Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Guest Columnist: Edith M Vásquez on Rigoberto González. On-Line Floricanto: Poets Respond to Arizona Racists

Amor, Amorphous Amor: On Poems, Sex and Power
In Other Fugitives and Other Strangers by Rigoberto González

Edith M. Vásquez

Editor's note: La Bloga has semi-regularly linked or featured poet and scholar Rigoberto González' literary critiques, most recently his review of Calaca Press' Chicas Patas Sci-Fi title, Lunar Braceros (a worthwhile title reviewed in February by Michael Sedano). Today, La Bloga's Guest Columnist, Edith M. Vásquez, conducts a critical tour of Mr. González' work. Ms. Vásquez' poem, "To The Poets," was included in a recent On-Line Floricanto.

Disrupting symmetry: the key
to the art of conquering

a lover. Take exactitude and
distort its vain


In ancient myth, Chaos and Eros are closely aligned figures. These lines, drawn from the poem, “Vanquishing Act,” by Rigoberto González call for the disordering of an as- seemingly-permanent value as that of symmetry, in an argument of love as agile potency against compulsory and preordained order. Throughout his Other Fugitives and Other Strangers, (Tupelo Press, 2006) González foregrounds male erotica through a lyric expansion leading ever more deeply into newly broached recesses of the loved body; here conquest is a countering of form, and form is a responsive if seduced lover. Cutting, biting, and probing the body of the lover is represented as a breakage of form--the release of order permitted therewith supplies new poetic material, and new shapes can be appraised.

The power of love—as physical pact or emotional bond—may injure and or please. Conquest entails some rearranging of power as the sexual positions do also create a necessary giver and taker often. Remarking on the potential of abusive power in sex, the speaker of the opening poem, “Good Boy” queries his own progression into the darker forces of sexual relations; the poem dramatizes the experienced lover’s inquiring gaze fixed on a photo of him as a ten-year old child. Meditating on his maturation from apparent innocent to practiced lover, the speaker poses a series of questions, among them: “Wasn’t I a good boy once?” and “How do you explain this/ strange ability to inflict pain?”

A juxtaposition of innocence and experience draws a contrast between nascent and certain lover through sound, color, and age. Youth is described as “a laugh/so clean,” is compared to a “white sheet,” and is recorded as “those high-pitched sounds.” On the other hand, maturation is “rust in my throat,” and it signifies that the child he once was “is lost in the stomach” and has dissolved “like any other/color.” These queries and comparisons culminate in one possibility, thus the assertion: “I must have been the changeling matured/ now longing for things that blister/ and boil.” Nowhere does it appear that there is early evidence of the hungering adult lover within the ten-year-old boy, yet “I must have ingested hatred/through the spoons of my childhood.”

Already even the shape of the child in the photo converts to something new, and a composite—a child/man. The grown male lover recaptures what is within him, that child who spoke with the “contagious note of a two-finger bell.” While the adult lover finds yearning for pain in sex, perhaps, this is a desire for change of form. Change of form brings playful reinvention even if it voyages through pain, physical and intimate. Near the end of the poem, the desire for the pleasures and the pains of love seem to lead back to such playfulness and even to mischief, so that the poem’s enactment of savage love quiets into an “intentional act.” The lover finds an erotic partner in a scene of sexual engagement hallowed by a correspondence drawn between the lover’s open white mouth and the moon; the moon also appears in two other poems of Part I, “Point it Out” and “In Praise of the Mouth,” where it appears to consecrate love and sexual aggression between masculine lovers.

When certain, love occasions sacred and profane instances contained within a form of lyrical and seminal largess. Through the medium of language and more so in poetic passages that transmit the histories of love and of love’s violence, the poet details the wounded and pleasured zones and pathways of the body erotic. Often, sexual penetration is envisioned as incision particularly in poems belonging to Part I of the book: in “Scar,” “The Balloon Artist,” “Point it Out,” “Of Despots and Deities,” union is likened to the cutting of flesh. Part I also focuses on aspects of doubling. In poems such as “Of Despots and Deities,” “Sweet Somnambulist,” “My Crush on the Crisis Counselor,” “Neurotic Double,” and “Dear Dead Lover, “ the lover/poet is poised as doppelganger. These are impressive works which lead into the repopulating of the self and the breakage of the individualization of epistemology, Multiple identities may be drawn together through sex acts; sexuality offers a forum for adaptations of form and identity here. These poetic formulae will lead in Part II to deeper yet breakages of form, and in Part III, to breakages with authority. For example, in “Vanquishing Act,” a poetic treatise and erotic dismemberment are fused in a metapoetic composition, a tour de force, the poet remarks on what he has constructed as a body poetic/body erotic. With the dismantling of the lover’s body here—not un-Christ-like by far—power becomes the central theme. Destabilizing the power of patriarchy, church, and intoning a form of lovemaking which extends to the world of the dead perhaps speaks of Indigenous Mexican philosophies on death Death, like sex, is the ultimate shape changer.

Other Fugitives and Other Strangers, the second full volume of poems by González may be one of the most provocative books in terms of its sexual politics and its other politics of our decade long 21st Century. Divided into three parts and gathering poems published in nearly twenty different literary periodicals, this book removes the waxy seals of the most confidential of belles letres: an athletic and often racialized, same sex male love where rules of engagement are codified through a form of personal liberation won or retaken from the authorities--church, society, heteronorms, biological family, cultural tradition, labor and race segmentation.

In narrative form González measures and describes these authorities from the position of an apparent impotency converted into agency and without the positivistic romance normally associated with the so-called “uplift” framework of ascendant character development. Butterfly Boy: Memoir of a Chicano Mariposa depicts the fecundity of the author’s creative powers evident in his search for a just and accurate self-fulfillment. Already as a young adult and first-generation college student, he is committed to self-representation and determined to define himself in a manner pleasing and productive to his life as a writer. His ability to advance his literary efforts even in times of great personal turmoil such as after a violent episode with an older lover is one aspect of artistic courage as truth and power.

González’s creative and biographical trajectory posits a theory of the subject/artist/author as a focal point for self-definition through literature and its many resources for the imaginative, social, and public declaration of individual discipline, of writing as manifesto, and as no doubt a martyr or angel. Eventually, it would appear, the poet is willing to commune with the world of readers by becoming an object of potential scrutiny or curiosity for he speaks on behalf of intimacy, a place of submission and a place of surrender. In order to enter the position of object, González scales the walls of society by converting reality into an entryway to the self. Beginning with the most intimate of places, the poet questions the familial bond for it is the palimpsest of social organization: the poet’s origin is his first proscenium.

At home and within the domain of family life, his eloquence draws its boldness from an immersion in a lively Mexican vernacular language which he prizes yet which he also recognizes as the ironic lovely oral communication facilitated in especial ways by illiteracy. Many an isolation-inducing experience for the young writer occur in the autobiography: his impressive verbal and intellectual potential exists precariously in an environment of farmwork labor, poverty, and sensual, emotional, and aesthetic deprivation, as well as uneven gender norms and an implicit heternormativity. In the memoir, he is nothing less than the cherub to whom Ginsberg referred when the venerable late author of “Howl” spoke of those lost ones who emit angelic ravings. He is one of the would-be “best minds” of this generation. But he is not raving mad nor is he one of those lost or defeated ones ultimately. Love and erotic love save him. So it is that “Other Fugitives and Other Strangers” records this testament to love. Everywhere in these poems, the body of love radiates its presence in the proportions of a deity.

Edith Morris-Vasquez is a researcher, writer, and teacher. She publishes in several fields including poetry, women's studies, translation, and civil and worker's rights. While trained in the humanities, she specializes in teaching creative and research skills to students of all backgrounds. As an interdisciplinary scholar, her interests reach into the social sciences, art practice, and communication. She dedicates the poem, "To the Poets/ A los Poetas," to the literati who have always committed their verbal talents to the goal of bolstering society against incivility, racial animosity, and segregation. Que Vivan los Poetas Siempre!

On-Line FLoricanto: Poets Respond to Arizona Legislature's Spiritual Putrefaction

Selected poems for the July 6th issue of La Bloga:

1."A Ceremony for Reclaiming Language" and "Love Poem, After Arizona" by Qwo-Li Driskill
2. "A Perfect Rest" by Daniel Sosa
3. "One Earth, One Kind" by Ariana Hernández
4. "Diferente" by Flora Gamez Gratero
5. "In the shade of the shadows" Miguel Robles
6. "How Coyote Became Legal" (Narrative) by Vito Tribuzio
7. "Marcha en Phoenix (May 29, 2010)" por Luis Jiménez


especially for Casie Cobos and Gabriela Ríos

Qwo-Li Driskill

our homelands remember us
they raise themselves up
to mend our tongues
remove fingers of conquistadors and
governors from bruised necks

as you enter
into this ceremony
breathe phrases
like copal smoke
let syllables strengthen
your blood like nopales
wear words
around your throat
a gift of turquoise and gold

we are here to become elders
and ancestors that teach
our children to
heal the world

as you enter into this ceremony
say a prayer
offer tobacco
remember each morning
we enter into spinning
light of a galaxy that
loves us

hidden words will sprout
in your dreams
like maíz opening
into the rich brown soil
of Anáhuac

as you enter into this ceremony
mourn for what was stolen
smuggle your tongue
across their imaginary border
and laugh
let this language suture
your heart

each word whispers
a story
through your lips
weaves a basket
that carries
a mending

A Perfect Rest

By Daniel Sosa

Phoenix surrounded
and a contraction of
faithful into the city
pumps out the blood of our movement
a march enriched with words and songs
flowing through streets
delivering energy

the next week a different city
a signal for the others of us
same movement inward
purposed to match our might
their beat supplying the breath
for chants and shouts
to inspire

listen closely
the heart beat of our struggle
this side works that side rests
this side rests that side works

across our land
our cause repeating
our strength going forward
healthy and strong

a rest in between
needed for an endless struggle
the rest at home with family and friends
love and encouragement
renewed for our next move

this rest
a perfect rest
for a worthy effort

we will never be stilled
with a heart that never stops.


By Ariana Hernández

As I sore above, stare down below
Speckles, dots, of city lights glow
I only see a whole, an ongoing piece of land
Designed for the freedom of humanity
But divided by man
We are all human, a single living race
We don't own the land, mother nature loaned us this space
Everyone should fly to see my realization
You see no borders, no segregation
Or maybe, they should not try
They might just end up putting boundaries to my sky

I wrote this poem on my way to Mexico when I was on the plane. I started thinking about what the Mexican astronaut that recently went to space said and i felt inspired. They asked him how he felt once he was out in space and he said that from up there you dont see borders, you just see one earth. When I was on the plane, looking down made me see his realization.


By Flora Gamez Grateron

we enter the classroom
we are
a sprinkle of nut brown faces
open and expectant, awaiting
our turn and poised to learn

we are
glossy hair in similar shades of ebony
dark copper eyes, wide eyed,
sensitive as a doe’s

we are
filled with wonder and hope
dreams and expectations
capable fingers and hands

we are
Ramón, Luis, Jorge, Jaime, Topacio
Miguel, Yazmeen, Yarima

we are not invisible
our names not difficult to pronounce
can’t you at least try?

It’s Juliana – not Julie
It’s Ramón – not Raymond

we have an answer, too
why not call on us?
we think in two languages –
not just one

we listen in the first
respond in the second
double the effort
but it can be done

We are not just taking up space

we are real people
we can do everything
and in two languages – not one.

In the Shade of the Shadows

By Miguel Robles

He is always walking toward somewhere
shrouded in a veil of mystery
from the vapor of the shaman’s breath
creating the aura of a hero
shape-shifting him each moment
into rabbit duck wolf
spider and vulture

With a lean face
he walks erect
head held high
hands poised for any provocation

It is possible for him to hear the flutter of a wasp’s wings
the slightest sound might make him leap from a cliff
plunging in an overdose of adrenaline
the wall smashed in a single attack

He eats snakes
without a knife and fork
no tortilla
no chile

He sleeps on the grass
cactus bless him in passing
rocks in the path part for him
the eagles envy his advantageous view
how he can perceive paradise from so far away
the promised land

He is aware that the world is changing
so every moment he adapts
to a different climate
another language

If he hears footsteps he sits in the shade of the shadows
to wait until night falls
when he can disappear on trails of oblivion

He has nothing to lose
but can’t waste time
he is in a hurry
needing to get there before the dream is depleted
by the anxiety of other anonymous beings
who have arrived before him
to swing in the hammock of illusion


A la Sombra de las Sombras
Translated by the Poet Virginia Barrett.

Siempre va a hacia algún lugar
cubierto por un velo de misterio
por un vaho de chaman
que le produce un aura de héroe
que lo transforma a cada instante
en un conejo en pato en lobo
en una araña y un zopilote

De rostro enjuto
camina erguido
con la frente en alto
con las manos prestas a la menor provocación

A gran distancia podría escuchar el aleteo de una avispa
el menor sonido
lo haría saltar al precipicio
caer en una sobredosis de adrenalina
romper un muro de una acometida

Come serpientes
sin cubiertos
sin tortilla
sin chile

Duerme en el pasto
los cactus lo bendicen al pasar
los piedras del camino le abren paso
los águilas envidian su vista privilegiada
que a leguas puede distinguir el paraíso
la tierra prometida

Intuye que el mundo está cambiando
y a cada instante se adapta
a un clima diferente
otras lenguas

Si escucha pasos se sienta a la sombra de las sombras
a esperar a que la noche caiga
y le permita desaparecer por los caminos del olvido

No tiene nada que perder
pero no puede perder el tiempo
anda de prisa
tiene que llegar antes de que el sueño sea agotado
por la ansiedad de otros entes anónimos
que llegaron antes que él
a mecerse en la hamaca de la ilusión

How Coyote Became Legal

by Vito Tribuzio

Doña Juana Ines Coyote rubbed her belly as she served supper, arroz salvaje y caldo de pollo she’d made with the necks, feet and backs her husband wrestled from Don Hawk Falcone de Halcón, and with a smile she reminded Don Coyote about the promises he’d made when he proposed: “I will shower you with fresh whole chickens day and night.”

But that was before the oil spill, when everybody was eating more pescado and less meat. With no decent mariscos to be found, bony chicken parts had become Sunday dinner; that is, if, and only if, one could afford to be that extravagant.

Now Coyote could no longer eat; he lost his appetite knowing that he had been partly responsible for his preciosa esposa’s misery. Juana never warmed up to Aguas Calientes, disliked Jalisco because of the scorpions, and had been having a hard time communicating with some of the locals, even though she could howl in Spanish very well. No, Mexico was not for her, as she missed the brick casita her padres owned in the North Country prior to being deported, and she had always been wishing her marido would come through with what he promised, that he would one day take her back to the Land of Illini, also known as the Land of Slaughter, now known as the Land of Lincoln.

He remembered a story his father told him, something about treaties that pushed his kind southward when foreign animals came and began to pee on everything they wanted to own. Yes, he remembered hearing that north of the border the streets were paved with chickens—I mean, we’re talking about real chickens, big chickens—with the fattest ones being on Wall Street.

“But…but…how do I cross the border?” Don Coyote asked himself, and himself replied: “Very carefully, because the pinche BP Agents will shoot at anything that moves, even at the water that trickles in the Rio Grande.”

Thus Don Coyote sallied forth, strutting across the Desert of Big Sound with nothing to alleviate his hunger and quench his thirst but some peyote he had found along the way. “If only I had brought some romero and Adobo,” Don Coyote mused as he bit into the peyote, “this crap would taste like pollo.” He sighed and sang “curu-cucu-cucu, paloma!” envisioning a fat dove alighting within snatching distance, but the Sonora Spirit told him not to eat it because one should not eat an omen of peace. Thus, Don Coyote was denied even the pleasure of virtual eating-ayy!

A day later, as Don Coyote loped along, singing “Volver, Volver” with all the lamento of a just-castrated mariachi, he heard “Manos en alto! Where you think you’re going, perro maldito? Got papers?”

“I don’t have any papers,” Don Coyote explained, “I didn’t have time to wait around for papers. My expecting wife is hungry and I need to get to Wall Street ahora mismo so that I can earn some chicken for pup-support when she gives birth.”

“Okay,” said one of the guards, “then shows us the oil!”

“Oil?” Don Coyote puzzled.

“Yes,” replied the guard, “dinero to grease your way in. If you have no money, a couple of kilos of good quality cha-chun-sha will do—that’s the way we do things around here.”

“I’m not a drug dealer,” said Don Coyote, “and anyway, I think all animals on the continent should be able to cross borders with a simple document identifying them as North American nationals, of any nation on the continent, I should add.”

“Shee-it, dog!” said one of the guards, “I like the jive the ol’ dog’s talkin’—pretty good idea. You should write to the White House—yessur.”

“But as things stand now,” said the other guard, a man with blond hair and blue eyes, “we can’t let you in—sorry—strict orders from Doña Diabla of Arizona. Now git, before my pistola goes off accidentally.”

So, Don Coyote went back home and wrote a letter, addressing it to the Casa Blanca. A week later he received a reply informing him that the film studio that made Casablanca was no longer functional. Feeling frustrated, he went back to the desert, to intentionally feed on peyote this time—ayy! There he met Red Fox Volpe Rossa de Zorro who told him everything he knew about American red tape, catch-22, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, big hijos de putas—ayy!

But Don Coyote’s eyes lit up when Don Eagle Aquila de Águila came around with a fly-by message: “Something should be done about that oil spill.”

For days, everybody wondered why Don Coyote had been going to and from the seashore, carrying oily sludge and any crude he found, dumping it in a hole he had dug in his backyard. Soon the media showed up and they reported that crude was bubbling in Don Coyote’s backyard—ayy! Before Don Coyote could say “ayy!” again, a bunch of people showed up, offering him multimillion chicken contracts to extract the non-existing crude.

But, as the saying goes, those who find a treasure also find many new friends. Soon, Don Coyote was given the key to many cities by many good mayors; and, a Hollywood studio offered him a part in a movie, and, Salma Hayek became good friends with the Coyotes and officiated as madrina of their pups—ayy-ayy-ayy, Salma!! Then Don Coyote learned that his new friends in Washington, DC were interested in hearing his idea concerning the Immigration Law, the Dream Act, and many other whatnots and etceteras. Furthermore, Big Oil forgave him for the hoax he had pulled, claiming that this is the way we do things in America, and made him an honorary Washington lobbyist.

“Speech, speech!” White House guests demanded. Don Coyote obliged and the crowd cheered. Many moved from left to right and from right to left, some nodded in agreement, others nodded to sleep—ayy! Midway through his speech, all eyes turned to a giant TV screen: “Breaking news: a mushroom cloud is rising over Arizona—seems Doña Diabla’s head has finally exploded.” Ayy!!!

Marcha en Phoenix (May 29, 2010)

Luis Jiménez

La televisión parpadea las imágenes

Es nuestra voz que serpentea por las calles,
sin importarle el peso cobrizo del sol,
sin limitarse al sabor oficial del inglés
y ni siquiera al rojo del español.
que se viste con el resplandor de mil banderas,
y el sueño asueto donde no caben fronteras.

Es el eco que viene clamando la frustración con la que vivimos,
de no entender como sus vecinos,
optaron por esa realidad inventada,
donde el odio nos culpa de haber robado un ayer que nunca existió,
y pretende un presente que no tiene nada que ver con éste.

Lo que nos tomó meses,
Las cámaras apenas le dedicaron segundos.
Y si ahora entiendes menos que antes,
No tienes con que culparnos a nosotros,
Que antes que nada yo te dijera
que es dificil cuando te ufanas
de llevar tu ignorancia como trinchera.


1."A Ceremony for Reclaiming Language" and "Love Poem, After Arizona" by Qwo-Li DriskillQwo-Li Driskill is a Cherokee Two-Spirit writer/activist/performer/educator and the author of Walking with Ghosts: Poems (Salt Publishing). Qwo-Li is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Texas A&M University. dragonflyrising.com

2. "A Perfect Rest" by Daniel SosaDaniel Sosa
Married to Lorilita Sosa
Father of two daughters
Grandfather of three grandchildren
Active 36 year telecommunications field technician
Resident of Long Beach,Ca

3. "One Earth, One Kind" by Ariana Hernández
Ariana Hernandez is a young adult form the Bay Area. Not only is she a first generation United States citizen, but a first generation college student as well. Ariana has written poetry for recreation since her sophomore year in high school. The inspiration for this poem came from the reply that Jose Hernandez, the first Mexican astronaut, gave after he was asked about his feeling while being in space. He said that looking down on the earth, you see no borders, just one earth. As Ariana was on a plane to Mexico, she realized his observation was true. She is currently a second year at the University of California Davis and is majoring in Chicano Studies with a cultural emphasis. Along with several peers, Ariana is working on starting an organization called A.C.T.O.S., Ayudando Comunidades Trayendo Oportunidades y Servicios. With this organization, they plan to perform several community projects, focusing on brining empowerment to the Latino community in the areas surrounding Davis, Ca.

4. "Diferente" by Flora Gamez Gratero
Flora Gamez Grateron is an English/Language Arts educator for the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. Flora is a member of Community Stories and works with a mostly Hispanic population of students who create and narrate digital stories on the history, culture, and identity of community members. She belongs to the Sowing the Seeds writers group who is currently working on an anthology by women writers. Her poems have been published in the Blue Guitar Magazine of the Arizona Consortium for the Arts. Born in Texas, Arizona has now become home. Contact her at floragrateron@comcast.net

5. "In the shade of the shadows" Miguel RoblesBorn and raised in Mexico City, he studied art history, silversmithing, and creative writing in the city of Morelia in the state of Michoacán. Since a young age he has worked a wide range of jobs including bookseller, factory worker on the Mexican/U.S. border, and public transportation bus dispatcher. Artisan, poet, and activist, he has lived in diverse environments, residing in San Francisco since 2002.

You can order his collection, "At 24th and Mission" here.

Nació y creció en la Ciudad de México, estudio historia del arte, orfebrería y creación literaria en Morelia Michoacán. Desde muy joven trabajo en los mas variados oficios, desde vender libros de ciencias políticas y literatura, hasta trabajar en maquiladoras de la frontera México/EEUU, y despachar
autobuses de transporte publico. Habiendo vivido en los ambientes y lugares mas disímiles. Artesano, poeta y activista, desde 2002, radica en San Francisco, California.

6. "How Coyote Became Legal" (Narrative) by Vito Tribuzio
Construction worker, storyteller, poet, humor columnist, Vito Tribuzio is an Italian emigrant who was brought to the US by his Argentine-Italian parents when he was sixteen. His works have appeared in e-zines, local literary magazines, school publications and bimonthly newspapers, often under the pseudonym Vincenzo del Silenzio. He presently lives near family and friends in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

7. "Marcha en Phoenix (May 29, 2010)" por Luis Jiménez

Luis is a visiting professor of Political Science at Mount Holyoke. He received a BA and MA from the University of Arizona. He grew up just northwest of Phoenix.

1 comment:

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