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.
Book Review of April On Olympia by Lorna Dee Cervantes (Marsh Hawk Press, 2021)
by Rosa Martha Villarreal
—you and I are old; Old age hath yet his honour and his toil; Death closes all: but something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be done[.]
—“Ulysses,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The theme of Lorna Dee Cervantes’s latest book of poetry is implicit in the title, April on Olympia. When the artist reaches the summit of the mountain, she is faced with her own mortality. Just so that the reader is clear, she includes a section to allude to T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” April is the cruelest month because it reminds us that the natural cycles of rebirth and death will continue without us. But, as Tomás Rivera said in his existentialist novel …and the earth did not devour him, not yet. The earth has not devoured this poet yet, and there is something still left: the untarnished spirit of youth now imprisoned in an ageing body. There is still something left to do, a final journey of creative consciousness, the gift of a spiritual inheritance to kindred souls who await their conception and birth.
Gardens, seeds, memory, and regeneration are recurring ideas and symbols in this collection. The mountain, both a symbol of total dissolution and proximity to the heavens, is where the seeds of fifty years of Cervantes’s artistic career—losses, loves, and quest for social justice—are taken to be planted in the fertile minds of future poets, much like the seed of her mother’s essence and memory in “Unimagined Title” bore fruit in her mind.
On my murdered mom’s birthday: light rain on expired seed; new garden, mine.
Cervantes conjures the ghosts of her literary and artistic godparents, guides of the subconscious mind’s nights of darkness, the givers of the word/logos, which orders the chaos of imagination just as the gardener organizes the fecundity of nature. The artists: Theodore Roethke, Gil Scott Heron, Billie Holliday, Federico García Lorca, Allen Ginsberg. The social warriors who shaped her sensibilities and gave definition to her indignation: César Chávez, Nestora Salgado, Carlos Almaráz. She elaborates in “River: for my murdered mother” that the inheritance of remembrance, sorrow, and the continuum of thought and passion through time are vehicles of freedom because the quest for justice takes longer than one lifetime.
I remember the river. Word you didn’t want me to use. Meaning Freedom. Meaning liberation from the flame.
I remember the fire. The lap of genius dissolving it all, the light of the dying leaves, bare fall of it all. I remember.
River of vein in the brain, the great artery of culture weaving it together with threads, conversations. River of immense sorrow.
River of forgiveness. River of the riven fallen. River of the gasping. River of icy grasp. Fierce river. Fleet river. Saltless self-revealed in the sunlight.
I remember the river: word you didn’t want me to speak. Word I free you. Word in your ancient reveal. The word river, a substitute for desire.
Nothing is ever destroyed. Desire deferred is but a dormant seed of ancient tree waiting to be born once again. Encased in the stillness of stones, even the collective memories of an entire people seemingly dead await their rebirth. This concept is not mere fancy but an empirical reality because memory is an energy field. Energy is never destroyed, said Newton; can never be destroyed. Matter is energy in another form, birthed in the human mind, reimagined, re-arranged as Cervantes says in “Olmecan Eyes”:
Olmecan eyes reborn. The infant stone unfurling in our navels. Another civilization reconquers the wilderness of today. Sun devouring Earth, we are shadows of the way we were, beneath the shifting planets, the comets, the desolate inconsolable moon.
The ghosts of people from Cervantes’s past appear to her throughout this volume, not just her mother’s but other beloved ones, friends and lovers. “On Feinberg’s Theory of Physics: another for John,” Cervantes continues with the imagery of gardens, rivers, the rebirth and transforms the language of quantum science. An invisible sorrow evokes that same you, says Cervantes: the ever constant in the chaos, “circling aimlessly around some / nowhere no one’s planet loneliness.” The title is an allusion to the theory of retro-causality. After a life is lived, can the summation of experience, the culmination of passion and loss act like a subatomic particle assert itself in time-space and deflect the path of the past?
It would be inaccurate to quantify this collection of poetry as solely one individual’s existential reflection. Lorna Dee Cervantes has and continues to be a warrior for human dignity. The imagery of nature and its cycles of decay and regeneration is likewise expressed in political themes, which resonate as strongly as they did in her previous books of poetry. The opening poem “The River Doesn’t Want a Wall” clearly alludes to a former U.S. president’s incendiary rhetoric on a never-built wall that was meant to run along the U.S.-Mexican border. The wall would have done more than just to keep out people; it would have created an artificial, disruptive barrier in the natural world. Nature is not divided. Division is a human construct that is simultaneously a tool for functional organization and an instrument of oppression. Freedom, however, is a natural phenomenon. It is not a coincidence that Thomas Jefferson calls liberty an “unalienable right.” Resistance to oppression is endemic to animal life, of which we are but one species. The rivers of freedom will flood and wipe away the vanity of humans. “The river doesn’t want the Wall. / The land won’t let it. / The floods won’t cede.”
In “Poem for Black Lives Matter,” Cervantes asserts that love and memory are weapons of liberation from the false division of societal construct of so-called “race.” (Speaking as a person trained as a biologist, I can assure my readers that there is but one human race. The other human species that existed as late as 16,000-35,000 years ago have died off or been absorbed into our race.)
Love is a force greater than fear a presence
and a present a prescience sense a nuclear subatomic
The historical division of people by “race” spawned a loathing for the offspring of miscegenation, los desdichados, the undesirables, who were exiled to the margins of society. The center of society, governed and possessed by those who had pre-privileged themselves as “the right people,” dictated who was what, who was worthy of their right to self-determination and who was not. (“College isn’t meant for your people.” “This neighborhood isn’t meant for your people.”) But the center cannot hold forever as Yeats said in “The Second Coming.” However, what is being reborn isn’t Yeats’s horrific beast of darkness slouching towards modernity creating chaos and despair. Rather it is a spiritual re-embracing of what was exiled, new possibilities of being, an aroused consciousness, an awareness that we are part of nature not its rulers. In “What IS XicanX,” Cervantes posits such a return to the one People, the source from which we first became human. Carlos Fuentes said in La región más transparente del aire, that the original is the impure with physical and symbolic miscegenation. The rebirth of a new era begins here with this new people recombined, returned from the exiles of division. XicanX, the mixed ethnic people, represents the inevitable. X encompasses all. Humanity is re-integrated, and we become “The People (and I birth) / in any language.”
Let me conclude where I began, with Tennyson’s poem: “[B]ut something ere the end. Some work of noble note, may yet be done.” For the for the visionary warrior—the poet Cervantes—the noble work is the invocation of memory, rebirth, and the quest for enlightened morality. The beauty of Cervantes’s poetry lures us into the realm of primal dreams and a reality that can only be discerned in metaphors. That said, there is just too much packed into each poem for a single review to do this book justice. Lorna Dee Cervantes made us wait since her last book, but it was worth it.
Click here to buy a copy of April On Olympia from Small Press Distribution.
Lorna Dee Cervantes, a Native Californian (Chumash), is an award winning author of six books of poetry. The former Professor of English at CU Boulder, Creative Writing Program, lives and writes in Seattle.
Rosa Martha Villarreal, a Chicana novelist and essayist, is a descendant of the 16th century Spanish and Tlaxcatecan settlers of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. She drew upon her family history in her critically acclaimed novels Doctor Magdalena, Chronicles of Air and Dreams: A Novel of Mexico, and The Stillness of Love and Exile, the latter a recipient of the Josephine Miles PEN Literary Award and a Silver Medalist in the Independent Publishers Book Award (2008). She writes a column, “Tertullian’s Corner,” for Somos en escrito Magazine.
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.
“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.
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.
by Michele Shaul
Were I to subscribe to reincarnation I would call him Hugo Augusto Anastasio Fidel Men interested in their own aggrandizement In the guise of stabilizing the whole Contemporaries abound that offer parallel Egos and interests They connected, Bonding in their embodiment of self-interest, exploitation, and greed But even those bonds were not enough to fulfill his insatiable needs, to maintain his self-absorption, To bolster his insecurities His counterparts quickly fell short in worshipping at his shrine Escalation of efforts to uplift his need pushed ahead No concern for consequences No shame at deception Yet soon, God willing, Our own defective incarnation will disperse just as the edge of twilight slides into obscurity.
Michele Shaul was born in Oakland, CA to a Kansas farm boy and a Key West girl. Her mother’s maternal family immigrated to Havana, Cuba and subsequently Key West, FL in the 1800s. Her paternal grandfather was born in Havana and moved to Key West where he married her grandmother and managed the local tobacco factory until his death.
Michele currently lives with her family in Charlotte, NC where she is the Director of the Center for Latino Studies and a professor of Spanish at Queens University of Charlotte, formerly serving as Chair of the World Languages Department for 22 years. She is co-founder and co-editor of the e-journal Label Me Latina/o and is involved in several arts and social outreach projects that use art as a vehicle to address the topics of diversity and tolerance. Her writing has been predominantly academic in orientation although in recent years she has had the opportunity to write more creative pieces. Her critical essays are published in a number of journals and collections. Her translation of the novel The Suitcases was published in 2005 and her poem “Vida cercada” appeared in Minerva (5 (2), septiembre-diciembre 2005. Mellen Press published her book A Survey of the Novels of Ana Castillo: A Contemporary Mexican American Writer (2016). Her short story “Mixed Reviews/Reseñas mixtas” has been selected for inclusion in Nos pasamos de la raya/We Crossed the Line Vol. 2 (Slough Press, 2021 anticipated). The collection of essays Not White/Straight/Male/Healthy Enough: Being “Other” in the Academy coedited with Michael Moreno and Kathryn Quinn-Sánchez was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2018). Her essay “We Met Pregnant at the Snack Bar” is included as part of the collection. The book Contemporary U.S. Latinx Literature in Spanish (Palgrave, 2018) was co-edited with Kathryn Quinn-Sánchez and Amrita Das. Teatro latino: Nuevas obras de los Estados Unidos, coedited with Trevor Boffone, Amrita Das, and Kathryn Quinn-Sanchez, was published by La Casita Grande (2019). The collection of essays Whiteness in the Workplace edited with Michael Moreno and Kathryn Quinn-Sánchez was published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2020). Her translation in partnership with Erin Debell and Liliana Wendorff of Miguel Orosa’s play Brave Women and Laughter (Quite a long night’s journey throughout Latin America) was published by Proyecto Ñaque Editorial (2020) and her translation of Enrique Weichs’ Anteayeres (Before Yesterday), also teaming with Erin Debell, is currently seeking a publisher. Michele directs the Latino Studies Project which is a student/faculty research project that seeks to document the story of the Latino population in the Charlotte region. She is the recipient of the Queens’ 2016 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award.
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).
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.
Rafael Jesús González, Prof. Emeritus of literature and creative writing, was born and raised biculturally/bilingually in El Paso, Texas/Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, and taught at University of Oregon, Western State College of Colorado, Central Washington State University, University of Texas El Paso (Visiting Professor of Philosophy), and Laney College, Oakland, California where he founded the Dept. of Mexican & Latin-American Studies. Also visual artist, he has exhibited in the Oakland Museum of California, the Mexican Museum of San Francisco, and others in the U.S. and Mexico. Nominated thrice for a Pushcart prize, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and Annenberg CPB for his writing in 2003. In 2013 he received a César E. Chávez Lifetime Award and was honored by the City of Berkeley with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th Annual Berkeley Poetry Festival 2015. He was named the first Poet Laureate of Berkeley in 2017. Visit http://rjgonzalez.blogspot.com/.
DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS – 11/4 (JOE & MAX) by Ivan Argüelles
i Brooklyn a park bench a quart bottle of malt liquor and a brother how did that happen late spring early death drone of skies ready to annihilate themselves an ear wrenched from its rock formation a buzz of intonations from the Mahatmas stoned and iridescent in their vanishing perched like quetzal birds on the telephone wire high above planet Nothing all comes back to this moment realization of these deaths the masks of infancy withering yet beautiful and Hey ! did you hear the eloquence emanating from the jazz trumpet of Miles Davis ? basements in accolades of marijuana smoke decadence and livelihood waiting for births for nomenclatures to disclose their irate vowels in a backyard next door to Betty Carter mind soaked in tequila playing boyhood one Last Time and it all falls down the sudden repetition of a life experience the onset of seizures the rest of breath reduced to a red parenthesis inside which the conflagration of ideas and love recycled eerie representations of store windows masked and hooded figures demons alluring and baleful and after that what is there to know a trip to the outback a dozen hospitalizations mysterious tumors ventilators bad x-rays memories of Mayo Clinic cold spells long periods before and after that no one remembers but for the poignant high notes the small echo in its shell and the massive but absent seas
ii the little red clarinet case pushed under the bed sheets wrung out turning yellow from ichor of the gods transpiration and head-wounds tilted off the moving wagon on to the sidewalks of inferno and whatever could that mean the isolation wards and always the stranger at the door bare-knuckled with a bag to capture whatever malignant spirits trying to escape the maps were drawn tight around the peninsula and causeways and trampolines for the kids to jump up and down inside the coma where an excised cosmos auto-destructs with all its plastic passengers most of whom have traveled to the Yucatan and harbored nights in Teotihuacan with vessels of ether the countdown hasn’t even started before the finish is a fait accompli the forlorn hills of dialect and twilight the way they reappear in dreams half-beings bereft of intellect and side-swiped by planetary diesels plunging like headless horsemen down the Pan-Am Highway motels and endless waiting rooms dismantled telephones ambulances and more ambulances the wrong address and finality of sliding curtains hanging like angels left to dry from the wars and the doctors of hypnosis and mercury just staring into the abyss devoid of language the cuneiform of their brains working overtime to excuse themselves from all culpability and soon it’s another Halloween trick or treating on the doorsteps of a missing basement and phantom music ascends The Monster Mash with calaveras de azúcar and the jingles and marionettes of memory dancing sing-song in the cavities I got the shakes I’m going fast
iii cada día es el día de los muertos
Ivan Argüelles is a Mexican-American innovative poet whose work moves from early Beat and surrealist-influenced forms to later epic-length poems. He received the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award in 1989 as well as the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 2010. In 2013, Argüelles received the Before Columbus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. For Argüelles the turning point came with his discovery of the poetry of Philip Lamantia. Argüelles writes, “Lamantia’s mad, Beat-tinged American idiom surrealism had a very strong impact on me. Both intellectual and uninhibited, this was the dose for me.” While Argüelles’s early writings were rooted in neo-Beat bohemianism, surrealism, and Chicano culture, in the nineties he developed longer, epic-length forms rooted in Pound’s Cantos and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. He eventually returned, after the first decade of the new millennium, to shorter, often elegiac works exemplary of Romantic Modernism. Ars Poetica is a sequence of exquisitely-honed short poems that range widely, though many mourn the death of the poet’s celebrated brother, José.