Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014 • Review: Take This Man • On-line Floricanto Eleven Eleven

Veteranspeak, or 5 Questions To Ask a Veteran

Michael Sedano

MiG Alley below, Homing All the Way Killers above

I’ve been a Veteran since August 1970, forty-four years since I walked away from Ft. Lewis Washington, discharge in hand but still in my Class A uniform. In a curious parallel, that was early in the predawn darkness, just like that January day in 1969 when my busload of inductees stood in the predawn fog of Ft. Ord.

Ever wonder what to say when you learn someone was once boots on the ground? Veterans of my era will spin you some memories to one or more of these conversation ice-breakers. I was Army, other services have similar answers. Kids from Bush and Obama’s Iraq and Afghan wars are likely to understand the questions--the answers are the cement that links a majority of Veterans with one another.

What was your MOS?
Military jobs have code numbers, the Military Occupational Specialty, M.O.S. The best known is eleven-bravo, 11B, Infantry. Me, I was trained as an oh five bravo intermediate speed morse code radio operator, a defunct trade in military communications, even then. Assigned to a rugged anti-aircraft missile site guarding MiG Alley at the Korean DMZ, I worked an oh five charlie field wireman's job. Mid-tour I lucked out and took a job in the Colonel’s office, writing military propaganda as an acting 71Quebec Information Specialist.

Short and Shorter. Sedano 3d from right, with shades.
When did you DEROS?
Short, short-timer. We counted the days until we would “get back to the world.” Upon arrival overseas, clerks calculate your Date Estimated Return from Overseas. If all goes as planned, you’ll be heading for the airport on your "dee-rhos" date. Not every Veteran served overseas. A stateside post meant serving the full two year hitch. Draftees doing one of the hardship tours—Vietnam and Korea—often put in a thirteenth month in order to earn discharge upon DEROS. I put in thirteen months, two weeks, three days, seventeen hours seven minutes and thirteen seconds in Korea, but who’s counting, que no?

RA or US?
Did you sign up, or were you Drafted? Draftees were assigned US serial numbers, volunteer tipos were Regular Army. On the sidelines were ER and NG, Enlisted Reserve and National Guard. The latter pair did Basic Training then went home. Everyone in today’s military are RA, or in barracks vernacular, Lifers. For a long time I knew my serial number by reflex. It was stamped on the dog tags to identify our bodies. I've forgotten the number now, and that's a good thing.

Would you want to see your grandchildren in uniform?
Not involuntarily.

Would you do it again?
Gente I know, to a man and woman say, Yes. I told an Army recruiter friend that I would go if I could take the place of one of the kids he was signing up. No way in Hell would I volunteer for the Draft, but if they called me again, I'd go.

Veterans and active duty wearing a uniform get free chow at  a number of chain restaurants today. A DD214 gets you fed, too. So there's that.

Veterans get to understand important yet amorphous concepts like Duty and Honor. I remember telling a friend about my cannon fodder post had the north invaded. The friend asked why I would hold my ground instead of running before it was too late? I told him it was my Duty. His eyes told me I was a fool. Así es.

Not short.

Take This Man Grossly Captivating Memoir

Review: Brando Skyhorse. Take This Man. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.
ISBN 9781439170878

Michael Sedano

Take This Man, along with its author Brando Skyhorse, occupy a unique spot along the continuum of U.S. ethnic literatures. These people, Brando and his mother, aren’t chicanos, but could have been. And they aren’t Indians, but they’re passing. His mother prefers fantasy history and invented Indianness, she becomes Running Deer Skyhorse, her son Brando Skyhorse, son of a chief. This is Identity run awry.

Take This Man revolves around Maria Skyhorse’s story, but at the memoir’s core lives a boy looking for a father in the men his mother regularly brings home. They all leave. Then she finds a replacement. Herein lies a challenge for readers: don't judge.

Maria’s acts gouge with such ferocity they steal the spotlight from Skyhorse’s more intimate explorations, overwhelming the author’s memories in his struggle to sort out identity and family and fatherness from his mishmash of an upbringing.

Skyhorse engrosses his reader with sordid details that make it tough to like that woman, Brando’s mother. While disgusted readers will grow furious at events, the author denies them an ally in their feelings. Skyhorse's tone is nearly emotionless, he refuses the reader's escape valve for the horror. The only release is turn the page, there's more.

It’s hard not to judge the people Skyhorse had in his life, not to want to spread chisme about those lowlife fathers, so consistently awful the child’s memory of fathering is a guy ferreting out hiding places, robbing piggy banks to buy a night’s drinking and gambling. Mother's not dumb but the easy way out is her route, such as her work-at-home telephone sex worker job. It brought in good cash and she didn't have to give up her food stamps. Marie laughed, ate well, and grew fat.

The little boy’s life is so gutwrenching I find myself wondering that people like this live among us, asking myself, he can’t be making up this stuff, can he? Skyhorse pulls off a tour de force voicing  disarming neutrality. Animated wit and punch-line paragraphs add depth to the mostly fast-moving account. It’s a challenge separating the creative from the nonfiction. Just turn the page.

The crud just piles up for this boy. Five husbands, lots of boyfriends, flings on the road, Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, ritualized humiliations. One example suffices to illustrate the savagery of Brando’s mother, her insanity, and Skyhorse’s own neutrality as he recounts a time he couldn’t produce some coupons to pay for a bus.

The mother shouts, I’ll just leave you here! You’ve taken enough of my life from me! Mother’s fury and hatred for men finds at-hand Brando easy pickings, normally with her mouth. In this instance, however, Maria gets lethally physical.

My mother grabbed my throat. Then she pulled me across the trailer the way a girl would drag a lifeless doll up a flight of stairs. She threw me shivering onto the bathroom floor and then snatched one of Nakome’s leather knife holsters and stabbed at my neck with it…. My mother wrapped her hands around my neck again and pushed my face in the toilet water while I flailed my short arms trying to reach the flush handle.

After Maria locates the boxtops she explains to the son how his carelessness led to the bathroom incident. Skyhorse matter-of-factly clarifies her logic for the reader, Not being given the box tops wasn’t an excuse; I should have asked for them.

The slight bitter aftertaste here is among the few instances where the memoirist’s otherwise controlled voice deviates from its straightforward, low-affect style. This son does not judge his mother. The author, ever a good son, won’t have readers criticize her, either. That’s just the way she was, this is what is available to remember.

Which, of course, is not what happens. Brando Skyhorse, the writer, isn’t disingenuous in what he’s chosen to recall and detail. That mother so burdens his life it takes over the book. The son-writer runs out of room for his main goal, and only skims the surface of the boy’s understanding of fathering and his relations with his biological father and daughters. Then again, the author notes, he hasn’t got this worked out yet.

With Take This Man, Brando Skyhorse should have exorcised the demons of his mother and fathers. He said good things about most of the men. He was kind to his mother and in that way gets back at her. Now the author can rekindle the spark seen in Madonnas of Echo Park, and hinted at in the Bukowski homage of this memoir, to drop the "creative non-"and get on with it.

On-line Floricanto for November 11, 2014
Elizabeth Cazessús, Henry Howard, Ashley, Jackie Lopez, Iris De Anda

Los Rehenes, Elizabeth Cazessús
Guilty of Being Brown (Showdown in Arizona), Henry Howard
Illegal, Ashley
Blessing for James' Place, Jackie Lopez
#bringbackourgirls, Iris De Anda

Los Rehenes
Por Elizabeth Cazessús

…el viento del crimen a la altura del delirio.
Rodolfo Hasler

es la hora de escribir un poema acerca del mundo
de diagnosticar las formas en que amedrenta
con su odio y deslava el rostro de la sinrazón
para justificar mil malabares políticos

es hora de escribir que estamos al acecho
de ladrones, de gangsters, de la avaricia
de la falta de libertad y la zozobra
de la mezquina relación de las entelequias

es hora de callar lo escrito
aquello que no tiene razón en la sobremesa
congestionadas las entropías mediáticas
ante verdades telúricas y tan llanas

es hora de nombrar en lo oscuro
la íntima ejecución de los días
la denuncia, el porvenir y la esperanza
con un silencio atroz que no deje dudas

es hora de contar metrallas, muertos, a los que corren,
de ver la película en las calles y al desnudo
dilucidar acaso en la espesura
de ciertas e inexplicables densidades

es hora de escribir un poema acerca del mundo
de éste y no del otro repleto de metáforas
ya no podemos escapar, no hay letras de salva
Somos rehenes de la impunidad que nos cohabita.

(del libro Hijas de la Ira)

Guilty of Being Brown (Showdown in Arizona)
By Henry Howard

I had a nightmare the other night.
I dreamed I went to buy the morning paper,
And the headline screamed
For all the world to see,
“SB1070 Declared Fully Legal!”
And I cried, because I knew
I was now legally unwelcome here.

My mother took the paper and milk from me
With trembling hands,
And told me in her soft Mexican voice
That Papa had been arrested on his way to work.
For the crime of driving without a Green Card,
He was found Guilty of Being Brown.

We did not have time to kiss him goodbye,
Or even make him a sandwich
On his way back to a country he had not seen
In twenty years.

I woke with my heart pounding,
And my eyes full of tears.
I slowly relaxed,
Realizing it was just a dream.

Then I drove to the store in my first car,
And the morning paper screamed
For all the world to read,
“SB1070 Declared Fully Legal!”

It was my 16th birthday,
and now I, too,
Had been found Guilty of Being Brown.

I am a Los Angeles activist and Peace Poet, whose literary focus has been on human rights since 2001. Published most notably as a featured writer on Quill and Parchment.com, and the legendary Sam Hamill's global anti-war poetry protest, Poets Against the War (beginning in February, 2002), my most recent work was published as a full-length compilation of peace and justice poetry called "Sing to Me of My Rights: Poems of Oppression and Resistance" (editor/publisher Mark Lipman, Vagabond Books 2014). Immigrant rights have been a focus of my street-level activism since 1980, when I learned in college of the murder of El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero--followed, of course, by the rape/murder of the four U.S. churchwomen that December. I was active in the Sanctuary Movement from 1984-98, and a member since 1986 of Refuse and Resist! and La Resistencia. I have never been to our Southern border, but it looms large in my consciousness. The horror of our country's involvement in the collective Central American slaughter, and the residual xenophobic policies towards immigrants, both documented and undocumented, reflected in legislation such as SB1070, haunts me to this day, and inspires me to take to the streets. I have one philosophy that sums up all my activism, including my writing: NO HUMAN BEING IS  ILLEGAL!

Contact me about the poem or order my book. I am also available for readings at public and private events, and will travel to Arizona, Northern California or Nevada to share my work at open-mic events. EL PUEBLO UNIDO! JAMAS SERA VENCIDO!

By Ashley

You say I am illegal because of my flesh,
Apartheid, a race apart.
Even after the laws change,
Discrimination still exists
Cradling fear and fight of flesh-hood
Same flesh, different color.
So is it my flesh, my body, or my being?

You say I am illegal because of the land I stand on.
I do not belong here.
The land sits underneath the sky,
Shall we fight over clouds?
However, this is no different than the land I was born from.
Migration to illegal immigration,
I am, me, the im- in immigration,
The prefixed knot in the rope,
The prescribed not of ‘im’ and ‘il’
So is it the land, my body, or my being?

You say I am illegal because of love,
An endearing criminal at best,
Same heart, different passion,
Love is not a crime.
What matters is within:
not the shape of our skin
377: I went sleep in 2013 and woke up in 1860,
So is it my heart, my body, or my being?

You say the I of me, the me of I is- Illegal.
The law versus: Land, love, and life,
No! No being is illegal,
Neither my body, flesh, nor heart,
Not even my soul,
It is time,
To set my soul afire and let it free.

This poem was first published on Orinam on Dec 20, 2014 at http://orinam.net/illegal/ and is being republished with permission of the author

Ashley was born and raised in Southern California. Her parents are from Mexico. Ashley has been published both online and in-print. A poet, aspiring writer, and is currently learning classical dance. This poem "Illegal" was first published on Orinam on Dec 20, 2014 at http://orinam.net/illegal/ and is being republished with permission of the author

Blessing for James' Place
By Jackie Lopez

James, I bless you from the tip of my hat to the bottom of your feet.
James, never covet another’s house because your place is blessed for having feasted.
I do believe you are entitled to a blessing.
I do believe you become disjointed at the ends when I don’t come around.
Don’t worry.
I will come around every Thursday night at 7 in between meals.
I happen to have happiness around.
I happen to have a misnomer claiming that I am “mad,” but that is how it should be
because I am quite the crazy little pajama party girl.
The mockingbird is singing outside of your studio.
The melancholy moon is twisting in her bed.
She heard you have blasted fun.
The pavement to your studio has been watered by daffodils.
The encouragement of the nonchalant is ever present.
There’s an artistic renaissance running around naked in your studio.
There’s a show girl at your doorstep.
There’s a criminal lurking around, but you know better, there is never a love that can be considered a crime.
If you watch your watch words, you will find me misbehaving.

When I was lost and had no matrimony to offer,
you took me in.
When the painters, poets, musicians, prophets, dancers, and one-night-stands came by,
you gave them an apple dessert to eat.
It so happens that I have come a long way from my home,
and I am able to salute you on a happening basis.
When the ticket to the train I was going on fell through,
I took to hiding in between the sheets.
Now I have you to call friend.
If ever you need a helping hand, if ever you are lonely and blue, call me telepathically.
I shall send the angels to rescue you because you deserve it, James Watts-and you, too, Juan Pazos.
Thursday night dinner is for dancing and being ludicrously in love.
It is for harnessing a misbehavior and going about town.
It is for the young at heart and for the philanthropists.
I summon all the powers of the Universe Complete to bless your studio now
and forevermore or for as long you endeavor to stay home.
When I saw your rocket scientist artwork, I became a lucid woman.
Simple things mean so much more when they are shared with friends.
So, keep on trucking.
I shall meet you on the other end of a transcendence.

Jackie Lopez is a poet and writer from San Diego. She was founding member of the Taco Shop Poets and has always pursued a study of history of which has influenced her writing. She has taught in San Diego City Schools and has been published in several literary journals. She has just finished her Magnum Opus titled “Telepathic Goodbye” described as a long poem of 25, 333 words. She is now looking for a publisher for this. You can catch her work on facebook under “Jackie Lopez Lopez” where she shares her work with a daily poem. She has a radio interview that will come out later this year. Her email: peacemarisolbeautiful@yahoo.com

By Iris De Anda

ruby rage shouts escape
as our young girls disappear
there is no sleep
when night falls without them near
days and days and days have passed
can you remember their bright eyed brilliance
forsaken flowers with petals that wither
under boots of beatings and men with guns
they are killing them softly
raping them daily
silencing their spirit
every time one of them dies
can you feel it in your body
walk around so heavy
carry unseen sadness
on the bridge of our backs
they are our future failing
mountains crumbling
deserts flooding
stars extinguished after lightyears of shining
blood moon tainting the night sky
mothers wailing to the goddess
bring back our schoolgirls
bring back our daughters
they are the martyrs of this modern plague
where men get away with murdering women
while the world looks away
closed eyes to our girls plight
makes the whole world blind
you do not want to see
what you would rather neglect
because it’s not your daughter, sister, or niece
you pretend to respect
can you protect morning dew from the blazing sun
the young woman from the older man
a system that teaches a girls life is worth less than his pen
there is no gentle here where our daughters cry
only rivers of pain
flowing back to the Niger
years of disdain
growing darker by the hour
bring back our sisters
bring back our feminine
bring them back
backdrop of africa
blackout of femicide
backbone of generations
backyard of transgressions
giveback our girls
payback our pain
paperback our stories
comeback our angels
we are waiting
arms wide open
feet tired from running with you and for you
tongues chanting
all the ways we could pray for you
hearts broken
night and days we wait for you
bring back our girls
bring back our girls
bring back our girls

Iris De Anda is a writer, activist, and practitioner of the healing arts. A womyn of color of Mexican and Salvadorean descent. A native of Los Angeles she believes in the power of spoken word, poetry, storytelling, and dreams. She has been published in Mujeres de Maiz Zine, Loudmouth Zine: Cal State LA, OCCUPY SF poems from the movement, Seeds of Resistance, In the Words of Women, Twenty: In Memoriam, Revolutionary Poets Brigade Los Angeles Anthology, and online at La Bloga. She is an active contributor to Poets Responding to SB 1070. She performs at community venues and events throughout the Los Angeles area & Southern California. She hosted The Writers Underground Open Mic 2012 at Mazatlan Theatre and 100,000 Poets for Change 2012, 2013, and 2014 at the Eastside Cafe. She currently hosts The Writers Underground Open Mic every Third Thursday of the month at Eastside Cafe. Author of CODESWITCH: Fires From Mi Corazon. www.irisdeanda.com

1 comment:

Amelia ML Montes said...

Such a rich posting, Em. Gracias for this and for all the years you served.