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12/8/10

"White Buffalo" (as published in the 2010 Magee Park Poets Anthology

White Buffalo

Cirrus clouds gather
like a gentle herd of white buffalo
pasturing on the Great Plains of night sky,
mourning the time they lorded
over the great American Southwest.

They accumulate with their backs to,
and their heads turned down from, us.
They graze, affably,
on the cool, grainy, indigo grass.
In the veiled glint of their eyes
the countenances of expelled
Native Americans:

1830 Indian Removal Act
From Cherokees to Seminoles
forced from Florida to Oklahoma
on a trail of tears.

The infirm and the weak
fell away dead
to lose all meaning
in their dispersal,
like pages unbound
from a despised book.

Sunrise chars indigo into azure.
A new day resumes in Vista,
ancient land of the Payomkowishum.
And I stir after communion
with the four winds.

8/9/10

"The Ocean Brings Great Things," as published in Revista Literaria El Tecolote


The Mexican immigrants
from whom I’ve come to collect rent
stand in a dark house
in the winter
surrounding René, their patriarch,
who halts our conversation
about seaports in Los Angeles, and Tampico,
where he has worked, to announce:

“The ocean brings great things
for those who bathe and frolic in it.
Each wave is a tale from overseas.”

René is a wave-spirit from Veracruz
turning to salt, and breeze, and foam
in the underground of our country,
where he works in the shadows.

Tonight his dining table
is an ocean unto itself
breaking on the beach
of my muddy conscience.

“I live happily,” he continues.
“There is no need to pity me.
Look on to me!
Look on the people that surround me!”

The way
in which his embattled,
teenage daughters love him,
his wife stands by him,
his fellow refugees support him,
touches me.

He hasn’t been to our beaches yet.
But I’ll take him, on the balmiest day this summer.
And then I’ll ask,
“What have the shores told you?”

The murmur of the beach is not in vain.
It is a constant cry, a hell-bent howl,
an echo from the open mouth
of the serpentine world.
Listen to the waves!
Listen to China, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran,
Palestine, Honduras, North Korea!
Listen to the fertile land of your own heart.

7/15/10

Sacrifices, as published in Asylum



Sacrifices

At the turn of the corner,
behind a covering thick tree,
the '82 silver Corolla
screeched slightly and began
down the hill;
dismantling dawn behind its headlights
before they bounced into the
driveway and faded.
After the creaks of the wooden
porch stairs mother would plummet
into the bed
sprawling her limbs,
like a deer just shot.

Sighing, like an old balloon finishing
its shrivel she foundered
into the pillow; and cradled behind me:
draping an arm over my shoulders and across my chest,
burying her forehead against my back.
I shivered and her muscles loosened,
from thighs to arms.
She became still like a mollusk.

It was as if all day
since she had been jolted
by her convenience store coffee,
through the afternoon
of withdrawal into the homes of other people
to scrub floors and dust furniture,
the evening reheating chicken for dinner, rushed;
and finally, the graveyard
shift, asking her to mop thirteen aisles
of groceries
she had longed
for that warmth of kin flesh
to restore her once again.

5/5/10

White-out



An awkward moment
at the public library
as two deputies
make their entrance.
Their radios crackle.
They wear black boots
and leg straps holding flashlights or knives.
Their free hands rest
on their gun holsters--lasciviously--
like these were the nude cups
of women's shoulders.
Business-like they approach "the problem,"
the unstable, homeless man of color
at the back of the library,
to expel him.

In the carpeted corridors
a silent hiatus
before the man's arguments
make one final desperate
leap into the air
clamoring for a hearing
before being gagged
by the muffled sound
of men deftly trained
in forcing human beings,
and the clack and the click
of handcuffs.

Embarrassed by their work
the librarians avert their eyes.

I don't gawk
but in the eyes of those who do
I see their reflection.
Each officer's large hands
clamped like strong magnets
on the man's arms and shoulders.

"White-out" is published in City Works 2010 Journal, San Diego City College.





Death in Rural Mexico

She's laid out on her bed
in the small town's night.
Disease, in its locomotive mode
has come upon her.
This old, humble woman,
slowly opening and shutting her eyes,
yearning to see
who is present at her deathbed.
Those she knows from childhood
she can sense through the air.
They are crosses at her tomb.
Those, like me, she has never met
are blackbirds on a leafless apricot tree.
Disease has eaten a quarter of her hind back
covered in musty blankets
by wrinkled-eyebrow women.
But the village knows what is under them.
The hollow in the ill seniora's mouth,
oblong and dark like a prune,
her eyes, a piercing silent howl, a limpid country puddle,
tell the story of her body in its final days,
whisper her pleadings for mercy, for counsel
on how this may be stopped.

And in all her pain, in one last burst for life
I see the girl she once was when she curls her back
angling her breast and pelvis
shooting her black sight towards the sky
just before passing
and I lash out with my tongue-soul in one last attempt to reach her
and I miss her but in a wisp of Tezcatl Ipoca smoke
I taste-see the image of my own youth
jumping in the rain.
And when it passes I am one of many lit human candles
watching our fallen friend pass on.

From a gate of my heart
a shivering breeze escapes
whispering "thank you"
to the woman
who offered her death
for my life.

Death in Rural Mexico

I began this poem in the fall of 2002 when I was in Agua Blanca, Oaxaca--a small village in the Valley region of the aforementioned state. My good friend Guadalupe hails from there. Agua Blanca is a one (long) street village, and people know each other. During my stay there, a woman was dying. Daily different women from the village took turns in nursing her. I was asked if I wanted to visit her. In rural Mexico, in contrast to suburban United States, death is not hidden from the public view. I accepted the invitation. The poem is based on my impressions of that night.

I mention "Tezcatl Ipoca" in the poem. Tezcatl Ipoca is an ancient Mexican deity (pre-Conquest). Roughly speaking, his name translates into "Smoking Mirror." Ancient Mexicans convoked Tezcatl Ipoca when they were troubled. Tezcatl Ipoca is a medium of meditation and vision-seeking.

This poem appears in the 2009-10 edition of the San Diego Poetry Annual. In the anthology, the poem is also translated into Spanish by Ms. Edith Jonsson-Devillers. I did not publish it here because it seems that www.blogger.com does not like accents; there was some type of glitch. The editors at SDPA made editorial changes to two lines of the original poem.

SDPA Version
Line 14: "Disease has eaten a quarter of her buttock"

Original Version
Line 14: "Disease has eaten a quarter of her hind back."

SDPA Version
Line 18: "the hollow in the ill lady's mouth"

Original Version
Line 18: "the hollow in the ill seniora's mouth"

I am publishing my original version here.

5/4/10

Death in Rural Mexico

Final Grade

Final Grade

Found Poem

I.

Everything out of your mouth/pen
is incredibly interesting.
I hate grading.
A lot of this was late,
or whatever, according to police rules.
You also seemed a bit distracted all term.
So maybe other people were working their nalgas off.
So their diligence must be rewarded.
But you have the heart/gift of a writer.

II.

A-/B+

III.

You know what?
Don't look for your voice.

Just speak your reality and ask for the words.

To focus on the voice
is to focus on a being
that may take a lifetime to emerge.
Focus on your experience, your world,
your neighborhood, bombing around Mexico!

As Pablo Neruda said, we have
the obligation to speak our reality
and the reality of the voiceless.

Everything here is much improved.
You, of all people,
have an incredible story to tell.

IV.

The poems sound odd at certain moments
but they mark a new leap for you.
They are really something. And that play,
how beautiful! The child
needs to express a bit more
what's wrong. We should really
get at that in multiple ways.
There is no model for him--
as a man, as a pocho, etc,
he must invent himself.

Serpent

At birth she was cast out to die
because she was not born
the right sex.
Then she took a lawyer up
on his word
because she did not know
his language: "Your body for the freedom
of your father"
is what he meant.

When her father was finally freed,
with son, they beat
the growing child
in her womb out.

Yelling with each blow:
"You are the stain on the family name
and honor!"

They beat and they choked.

Her uterus vomited innocent life out
and then all went black.

Half-nude in tattered clothes,
she walked around her house
clawing at the fence-reed
to hold herself up.
Her mouth gaping,
her eyes
just like Oedipus',
so sorry to have been born.

She spoke to the only one
that would listen,
and that was death.

She walked with him along the fence-reed until
she got her breath back.
Then she became like a cobra, and
death, a snake charmer.
She stung him on the forearm
discharging the venom
that was killing her.

She chose to live.

And she has gone on living,
thirty-five years and counting
now.
Working in homes where people won't
see anybody else than: "She who'd best leave
the silver polished!"

Each hard-earned dollar another stone
erected in this building called America.

Each day lived in joy teaching
her offspring the values that would make
this country's future.

Hsssss!

Serpent