Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow Update. On-Line Floricanto Aug31

floricanto graphic ©magu
Plan now to attend all three days of Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow on the USC campus September 15-17. The schedule packs each day with a constantly advancing roster of writers reading their own work.

The free, three-day literary event brings nearly fifty poets and fiction writers to Doheny Memorial Library Friends Lecture Hall. Wednesday and Thursday the first reading is at 1:00 p.m. Friday's readings start at 10:00 a.m.

Wednesday's capstone event features the father-son team of Jose Montoya and Richard Montoya. Thursday's capstone event features "Celebrando Chicana Poetry: Diana Garcia, Maria Melendez, Emmy Pérez." The reading is sponsored by University of Notre Dame's Letras Latinas in partnership with the Poetry Society of America.

Friday brings an early highlight, a special presentation at 11:45 by Juan Felipe Herrera, of the UCR Tomás Rivera Lifetime Pioneer Award to Cuca Aguirre. Friday culminates with a closing reception for the festival and opening of a photographic display featuring Michael Sedano's 1973 photographs, Sueños by the Sea: Celebrating Los Festivales de Flor y Canto.

Parking will be tight Wednesday, but this veteranas veteranos day is not to be skipped. Consider the bus.

Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow

Here is a pair of fotos illustrating two pauses. Alurista savoring the moment in 1973, Alurista savoring another moment in 2010. Still making poetry. This portrait comes from a reading at Highland Park's Avenue 50 Studio and its monthly poetry reading, Palabra. The reading is part of a commemoration observing the 40th year since the Chicano Moratorium march.

Alurista reads Wednesday, September 15 at 5:15 p.m. at Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow.

For additional fotos of Palabra's Sunday reading--there are quite a number of effective portraits--if you are a Facebook user, click here.

On-Line Floricanto. Poets Respond to Arizona Hate Laws

Francisco Alarcón, who reads at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday September 16, does La Bloga the service of sending a list of the week's outstanding submissions to the popular poetry website Poets Responding to SB1070. Francisco then recruits mugshots and biographical statements from each poet. He works with a team of moderators who nominate the line-up for La Bloga's weekly On-Line Floricanto.

1. “The B Word" by Arnoldo García
2. "A Story from Phoenix" by Lee Marie Sanchez
3. "Legally Dead" by Hilton Obenzinger
4. "Jan B" by Arlene Biala
5. “Mi Viaje a Los Estados Unidos," J.T.
6. “On God” by Stay True
7. "Immigrants" by Gail Bornfield

The B Word

by Arnoldo Garcia

Freedom does not ask for a visa.
Justice doesn't need a passport.
Human rights are our only borders, our only country, our only security, our only nationality.

Human rights is the color of our skin,
the pleasure of our bodies,
the place where class does not matter,
where class begins and begins to end,
where clean air, water and soil conspire with us,
where the natural world takes over
and we take our place in the web of life called
time, space, cosmos, universe, the Milky Way, la Vía Lactea.

In community and through communities,
can our words and actions for a different, more just, fair world not only make sense but also stand up and start walking?

Everyone is
a border brother,
a border sister;
you carry the border wherever you go.
The border follows us wherever we go:

There's the 1492 border, the mother of all borders that we know.

Racial slavery began in 1492, when a small group of white men thought they could own the world and whoever lived there by declaring it so, by declaring it theirs.

There's the landing of the Plymouth Rock border.
Malcolm X was right: "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on of us."

There's the 1776 border; the 1848 border; the 1865 border; the 1880 Chinese Exclusion border; the 1890 Wounded Knee border; the 1905 border of White Gentleman's Agreement border to keep Japanese and Asians out.

The 1905, 1910, 1917 revolutionary borders when czars everywhere were overthrown and Bolsheviks, Zapatistas and Villistas called for new human borders everywhere

The 1492 border showed up again as World War I.
The 1929 crash border that brought us World War II crushed humanity with hunger and desperation of their borders;
The 1936 Spanish Civil War border that called for internationalists to cross and double-cross all borders.
The 1939 border of running over everyone and everything with tanks, storm troopers, blitzkriegs and concentration camps for our border brothers and sisters.

The Soviet Union and the U.S.A. had their own brand of forced laborers,
braceros are braceros regardless of who's in charge of the border.

The Nazi-Fascist borders paled in comparison with the Nagasaki-Hiroshima atomic bomb borders.

Capitalism's 1492 borders made full circle when they ended World War II.

The Jim Crow borders,
the maquiladora borders,
the bracero borders,
the military-industrial complexion borders.

The military industrial complexion? Whiteness.
For those who think that race, color without class analysis is poor,
they have yet to learn that if you aren't color-conscious your class consciousness will be white, Eurocentric, ignoring more than 95% of world history and the movements for liberation, land, justice and humanity.

Because when I say border, I am saying Europe, I am uttering Christopher Colombus, I am raising fists against colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, empires, I am speaking in silenced languages, disappeared peoples, destroyed natural worlds,

Color is class
the darker colors the darker and lower you find yourself in the working classes,
the poorest are darkest,
Indigenous peoples, Africans, mestizos, Asians, Arabs, Muslims, Mexicans, Salvadorans, Mayan, Lakota, Tohono O'odham, Yaqui...

When you see us
you see the landless,
the perennially sub and unemployed,
the homeless (but not without a homeland, even if it is the perenially imaginary Aztlan),
we who have no representative in Congress, have never had one in the White House.
We who have been thrown off their lands,
treated as strangers,
as minors incapable of determining their own dreams,
experimented on with small gifts of small-pox,
poisoned with diseases,
cast off,
put in reservations,
and migrant labor camps

In Mexico, Meso-America, Canada, France, England, Spain, Nicaragua, Cuba, and elsewhere, the history of the struggles for freedom are inscribed, tattooed, branded, insinuated, instructed, breathing through our pores, in our pigmentation.

This is the pigment of our imagination.
For poor and working class whites, their whiteness is aspiration to and sentinel of power and powerlessness to keep the darker brothers and sisters down.

Every border since 1492 has been imposed to quash the natural world and our place in her.

Every border has been used to impose a redefinition, a refinement of whiteness.

Tonight I take back their words and erase their presence,
erase their violent system of conquest, occupation and spiritual deceit;

Resurrect the Tainos, the Caribes, the Haitís, the guajiros, they who welcomed lost strangers, fed them, gave them fresh water, nourished them back to health – and lost everything for it.

Tonight let our borders sleep together, gestate, dream, make love together.

My border is
my skin
my ancestral skeleton
walking across fields
and waiting on street corners for work

Let the cosmos with its biggest bang pull apart the 1492 borders,
until they burst in the sixth sun,
scattered without redemption or hope.

Leave us behind in the MesoCosmos of our borders,
our lives to till the stars
and regain our place in the natural world ...


Below is a letter written by the Reverend Lee Marie Sanchez to her congregation, the UU Church in Anaheim, about her experiences in Phoenix.

A Story from Phoenix

by Lee Marie Sanchez

August 9, 2010

Dear UUCA'ers ~

Dawn Usher and I were released from jail today after spending about 30 hours in Joe Arpaio's dungeon. . . otherwise named the Maricopa County Jail. We were arrested after taking part in a Civil Disobedience action at a huge intersection outside of Arpaio's office at Cesar Chavez Park.

This experience is beyond my words to describe it. We began the morning at 2 am to be at a prayer vigil with people who had been praying and fasting for 104 days. We marched to Trinity Episcopal Church for a huge and inspirational interfaith and bilingual worship service.

Then we walked a couple more miles where we joined with about 30 other protesters from Puente and other local organizations but of which about half were Unitarian Universalists. Dawn and I had taken hours of training the night before but nothing could prepare for what happened. We marched in a solid square of human beings into the intersection where we were met with police in riot gear. The scene was like something from a movie -- literally thousands of supporters massed down the boulevard and hundreds of Phoenix police surrounding us, asking us to move. We did not comply. The sound was really deafening as after about a half hour of our peaceful, but loud, chanting, singing and speaking, the police moved in to tell us that we would be arrested.

I have to give the Phoenix police credit as they made every effort to be polite and helpful as they unlinked our arms and handcuffed us, taking all our valuables and putting us into police vans.

We were taken to the Maricopa Sheriff Jail and, while I was given what I felt was some special attention as I was wearing my clergy shirt and collar, I am an older woman and I am white; not everyone was treated this way. Some experienced rough and rude handling.

When we arrived we were taken out of the vans, then placed back in as our UU President Peter Morales and Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Church of Phoenix, along with Puente people and other UU ministers, moved in to block the jail entrance. We watched in horror as the sheriffs inside the belly of the beast prepared in riot gear, shields at the ready, and tear gas canisters in hand, scrambled to counter. Everything broke loose, it was angry, crazy, chaos, controlled by the overwhelming police force. Drums were beating, people yelling...like a movie scene.

I will tell you more about the actual jail experience later. For now, let me say it was horrendous. We occupied several cells, mostly UUs by this time, men in some and women in about three. We had the lights on for 24 hours, were watched by men and women guards constantly, no clocks, not enough of the cinder block seating for all of us. When we tried to sleep it was without blankets or pillows right down on the hard, cold floor! Yes, on the floor, but not everyone could even lay down, some stood.

We were joined by several women from the general jail population, as well as Puente women. We sang, chanted, tried to share the cramped space, used an open-to-view toilet and were constantly moved from cell to cell to disorient us. Our only food was peanut butter, oranges, packaged cookies and a little bottle of sugary drink.. NO cups for the water in the sink. The 2 phones usually did not work and we had no idea what time it was or what was happening. We were "awoken" (the few who slept) at approx 2 am for our cells to be cleaned & we moved again.

That night the UUs and Puente and others held a prayer vigil outside the jail and we could hear the drum beats outside the thick walls. The next day after hours more of "processing" we were released.

I hope never to experience such an inhumane and humiliating experience again. Dawn and I now have a police record, we have pleaded not guilty and have an August court date to return to AZ. More later...

Tomorrow we need to keep collecting our gear which was all over as we were not allowed to have ANYTHING in the jail. There are more actions planned. Right now as I type this Dawn & I are completely exhausted after 2 days with no sleep and a terrible jail experience, but our feelings of deep commitment along with the friends we made with women of many colors & faiths has left us with a feeling that nothing will ever again...

~ Standing on the Side of Love,
feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude, & with more stories to tell about our shared experiences,
with love & !Si se puede!
Lee Marie

More Reflections on Phoenix

The San José Mercury News has reported on the protest in Phoenix in opposition to Arizona's SB 1070, mentioning the Reverend Greg Ward (from Monterey) and the Reverend Pallas Stanford (Santa Cruz), and quoting the Board President of the Santa Cruz Fellowship. Greg and Pallas were both arrested at the demonstration, along with the PCD's APF Chair, Rita Butterfield, from our Santa Rosa congregation.

Reverend Greg observed, "I no longer think I'm different from other people. I was surprised by how quickly one's humanity can be diminished when wearing prison stripes and the pink socks and pink underwear they make you wear. And how that humanity is restored when you find out that people are waiting for you when you come out."

Anyone surprised to hear that UUs are not of one mind on this issue? One example is the UU blogger who called for a clear articulation of the reason for our faith taking this stand. Another saw the protest as a show, and suggested that those arrested might have shown more solidarity with those oppressed by the system if they had refused bail.

This, too, is a kind of diversity, one for which that we can be deeply appreciative. Such thoughtful disagreement is one of our strengths we can be proud of, as it serves to expand our common understanding of the issues and raise the quality of our decisions concerning how to move forward.

Contact Information
Cilla Raughley, District Executive
PCD | 4100 Redwood Road #344 | Oakland | CA | 94619


Legally Dead

by Hilton Obenzinger

I crossed dark waters and crawled through dust and climbed over gray barriers.

On the other side I saw a silent world, bare ground, nothing growing, only grim spikes, and murky crowds of people playing checkers or just staring into the dimness and scratching their heads.

Suddenly I was stopped by a man in a uniform, and he said:“Welcome to the Land of the Dead. Where are your papers?”

“What do you mean? What papers?”

“You need papers,” he explained. His eyes turned to ash and he put out his hand, wiggling his thin fingers for the documents.

“What kind of papers? You need papers to be dead?”

“You need a Death Certificate. Show me your Death Certificate.”

“But I don’t have one,” I replied.

“Nobody allowed without papers,” the official snapped.

“But my ashes went up the concentration camp smokestack,” I explained. “They hacked me to bits and threw me into the river, wild animals tore me to pieces and gobbled me up, no one ever identified my body, the explosion vaporized me, I sank to the bottom of the sea, I . . .”

“So where is your Death Certificate?”

“How can I have a Death Certificate if I’m a Nobody? How can I, if I’ve just been massacred by the Nazis and the Gangsters and the Sheriff’s Department and the Remote Control Predator Drones, if I’ve been swallowed up by a Black Hole?”

“You must have a Death Certificate to stay in the Land of the Dead,” he insisted.

“Otherwise you are one of the Illegal Dead. And we do not accept Illegals. And you must go!”

“But what do I do? How do I get this Death Certificate?”

“You must go back to the Land of the Living. You must wait on line and get your papers
like everyone else. And if you don’t, you can never come here. Go to the Land of Shit, for all we care, but don’t come back. We only take the dead who have been authorized and certified by all the right agencies.”

“But where do I go to get this damn Death Certificate? I mean, I may be Illegal but I’m not alive, I can’t go back to the Land of the Living. Where do I go?”

He put his ashy hand on my shoulder, and said, “If you can’t go to the Land of the Living, go at least to a place that will notarize that you are indeed Legally Dead.”

He looked into my eyes and said, with compassion, “Go to Arizona, my friend. The White State of Arizona will gladly kill you and stamp all the papers to make you Legally Dead, even if you aren’t Mexican.”

Then I woke up in a sweat. What kind of screwball dream is this? I have to get papers to make me Legally Dead? Arizona? Of all places, I have to go to the White State of Arizona to get my papers for death? What a terrible dream!

I vowed that morning that I would change the way I lived. I would do everything in my power to get rid of papers or certificates for anything and everything, to make sure that our bodies would be enough, that the air would not have a flag, the ocean would not have gates, and the soil would not have National Guards. Screw the borders! Screw all the papers! Screw the White State of Arizona!

And when the grim time comes, I will crawl across the dark river and climb over the dim fences to sneak into the Land of the Dead. I will be dead without Documents, Illegal for all Eternity. Let them try to catch me!



by Arlene Biala

we are watching you
with steadfast eyes
when you lie down
on your chaise lounge
hoping to get brown
we are watching you
when you plug your ears
with headphones
and listen to santana
when you toss that shot
of tequila, ahhh
the delicious burn
we are watching you
when you stand in front
of your floor length mirror
mimicking merengue,
attempting to conjure up
the carmelized arms
of your lover, who lifts
you up like a feather
and sways you down,
down, down
to a forbidden country
where you wail or whimper
in terror and love it,
losing yourself
for just one second

and at that second
oh, creator of blacklists
we will slit your eyes open
and show you how our lives
have been clipped:
razored birds forced into flight
without pattern or reason
we will caress the blade
against your eyelids
unless you wake up.


Mi Viaje a Los Estados Unidos

J.T., México, 17

Buen mi viaje fue muy
difícil porque caminamos una semana cuando
crucé el río empezamos a caminar pero al llegar a un puente
emigración nos quiso agarrar pero corrimos pero a la hora de correr
nos desapartamos todos pero yo mi vine con el coyote
porque yo corrí con el coyote y entonces empezamos a caminar
pero ya nada más. Éramos yo y el coyote pero caminamos
una semana hasta El Salvador cuando ya íbamos llegando
pero cuando llegamos a donde nos iban A levantar
nos subimos a la troca pero caminamos en la troca
como una hora pero en eso nos paró la migración y nos arrestó

y me tuvieron una semana en el bote pero a la semana
me echaron para México pero yo quería conocer
Estados unidos y así fue que a la semana me vine otra vez
pero el segundo viaje no fue difícil para mí porque no caminé
mucho nada más caminé una noche y a las cinco de la
semana nos levantó una troca y así fue como llegué a Austin
donde trabajé semana tras semana pero fue la mala suerte
que un día me agarró la policía y por no tener papeles
me arrestaron por 3 mese y por eso ss que estoy aquí



by Stay True

God is brown. That is if it is true
that we are made in His image,
or is it Her image? Since I see her
face as I awake every morning
cooking, praying, struggling
and loving. But are we
the only ones who love? So is
God also gay, since
God is love
and God is Mother and
and Son and Daughter, and

whoever does not fit this
knows what Love is
God is Love,
but does he only
love those fals
prophets who
love profits, more
than they love
people, as if salvation
was bought
and sold to those who can
afford it.God laughs, and

she loves and he loves him and she loves her and
for salvation under hot
summer skies and lies on scorching
concrete, anrises every day against
all odds, against the will of those
who claim to know “him” best.

By: Jesus Cortez,

P.S.: If I am to go to hell for this poem, I am sure I've done worst things to condemn me.



by Gail Bornfield

We witness the migrant trails
See discarded bottles, shoes, backpacks
No longer needed? Too heavy to carry?
One wonders…..

We bear witness to the deaths
Nearly every day during summer
The stories of sacrifice retold
The loss of loved ones mourned

Desperate – the immigrants
Climb the border fence
Brave the summer heat
Risk shackles and prison

The children, the pregnant
The weak, the hurt, and injured
Left to die In the heat of the desert
Increased numbers of dead

The cry goes out “No more deaths!”
But, the deaths continue
The immigrants come
Face the hate with hope
With prayers, and a dream
Reaching for a better life



1. “The B Word" by Arnoldo García
2. "A Story from Phoenix" by Lee Marie Sanchez
3. "Legally Dead" by Hilton Obenzinger
4. "Jan B" by Arlene Biala
5. “Mi Viaje a Los Estados Unidos," J.T.
6. “On God” by Stay True
7. "Immigrants" by Gail Bornfield


arnoldo garcía is a human rights community organizer poet and musician born in the mouth of the Río Bravo. He works for the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, based in Oakland, California, and heads up NNIRR's HURRICANE initiative, which focuses on collecting the stories of resistance against abuses and rights violations committed against members of our communities. Last thing he published was the book "XicKorea: poems, rants, words together" in collaboration with Miriam Ching Louie and Beth Ching. Match Book Story just published "Day Laborer Love," un cuentecito de Arnoldo. Available here:
For more poems and essays, check out his blog http://lacarpadelfeo.blogspot.com or follow him on Twitter @arnoldogarcia


Lee Marie Sanchez was born and raised in Long Beach, California, and also resided in the state of Washington for 27 years, now home in CA again. She is the granddaughter of immigrants to the U.S. from Spain, Italy & Lithuania.

Lee Marie served two congregations over a span of twelve years as a Unitarian Universalist Religious Educator for Children and Youth. She completed her ministerial Internship with a one year Hospital/Hospice Residency in WA state and has now served the Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim as their half-time parish minister in her role there as Consulting Minister. She is a graduate of Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach, where she majored in History and Spanish, and currently is a Candidate for Ministry
studying at Meadville/Lombard Theological School in ther Modified Residency Program. She is often a guest preacher and involved in multicultural work.


Hilton Obenzinger writes poetry, fiction, criticism and history. His most recent book is the autobiographical novel Busy Dying. Other books include a*hole: a novel; Running Through Fire: How I Survived the Holocaust by Zosia Goldberg as told to Hilton Obenzinger; American Palestine: Melville, Twain and the Holy Land Mania; Cannibal Eliot and the Lost Histories of San Francisco; New York on Fire; and This Passover Or The Next I Will Never Be in Jerusalem, which received the American Book Award.

Born in 1947 in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and graduating Columbia University in 1969, he has taught on the Yurok Indian Reservation, operated a community printing press in San Francisco's Mission District, co-edited a publication devoted to Middle East peace, and worked as a commercial writer and instructional designer. He teaches writing and American literature at Stanford University.


Arlene Biala is a Filipina poet and performance artist, born in San Francisco, CA. She is the author of bone, her first chapbook of poetry published in 1993, and continental drift, published by West End Press in 1999. She received her MFA in Poetics & Writing from New College of CA, and was the recipient of an artist residency at Montalvo. Arlene has taught and performed as guest artist in the Manikrudo poetry and performance workshops led by Juan Felipe Herrera of the CSU Summer Arts Programs in Long Beach and Humbolt, CA. Performances include APAture at Intersection for the Arts, Writers’ Week at UC Riverside, DiVERSEcity in NYC, University of Texas at El Paso, San Francisco Asian American Jazz Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, La Pena Cultural Center, Santa Clara University, and SOMArts Center in San Francisco. She has also performed for and taught creative writing workshops with elementary and high school youth. She lives in Sunnyvale, CA with husband Carl, (blue) Queensland Heeler Pepper, and their three children: Kai, (aries) 10; Josh (scorpio)7; and Kiana (scorpio, again)


5. “Mi Viaje a Los Estados Unidos."

The poem is by J.T., who wants to remain anonymous.


Jesus Cortez is a 30 year-old poet from West Anaheim, California. His inspiration comes from his immigrant background, the street life, the pain of his people and the pain of all people. He knows that poems are like bullets against oppression, but that more action is needed if changes are to come.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Grass is...Meaner?

Guest essay by Miguel Villarreal

You could say this problem doesn’t concern me. My context is considerably far removed from the harsh realities and repercussions of what I am about to talk about, but you would be terribly, terribly wrong.

A couple of days have passed since the now omnisciently famous “Arizona Law” made its debut on the local law enforcement scene; and a cocktail of widely contrasting reactions have shown up across the board. I won’t be so simplistic as to say, “Republicans have said this, Democrats have said that, and that’s America," because I believe the real heartbeat of the situation lies within the American people and their sentiments, but I do consider that party reactions are at least somewhat dictated by popular demand.

This newly activated thermostat is definitely a result of not just one, but many things; but I think it’s pretty clear that at least a few tectonic plaques have begun shifting since the Obama administration charged into the white house and a few regional elections began entering the political perimeter. It’s really nobody’s fault, political battles will always find an important issue to rest themselves upon; but in this particular case we Mexicans have had to pay for the broken china.

The issue is clearly decisive and divisive, and it’s this way because it is important. It is true that both sides have really good arguments going for them as a whole, but we must admit that certain individuals do hold radical opinions and propose counterproductive solutions, and that these are things that can do no more than enlarge a crack in a pot that has never really been organic or smooth.

More than 30% of Arizona’s population is of Hispanic or Latino origin and, although most of them are undoubtedly legal Americans, a law that gives a police officer not only the right but also the motivation to solicit authentication papers based solely on the physical features of an individual cannot grant them the ability to visually distinguish the citizens from the not-quite denizens, and will inevitably lead to at least partial racial manifestations. At least.

Even an ethical, good-natured, well-meaning police official (of which I am sure there are many) will surely begin perceiving things through racial prisms if the law explicitly orders them to do so. Just the thought of a state in which more than one fourth of its citizens become “potential threats” from one day to the next makes me shiver; I cannot find a single argument that does not tell me how terrible this could be for its inner ambience and stability. What would happen if the state of Louisiana suddenly adopted similar measures in an effort to “deal” with African Americans?

I am the first one to admit that if we Mexicans had a real, substantial migration problem in our southern border, there would be fellow countrymen (politicians as well as ordinary citizens) who would react in similar, discriminatory ways; but that would not mean that they would be right in doing so. That would not exempt us from the responsibility of having to live up to our most rooted, foundational and constitutional ideals when addressing the issue.

Our economies are unavoidably interdependent, our border cultures are (even if our corresponding national prides makes us hesitate when admitting to this) irreversibly interwoven, and forcefully introducing a scalpel into our now-biologically integrated membranes will not only have negative repercussions for us mulatto folks, it will also (and I wish this wasn’t the case) affect Americans, in a deeper way that they can maybe imagine at the moment.

One of the things I most admire about Americans is their capacity solve problems in humane, institutionalized and intelligent (almost prodigious) ways; and, given their track record it is impossible for me to think that this serious, sensitive and bilateral (as in, we would also have to do our part) issue cannot be address in a much more thoughtful manner. The thing is that this has been currently turned into a political issue; a convenient and easily debatable vehicle that is boiling down a very complex natural phenomenon into a game of “is” and “is not." I really think we must take some time out to analyze this challenge with the diligence and objectivity it deserves; because we’re both so close together that we must inevitably tango, and we sure don’t want to be stepping on each other’s toes for the rest of the night.

People could say this problem doesn’t concern me. I am a middle class Mexican student who has had the fortune of being born far away from the needs and wants that prompt our fellow “transnational entrepreneurs” to abandon this incredible land; but they would be wrong. I travel often to the United States; I talk to many Americans and have countless friends there. I admire a great many things about their culture and cannot help but be humbled by Phoenix’s section of the Grand Canyon. Also, I live in Mexico, interact with my country mates on a daily basis, have a multitude of friends here and can’t help but be inspired by the breathtaking stillness and patience of the great Sonora Desert. I’m conflicted, and I really think I shouldn’t be.

It pains me because we are next-door neighbors. It really strikes a chord because we should be complimenting each other, fortifying our mutual economies, forging a stoic North American continent with the quality and stature needed to insure out heads are held high in this ever-evolving and globalized world. It shatters my day because it’s obvious that deep down we both want to be friends (or true allies, at least) but don’t know how to evaporate our skepticism and our fears.

We could think that this issue will transcend no further than a bunch of upcoming primaries, but laws tend to linger for long periods of time and alter paradigms in significant ways. We could assume that what’s done is done and that this cautionary tale is just a waste of energy and time, but I would really hope this not be the case. I cross my fingers that we can somehow alter our course, even if it is just a little, before we find out that we were terribly, terribly wrong.

[Miguel Villarreal blogs from Monterrey, México.]

Saturday, August 28, 2010

PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship

Below is info on how you can apply for a writing fellowship. About the sponsors, from their website:

PEN Center USA
, one of two centers in the United States and the third largest in the world, was founded in 1943 and incorporated as a nonprofit association in 1981. PEN USA’s membership of more than 800 writers includes poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists (for the original letters in the acronym, PEN), as well as television and screenwriters, critics, historians, editors, journalists, and translators.
PEN Center USA strives to protect the rights of writers around the world, to stimulate interest in the written word, and to foster a vital literary community among the diverse writers living in the western United States.

The organization, therefore, has two distinct yet complementary aims: one fundamentally literary and the other having a freedom of expression mandate. Among PEN USA’s various activities are public literary events, a mentorship project, literary awards and international human rights campaigns on behalf of writers who are censored or imprisoned.

Vision: PEN Center USA endeavors to create a world in which freedom of expression is guaranteed for all writers, and where friendship and intellectual cooperation thrive among writers and readers worldwide.

The Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellowship Program

Emerging Voices is an intensive eight-month program for writers in the early stages of their literary careers. The program includes free classes; a one-on-one mentorship with a professional writer; Q&A evenings with professional writers, publishers, editors, and agents; Master classes by genre with a published PEN author; Day-long workshops on various elements of publishing; a $1,000 stipend.

The program culminates with a public reading and reception.
Emerging Voices serves writers from underserved communities, though selection is not based solely on economic need. Participants need not be published, but the program is directed toward poets and writers of fiction and creative nonfiction with clear ideas of what they hope to accomplish through their writing. There are no age restrictions.

A Successful EV Application will include:
Completed EV Application

Summary Sheet from your 2009 federal tax return

Professional CV that details your work experience, education and publications credits.

Short Answer Section Responses

Two letters of recommendation written by people who are familiar with your writing and can comment on your commitment to large projects. Letters from relatives not accepted.

Writing Sample should include up to 20 pages of fiction or creative nonfiction or 10 pages of poetry. Sample should be typed and double-spaced. Please indicate if/how the work in your sample is relevant to the project you plan to propose as an EV fellow.

$10 application fee. Address checks and/or money orders to PEN USA. No cash, please.

Five (5) copies of your application packet

Materials are not returned. Please make copies for your records and direct any questions to ev@penusa.org.
Applications are due by August 31, 2010.

We look forward to reading your work.

To apply, go here.

PEN Center USA

P.O. Box 6037
Beverly Hills,
California 90212

Our thanks to Alvaro for this info:

Alvaro Huerta, Ph.D. Candidate,

Dept. of City & Regional Planning (UC Berkeley)
Visiting Scholar, Chicano Studies Research Center (UCLA) Visiting Lecturer,
Dept. of Urban Planning (UCLA)



Friday, August 27, 2010

Fotos - 25 Years at KUVO - Chile Harvest


heart of aztlan

not a mexican sleeping in the cactus

¿mas k?

sweet condemnation

musica de carlos
[original artwork by Carlos Fresquez]

all images © Manuel Ramos

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of public radio station KUVO, 89.3 FM. I still remember the first day of broadcasting; no one, and I mean no one, gave the station a chance. The odds were stacked against the new outlet. The station was going to be run by a bunch of amateurs who did not have a track record in media. And, although the press releases spoke about "bilingual public radio", they were going to broadcast jazz, latin jazz and blues, not banda. At the head of the station was a diminutive, high energy Chicana who brought humor, hard-work, and dedication, but no money, experience, or political baggage.Today, the award-winning station is one of the premier jazz venues in the world (www.kuvo.org), internationally known for its diverse and exciting programming. World-class musicians regularly perform in the high-tech performance studio, and over the decades the station has hosted all the greats, as well as local bands and numerous college and high school units. The weekend programs are nationally envied for consistent high ratings and creative, innovative formats: Native American, Latin American protest and folk, blues, R&B, Chicano rock, African American roots music, salsa and Latin fusion, Brazilian pop, and much, much more. KUVO truly is the "oasis in the city."

Flo Hernandez-Ramos helped create the station. She worked with other founders for more than two years-- fund raising, dealing with the FCC, taking care of debt owed by the previous license holder, lining up the original staff and board, and learning from scratch about what public radio is all about. Then, for more than twenty years Flo was the CEO and driving force behind the station. She was there at the beginning and she has been through it all: no money, not enough staff, intermittent electricity, makeshift equipment, federal myopia, local apathy. She endeavored and endured and she gathered around her a stellar staff of radio pros just as dedicated as she. Flo is a national symbol for Latino-controlled public service radio, winning countless awards and gaining recognition as a tireless force for community involvement, diversity in staff and programming, and setting high standards for all other Latino media. She left her administrative responsibilities a couple of years ago but she stayed on as a volunteer, continuing as the mainstay for the immensely popular Sunday show Canción Mexicana. This program is the flagship for the weekend - one of the most listened-to shows in any radio service area, and clearly a leading example of how one culture's "cantina music" can cross over to any audience if just given the chance.

Well, this incredible run is finally over this weekend. Flo's last show as DJ for Canción Mexicana will happen August 29th (the actual date KUVO went live.) Flo will stay involved with public radio as the Director of the Latino Public Radio Consortium, but her regular gig as DJ is done. In typical Flo and KUVO style, that means a big party. If you haven't obtained your tickets for the in-studio celebration, then listen beginning at 10:00 AM, on the radio or the Internet. There will be plenty of live music, memories and testimonials, and Flo gets a chance to say one more goodbye, one more adiós to her many fans and friends.

Meanwhile, check out the Chile Harvest Festival, August 28 and 29 at the Lakewood Heritage Center, sponsored by the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (CHAC), 10 AM - 5 PM. I'll see you there on Saturday at 1:00 PM when I'll be signing King of the Chicanos at the Cultural Legacy booth.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three Poems For My Son


you fell this morning,
managed to juke your
way among the pillows

for 15 minutes
I carried you
held you close

cupped your head
in-between my
shoulder and barbilla

and on the
16th minute
you smiled


when they see you
they will say

"oh my how
you have stretched"

and you smile
the way you do

the pinch of your
labios push backward

push the weight of
your cheeks backwards

until each appear


on my shoulder
there lives
a small nook

it is the
you rest

your head
turned left
in repose

and after
despues the
short struggle

the weight
of your dreams
find comfort

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Books from Raven Tree Press


Full–Color • 9 x 11 • 32 pages
Jacketed Hardcover or Paperback
Reading Level 2.2
Publication Date: September 2010

Written by Margaret Gay Malone
Illustrated by Lorraine Dey

Little Duncan penguin is proud of his fuzzy coat. He sticks out his chest as he waddles among the other penguins. He knows he is the handsomest one in the frozen south. Trouble jumps in when his fuzz flies off in clumps and floats on the wind like butterflies. His mother agrees to knit him a sweater, but will that solve the problem? The sweater is just too small. What’s he to do? Finally, his mother leads him to a mirror–like piece of ice, where a happy surprise awaits. He’s all grown up, and again the handsomest penguin in the frozen south.

Margaret Gay Malone loves both reading and writing. This will be her ninth children’s book. Among her other loves are art, music, American history and, of course, animals. Over the years, the Malone family has had a collection of animals, among them, two teddy bear hamsters, three rabbits, three cats, and two dogs. She and her husband, Tom, live with their cat, Woobie.

Lorraine Dey has been a full–time illustrator and graphic designer for over 30 years. Lorraine began drawing as soon as she could pick up a crayon and she would spend hours drawing and coloring as a little girl. “Lorrie,” as she is known to her friends and family, lives at the Jersey Shore with her two cats, Jodie and Mischief. A Sweater for Duncan is her first children’s picture book.


Full–Color • 9 x 11 • 32 pages
Jacketed Hardcover or Paperback
Reading Level 1.8
Publication Date: Fall 2010

Written by Heather Ayris Burnell
Illustrated by Bonnie Adamson

A little boy doesn’t want to go to bed. He whines. He cries. He throws a tantrum. He begins to grow long claws and a tail. What? A tail? It’s true! This little boy is not only acting like a monster, he turns into one! He growls a scary growl. He grows a tail. But, his parents know what to do. They calmly cuddle, rock, and sing to him. Here is a monster you might actually want to snuggle with as bedtime draws near.

 Heather Ayris Burnell grew up in Salinas, California. She now lives in the mountains of Washington state with her husband, three children, two big dogs and one feisty cat. Heather liked writing stories as a kid, but likes writing them even more now that she’s a grown–up. She believes there is a little bit of monster in all of us. Bedtime Monster is Heather’s first picture book. Burnell has degrees from Santa Rosa Junior College as well as Harnell College.

Bonnie Adamson majored in English and then got a second degree in art from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Before she turned to illustrating for the children’s market, Bonnie was a free–lance graphic designer, with clients ranging from textile manufacturers to nonprofit arts organizations. Now she works from her home in South Carolina—in a studio cubbyhole wedged in next to what used to be the children’s playroom.


Full–Color • 9 x 11 • 32 pages
Jacketed Hardcover or Paperback
Reading Level 2.7
Publication Date: September 2010

Written by Marcia Schwartz
Illustrated by Brent Campbell

Lobo is a wolf who must eat a succulent rabbit stew while the moon is full or he will go cuckoo. He tries a variety of temptations to entice a bunny out of his burrow. The little rabbit uses his wits to escape becoming an entree.

Each initial sketch is transferred to illustration board. Then the finished painting is completed by brushing a ground wash on the entire board and layering a mixed media technique using gouache, oils and colored pencil for details.

Marcia Schwartz is a retired high school English teacher. She has two sons and one granddaughter. She is married to Hank and together they enjoy rolling over the hills of Southeast Nebraska in their little red Jeep. Marcia has a BS in education from the University of Kansas. As a child, Marcia enjoyed making up stories to tell to her eight brothers and sisters, so writing “Lobo” just came naturally. Marcia Schwartz lives in Falls City, Nebraska.

Brent Campbell graduated from Columbus College of Art and Design and currently resides in North Canton, Ohio with his wife, Paula, and their children.


Full–Color • 9 x 11 • 32 pages
Jacketed Hardcover or Paperback
Reading Level 2.2
Publication Date: September 2010

Have you ever felt like you are unsure where you belong? Little Weed Flower is growing in a weed patch, but secretly longs to be in the beautiful garden tended by the loving gardener. With the help of a new friend her wish comes true and she is able to share positive lessons with other garden flowers. We also learn that no matter where we come from, everything has its own beauty and a special purpose in the garden of life. A timeless story of hope for those who dare to dream.

 Vicky Whipple grew up as an energetic “navy brat” who loved the outdoors. By the time she graduated from high school she’d gone to 11 schools, all of this despite a learning disability. Later in life, she worked for the school district’s special education department as a teacher’s assistant to help students struggling as she did. She wrote her first published story in second grade and continued her love of writing throughout her life. Vicky has two children, three grandchildren, one older brother and one younger sister—all of whom are her heart’s treasures. Vicky Whipple lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Illustrator Pamela Barcita chose to work with pastel pencils for this story. She felt the brilliant colors suited the garden flowers and the soft technique suited the gentle nature of the characters. She used a combination of real life models, photographs and imagination to create the compositions. Pamela Barcita lives in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Countdown to Festival de Flory y Canto Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow. On-Line Floricanto August 24

Michael Sedano

September 15,16,17 approach, and with them the arrival of Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow.

1973 saw history’s first floricanto, El Festival de Flor y Canto held at the University of Southern California. Chicano Literature captured attention among academicians, curriculum developers, and readers generally. Some readers hyperbolized, given the flourishing number of writers and publishers, a “Chicano Renaissance” had come. In actuality, the movimiento period marked the emergence of a young literary tradition that has come fully to fruition in this first decade of the 21st Century.

Even during its emergent life, Chicana Chicano writing went well beyond stereotypic identity and cultural nationalism. 1973’s Festival de Flor y Canto contained ample servings of the former mixed with oft stunning reminders of the sublime. A torrid declamation, a lover’s soft confession, humor ranging from gentle mirth to knee-slapping hilarity, the readings proved a listener’s delight and a critic’s dream with so much happening in so short a span of days.

2010 marks a genuine “renaissance” in the floricanto movimiento with the return to USC of Los Trece, thirteen writers who read at that original festival de flor y canto whose work was videotaped. They include: Alurista, Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin, Estevan Arellano, Ron Arias, Juan A Contreras, Veronica Cunningham, Juan Felipe Herrera, R Rolando Hinojosa, Enrique Lamadrid, Ernest Mares, Jose Montoya, Alejandro Murguía, Roberto Vargas.

Also returning to USC and floricanto are Sy Abrego and Mary Ann Pacheco. Sy headed El Centro Chicano in 1973. He was the institutional host of that first floricanto. Mary Ann Pacheco, along with Alurista, first proposed the idea of a large-scale literary festival.

Pacheco was the emcee for almost every event on the busy three-day schedule. Mary Ann has agreed to deliver the Welcome statement on Wednesday. Frank "Pancho del Rancho" Sifuentes recently RSVP'd for the opening day, too. Frank served as backstage host, festival mero mero, and all-night tour guide to a carful of vatos who cruised the streets of Aztlán.

Almost 50 poets and fiction writers across three days will take center stage for fifteen minute recitals. Unlike the male-centric line up in 1973, Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow’s artist list features a powerful array of women writers, including Thursday evening’s Celebrando Chicana Poetry: Diana Garcia, Maria Melendez, Emmy Pérez sponsored by Letras Latinas and the Poetry Society of America.

Two father-son artist pairs appear. Wednesday evening, Jose Montoya and son Richard Montoya, and members of Culture Clash, climax the day of 1973 veteranas veteranos. In addition to hearing the Montoyas read together, Richard will screen a preview of his documentary-in-process “One More Canto". Montoya narrates the story of a legendary 1979 Chicano Poetry reading from Sacramento featuring Ricardo Sanchez, Lucha Corpi and Jose Montoya. The second father-son duo has Marco Antonio Dominguez and his son, Marco Dominguez. They read on separate days, dad with the veterans, Marco fils on Friday afternoon.

Videographer Jesus Treviño, who produced the who’s-who documentary of Chicano artists, VISIONS OF AZTLAN, is videographing Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today •Tomorrow. Unlike the 1973 videos that were nearly lost, 2010’s material will be preserved via Mr. Treviño’s filmmaking, and the USC digital library.

The festival closes Friday afternoon with the opening reception for “Sueños by the Sea: Celebrating Los Festivales de Flor y Canto at USC,” curated by Tyson Gaskill. The show features Michael Sedano’s photographs from 1973.

With the show’s focus on the writer as reader and performer, some of my favorite frames, like this triptych of Oscar Zeta Acosta,will be in the show.

Not included on the walls, but capturing the sense and spirit of the event, are a number of candid moments. For example, interesting action was to be seen near the artist entrance and public entrance. Two women de moda.

A darkened auditorium lets listeners relax into the performance, allow the words to permeate the space around them.

Mary Ann Pacheco did a marvelous job keeping readers on time and moving the festival along. Here are my favorite Mary Ann fotos, the first showing the toll of being Ms Emcee with the Mostest, the second has Mary Ann framed by a television tripod as she reacts to something said on stage.
Candid backstage moments bring warm significance. Here Omar Salinas talks about Alurista's work and influence, addressing an unseen interviewer. It is the same acknowledgement Salinas will deliver on camera a few minutes later.

I like the look of deliberation on Omar Salinas' face as he makes his way through a crowd milling about the public entrance. Salinas can be anonymous in the crowd who do not recognize the famous poet in their midst.

Always the unsung heroes, volunteer workers from El Centro Chicano. I enjoy thinking these are the mothers and fathers of a second generation of USC Chicana Chicano alums or profes.

All fotos ©Michael Sedano.

Michael Sedano's photographic goal is taking the perfect public speaker photo. The speaker will be making eye contact, mouth open, animated expression and gesture. Posture and position will proclaim the speaker's dynamic presence and value to the audience.

A second specialty is botanical close-ups, especially epiphyllum and other cacti.

Sedano displays a variety of photographic work at readraza. A black and white gallery features circa 1973-1974 photos at USC, including Anaïs Nin, Bucky Fuller, and the 1974 football comeback versus Notre Dame.

On-Line Floricanto: Six poets responding to Arizona pendejismo and hate legislation.

Selected for La Bloga by the Moderators of Poets Responding to SB1070 at Facebook, led by poet Francisco Alarcón. His most recent book, Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010) can be be purchased at www.swanscythe.com

1. "Illegals" by Matt Sedillo
2. "We Will Not Comply" by Devreaux Baker
3. “Aquí No Tenemos Tamales” by Avotcja
4. "Bitter Earth/Tierrra Amargada" by Guadalupe Rodriguez Jr.
5. "Fishing Bait" by Sonia Gutiérrez
6. “Bloody Desert” by Amy Ballard Rich

1. "Illegals" by Matt Sedillo

They say
This woman is illegal
Her womb
Her ovaries
Her pregnancy
Enemies of the state
Her due date
A criminal conspiracy
A population explosion
An invasion
By birth canal
They say these things
Listening to the radio
NPR no less
I heard a woman
A postnatal nurse
Complaining about
Having to save
The children of
They are overrunning
Our hospitals
She claims
They are eating away
At our economy
In incubators
They are breathing
In our money
When born
With complications
She does not consider
That maternity leave
Is a phrase quite unfamiliar
To the employers
Of migrant women
And their children
In her eyes
Are not hers
Nor ours
They are anchors
They are aliens
They are un-American
They are something less
Than human
This is what seems
To pass for debate
These days
This is the tone of a
So called national conversation
This is the country you live in
Where the voices of
A vicious white nationalism
The same behind the tea party
The same behind the minutemen
The same behind Arizona law
Are now targeting unborn children
Senators and congressmen
Attempting to create
And ride
A wave a tide
Of racial hatred
Into the coming elections
Are now talking about
Repealing the 14th amendment
The one that guaranteed
Full citizenship
To the children
Of freed slaves
The one passed
In response
To the Dred Scott case
This is the country
You have always lived in
One of lies compromises
Reformist movements
Which promised little
And delivered next to nothing
After all it was
The fourteenth amendment
That paved the way
For the modern day
Corporate world dominance
And besides that
What followed
Was Jim Crow
And the share cropping system
So spare me
Any talk of progress
Or protecting the constitution
Or these professional politicians
Now trying their hand
At amateur historians
Asking what were the framers
True intentions
The framers owned slaves
And stole land
Spoke openly
About their adherence
To the doctrines of white supremacy
American exceptionalism
And Manifest Destiny
American history
Is a horror story
Replete with land grabs
Captive nations
Mass incarceration
Genocide massacres
Child labor
Racial scapegoating
Political railroadings
And now
The targeting
Of unborn children
This is the country
You have always lived in
It is the devil
You have always known
And there is nothing
Synonymous between
Justice and its history
Or the constitution
Because the laws of a land
That once created master and slave
Robber barons and child worker
And today
Beggars and Billionaires
Are not worth the paper
They are printed on
So to put it bluntly
Quite frankly
I don’t give a damn
Who this monstrosity
Considers criminal
And who it consider citizen
Its laws
Its amendments
Or the God damn constitution
Personally I wouldn’t wipe my ass
With its documents
They might stain my bowels

2. "We Will Not Comply" by Devreaux Baker

We Will Not Comply

What is the language
that braids our bodies together,

syllables that grow larger
than borders marked on a map?

What is the dream that dances
the dance of birth and death

And reaches out her hands
to pull us into that circle?

We will not comply with laws
that teach children to hate

based on color or race
Woven together

from a dream time that
is with us still

We become the throat and tongue,
arms and legs of nature

Together we form the wise heart
that beats out a red pulse

into the mind of the universe
Ancient seeds of earth, air,

fire, and water, drifting through the
slow speech of time.

Braided together we form a bond
much greater than

man-made borders,
much wiser than the dust

of heartless laws.

© Devreaux Baker

3. “Aquí No Tenemos Tamales” by Avotcja

The Road Kill Café
Is alive & well & open for business
In just about any city U.S.A.
A whole new menu
Complete with
Lifeless, spice-less unrefined brainlessness
And FDA approved organic GMO’s
Guaranteed to be completely devoid
Of any recognizable semblance
Of natural ingredients
Scientifically approved foods
Absolutely untouched by human hands
And assembled mechanically
In quietly converted “astro-crop” fields
Fields cleansed of undocumented Farm-workers
The Road Kill Café
Offers the ideal meaningless meal
For those whose intelligence
Has been devoured by greed
And no longer have time
To deal with the trivia of anything real
The Road Kill Café
Is now serving the newest in Fast Food
For the racially untainted pure at heart
Speaking “English only” to Classrooms
In Centers of Higher Learning reserved for
The few remaining unmixed pure bloods
Who will swallow any thing
As long as their financial stomachs stay full
Intellectually bankrupt intellectuals
Who could care less about what’s in their food
As long as no “unwanted Aliens are picking & packing it
There’s a new entrée or two on the menu
Ignorance al la Carte
SB1070 & HB2281
Estupideces saboreadas de bobería
Two more tasteless items for those who’ve lost their taste
Yours on the Luncheon Special
Of The Roadkill Café
No Tamales, no Enchiladas, not even a Taco
Ni un olorcillo de Salsa picante
The doors are open at
The Road Kill Café
Today en Arizona
Mañana in any city U.S.A.

Copyright © Avotcja

4. "Bitter Earth/Tierrra Amargada" by Guadalupe Rodriguez Jr.

cuando un hombre abre su corazón
when a man opens his heart
there is potential of a threat
hay posibilidad de una amenaza
tanto como el de un país
so much as that of a country

we are equal
somos igual
semos humanos
we are humans

I am simple
soy sencillo
tengo interés de conocer tu alma
I have interest to know your soul
tu tierra
your land

cuando abro mis ojos
when I open my eyes
I see you in my path
te veo en mi ruta

llorando dentro mi corazón
crying within my heart
the beauty of a new life
la belleza de una nueva vida

trabajando juntos
working together
una nueva familia a new family
los hijos llegan
the children arrive
en nuestra vida
in our lives
y de/repente
and suddenly
we are told to leave
salir de aquí

eres ilegal
you are illegal
fuera de mi tierra
out of my land
this is my land
ésta es mi tierra

y viendo a mi familia
and watching my family
I close my eyes
cierro mis ojos
never wishing to open them again
y nunca deseo abrir mis ojos jamás

para que
for what
para ver mi familia sufrir
to see my family suffer
in this land
en esta tierra

no quiero abrir mis ojos
I do not want to open my eyes
para que
for what
para ver
to see

en tu tierra de corrupto
in your land of corruption
I will not open my eyes
y no abra mis ojos
para verte sufrir
to see you suffer


me voy
I'm leaving now
as I came with an open heart
como vine con un corazón abrieto
me voy
I'm leaving now

tierra amarga
bitter land
mis ojos todavía cerrados
my eyes still closed

tierra amarga
bitter earth

(c) Guadalupe Rodriguez Jr....8/8/2010

5. "Fishing Bait" by Sonia Gutiérrez

I hear the thump thump
of wood underneath our feet.

And I hold my Zonia Quetzalli close
to me; she inhales the smell
of raw fish and salt,
healing her lungs.

Close to my breast,
she remembers echoing lullawaves
as she sleeps to the sound
of the ocean’s belly—
pregnant with amniotic

In their mirror—the sea,
stars flicker their evening hello,
casting endless chiaroscuro ripples.

Behind me, a deranged man, holding
his head with his grimy hands,
crisscrosses the pier rapidly
as he bewails his vision: a mermaid
underneath the bridge
rings into his ears.

The fishing pole tugs, and we’ve
crossed lines—caught . . . a rock
entangled in a man-made plastic web.

And the mermaid
is a hungry brown seal,
looking for an easy catch
as manta rays, sea stars, garibaldi
huddle around squid-heavy hooks,
contorting bloodworms, and
blue neon sticks.

Bright white lights flash and
footsteps approach,
and I say, “I heard a thump. Is everything okay?”
“Someone called in. Suicide,” answers the
police officer. Suicide.

The word suicide
triggers flashbacks of my walrus dream:
inside a glass-walled tank,
a tremendous pink walrus
grunts and bellows, pleading for an escape
to ice cold sea waters.
(The dream that answered why Sharon
left without saying goodbye.)

I ask for a break from my koala life and stroll
off with my hands digging into warm
pockets. As I half smile, my eyes
meet with the eyes of visiting lovers,
crack heads, teens, couples
with strollers—the night is all mine—
for twelve minutes.

In the distance under
the orange-yellow soft lights,
a crowd huddles like the fish
underneath the bridge.
The greens are here.

In the bathroom, a woman—the color of
my skin—and I exchange words
about the men. Outside,
tight jawed, I breathe deeply;
I walk, stop and say,
“I hope you’re asking white
people too.”

And someone yells, “Did they already
ask you‽” as I walk away.

I now understand the suicide code:
The long brown hair possibly hiding
from men who want to take her away
—for swimming towards the wrong water
current. These pacific waters could bring
The Julyflower.

I return to my place feeling very dark—
like the dark skinned man, the fishing bait
from Zacatecas who’s being detained
because his resident alien card
has expired. Staring at his tennis shoes, his son
stands alone exposed
to the cold air. I want to run
and embrace this child with my shawl—
tell him that everything
will be okay.

I return to two men in my family:
one, a long-haired indigenous
man with dark skin, a man whose
ancestry can only be found on
this continent and the other,
with a roar of a jaguar, I say,
“La migra’s here.”

They mastermind
riddles that don’t
work on programmed humans:
The famous Yolanda López
one: “Who’s the illegal
alien PILGRIM?”
I interrupt with a “Please—
she’s sleeping.”

We go home early this time
with Goliath’s rock and
a sea star that resurfaced
the ocean floor.
Immigration officers
go home to a detention center
with a walrus, feeling hunted
and trapped, in the back
of what looks like a dog-pound vehicle.

6. “Bloody Desert” by Amy Ballard Rich

Slice open the barbed wire
slip through the arroyo
ride across Canyon de Chelly
find the Kiva,

Dineh, Apache, Hopi, Ute,
Tiwa, Yaqui, Tewa,
Azteca, Maya, Inca, Anazasi,
the land asks you,

Spread Geronimo's ashes in stripes
across your face
let mountain lions teach you
eat cactus and rattlesnake meat
in-between rusted cavalry badges
and shiny flashlights
cliff-dwellers race backwards
cave tunnels must lead somewhere
safer than this


1. "Illegals" by Matt Sedillo
Matt is one-third of Venice Mozaic arts, music and poetry project, serving as its host 1411 Lincoln Blvd Venice CA every third Friday. He was also member of the historic first ever Inland Empire Slam Team. Matt has brought his poetry to a number of colleges including Pitzer, Cal State Fullerton, Azusa Pacific University, Crafton Hills College - Redlands, Cal State San Bernardino, El Camino college and Southwest college. He has been twice featured on KPFK, once on the Pocho hour of power and again on Freedom Now.

In addition to poetry, Matt is a member of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (LRNA) and an artist affiliate of the Poor Peoples' Economic Human Rights Campaign.

2. "We Will Not Comply" by Devreaux Baker
Devreaux Baker's poetry has been published in over fifty journals and magazines including; The Bloomsbury Review, The American Voice, The Pacific Review, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review,and The High Plains Review. Her work has appeared in the anthologies; Inheritance of Light, and The Guadalupe Review, edited by Ray Gonzalez. She was an editor of Wood, Water, Air and Fire:The Anthology of Mendocino Women Poets and produced the Public Radio Program; "The Voyagers Series; Original Student Writing For Public Radio". She is the recipient of a MacDowell Poetry Fellowship, a Hawthornden Castle International Poetry Fellowship, three California Arts Council Awards and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship. Her published books of poetry include; Light at the Edge, Beyond the Circumstance of Sight, and Red Willow People. She has taught Poetry in the Schools with the California Poets In Schools Program.

3. “Aquí No Tenemos Tamales” by Avotcja (pronounced Avacha)
"Avotcja is a unique voice among our poets, musicians, playwrights and other creative folk today. She combines a fierce, persistent and consistent passion for justice with a beauty of words, sounds and image that can take your breath away. To put it simply, Avotcja is a national and international treasure."
Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez, activist, author, educator

4. "Bitter Earth/Tierrra Amargada" by Guadalupe Rodriguez Jr.
Guadalupe G. Rodriguez was born to a large family April 7, 1961. Growing up, home life could be complicated with with a large extended family, and eventually 4 step brothers and 6 step sisters. Known to his friends as “Lupe,” even at age 10, he showed an early interest in gardening and arranging things to be visually pleasing, a talent that he would carry with him in his professional design career. Like many Latinos, he was very close to his mother and as a dutiful son, would assist her with daily chores such as preparing meals, house cleaning, and working in the garden. His assistance was invaluable to her, and provided life skill sets preparing him for living on his own later in his life. His mother was always supportive of his artistic ventures and she would count on him to help in observing family traditions, such as assembling "Dia de Los Muertos" family altars. He was always a hard worker and worked in the fields of Texas side by side migrant farm workers witnessing first hand the toil and pain of this lifestyle. In his twenties, he returned to life in the City of San Antonio to work as a horticulturist at the Alamo, following a brief attendance at St. Edward's University. Throughout his professional life in addition to his work in horticulture and landscape design, Lupe has been gainfully employed as a visual arts designer, floral designer, and costume designer. He worked with a team of artists to put together costumes for the San Antonio Fiesta dance troupe, Urban 15.

Over the last 13 years, Lupe has been honing his interest in writing poetry since moving to Washington, DC. Though he is not a formally trained poet, he does speak from the heart and would quickly get down his thoughts of rhyme or not, sometimes on the back of a paper napkin when an inspiration came to him. He would often pass these poetic passages to his friends as a gift of his thought. His early poetry was more introspective about his personal relationships. However, since the death of his mother in 2009, his interest has been broader to encompass racial and immigrant current events and family and self experiences. He is proud of his Spanish, Mexican, and Comanche heritage and enjoys incorporating his background, and bilingualism in his work. Over the last 5 years Lupe has been working as a horticulturist with the Architect of the Capital.

5. "Fishing Bait" by Sonia Gutiérrez
Sonia Gutiérrez’s poetry and fiction have appeared in City Works Journal, La Revista Literaria de El Tecoloto, Fringe Magazine, Mujeres de Maíz, among others and forthcoming in Turtle Island to Abya Yala. She teaches English at Palomar College and is currently working on her manuscript, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña, a bilingual poetry collection. To see more of Sonia’s work, visit her bloguita, Chicana in the Midst: Poetry, Prose, and Fotografía by Sonia Gutiérrez, Guest Poetas y Fotographers.

6. “Bloody Desert” by Amy Ballard Rich
Amy Ballard Rich's first writing coach was her mother, and she went on to write short stories while getting her B.A. in English Literature. After a 26 year hiatus full of adventures, she began writing again in 2007; this time poetry.

Part of those adventures were when Amy attended her first traditional Lakota sweatlodge ceremony in 1994. Although she did not find out until 2005 that she was about an eighth Native (through a DNA test), she quickly knew that path was one she had to follow. When not writing, one of her other passions is enabling traditional Native ceremonies to continue, through learning and singing traditional Lakota songs in the sweatlodge circle she is involved in.

When thinking of the bizarre nature of SB 1070, Amy had vivid pictures of how it was just a continuation of Custer's atrocities in the southwest. She tries to capture that in "Bloody Desert".