. Alarcón (d. 2016)”
by Agustin Medina, Jr.
Larger than life Both in girth and spirit
He lived his life as a poem A poem without boundaries
Even his poetry book titles Eran preciosos: Mariposas sin fronteras
He believed a poem was never complete
It took death to provide a final stanza To his own poetic journey
A progenitor of much fine poetry
His verse landed on the page Filtered through a Chicano lens
His style was eclectic
Using any form that conveyed The content of his soul
His verse favored exploring Chicano culture Mesoamerican history and Latino identity
Most of all, he was a progenitor of bilingual children’s poetry He proclaimed such poetry his crowning achievement
He thought children natural poets And encouraged them to versify
Gay and married He felt an outlier
Gay and Chicano He had to tread lightly
But he approached life’s dilemmas with doses of humor Such as daily “thanking God” he was an atheist
On his death bed, he allowed his priest brother to give him last rites “If you keep it short”
When his mother heard he had agreed to take communion She exclaimed: “Does he know what he’s eating?”
Let us nurture the glory of the Chicano poet, too few in number Select a poem by the poet Alarcón and shout it out to the world
Do this in remembrance of him
Agustin Medina, Jr. is a semi-retired attorney whose affiliation with Chicano activism goes back to the 1960s when he was part of a circle of Chicano students at UCLA and at Stanford University who established the first Chicano college student organizations, UMAS/MECHA. For 28 years, he has served as General Counsel to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials on a pro bono basis. He has also mentored several Latino youth during their educational journeys to college and graduate work. He continues to be passionate about social justice issues as concerns the Latino community. In addition to his immersion in poetry and literature, to clear the mind, he engages in mountaineering, canyoneering, rock climbing and hiking.
the breadth of my blood spans the rio grande, tunneling every root into earth laid track, veins of cartesian slanted monasteries praying for safe keeping and return. all love’s angles need me dry as a bridge across centuries drifting, drifting along tributaries, my eyes lifting border weight sunk into lines like dams. god dammed me turn and bound sand coffin lullabies shrinking miles bordering my measured body. i crenellate, i bridge too far, moated, i solemnly melt harbors into ice. brandished masks, graphite flares, long-speared songs slit cascading tracks i can no longer see. beneath coffins, i river along drifting castles, monuments laid against footprints and obelisks turned fountains. too many feet leave dirt to consume my blood, longing to be a mother for every lost child stuck in the mouth of my soiled lands, softened under moonlight perils.
my silver edged swards gulp air, grip for supple bodies in side shore flotillas, clambering shoulders for another damp- pressed lodged throat stuck from the same people split down centuries long edges; umbra against moonlight, shaded dark graphite bursts of genetic lacuna. arbitrary lacunae bodies speak silence, a generation of silence, no longer listening to wardens warranting god damned word-spills flooding me, my river, my heart soaked in tragedy, soaked in sores weeping my river, my name, my sense of belonging. my body is split in imaginary sequence, sequins of words cleared out by spectacle harvesters and mage icons. harvest my image, my name, my soil forgotten to cowboys, forget vaqueros, lassoed my last memory buried in the sand, in the clay, in oil stuck in the throat of nations.
image iconoclasts barrel for barrel, priced, stocked, laminated to touch, touch towered drill rigs silting my soil, my violent soil sold and sunk beneath static statues and markers covered with moss, for- gotten and left to wonder. i was born here hundreds of years ago, but can’t remember why. when can i reduce the root to a seed? of all the memories i carry across my body, i recall mesquite bean pods indifferently, discarding yellow-tanned honey as nothing more than a forgotten name. cabeza de pozo is only a myth to my hands, to my lungs, my hands no longer carry generations of silence, my body is already filled. i’ve eaten my share, drank the rio grande, subsumed what is left, whispers still fill my cup—branch from the river, branch from my throat, branch the sky, branched in solitude separate stilled and stolen loose soil saved for savagery. i am witness to its reflection still standing in tides grown from my blood. my blood is a memory i sift through, speaking its name along the camino real. upwards, norteño, ever upwards to heaven’s song: sol, my sol, my soil, my name buried deep within the soil.
my mother burns jalapeños on the comal choking me with centuries long memories
its sharp-sticks saturate the air like a mist body full, expanding corners in my lips and nostrils
the piercing plates lap up my tongue feeding me memorials of earth
verde encerrado en una coma hooked, lined like mexico jealous of my mouth that still speaks
its blister berry song lulls fire torched-heart and fireworked
i remember the dreary fumes steeling my name cutting through my throat
capturing my voice alive carving out the well’s swollen gland speaking, speaking the spanish name
el lamento, razed buds steamed in effigy torched-bust hammer-filled balloons
pyrrhic tastes, burn-swelled sweat the arch of its name sinks like a submarine rises like a whale splashes long rivers we call home
el lamento, for loose soil it levels me in ancient serenity fusing its long root in my veins
mi raza es contigo, cuaresmeño, fat with liquid blister circular spirit in the house that never leaves me troubadour of the flamed-tongued vineyard
dragging me to the root hardened es posible con suave
la muerte es tu clave to the scorched light burn-scarred across the shipless sail heart-driven and anchored in me
mirrored to the centuries long current buried in the light of my mother’s cooking smoke-washed dream of my north star
searing every word for home the earth still recognizes me
its fruits still hold my name
Reynaldo George Hinojosa Jr. is a Tejano-born writer and musician. He acquired his MFA in Creative Writing and Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts from the University of Texas at El Paso, and an Associate’s in Music from San Antonio College. Since arriving in Michigan, Reynaldo helped build, and currently helps run, the bookstore cooperative Book Suey. He is a 2022-2024 Lead Teaching Artist Fellow with Inside Out Literary Arts. He lives with his son, partner, and two cats in Hamtramck.
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.
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.
In these times, you and I share, amid air you and I breathe, and opposition we meet, we take inspiration from day to day thriving. The sacred conch shell calls us, drums beat, prayers send up; aromatic smoke of the pipe is our pledge to the gods.
An all-night fire vigil burns where we may consume the cactus messenger of the Huichol and of the Pueblo people of New Mexico. Red seeds of the Tlaxcalteca, mushrooms of María Sabina, tes de mi abuela from herbs grown in coffee cans on a Chicago back porch, tears of my mother on an assembly line in Lincolnwood, Illinois, aid us in calling upon memory, in these times.
In other days, when memory was as unshakeable as the African continent and long as Quetzalcoátl’s tail in the underworld, whipping against demons, drawing blood, potent as Coatlicue’s two-serpent face and necklace of hearts and hands (to remind us of our much-required sacrifices for the sake of the whole). We did what we could to take memory like a belt chain around the waist to pull off, to beat an enemy.
But now, in these times of chaos and unprecedented greed, when disrupted elements are disregarded, earth lashes back like the trickster Tezcatlipoca, without forgiveness if we won’t turn around, start again, say aloud: This was a mistake. We have done the earth wrong and we will make our planet a holy place, again. I can, with my two hands, palpitating heart; we can, and we will turn it around, if only we choose.
In these times, all is not lost, nothing forever gone, tho’ you may rightly think them a disgrace. Surely hope has not abandoned our souls, even chance may be on our side.
There are women and men, after all, young and not so young anymore, tired but tenacious, mothers and fathers, teachers and those who heal and do not know that they are healers, and those who are learning for the sole purpose of returning what they know. Also, among us are many who flounder and fall; they will be helped up by we who stumble forward. All of these and others must remember. We will not be eradicated, degraded, and made irrelevant, not for a decade or even a day. Not for six thousand years have we been here, but millions.
Look at me. I am alive and stand before you, unashamed despite endless provocations railed against an aging woman. My breasts, withered from once giving suckle and, as of late, the hideousness of cancer, hair gone grey, and with a womb like a picked fig left to dry in the sun; so, my worth is gone, they say. My value in the workplace, also dwindled, as, too, the indispensable role of mother. As grandmother I am not an asset in these times but am held against all that is new and fresh. Nevertheless, I stand before you; dignity is my scepter. I did not make the mess we accept in this house. When the party is done, the last captive hung—fairly or unjustly-- children saved and others lost, the last of men’s wars declared, trade deals busted and others hardly begun, tyrants toppled, presidents deposed, police restrained or given full reign upon the public, and we don’t know where to run on a day the sun rose and fell and the moon took its seat in the sky, I will have remained the woman who stayed behind to clean up.
They say in the Underworld one wanders through a perennial winter, an Iceland of adversity. Some end in Hades, consumed by ¨res that Christians and Pagans both abhor. <#> My ancestors too imagined a journey that mirrored Earth. Nine corridors-- each more dreadful than the one before-- promised paradise. You kept your soul but not your skin.
When my time came to return to the womb, I wasn’t ready. Anti-depressants, sex, a trip, prize, company of friends, love under moonlight or generous consumption of wine-- nothing did the trick to ease my mind.
When the best, which is to say, the worst rose from swamp, elected to lead the nation-- I presumed my death was imminent. Eyes and ears absorbed from the media what shouldn’t have been. Had I time traveled back to 1933? Perhaps I’d only woken to a bad dream, or died and this was, in fact, Purgatory-- (Did being dead mean you never died?)
The new president and appointed cabinet soon grabbed royal seats happy as proverbial rats in cheese. An era of calamity would follow. Holy books and history had it written. ¦e Book of Wisdom, for example, spoke of the wicked rollicking down the road, robbing the in¨rmed and the old. ¦ey mocked the crippled and dark skinned-- anyone presumed weak or vulnerable.
Election Night-- I was alone but for the dog, moon obscured by nebulous skies; sixty-odd years of mettle like buoy armbands kept me afloat. Nothing lasts forever, I’d thought.
Two years passed, world harnessed by whims of the one per cent. I managed-- me and the dog, me and the clouds, contaminated waters, and unbreathable air-- to move, albeit slowly, as if through sludge, pain in every joint and muscle. Sad to behold, equally saddened of heart, and still we marched.
Sun came up and set. Up and down, again. My throbbing head turned ball of iron. Thoughts fought like feral cats. Nothing made sense. The trek felt endless, crossing blood rivers infested with scorpions, lost in caverns, squeaking bats echoed, µying past, wings hit my waving hands.
I climbed jutting flint, bled like a perforated pig, ploughed through snow-driven sierra, half-frozen—lost gravity, swirled high, hit ground hard. Survived, forged on. Two mountains clashed like charging bulls. Few of us made it through.
(Ancestors’ predictions told how the Sixth Sun would unfold with hurricanes, blazes, earthquakes, & the many that catastrophes would leave in their wake.)
(Demons yet abound, belching havoc and distress. Tens of thousands blown by gales of disgrace.)
(I hold steadfast.)
The Berlin Wall was coming down. One afternoon beneath gleaming skies of Bremen, Dieter was dying (exposure to asbestos in his youth). “My only lament in dying would be losing memory,” my friend said. “All whom I knew and all whom I loved will be gone.” Once a Marxist, after cancer—reformed Lutheran. (It was a guess what Rapture would bring a man with such convictions.) A boy during third Reich, Dieter chose to safekeep recollec- tions—from the smells of his mother’s kitchen to the streets of Berlin that reeked of rotting flesh as a boy. Men had always killed men, he concluded, raped women, bayoneted their bellies and torn out the unborn, stolen children, stomped infants’ heads, commit- ted unspeakable acts for the sake of the win, occupy land, exact revenge, glory for the sake of a day in the sun.
(Do the dead forget us? I ask with the lengthening of days each spring. Do they laugh at our naïveté, long for what they left behind? Or do they wisely march ahead, unfazed?)
Xibalba (Ximoayan & Mictlán & Niflheim, where Dieter rightly should have gone) cleansed human transgressions with hideous punishments. You drank piss, swallowed excrement, and walked upside down. Fire was involved at every turn. Most torturous of all, you did not see God. Nine hazards, nine mortal dangers for the immortal, nine missed menstruations while in the womb that had created you-- it took four years to get to heaven after death.
Xibalba is a place of fears, starvation, disease, and even death after death. A mother wails (not Antcleia or la Llorona but a goddess). “Oh, my poor children,” Coatlicue laments. Small skulls dance in the air. Demon lords plot against the heavens
I wake in Xibalba. Although sun is bright and soft desert rain feels soothing, fiends remain in charge. They take away food, peace of any kind, pollute lakes, water in which to bathe or drink, capture infants, annihilate animals in the wild. (These incubi and succubi come in your sleep, leave you dry as a fig fallen on the ground.)
There were exceptions to avoid the Nine Hells. Women who died giving birth to a future warrior became hummingbirds dancing in sunlight. Children went directly to the Goddess of Love who cradled them each night. Those who drowned or died of disease, struck by lightning or born for the task, became rainmakers-- my destiny—written in the stars. Then, by fluke or fate, I ended underground before Ehecátl with a bottomless bag of wind that blew me back to Earth.
Entering the first heaven, every twenty-eight days the moon and I met. When I went to the second, four hundred sister stars were eaten by our brother, the sun. Immediately he spit them out, one by one, until the sky was ¨lled again.
In the third, sun carried me west. In the fourth, to rest. I sat near Venus, red as a blood orange. In the fifth, comets soared. Sixth and seventh heavens were magni¨cent shades of blue. Days and nights without end became variations of black. Most wondrously, God dwelled there, a god of two heads, female and male, pulled out arrows that pierced skin on my trek. “Rainmakers belong to us,” the dual god spoke, his-her hand as gentle as his-her voice was harsh. Realizing I was alive I trembled. “You have much to do,” he-she directed. Long before on Earth a Tlaxcaltec healer of great renown crowned me granicera, placed bolts of lightning in my pouch. I walked the red road. Then came the venom and the rise of demons like jaguars devouring human hearts. They brought drought, tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes-- every kind of loss and pain. The chaos caused confusion, ignorance became a blight. (Instead of left, I’d turned right, believed it day when it was night. I voyaged south or maybe north through in¨nity, wept obsidian tears before the dual god-- “Send me back, please,” I cried. “My dear ones mourn me.”)
The Plumed Serpent’s conch blew, a swarm of bees µew out from the shell. Angels broke giant pots that sounded like thunder. Gods caused all manner of distraction so that I might descend without danger. Hastily, I tread along cliffs, mountain paths, past goat herds and languishing cows. A small dog kept up as we followed the magenta ribbons of dawn. I rode a mule at one point, glided like a feather in air at another, ever drifting toward my son, the granddaughter of copper hair, sound of a pounding drum-- we found you there, my love, waiting by the shore, our return.
Ana Castillo is a celebrated author of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama. Among her award-winning books are So Far from God: A Novel; The Mixquiahuala Letters; Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me; The Guardians: A Novel; Peel My Love Like an Onion: A Novel; Sapogonia; and Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma (UNM Press). Born and raised in Chicago, Castillo resides in southern New Mexico.
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.
Two Poems by María (Jesú) Estrada
I can hear the eternal mumbling Of el Rosario In the other room. And I am alone in the living room With dirty blue walls. More alone than my first day of School, Where I sat in the aisles Looking at a woman I didn’t understand ‘Cuz she was a gringa And I am a wetback child. And I Hated her and her sick colored skin. I hated all the kids who didn’t Know what I was saying. I hated how They stood up. Looked at the Cloth With bright red and blue and put Their hands over their hearts. Mumbled on and on like my Abuelita, when She runs all the words together From el Rosario.
The gringa’s eyes were full and new. Not like Your eyes that are Dying colors. And You! You didn’t help me! And now You’re Looking at me with those blue eyes Like all those dumb kids who didn’t know When I said hello. You know everything, and theydidn’tknownothing ¡No me mires con esos pinches ojos! ‘Cuz you’re looking at me like I’m no good ‘Cuz you know my Dad’s a mojado And I can’t mumble the way they do When they stand So tall To pray
"Jesucristo Santificanos" was originally published in A Language and Power Reader: Representations of Race in a "Post-Racist" Era by Utah State University Press; 1st edition (October 15, 2014).
"Red Wine, Roque"
Roque You taught me Red wine Was close to a Lonely Morning Orgasm
A poem set on the Moon.
A revolution Set in my Soul.
MARIA J. ESTRADA is an English college professor of Composition, Literature, and her favorite, Creative Writing. She also runs her union chapter with amor and pride. She grew up in the desert outside of Yuma, Arizona in the real Barrio de Los Locos, a barrio comprised of new Mexican immigrants and first-generation Chicanos. Drawing from this setting and experiences, she writes like a loca every minute she can—all while magically balancing her work and union and family obligations. She lives in Chicago’s south side with her wonderfully supportive husband, two remarkable children, and two mischievous cats—one of whom has killed at least one laptop. You can learn more about her writing happenings and favorite books on her YouTube channel Radical Books and Politics.
Mexican and Central American Independence Day Celebration
A NEW GRITO FOR CHANGE
On September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo delivered the Grito de Dolores, a declaration of independence from Spanish colonialism; and a call for the abolition of African slavery, for an end to the caste system exploiting Indians, and for social and economic reform. Today, Mexicans and Central Americans are forced out of their home countries by a history of U.S. military intervention and exploitation, including International Monetary Fund and World Bank debt payments, imposed austerity programs, privatization schemes and “free trade” agreements: U.S. corporate domination to create a source of cheap labor. People that migrate to the United States face ICE repression, denial of their right to organize and lack of legal enforcement of workplace protections: forcing them into low-wage jobs.
Join us in a New Grito: a call for worker rights for all such as human rights, independence from poverty, full legalization and fair trade not exploitation!
Performances by Diana Gameros, Francisco Herrera, Enrique Ramírez, Elizabeth Esteva and Diego Sardaneta
Poetry by Rafael Jesús González and Nancy Esteva
Presentations by David Frias, San Francisco Living Wage Coalition; Sara Terry Manríquez and Elvia Villescas of Las Hormigas; Karen Oliva, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador; Porfirio Quintano, Hondurans in the Diaspora; Meredith Wilkinson, Network in Solidarity with Guatemala; Diana Bohn, Nicaragua Information Center for Community Action; and David Bacon, Dignity Campaign organizing committee
Donations to benefit the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, Las Hormigas of Ciudad Juarez, Trabajo Cultural Caminante and Bay Area Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador For more information, contact (415) 863-1225 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.livingwage-sf.org
Celebracíón del Día de Independencia Mexicana y Centroamericana
UN GRITO NUEVO PARA CAMBIO
El 16 de septiembre de 1810, el Padre Miguel Hidalgo entregó el Grito de Dolores, una declaración de la independencia del colonialismo español; y una llamada para la abolición de la esclavitud africana, para un fin al sistema de la casta que explota a los indios, y para la reforma social y económica. Hoy, mexicanos y centroamericanos están forzados a salir fuera de sus patrias a causa de una larga historia de la intervención militar estadounidense, la explotación del los pagos de deuda del Fondo Monetario Internacional y Banco Mundial, los programa impuestos de la austeridad, los esquemas de la privatización y los acuerdos de "libre cambio": la dominación corporativa de EEUU para crear una fuente de obra barata. Los migrantes a los Estados Unidos, enfrentan la represión de la migra, la negación de su derecho de organizar y la falta de protecciones legales en su lugar de trabajo: forzandolos a aceptar trabajos de bajos-sueldos.
Unámonos en un nuevo Grito: una llamada para los derechos del trabajador tales como los derechos humanos, la independencia de la pobreza y la completa legalización y "fair trade" sin exploitación.
Música por by Diana Gameros, Francisco Herrera, Enrique Ramírez, Elizabeth Esteva and Diego Sardaneta
Poesía por Rafael Jesús González and Nancy Esteva
Presentaciones de David Frías, Coalición de Salario Digno de San Francisco; Sara Terry Manríquez and Elvia Villescas of Las Hormigas; Karen Oliva, Comité en Solidaridad con el Pueblo de El Salvador; Porfirio Quintano, Hondureños en la Diáspora; Meredith Wilkinson, Red en Solidaridad con Guatemala; Diana Bohn, Centro de Información de Nicaragua para la Acción Comunitaria; David Bacon, Comité organizador de la Campaña Dignidad
GHAZNI, AFGHANISTAN - NOVEMBER 2010: An Afghan boy rides his bike as a Polish and US soldiers from Task Force White Eagle patrol his village. Photo by Ryanzo W. Perez.
New Poetry by Ivan Argüelles
THE FALL OF KABUL
carpet-baggers locusts cannibals lice the head turns to stone the moon is drawn out of its well and decapitated in a dust flurry minutes before the evacuation promises of paper-flowers fruit without vermin bread ! for two decades a series of statues come and gone artillery composed of offal and headwinds ox-carts bearing sultans of medieval dialects everything a matter of renunciation movies cosmetics opium military footwear the greatest Demon in the world has just surrendered his vices in a big photograph swap history is written on mattresses with bedbugs remember the Soviet carrion ? remember the big Buddha at Bamian ? five thousand years since the Aryans bruited the Vedas in the Hindu Kush and today nothing but a reversal of system and value blond poster-girls peeling off bloodied walls hoodwinked soldier boys from Iowa City haunted by the part they played dismembering the carcass of progressive Reform Jihad ! Mujahideen ! turn the volume up ! the Twin Towers were destroyed by fireflies a nuisance of idioms and heresy monstrous illiteracy of social media lies verbiage and tattooed air multiples of Zero Balkh the birthplace of Rumi surrenders ! President of USA suffers from PTSD a painted screen a flutter of Chinese diplomats wearing poisoned masks an x-ray of Night what good are stealth bombers and drones ? red ants versus black ants ! civilization ! mendacity of General Petraeus and the CIA operatives who drill like moles through earth nothing is solid and even less is holy the Beloved ! houris wearing burkas on Main Street Yea this day is Paradise and Gehenna above and below and forever !
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.
Malinallitzin and Hernán Cortés in the city of Xaltelolco, in a drawing from the late 16th-century codex History of Tlaxcala
A Letter From Malinallitzin by José E. Valdivia Heredia
A quien lea mis penas:
Me llamo Marina; o quizá Malinche; o quizá Malinallitzin; o quizá la madre de Martín, a veces temaktekauani, la puta traidora que me llama mi gente… En estas noches eternas, en la penumbra de mis penas, no recuerdo mi nombre, no recuerdo quién soy, ni creo tanto que me importe. Aborrezco cada día que pasa y no tenga a mi lado a Martín, piltsintli, amado hijo; aborrezco el día que Hernando se lo llevó a ese infierno lejano que es España; aborrezco el día que mi lengua pronunció el primer sílabo de esta lengua diabólica que es el castellano, kaxtitl. Me siento enferma. El mundo alrededor de mí se derrumba. Mikistli: La muerte subsiste en estas tierras abandonadas por los teteo, los dioses. La plaga se roba mi tranquilidad, se roba mis recuerdos y deseo grabarlo todo antes que los teteo me despojen de este cruel mundo.
Algún día yo era de Paynalá; algún día yo era la hija de un cacique, venía de una madre poderosa, de una madre que tuvo que sacrificarme para salvar a mi gente de los mayas invasores, tlapoloani. La perdono porque sé que no fue fácil y sé que mi destino me lo obligó, que yo tuve que llegar a las manos de los españoles aunque mi gente me lo despreciara. Fui esclava de los Tabascos, quienes me regalaron a los sucios españoles, gente que atraía y repugnaba a la vez. Algunos decían que eran dioses, pero yo lo sabía diferente. La gente contaba de las bestias, tekuani, que montaban, que eran parte hombre y parte animal, que eran profetas venidos a rescatarnos. Otros decían que eran tsitsimimej, demonios blancos, que venían a matar con sus armas mágicas. Mikilistli: yo reconocí su humanidad, su mortalidad, su repugnante egoísmo.
Naturalmente, al saber los idiomas y las costumbres de estas diversas regiones, me encontré obligada a ser nenepili, la lengua, y auiani, la santa puta, de Cortés. Me regalaron de un hombre a otro como si yo no tuviera el derecho al amor. Y amor sí encontré en el hijo que me dió y después robó Cortés. En los días que pensé no más poder, mi hijo Martín, piltsin, me animaba a seguir luchando, y todo lo di por él. Ahora me encuentro en estas tierras vastas, abandonada y enferma de la plaga con la que nos castigaron los dioses. Alguna gente me mira y me adora; para ellos soy diosa aunque me sienta yo menos que un pobre insecto. Otros me miran y me desprecian; no saben que más me desprecio yo por haber pronunciado las palabras que serían mi fin; no saben que más me desprecio yo por haber sido vendida como animal entre hombre y hombre; no saben que más me desprecio yo por haber perdido lo que más me importaba en la vida, mi dulce Martín.
Si alguien lee estas penas mías, recuérdenme. Recuerden lo que sacrifiqué y justifiquen mi vida, que en estos últimos días no puedo justificar ni estas miserables palabras, ni mi miserable respiración.
Tonameyalotl, la sombra de una pobre mujer.
José E. Valdivia Heredia is an undergraduate student of Religion and Latin American studies at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. They are a Chicanx writer from Northern California born to two parents from Michoacán, México. José has published a short poem in the Harvard Latinx literary publication Palabritas.
Inmensa, cerca a la Tierra, la luna, jala a las mareas de los mares y de la sangre. En la sombra de la Tierra, se tiñe escarlata como laca birmana por los atardeceres de la Tierra. ¿O será que se ruboriza de furia, partera, madrina de la vida? La sangre de sus sumos sacerdotes, los poetas, corre roja en las calles
Pero mátenos y otros se levantarán. Palabras cargadas de verdad, belleza, amor no mueren; encienden el pensar y hacen revolución en el corazón.
Moon for Murdered Poets
They thought that they buried you & what they did was bury a seed. Ernesto Cardenal, epitaph for the tomb of Adolfo Báez Bone, Nicaraguan revolutionary
Huge, near Earth, the moon pulls at the tides of the sea and of the blood. In the Earth’s shadow, she is tinged scarlet, like Burmese lacquer, by the sunsets of the Earth. Or is it that she flushes in fury, midwife, godmother of life? The blood of her high-priests, the poets, runs red in the streets.
But kill us and others will rise. Words freighted with truth, beauty, love do not die; they ignite thought and make revolution in the heart.
Rafael Jesús González, Prof. Emeritus of literature and creative writing, was born and raised biculturally/bilingually in El Paso, Texas/Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, and taught at University of Oregon, Western State College of Colorado, Central Washington State University, University of Texas El Paso (Visiting Professor of Philosophy), and Laney College, Oakland, California where he founded the Dept. of Mexican & Latin-American Studies. Also visual artist, he has exhibited in the Oakland Museum of California, the Mexican Museum of San Francisco, and others in the U.S. and Mexico. Nominated thrice for a Pushcart prize, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and Annenberg CPB for his writing in 2003. In 2013 he received a César E. Chávez Lifetime Award and was honored by the City of Berkeley with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th Annual Berkeley Poetry Festival 2015. He was named the first Poet Laureate of Berkeley in 2017. Visit http://rjgonzalez.blogspot.com/.