Friday, June 24, 2016

The Mexican Flyboy: The Curse of Empathy

The Mexican Flyboy
Alfredo Véa
University of Oklahoma Press - June, 2016

There are days when the world erupts in a cloud of chaos and disaster. As though we are extras in the climactic scene of an apocalyptic movie, we find ourselves surrounded by violence, fear and terror.  In those times, it can be difficult if not impossible to resist the temptation to cringe, cover-up and hide in the comfort of our shelter, away from the slaughter of innocents, protected from assaults on our collective sensitivities, seeking immunity from images of our brothers, sisters, children and neighbors gunned down by a maniac with an easily-obtained high tech, efficient killing machine, or news reports of yet another desert village destroyed by orders from a dispassionate drone flying the stars and stripes.

Too often we are too numb to act.  More often, we feel powerless to change the dynamic. The name Orlando is added to the list of names that now mean mass murder and we know, uneasily, regretfully, that there will be more names for that list soon. 

Those who don't succumb to the horror and who struggle to overcome the forces of blood and destruction engage in a fight that looks like another peoples' movement doomed to fail.  Cynicism creeps into our marrow.  Hope slips away on a crimson stream of gore.  We blame the politicians, or the voters; we accuse the faithful, or the faithless; we turn on ourselves and see only haters.

Reminders about the history of violence confront the reader early on in Alfredo Véa's amazing novel, The Mexican Flyboy. Véa's story dramatically points out that we have never experienced a time when we did not inflict pain on one another.  We have never known complete peace.  We are more than capable of horrendous acts of pain and suffering.  We are our own worst enemies. What we endure now is simply more of the same.  Our past is not the past, our future is today.

The book can be seen as a kaleidoscopic mix of science fiction, speculative lit, history, physics, war novel, and redemptive tale. Or, basically as an Alfredo Véa novel. He takes the reader into gut-wrenching battle scenes, surrealistic prison dramas, detailed eyewitness accounts of some of the most famous events in history, and intimately deep into the tortured heart and soul of his main character, Simon Magus Vegas.

Vegas travels through time to the exact locations of some of humankind's most brutal mass atrocities:  the Cambodian killing fields; the massacre at Washita; the genocide at Bergen-Belsen. And more. Crimes against individuals also are recounted:  Joan of Arc burned at the stake though she was found innocent; Jesse Washington lynched in Waco; the murder of Emmett Till; the botched execution of Ethel Rosenberg for the crime of being a Jew married to a Jewish communist. And more. The killers come from every group, every religion, every political ideology.  The commonality is our species.

The notion of time travel may put off some readers who might mistakenly jump to the conclusion that The Mexican Flyboy cannot be taken seriously, either as literature or as important.  Ignore that conclusion and read this book.

Several passages will impact the reader with their sheer imaginative power:  a woman's fall from the sky that takes her through the pivotal scenes of her life; young soldiers preparing to jump from a helicopter into a crashing, shattering Vietnam War ambush; a philosophical, rabble-rousing rant on a prison radio directed to the prisoners' stultified self-awareness and shrunken consciences.

Vegas isn't a voyeur. His travels are much more than spectator events.  He takes action by swooping in to save those who are the answer to the question, "Who is more alone?" He doesn't change history but he stops the suffering. His weapons include comic books about magicians and artillery maps from World War II. Those he saves "retire" to Boca Raton, where they all wear Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops.  Yes, there is humor in this book that uses death as one of its prime motifs.

Vegas might be insane.  At a minimum he struggles with PTSD.  He's described as "a lonely homeless person who happens to have many friends, a fine home, and a beautiful wife." (133).  His wife and friends worry about him.  He appears oblivious to their concerns.  He has his own troubled past, which has to be reconciled by the end of the novel. Several mysteries orbit Vegas's quest.  What is the secret of the skydiver who fell to her death in front of him when he was a child?  Why does the list of concentration camp victims include fifteen Mexican names?  What is his connection to the death-row prisoner who claims to know the "truth" about Simon?  How will the unsteady hero react to the birth of his daughter?  All these and more are explained and tied together by Véa, who uses his words as his own time machine to iron out the complexities and puzzles of his challenging tale.

Simon Vegas suffers from the curse of empathy; he feels too much, he shares the suffering, he truly is one with his fellow humans, and because of that he does what he can to help, no matter that others think it impossible or crazy or useless.  Vegas may have nothing more than the power of his own imagination, but with that power he attacks the darkness at the heart of humanity.  He lights a magnificent beacon of hope, and he overcomes the trap of time by connecting with everyone else, by finally accepting his own humanity.  The metaphor of time travel turns to the reality of love.  And the violence is stopped.


Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles.  His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book AwardMy Bad: A Mile High Noir is scheduled for publication by Arte Público Press in September, 2016.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Chicanonautica: Old Gringos in Psychedelic Sombrero Land

by Ernest Hogan

An old lady screamed it as Emily and I sat down. She and two men were in the next booth over at La Sierra, a wonderful restaurant with furniture painted with day-glo folkloric scenes and psychedelic sombreros hanging on the walls, in Payson, Arizona. They were white, pale, the kind that makes you think, “Oh, so that's why they're called white people.” I didn't think anything of it at first, figured that she and the guys were having a lively discussion.

I looked over the menu. La Sierra has excellent tacos and carnitas.

And a tasty salsa, that they bring out with chips before you order. It doesn't make the inner ears tingle and tickle the brain the way I prefer, but a lot of gringos retire in places like Payson, like the folks in the next booth.


That was one of the guys. There's a lot old guys like him in Arizona. Emily and I were in Payson getting away from the killer summer heat that had just hit Phoenix, and checking out antique stores in search of eccentric yard furniture and Aztláni western research material. We ordered and settled down, figuring that we were in for a chance to check out some Wild West political views.

They kept on blurting, throwing out their opinions as loud as they could – I think they may have all been mostly deaf. They didn't really engage in conversation as much as erupt with one-liners. It was like a no-tech version of Twitter.

I guess they could have just stood home and done this, but expressing these kinds of things is more fun with an audience, especially an unwilling one, that will probably be offended. They probably spend most of their time at home, listening to talk radio or watching news, getting offended themselves, until they can't help but scream:


Yeah, the election had steam coming out of their ears.

They weren't crazy about Trump, but were willing to vote for him, because he was the Republican candidate. They were also delighted at the liberal outrage his statements caused.

They hated Hillary's guts and thought Bernie was a moron. Socialism was for lazy have-nots who want someone else to pay their way. Capitalism was the only way to go, but why was everybody these days too stupid to make it work?

I actually felt sorry for them. If you listened to them, the world was coming to an end – or at least their world was coming to an end, and there was nothing they could do but yell political incorrectness and hope somebody would be offended. I don't know if they enjoyed their food, or anything else.


All the while, the brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking employees provided them with excellent customer service, and joyous Mexican music played in the background.

Ernest Hogan is a Chicano science fiction writer living in Arizona, where the West gets wild, especially on an election year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

20th Anniversary Pura Belpré Celebración

When: Sunday, June 26, 1:00 - 3:30 PM

Where: 2016 ALA Annual Conference
 Rosen Centre Hotel, Jr. Ballroom F, Orlando, FL

Come celebrate twenty years of award winning Latino children's literature at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL!

The Pura Belpré award recognizes Latino authors and illustrators for excellent children's literature that affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience. Its establishment in 1996, a joint effort of ALSC and Reforma, was a key milestone in the recognition of the importance of diverse children's literature. The celebration of the award's 20th year is going to be quite special, with an art auction of original pieces by Belpré-recognized illustrators, sales of the new commemorative book "The Pura Belpré Award: Twenty Years of Outstanding Latino Children’s Literature," a keynote speech by Carmen Agra Deedy, and (of course) speeches by the 2016 award winners.

“Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music”, illustrated by Rafael López is the 2016 Belpré Illustrator Award winner. The book was written by Margarita Engle and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir”, written by Margarita Engle is the 2016 Belpré Author Award winner. The book is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

Three Belpré Illustrator Honor Books were named:
“My Tata’s Remedies/Los remedios de mi tata”, illustrated by Antonio Castro L., written by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford, and published by Cinco Puntos Press.

“Mango, Abuela, And Me”, illustrated by Ángela Domínguez, written by Meg Medina, and published by Candlewick Press.

“Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras”, illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh, and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Abrams.

Two Belpré Author Honor Books were named:
“The Smoking Mirror”, written by David Bowles, and published by IFWG Publishing, Inc.

“Mango, Abuela, and Me”, written by Meg Medina, illustrated by Ángela Domínguez, and published by Candlewick Press.

In addition to the outstanding Pura Belpré honorees, the rest of the announcements made at the 2016 Youth Media Awards marked a historic and unique moment in Latino children’s literature, when Latino authors and illustrators received an unprecedented amount of medals and honors across different awards.

Matt de la Peña became the first Latino to win the Newbery Medal, which is considered to be the top award given to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, for his picture book, “Last Stop on Market Street”, illustrated by Christian Robinson. In the most distinguished informational book category, Duncan Tonatiuh became the first Latino to win the Sibert Informational Book Medal for “Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras”.

Other Latino/Latina authors recognized at the 2016 ALA Youth Media Awards were: Pam Muñoz Ryan for “Echo” (Newbery Honor & Odyssey Honor), Ricardo Liniers Siri for “Written and Drawn by Henrietta” (Batchelder Honor), Anna-Marie McLemore for “The Weight of Feathers” (Morris Award finalist), Margarita Engle for “Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir” (YALSA Award for Excellence in Non-Fiction for Young Adults finalist), and Dan-el Padilla Peralta for “Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League” (Alex Award). REFORMA is proud of all the Latino authors and illustrators recognized at this year’s Youth Media Awards, whose victories affirmed by their past and present recognition from the Belpré Award continue to demonstrate their important contribution to children’s literature.

Come celebrate this truly momentous year with music, snacks, art and friends!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Vampires, La Malinche, el Cucuy, New Mexico, Oh Uau! Mid-June Floricanto

Review: Mario Acevedo. Rescue From Planet Pleasure. Monument CO: WordFire Press, 2015.
ISBN: 9781614753070

Michael Sedano

Everyone who gets to know her, Doña Marina, La Malinche, will be double-crossed by her. Felix Gomez learns this the hard way, but is lucky to have skin walkers, enraged crows, el cucuy, and a pair of hyper sexy female vampire companions on his side, in a crucial final battle with Phaedra, the teenage vampire whose superpowers have her at the brink of taking over the undead underworld.

After an extended hiatus, Mario Acevedo has brought back his chicano vampire detective, Felix Gomez. In Acevedo’s usual manner, the author has crafted a super-engaging capstone novel, Rescue From Planet Pleasure.

As satisfying as it is having Felix back among us, Rescue From Planet Pleasure spells an end to the six-book Felix Gomez series, leaving enthusiastic readers asking, “where do we go from here?”

The summer of 2016 forecasts to be the hottest summer in earth’s history. This is reading weather. A shady hammock, a tall lemonade, and a stack of books is what this weather calls for. Readers who have yet to discover Acevedo’s chicano vampire can treat themselves to every story.

There’s the origin story, Felix serving as a U.S. Army infantryman in combat in Iraq. Acevedo, a Veteran of Bush’s invasion, writes exciting war action, driving the infantrymen toward a fateful ambush of innocent civilians. Gomez is hit, and finds himself abandoned. The soldier seeking safety warily makes his way through the darkened street to the domicile of an ancient vampire. Acevedo follows Gomez back to the U.S. where disparate adventures lead to a rewarding set of novels and characters, many of whom weave in and out of the various titles.

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, the first of the series, sets the tone and the lore of an increasingly engaging series that ultimately brings zombies, nymphomaniacs, werewolves, space aliens, private capital colluding with U.S. government stooges, into action-filled hilarity seasoned with a healthy dose of suspense, sleuthing, adventure, and action, sure to please readers jaded by run-of-the-mill novels, and for sure, Acevedo’s more savvy readers.

Acevedo’s legion of readers have waited since 2010 to learn the fate of Carmen Arellano. As the plot of that year’s Werewolf Smackdown corkscrews and twists toward its rip-roaring climax, Felix, Carmen, and Jolie, overcome a convention of werewolves threatening to conquer the world, but space aliens kidnap Carmen and whisk her away into outer space. Felix and “the redheaded whirlwind with a gun,” Jolie, find themselves desolately impotent to find, much less free, the captive.

Not that Felix would need vampire Viagra. Lots of sex and sexiness are staples of a Felix Gomez novel. Companions like Jolie and Carmen are ever-fervid sidekicks, hot to trot just for fun, or to serve the cause. Jolie, for example, plays out a vitally important strategic move by seducing a skin-walker. Sex is at the heart of Carmen's captivity. Outer space aliens took Carmen for her sexual prowess and psychic endowments. Poor Felix has to join her in a wildly imaginative tryst with a six-vaginaed alien that dazzles their alien captors. Getting them off gets the heroes off the planet.

Frequent readers are treated to a key change of pace in Rescue From Planet Pleasure, but receive a generous helping of Acevedo’s amazingly agile imagination. Ordinarily an urban fantacist, Acevedo strays far and wide, setting the novel in an alien world’s prison, with the major action in the New Mexico desert centered around Fajada Butte and its petroglyph sun daggers.

Coyote, a 500 year-old vampire, considers himself the first Mexican, since he is la Llorona’s child. Out of the blue he phones Jolie to bring Felix to Fajada Butte, the launching point to go rescue Carmen. Only Carmen has the power to defeat Phaedra, a teenage vampire bent on overthrowing the Araneum and killing Felix.

Doña Marina and el Cucuy make cameo appearances, archly comic, but vital to the plot. Readers will laugh as Cucuy practices his moans and groans, and la Llorona strolls about practicing her wailing “Dónde están mis hijos?”

Using the sun daggers coupled with psychic powers, Felix and Jolie open wormhole portals and find themselves prisoners on D-Galtha, the Nancharm name for Planet Pleasure. Escape is hopeless until Phaedra-ex-machina arrives intent on killing Carmen and Felix. Their location was betrayed by la Malinche in an effort to save Coyote. Phaedra is carrying the battle with the aliens, and distracted, rebellious aliens in a flying saucer return Felix and Carmen to New Mexico for the final confrontation.

There’s a complication from the military-industrial complex. Cress Tech has installed psychic detectors around Fajada Butte and vampire salvos draw heavily armed humans to create a three-way battle of humans versus vampires versus Phaedra’s vampire-and-human forces.

The good vampires are no match for Phaedra’s superpowers. Only Carmen has the right stuff, and she barely holds her own. Desperate for assistance from local skin-walkers, who are immune to Phaedra’s powers, or merely disinterested, Jolie has seduced the skin-walker leader so his forces jump into the fray. Cucuy, too, joins the battle and, despite repeatedly being shattered to smithereens, el Cucuy’s power weakens Phaedra. Subdued, Phaedra has enough psychic power to paralyze Jolie and punish Felix for turning the teen girl into a vampire.

The final pages of Rescue From Planet Pleasure are exciting and torturously suspenseful, and not to be missed.

The climactic battle wraps up all the loose ends that developed in this and earlier novels, but opening a new issue. The good undead triumph, order is restored to the Araneum, Felix is in their good graces. In the aftermath of war, vampire existence is no longer the secret it has been in the antecedent novels. Here is a clue answering that “where do we go from here?” question that comes with the wrap of an engaging storyline and the unambiguous conquest of Phaedra. Hopefully, Acevedo won't wait five more years to unfold it.

Rescue From Planet Pleasure is a paperback and ebook. Click here to find a distributor, or ask your local bookseller to order a complete set of Mario Acevedo’s Felix Gomez novels. Then find that hammock, pour yourself a cool one, and dig into some cool reading.

Anaya. Barrios. Palacio. Hernandez.
Latinopia Mourns Orlando Victims

Latinopia provides an important link to historical videos of Chicana Chicano literature, history, politics, organizing, and raza cultura en general.

This week Latinopia’s director, Jesus Treviño, reached out to key artists to respond to the horrid new history, mass murder in Orlando Florida, one of the largest shootings in the nation's bloody history of guns.

Treviño’s alter ego Tia Tenopia writes:

We at Latinopia are particularly conscious of the fact that our Latino community has a long and troubled history when it comes to acceptance of the LGBT community. For this reason it is important to highlight our support in the face of this hate-filled tragedy. It is also an appropriate time to contextualize the use of terms and labels that call attention to our differences. Fundamentally, we are all human beings first. Our differences, whether we are black, white, Asian, Latino, straight or gay, young or old–are qualities to be celebrated. It's what makes the human race so unique and special.

Click here to read the entire statement, then to share the responses of the artists. These include an essay by Gregg Barrios, poetry by Melinda Palacio, poetry by Rudy Anaya, an Arnie and Porfi cartoon by Sergio Hernandez.

Strawberry Moon, Summer Solstice, On-line Floricanto

Qwo-Li Driskill, Kai Coggin, Susan Deer Cloud, Michael Rothenberg, Julieta Corpus

“Loving Day” By ᏉᎵ ᎠᏂᏙᎯ (Qwo-Li Driskill)
“⌘ The Pulse of a Rainbow” By Kai Coggin
"Rainbow Sister (for Arlene)" By Susan Deer Cloud
“'FOR THE BIRDS' for Habib" 
By Michael Rothenberg
"The Gathering" by Julieta Corpus

Loving Day
By ᏉᎵ ᎠᏂᏙᎯ (Qwo-Li Driskill)

"Everyone get out of pulse and keep running"
Facebook post from Pulse Orlando
June 12, 2016

To staunch the bleeding
sharp and hidden
as a man
write a poem
with intent
and precision

Try to imagine
to turn
into bodies


write guns
into outlines
while stories
play dead
in the walls

police tape
at South Orange and
West Esther

                                                                                                                   I wanted to write a poem but
                                                                                                                   stuffed a handkerchief
                                                                                                                   into my name and
                                                                                                                   the bullet hole in his back

                                                                                                                   I wanted to write a poem but
                                                                                                                   the letters huddle together
                                                                                                                   for three hours
                                                                                                                   in a bathroom stall
                                                                                                                   and bleed out

I know the sharp pop
                                                                                                                   Stop turning
                                                                                                                   this poem
                                                                                                                   in the dark
                                                                                                                   right now
sparks from a barrel

creep to
shell casings
clot my blood
onto our televisions
whisper across
our screens
I hear Wounded Knee
Spanish names
mass shootings in US history
Indigenous and Black and

                                                                                                                How much can our hearts carry

I'm tired of writing poems
to our dead but
cannot withstand
their tugs on my skirt
hungry little lullabies

Paper doesn't
want held
but I need
our dead
I need
our living
I need
to carry them

Qwo-Li Driskill is a non-citizen Cherokee Two-Spirit/Queer poet, performer, and educator also of African, Lenape, Lumbee, and Osage ascent. Their work appears in several collections, including Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice edited by Francisco X. Alarcón and Odilia Galván Rodríguez. They are the author of Walking with Ghosts: Poems, Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory and the co-editor of Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature and Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature. They are an associate professor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies/Queer Studies at Oregon State University.

“⌘ The Pulse of a Rainbow”
By Kai Coggin

You might not think
such a thing exists,
the pulse of a rainbow,
a heartbeat
made of only light
and color,
arches bending across skies,
a vibration that resonates
through time
and space
and history
and place,
but it does exist,
it always has existed,
it always will exist and persist through even this,
the pulse of a rainbow.

It is a quiet pulse,
a rhythm that imbues culture,
fierce and ravishing,
soft butch,
high femme,
blurred gender lines,
bears and queers,
trans and boi and bi,
every shade of a spectrum
that can’t be named by naked eyes,
if only this country could hear the music
we make with our lives,
muted for so long
with the pages of an ancient book
quoted from fundamentalist cherry-picking lips,
muffled for so long
against the bigoted legislations of men,
silenced for so long
amidst the fists and rapid fire bullets of hate,
it is still here.

The pulse.
The pulse.
The pulse.

The pulse of a rainbow,
always a drum,
always a pulse you can recognize
when you see another rainbow on the street, dancing,
and suddenly you dance inside,
you shine brighter,
when you look into the eyes of a stranger
and know the struggle
shares your names,
when you know that this family is thicker than blood
and when that innocent blood is spilled,
you feel it in your heartbeat
skipping with
the loss, the grief, the emptiness
of a rainbow.

49 lives,
one self-loathing homophobic psychopath
opened fire and took 49 lives,
and all the colors of the rainbow
turned to red that night,
no yellow, orange, green, blue, violet,
only red,
red for miles,
red becoming the music,
red becoming bass pumping into now,
red spilling into the 2am Orlando streets,
red becoming the floor, the walls, the building,
red mingling with other reds
until just heaps
lie there in the wake
of one man’s slaughter wet-dream,
a dance floor becomes a sea
of bodies and blood ankle deep,
a tomb, minutes before was a sanctuary,
where does a rainbow go when it dies?

The pulse.
The pulse.
The pulse.

I read the news as it comes in,
the body count growing
from 20 to 50
to 49
because we will not count him
with the innocents,
with the bright faced beautiful souls
extinguished too soon,

and I read of the silence in the dead room
turning into a cacophony of cell phones
ring-singing a song of harmonized panic
from the pockets of the slain,

“pick up the phone”
“baby, please pick up the phone”
“please text me back!”
“did you get out?”
“are you ok?”
“pick up the phone”

“Mommy I love you… I’m going to die.”

The sounds of 49 phones play a chorus of grief,
their interwoven song
becomes the music this new flock of angels can dance to
as they leave their earthly bodies,
rise as souls, still dancing,
always dancing
always laughing, singing,
doing what rainbows do… shine.

The pulse.

I feel it stronger in me this morning,
my heart sick with grief for these strangers
that I know so well,
through the tears somehow
my colors are renewed,
infused with
the vibrant light of them,
their beautiful brown queer skin
making my skin more brown and queer in their names,
the pulse
a drum cry of grief turned power chanting
into the face of a country that does not see us until we die en masse,
a country that hashtags #prayers but votes for bigots,
a country that holds tighter to its guns
than it does its gay children.

The pulse.
The pulse.
The pulse.

And I can’t stop looking at their beautiful young faces,
can’t stop reading the details about their lives,
the 49 holes left in families,
49 love stories with rewritten endings,
a future wedding now a joint funeral,
the mothers,
their families and friends, yes,
but I return to the wailing howl of their mothers,
I think of my mother, how she would bawl a new ocean,

it is raining outside,
it is raining so hard the atmosphere is breaking,
candlelight vigils materialize across the country,
the President orders flags to be flown at half-mast,
(the rainbow flag has always flown at half mast)
bridges and buildings light up with rainbows,
spires of the tallest skyscrapers cut the night,
the Eiffel Tower blasts colors into the sky,
unity through tragedy,
Pride getting prouder,
cries for gun control finally getting louder,
and maybe this is the tipping point
we have been waiting for,
as democrats chant “where’s the bill?”
after a moment of silence
on the House of Representatives floor.

How many more mass graves must we dig
with the blunt end of an AR-15?

The pulse.
The pulse.
The pulse.

I sit here,
safe in my home,
colors burning to write a poem.
I read their 49 names like a mantra,
say them into the air
to make them more real,
shape their beautiful syllables
with my mouth to make their loss more palpable,
repeat them for the infinite
times they will not be said aloud in the years to come,
their names become
a prayer,
a poem,
a dance to every love song ever written

I become the pulse.
We all become the pulse.

The pulse of a rainbow.

Kai Coggin is a former Teacher of the Year turned poet and author living on the side of a small mountain in Hot Springs National Park, AR. She holds a BA in Poetry and Creative Writing from Texas A & M University, and writes poems on love, spiritual striving, body image, injustice, metaphysics and beauty. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Blue Heron Review, Lavender Review, Broad!, The Tattooed Buddha, Split This Rock, Yellow Chair Review, SunStruck Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Snapdragon, ANIMA, Elephant Journal, and many other literary journals and anthologies.

Kai is the author of two full-length collections, PERISCOPE HEART (Swimming with Elephants Publications, 2014) and  WINGSPAN (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016). Her poetry has recently been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Bettering American Poetry 2015.  She teaches an adult creative writing class called Words & Wine, and is also a Teaching Artist with the Arkansas Arts Council, specializing in bringing poetry and creative writing to youth.

Rainbow Sister (for Erelene)
By Susan Deer Cloud

“Pregnant!” Mommy flung her iron at Daddy’s head.
I crawled behind couch, shivered in July heat
steamy as the flying iron, yanked-out cord swishing
like a sperm’s tail. At seven, I’d never witnessed
my mother throw anything before. I picked
my mosquito bite scabs, bled like her red words.
“Keep picking,” she used to warn, “you’ll be
all scars. No man will marry you.” On the surface
she showed no scars. Skin shone pearl. Only
her cheekbones, hair, hinted at the Indian “blood”
she never mentioned, the way I played dumb
when the iron that pressed my dresses into
American Dream-in-pink became a Perseid.
That day I learned how words make this world,
knowing that each night my secret tongue
had prayed for a sister.
Decades later I taste incoming falling stars
on my November tongue. Earth flings her blue
through seedings of Leonid meteorites that won’t
return for another three hundred years. And
my mother? Father? Will they be as shooting stars,
spark my life and sister’s life the way they did before?
That summer I was seven the GE iron my mother
used to smooth out our rumpled, mixed-blood lives
broke. Sister born at snowy midnight, 28 January.
‘Sixties arrived, our lives intertwining with war,
civil protest, Day-Glo hope. “Erelene, Erelene,”
I’d chant her name that was our grandmother’s name,
rock her on playground swings, sing to her as we soared
closer to Catskill mountain tops, “The answer, my friend,
is blowin’ in the wind” blowing across Willowemoc
and trailing tractor trailers tornado-ing down
Route 17 to places my dreams ached to go.
Little Sister Erelene, you whose friends call you
Pearl as if they see how our mother’s skin shone
with underwater light … today I pray for you
in another way as I float across University campus
with this knapsack of memories tattooing my back.
Today I chant for you and all like you when I behold
a sacred circle of two-spirited protestors raising
their voices against hate words spitting the “gay”
are sick, wrong, should not exist. Today I grin
in autumn sunlight, feeling a 1960’s wind
blowing across the protestors’ rivering hair
and rainbow faces. I remember how we
were forced to be silent, because we were Indian …
because we were girls … because we were poor …
were poets, were rebels … because you were gay.
“I’m afraid, afraid, afraid,” I could hear your
whispers echo my own. Today my face marked
by my mother’s tomahawk blade cheekbones
blossoms out into pearls of sound.
That summer I was seven Mommy smashed
her steam iron against living room wall. I picked
my scabs and Who knows? Maybe I should have
picked at them more so no man would ever
marry me. Maybe I should have cut my pink
dresses up into pink triangles. Erelene, I always
wondered why you were the gay one, not me …
both tomboys, both preferred to gallop bareback
as wild horses, preferred pants to dresses,
naked feet to shoes. We climbed high
in the apple trees … stole golden apples
instead of playing house, crayoned our dolls
in what we thought were Blackfeet war designs.
Oh, Little Sister Erelene, Pearl of my heart
blistered into sorrow at all the hate in this world,
dreaming you is what taught me how words
create this life. Oh, iris-eyed Sister and all
sisters and brothers of the rainbow, today I am
round dancing with my knapsack stuffed
with memories of silence, of how hate
can petrify anyone into a wooden Indian.
Today I offer up my prayer, again, chant
for you, for me, for us in this answering wind.

Published in literary journal, CHIRON REVIEW ....
& in my book, HUNGER MOON (Shabda Press)

When she isn’t roving, Susan Deer Cloud, a mixed lineage Catskill Mountain Indian, dwells in her “heart country” with foxes, black bears, bald eagles, great blue herons, and the ghosts of panthers and ancestors. She went to university once but soared past its square walls into the universe of sacred hoop stars and Manitou dawn mists. Published widely, her next book is Before Language (Shabda Press, forthcoming in July 2016). She is so excited about it! Deer Cloud takes pride in her beautiful gay friends and family members, including her artistic, musical, free-spirited sister, Erelene. “Rainbow Sister” is one among many poems she has written to honor and celebrate the two-spirited ones.

“FOR THE BIRDS” for Habib
By Michael Rothenberg

Today is a big day for the birds to come calling
Ask that hawk who won’t leave the quiet morning alone
Between cypress and live oak, a high scree describes dominion
Even the cuckoo clock in the kitchen has something to say
Today is a big day for the birds to come calling
And I love the world so much I can only listen

Michael Rothenberg is publisher of the online literary magazine Big Bridge,, co-founder of 100 Thousand Poets for Change,, and co-founder of Poets In Need, a non-profit 501c3, assisting poets in crisis. His most recent books include Indefinite Detention: A Dog Story (Ekstasis Editions-Canada/ Shabda Press-USA) and Sapodilla (Editions du Cygne-Swan World, Paris, France, 2016). A collection of his poetic journals, Drawing The Shade, will be published by Dos Madres Press in 2016. A Spanish/English edition of Indefinite Detention: A Dog Story, and the poetic journal collection, Tally Ho and the Cowboy Dream/The Real and False Journals: Book 5 are scheduled for publication in 2017 by Varasek Ediciones (Madrid, Spain).

The Gathering
By Julieta Corpus

A Crescent Gibbous moon
Witnessed the love. Hands
Intertwined, raised, as an offering,
In a tender, but powerful display
Of solidarity.
Each of us a fragile thread
In the universal fabric.
Each of us a beating heart
Beneath this blue dome.
Each of us a vital artery,
Each of us an essential limb,
Each of us an exhalation,
Each of us a living prayer,
Each of us a warm embrace,
Each of us an encouraging word,
Each of us a worn out throat
Howling fifty names
That must never be forgotten.

Julieta Corpus, born during Hurricane Beulah, left her belly button in Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, México. She started writing poetry at eleven years old, drawing loads of inspiration from Mexican soap operas, romantic paperbacks, and heart-wrenching ballads from the 70's and 80's. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, such as Tendiendo Puentes, The University of Texas Pan American Gallery Magazine, Interstice, Tierra Firme, The Mesquite Review, and The Monitor’s Writer’s Edition: Festiba.  Julieta has also participated in the Valley International Poetry Festival for five years in a row, and her poems are included in each the festival's anthologies. In 2009, she was invited to participate in FELISMA, an annual book fair in San Miguel Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.

In 2013, Julieta recorded a compact disc titled, Corazón Parlante that included twelve original love poems with musical background provided by local musician, Mario Mora, guitarist for Dulce Tóxico. Never one to rest on her laurels, she actively pursues poetic happenings in her community. This has led to hosting poetry readings throughout the valley. Currently, she emcees a monthly open mic at The Prelude in the city of Harlingen, Texas. Recently, she volunteered her services to conduct a weekly poetry workshop with Vidas Cruzadas, a group of women at El Milagro Clinic. Julieta Corpus successfully completed her MFA titled "If This Heart Had a Mouth" at UTRGV in May 2016 and plans to never stop writing, reading, teaching, and dreaming POETRY.