Tuesday, January 03, 2012

10 Best Poems of 2011

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto, One Three Twelve. 

Michael Sedano

La Bloga is pleased to begin another year celebrating floricanto every Tuesday. It's an added joy working with Francisco Alarcón and the co-moderators of a Facebook group, Poets Responding to SB 1070,  as we have since La Bloga began this on-line floricanto in mid-2010.

Inaugurating 2012’s weekly floricantos, we’re taking a final look back on 2011 so we can honor ten  poems published in 2011 as the best of the year. And, since one of the poems is a dual-language gem, La Bloga’s top ten numbers eleven poems for 2011.

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto's Ten Best Poems of 2011 are inspirations of Devreaux Baker, Carmen Calatayud, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Nancy Aidé González, José Hernández Díaz, Sonia Gutiérrez, Genny Lim, Ramon Piñero, Hedy García Treviño.

This Is Not My Empire by Devreaux Baker
Awakening at Night by Carmen Calatayud
Bellota Harvest by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist
Border Inquest Blues by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
La Virgen de Las Calles by Nancy Aidé GonzálezPublish Post
This Serpent Tongue Cannot Be Colonized by José Hernández Díaz
La maza y cantera de una poeta by Sonia Gutiérrez
The Same Thing by Genny Lim
I Am America by Ramon Piñero
Keep Hope Alive By Hedy García Treviño

This Is Not My Empire
Devreaux Baker

This is the night
that only ends when one person says Enough
and passes on the words that sing solidarity
from heart to hand to mouth
so an unbreakable bond is formed
a chain is forged
an empire is dismantled
so a new land grows up
out of the shadow world into the light
where even the voices of those whose language
we do not speak is understood
is cradled between our hands
like a new beginning
is offered up to wood, water, air and fire
like a prayer
This morning I walk through a dream
of desperate men and gaunt women
lining up to knock on my doors
or calling out to me from
their beds of slippery dark
I woke up to the words this is not
my empire… I did not release the orders to kill
children in countries I will never see
I did not permit people to use the crosshairs
of guns to hunt down innocent men, women and
children. I was born in a time of war
to an empire that I never claimed as mine.
I move through the morning
like a sleep walker
in a dream of terrible consequence.
This is not my empire

(La Bloga – January 25, 2011)

Awakening at Night
Carmen Calatayud

For Poets Responding to SB 1070 and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Anger creeps
through my fingers
to tips that buzz
with frustration.
Marigolds pop
and wither,
turn into crust.

Under the gypsy moon
I witness my heart
of coal grow tentacles,
reach out to strangle
the pain my people holds.

Flamenco ancestors
play castanets,
express their rage
through the heels
of their shoes.

My stomach kicks
as Venus appears
in the red wing sky
and I feel the wise
child of belonging
who reminds me

That time has always
been on our side.

That our hands
protect the land
That our souls collide
moment to moment
That our sleep has been
disturbed for centuries
but we are never too tired
to speak the truth.

(La Bloga – January 18, 2011)

Bellota Harvest
Elena Díaz Bjorkquist

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
Abuelita invites us, her familia.
All the family, tías, tíos, primos,
Abuelita, abuelito,
Run to pack cars and trucks
With the necessary goods
For a road trip followed
By a picnic.

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
Pots of frijoles y nopales
and chile colorado con carne,
Ice chests packed with soda and beer
Thermoses full of rich, thick coffee
Old cochas folded into squares
Ready to spread on the ground
To capture the harvest
Of shiny brown nuts stuffed
With sweet golden kernals
And an occasional gusano,
Canvas botas heavy with water
Hang from radiator caps

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
We pile into vehicles
For a caravan to Nuevo Mexico
Where the oak forest
Near Silver City
Bears the sweetest bellotas.

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
Primos, primas cheer as we
Chase each other among the oaks
Tías, tíos, shake the oak trees
Shower their bounty
On the colorful cochas beneath.
A season’s harvest of bellotas
Poured into flower printed flour sacks
Tied with a knot on top.

“¡Vengan a comer!”
My oldest tía calls out.
Tías load paper plates
With fat burritos
Filled with frijoles y nopales
Or chili colorado con carne
Warmed over an open fire.
Family seeks shade under oaks
Sit on cochas now empty of bellotas.
Abuelita sits on the running board
Of an old Chevy truck
With her youngest granddaughter
Relishing huge slices
Of watermelon
Grown in family gardens.

Sunburned, tired, full
Of good food and memorias
La familia heads back
To Morenci chasing
A glorious sunset,
Snacking on bellotas.

Darkness falls before
La familia gets home
Cars, trucks part to go
To their homes
In different parts of town.
Tías, Tíos, unload leftover comida,
Sleeping niños and precious bellotas.

“¡Vamos a las bellotas!”
Una memoria of an autumn picnic
With la familia, to be enjoyed
on cold winter days as we
snack on the harvest of bellotas.

(La Bloga – September 27, 2011)

Border Inquest Blues
Odilia Galván Rodríguez

at what crossing
could my poems
become bread
or water to offer
a people
the thousands
who cross so many
miles of misery

perched on trains
like birds
with clipped wings
who only fly
in their dreams
but decide to search
out the promise of
a better life at any cost

which of my
careful word choices
make a difference
to scorched tongues
that can no longer
even form a whisper
let alone cry out for help
in a desolate desert

there are no
flights on 747's
for a people
with only prayers
without papers
thick with words
that legitimize them
in an illegal world

full of legalized criminals
that form tempests
to tease out fear and
who year after year
think up new ways to hate
at the same time taking
even a person's last breath
if it benefits their profits

at what checkpoint
do my words become
more than arrows
sharp in their bite
or mere criticisms of the "Right"
still not hitting the target
or putting an end
to this war

(La Bloga – June 28, 2011)

La Virgen de Las Calles
Nancy Aidé González

She stands on the
busy street corner
selling delicate red
and white roses
hugged by baby's -breath
and luminous cellophane
resting in a
once discarded
plastic bucket.

She understands the innate
beauty of roses,
their fragility
their fragrant hope
as they grow slowly
from bud to
embracing change,
as they flush into
full bloom.

She knows of
piercing thorns
and truth,
of crossing
barbed wire

She understands
the prickling sting,
the aculeus
of being an outsider.

She wears a large
sweatshirt with USA
emblazoned in block
print across her chest
but she misses
Mexico and the
small town she was
raised in .

A red and green
rebozo hangs down
upon her head shielding
her from the flugent sun,
a gift from her mother,
a reminder of home.

People stride past her
lost in their own thoughts
hustling to work,
on pressing errands,
wandering down the tangle
of the Los Angeles

She is La Virgen de
las Calles,
waiting with a
heavy heart,
full of yearning,
dreaming of
new horizons,
a fountain of
humble tenderness
and abounding love.

La Virgen de las Calles
comprehends the
nature of roses,
their vulnerability
their need for nettle.

(La Bloga – November 22, 2011)

This Serpent Tongue Cannot Be Colonized
José Hernández Díaz

To those who say
Our voices must conform
To proper English
And/or Spanish,
I offer you this
Humble poem—
This jaguar roar:
With love and squalor…

I was born
To a proud
And ignorant
Mother who
Bravely immigrated
From the bucolic
Fields of Guanajuato;

After crossing to El Norte,
She stumbled as she
Landed on
The dry, gringo soil –

She spoke to me
With heavy chains of
Broken English –

But her turquoise heart
Was always full of love;

Her tranquil song
Reverberated in
The belly of
The sun.

Do not weep…

When I was placed
In ESL classes
In elementary school,

I yearned to join
The American students
In traditional courses –

I wanted to say
The pledge of allegiance
Without a hint of
A Chicano accent –

When that day
Finally arrived,
I was filled with
Yankee pride;

Today, I cherish
The memory
Of my Abuelo’s machete –
Swiftly cutting the
Tuna del nopal –

At times,
Subtle sounds
Are more profound
Than the rigid
Perils of language.

...Por favor,
No llores…

With the coming
Of the Sixth Sun:

I yearn to
Speak the
Silent language
Of sun-burnt peasants –

With a vibrant accent,
Colorful with
The pulse of
Ancient myth:

This serpent tongue –
This pride –
Cannot be colonized.

Amo ancoconetzitzintl…

(Portion of poem first published in Hinchas de Poesía; the author gratefully acknowledges Professor Francisco X. Alarcón for his assistance with the Nahuatl translation of the last stanza)

(La Bloga – December 6, 2011)

La maza y cantera de una poeta
Sonia Gutiérrez 

Porque estos dedos toscos
no tocan guitarra,
mis letras se levantan
como nudos desatados
del pueblo
de mi garganta.

Con sus ojitos desplomados
y trapos agujereados,
esa niña y niño
merecen vivir un cuaderno de la vida
sin balas,
con lápices de colores para pintar
sus buenos días y aguas
libres de lombrices.
Déjenlos subirse a los árboles
y enlodarse de sonrisas.

Y porque no tengo las brochas de Goya,
mis dedos pintan la sangre derramada
de brazos destrozados
como una tecolota
acribillada en su nido
mientras su tecolote huye
en terror a media noche.

Y porque para esta poeta, la poesía
es su único escudo y arma
sin violencia bruta;
teje palabras,
para que un pseudo-sordo mundo
escuche la historia
de su presagio.

A Poet’s Mallet and Quarry
Sonia Gutiérrez

Because these clumsy fingers
don’t play guitar,
my letters rise
like untied knots
in the throat
of my people.

With their slumped eyes
and riddled rags,
that girl and boy
deserve living a notebook of life
without bullets,
with color pencils to paint
their good mornings and waters
free of worms.
Let them climb trees
and be muddied with smiles.

And because I don’t have Goya’s paint brushes,
my fingers paint the bloodshed
of mangled arms
like an owl
gunned down in her nest
while her love flees
in terror at midnight.

And because for this poet, poetry
is her only coat of arms and weapon
without raw violence;
she weaves words,
so a pseudo-deaf world
listens to the history
of her presage.

(La Bloga – December 6, 2011)

The Same Thing
Genny Lim

“The trees on the mountain topple themselves
and the spring steals its own water.”
– Chuang ‘zi

In comparing how prison camp workers
rubbed grains from ears of wheat stalks
and popped them in their mouths
it was every man for himself
recalls Er Tai Gao
who wore the dead man’s coat
The young man had lied to his mother
that he was well, then died of starvation
wearing the blue coat she had made

In comparing our city’s homeless
wearing rags that no one had made
and stuffing themselves with food scraps
rummaged from dumpsters and
the cold fire of whiskey
I wonder if captivity or freedom
amounts to the same thing?

Two deaths amount to one
When a mother awakens
in the dead of night
to discover the son she once nursed
has succumbed to the suckle of whiskey
Two deaths amount to one
when a mother awakens
in the chill of dawn to
discover her boy’s letters from camp
have stopped for eternity

Two deaths amount to one
when the trees on the hillsides
can’t lift the heavy rains that come
Two deaths amount to one
when the fish can’t spawn upstream
because it’s everyone for himself
and captivity and freedom
have become the same thing

(La Bloga – June 7, 2011)

I Am America
Ramon Piñero

I am America.

from the
tundra to

from the
wheat fields
in Kansas
to the orange
groves in

I am America

New York
to Cuzco
Buenos Aires
Eagle Pass

I am America

my sweat
built the
I left
my blood
In Panama
in a canal

I am America

from Macchu Pichu
to Tenochtitlan
from Quintana Roo
to Appalachia

I left
my body
on the Trail of

I am America

I died on the
Bataan Death March
and in
the mountains of

An Aztec
took my
still beating
heart and raised
it to the

I am America

I sleep in
a dead end
covered by

I am America

I watched the
fires in Detroit
and in the

I died at
Wounded Knee;
I spent my
early youth
in Manzanar.

I am America

I conked
my hair
in the fifties
and wore
a ‘fro
in the

I was
one of the
first to die
in Vietnam

I am America

I am that
that the
on my
is the
same as
the boot
on yours.

I am America

I rode

I died
in the
Ponce Massacre

I am America

I followed
the fruit
and the

La Caña
Belle Glade
El tomate
in Ruskin
la lechuga
en el Valle
y la uva

I am America

United Fruit
and Dole
me by name

I am America

I sat with
and Martin
I drank
with Marti
Don Pedro

I am America

from the
Tierra del Fuego
from the Andes
to the
Florida swamps.

I am America

I made
for all
the wrong

I am
that baby
in a dumpster,
that junkie
on the

you walk
by me
see me

You call
me many

camel jockey

I am

I am America

© Ramón Piñero

(La Bloga – November 13, 2011)

Keep Hope Alive
Hedy García Treviño

When love is obscured
by the shadow of fear
I will fan the embers and
keep hope alive

When the dreams
of our children are shattered
and tossed to the wind
I will call on the song of the eagle

When the mountain I climb
is covered in thorns
I will seek out
the softness of stones

When the river
is blocked
by rancid intolerance
I will launch into flight

When the doors and windows
are shuttered tight
I will search for
the key in the rubble

When the wind roars at my back
and tears at my flesh
I will chant the song
of forgiveness

When the song
of the mountain is silenced
When the double rainbow fades
I will return with Grandfather

to that sacred place
to beat the drums of hope
and whittle magic flutes
from river willows

(La Bloga – May 10, 2011)


This Is Not My Empire by Devreaux Baker
Awakening at Night by Carmen Calatayud
Bellota Harvest by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist
Border Inquest Blues by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
La Virgen de Las Calles by Nancy Aidé González
This Serpent Tongue Cannot Be Colonized by José Hernández Díaz
La maza y cantera de una poeta by Sonia Gutiérrez
The Same Thing by Genny Lim
I Am America by Ramon Piñero
Keep Hope Alive By Hedy García Treviño

Devreaux Baker's poems have been published in many journals and anthologies including; The Bloomsbury Review, ZYZZYVA, Borderlands:A Texas Poetry Review, The American Voice, Crab Orchard, and A Paris Review. She was an editor of “Wood, Water, Air and Fire: The Anthology of Mendocino Women Poets” and has conducted poetry workshops in California Poets in the Schools,  the Rape Crisis Center, and with homeless children. She has published three collections of poetry; Beyond the Circumstance of Sight, Light at the Edge and Red Willow People, which was awarded a PEN Oakland 2011 Poetry award. She has received a MacDowell Colony Poetry Fellowship, the Hawthornden Castle International Writing Fellowship, The Helene Wurlitzer Poetry Fellowship, and three California Arts Council Awards to produce "The Voyagers Program of Original Student Writing, K-12" for National Public Radio.
She has poetry currently or forthcoming in; The Mas Tequila Review, New Millenium Writings , OCCUPY SF Anthology and Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology; 99 Poets Among the 99%. 

Carmen Calatayud's first book of poems, Cave Walk, was chosen by poets Pamela Uschuk and William Pitt Root for the Silver Concho Poetry Series and is forthcoming from Press 53 in September 2012. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Borderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewCutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, and PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art. She is a poet moderator for Poets Responding to SB 1070, a Facebook group that features poetry and news about Arizona’s controversial law that legalizes racial profiling. Born to a Spanish father and Irish mother in the U.S., Calatayud works as a psychotherapist in Washington, DC.

Elena Díaz Björkquist, a writer, historian, and artist from Tucson, writes about Morenci, Arizona where she was born. She is the author of two books, Suffer Smoke and Water from the Moon. She is nearing completion of another collection of Morenci stories entitled Albóndiga Soup. Elena has been on the Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) Speakers Bureau for ten years performing as Teresa Urrea in a Chautauqua living history presentation, and doing presentations about Morenci, Arizona and also the 1880’s Schoolhouse in Tubac. AHC recently selected her to do a presentation on El Día de los Muertos.
Elena is co-editor of Sowing the Seeds, una cosecha de recuerdos, an anthology written by her writers group. The project was funded by AHC. She co-edited a new anthology entitled Our Spirit, Our Reality; our life experiences in stories and poems that was released in November 2011.
A SIROW Scholar at the University of Arizona, Elena conducted an oral history project funded by AHC; “In the Shadow of the Smokestack.” A website she created contains the oral history interviews and photographs of Chicano elders living in Morenci during the Depression and World War II. Another project funded by AHC and the Stocker Foundation is “Tubac 1880’s Schoolhouse Living History Program.” Her website is www.elenadiazbjorkquist.net/. 
Elena is one of the poet moderators for the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB1070. She recently received the 2012 Arizona Commission on the Arts Bill Desmond Writing Award for excelling nonfiction writing.

Nancy Aidé González is a Chicana poet, writer, and educator.  She currently lives and works in Lodi, California. Nancy graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in May of 2000.  She has contributed poems to Poets Responding to SB 1070. Several of her poems have been published on La Bloga.  Miss González is a participating member of Escritores del Nuevo Sol, a writing group which honors the literary traditions of the Chicano, Latino, Indigenous and Spanish-language peoples.
                        She teaches first-generation, Mexican –American migrant elementary students. She enjoys teaching her students and giving back to her community.  She holds a Master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in School Administration from California State University, Stanislaus. Nancy Aidé González is involved in Chicano Organizing & Research in Education (C.O.R.E.) a non-partisan, research and advocacy organization that aims to improve the educational environment of all Chicano/Latino students.   She is currently working on a novel about Chicana women.

José Hernández Díaz is a first-generation, Chicano poet with a BA in English Literature from UC Berkeley. José has been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology 2011, La Gente Newsmagazine of UCLA, Bombay Gin Literary Journal, Contratiempo, Hinchas de Poesia, In Xochitl In Kuikatl Literary Journal, Indigenous Writers and Artists Collective, The Packinghouse Review, among others. José has had poetry readings at The Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco, at The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, and at El Centro Cultural de Tijuana. José is currently fulfilling an internship with Floricanto Press as a Poetry Editor. In addition, he is an active moderator of the online group, ‘Poets Responding to SB1070,’ where he has contributed more than 30 of his own poems.

Sonia Gutiérrez is divided by her many passions—teaching English and advising for the Palomar Poets and Encuentros United at Palomar College and for the Upward Bound Program (CSUSM), promoting education and social justice through poetry including translation, enjoying her family and friends, and sharing the work of artists and poetas at her bloguita, Chicana in the Midst. Recently, Sonia joined the Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego, California, where she plans to promote literacy and the arts con muchas ganas. Her manuscript, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña is seeking publication. Sonia will dedicate 2012 to finalizing her novel, Kissing Dreams from a Distance and continue to add translations to her third manuscript (that was born about two months ago), Translating from Obsession: From a Witch’s Caldron/Traduciendo por obsesión: De la caldera de una bruja. La Bloga’s On-line Floricanto is home to Sonia’s Poets Responding to SB 1070 poems, including “Fishing Bait,” “Memografía”/“Memography,” “Mi bandera”/“My Flag,” “My Heart Is a Strawberry Field,” “The Passing,” and “La maza y cantera de una poeta”/“A Poet’s Mallet and Quarry.” Her debut La Bloga guest column, “Face to Face with La Bloga” is forthcoming on January 8, 2012.

Genny Lim has performed in poetry & music collaborations with such jazz greats as the late Max Roach and Herbie Lewis as well as Bay Area's John Santos, Francis Wong and Jon Jang. She has been a featured poet at World Poetry Festivals in Venezuela, Sarajevo and Naples, Italy. Her play "Paper Angels," was performed in San Francisco Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square to packed audiences last September 2010 and won the San Francisco Fringe Festival Top Ten Award for Best Site Specific Work. Her performance piece, "Where is Tibet?" premiered at CounterPULSE, S.F., in 2009 at AfroSolo Arts Festival and Women on the Way Festival in January 2011.

 She is author of two poetry collections, Winter Place, Child of War and co-author of Island:Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island.

Ramon Piñero. "Ex Bay Area poet living in the buckle of the Bible Belt, aka Florida. Where good little boys and girls grow up to be republicans who vote against their own interest. Father of three and Grandfather to five of the coolest kids ever. Niuff said...

Hedy Garcia Treviño (nickname Jaritta Little willow because i spent my childhood in the river by the willows). Born in Northern New Mexico to an Hispanic family who was in New Mexico before this area was a territory of the U.S,. and a native family who has been here forever. Mother of 2 wonderful children and 1 precious granddaughter they all live in Phoenix.

I started writing poetry as a young child when i was hit with a ruler for speaking Spanish in school. So poetry has always been my 'healer' my medicine, and poets responding is my temple.

Professionally I'm a substance abuse and mental health therapist.
I was raised by my Spanish speaking grandparents in rural new mexico surrounded by corn fields which sang to me. It was a blessed and fortunate event that my parents abandoned me to the care of my grandparents because i experienced the ancient histories of my familia due to that circumstance. I practice herbal healing and come from a long family history of 'healers' and gardeners and those who work the land. I feel best when my hands are connected to the blessed earth.


Anonymous said...

Thank you La Bloga! I am honored to be with such great writers. A great way to begin 2012! Devreaux

jeanne lupton said...

Thank you for these wonderful poems.

houser said...

Poetry Alive! Forever turn-us-around.

Odilia Galván Rodríguez said...

Honored to be among the ten! I was en la habana when this was announced and unable to send my picture/bio. If anyone would like to read more of my work they can do so on facebook or here http://xhiuayotl.blogspot.com/
Gracias Em and La Bloga for all you do in the world!

Saludos y feliz año nuevo!
Odilia Galván Rodríguez