Monday, June 21, 2021

Poetry and the Summer Solstice by Xánath Caraza

 Poetry and the Summer Solstice by Xánath Caraza

 


The Summer Solstice starts today and there had to be poetry.  As such, Po’Jazz, Playdate with Poetry and Jazz will have a Poetry and Music performance on June 27 from 3 to 6 p.m. ET.  Participating are Golda Solomon, EJ Antonio, Robert Anthony Gibbons, Christopher Dean Sullivan, and me.  I’m excited to be part of Po’Jazz this summer. I hope you will be able to join us.

 

Golda Solomon is Poet –in-residence at Blue Door Art Center.  She is a Collage Artist, and Professor, Manhattan College/C.U.N.Y.  Solomon created/hosts: Po’Jazz (Playdates with Poetry & Jazz), ArtSpeak/FPTP, and Make W.A.V.E.S ekphrastic workshops.

 

She is the author of Flatbush Cowgirl, Medicine Woman of Jazz CD’s: Word Riffs, First Set, Po’Jazz ‘Takin” It To The Hollow’, and We Were Here (J&PCC). Her poems have been published in The Mom Egg Review, About Place Journal, Solo Café, Heal, among others.

 

She performs with musicians and is founder/member, The Jazz & Poetry Choir Collective. For more information visit: https://goldajazz.com/

 

As a child growing up in Harlem, NY, poet E.J. Antonio love for words encouraged her ambitions to be a storyteller and a jazz singer. Her maternal grandmother, Lucille Markum, was the Pastor of Gospel Temple Church of Christ, a small Harlem church off of 130th street and Lenox Avenue that remains there today. She believes her fascination for words and gospel influences were a result of watching her grandmother work on her sermons late into the night and listening to her preach those sermons.

 

Robert Anthony Gibbons, a native Floridian, came to New York City in 2007 in search of his muse Langston Hughes and found a vibrant contemporary poetry community at the Cornelia Street Cafe, the Green Pavilion, Nomad's Choir, Brownstone Poets, Hydrogen JukeBox, Saturn Series, and Phoenix among other venues. His first book, Close to the Tree, was published by the New York-based Three Rooms Press.

 

He is an Obsidian Fellow (2019). He is a Cave Canem Fellow (2019-2021) and has received residencies from the Norman Mailer Foundation (2017) and the DISQUIET International Literary Program (2018). In 2018 he completed his MFA at City College.

 

Robert has been published in over thirty literary magazines and in several notable anthologies. Recent publication credits include Expound, Promethean, Turtle Island Quarterly, Killer Whale, Suisun Valley Review, and the Bronx Memoir Project: Vol. 2 published by the Bronx Council of the Arts.

 

Close to the Tree was published by Three Rooms Press (2012). His chapbook, Flight, was published by Poets Wear Prada (2019), and his collaboration with Brooklyn based visual artist, Amy Williams, “Some Little Words” was published by 440 Gallery, Brooklyn (2021).

 

Bassist Christopher Dean Sullivan started his career in Pittsburgh, PA., where he attended Pitt University, Robert Morris College.  Sullivan teaches music theory for the Jazz Workshop Inc.  Christopher’s discography is varied, covering 45’s, albums and CD’s Christopher continued to receive various New York State community and arts services, municipal, congressional, NYS Assembly Merit, and Senate Proclamation awards, NAACP Community award, Boys and Girls Club Outstanding Service in the Arts Award, as well as the prestigious New York State Orange County Arts Council Champion for the Arts Award.

 

Xánath Caraza is a traveler, educator, poet, short story writer, and translator.  She writes for La Bloga, and Revista Literaria Monolito. In 2020 Balamkú received second place for the Juan Felipe Herrera Best Book of Poetry Award. In 2019 for the International Latino Book Awards she received Second Place for Hudson for “Best Book of Poetry in Spanish” and Second Place for Metztli for Best Short Story Collection. In 2018 for the International Latino Book Awards she received First Place for Lágrima roja for “Best Book of Poetry in Spanish by One Author” and First Place for Sin preámbulos / Without Preamble for “Best Book of Bilingual Poetry”.  Her book of poetry Syllables of Wind / Sílabas de viento received the 2015 International Book Award for Poetry. She was Writer-in-Residence at Westchester Community College, NY, 2016-2019.  Caraza was the recipient of the 2014 Beca Nebrija para Creadores, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in Spain.  She was named number one of the 2013 Top Ten Latino Authors by LatinoStories.com. Her books of verse Where the Light is Violet, Black Ink, Ocelocíhuatl, Conjuro and her book of short fiction What the Tide Brings have won national and international recognition.  Her other books of poetry are Ejercicio en la oscuridad / An Exercise in the Darkness, Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin, Balamkú, Fără preambul, Μαύρη μελάνη, Le sillabe del vento, Noche de colibríes, and Corazón pintado. Her upcoming poetry collection is Perchada estás / Perching.  Caraza has been translated into English, Italian, Romanian, and Greek; and partially translated into Nahuatl, Portuguese, Hindi, and Turkish. 

 

 

 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Guest Columnist: Father's Day With and Without

 

I Didn’t Celebrate Father’s Day While Growing Up

Joe Navarro

 I am a father. Interestingly, my mother had three sons and no daughters, yet I have three wonderful daughters, but no sons. And, I have five grandchildren. I try to be the best father that I can be, and hopefully one that my daughters can appreciate. I’m not perfect, made my parenting mistakes along the way, but have been consistently involved in my children’s lives.

 

I have joked that the youngest has it best because I made the most mistakes on my eldest. Of course my eldest doesn’t think that’s funny. I agree. It’s my bad sense of humor. 

 

I can say, however, that I have been involved in their lives from the beginning. I changed diapers, prepared meals, spent many days on family outings, went on great family vacations, helped with studying, and gave my daughters supportive hugs and advice. I survived teenagehood. I became a parent/co-adult now that my daughters are grown up…a relationship dynamic that doesn’t immediately come easy.


My daughters have taught me a lot, too. I’ve had a tendency to treat them as if they’re too fragile. But they’re much tougher than I had given them credit for. It’s hard not to be worried. I’m a man. I know how men have been indoctrinated to treat women. There’s a lot of disrespect, abuse, and manipulation by men, rooted in patriarchy and misogyny. I have been and continue to be a work in progress my entire life. I have grown and will continue to grow as I navigate manhood and parenthood.

 

My father was a different story. He was with us the first seven years of my life, until around 1960. I don’t have happy memories of him. I mostly remember his cruelty towards my mother and sometimes me. He was sometimes physically abusive. He was even more cruel to my older brother who lived with my grandparents. He hardly displayed any affection, if at all. 

 

My father disappeared one day. Just like that. Gone. I was neither happy nor sad. He went to Jalisco, Mexico, never to be seen again. I heard later from a relative that he had died in an accident, which caused me to experience a momentary sense of loss. But that didn’t last. I have no feelings about him and don’t think about him unless someone brings him up. I had lost connection with him and the entire Navarro family. I grew up connected only with my mother’s Lujan family.

 


Caption: My mother, Dora Lujan, and father, Pánfilo Navarro

 

My father is mostly a mystery to me. I wondered what kind of man would abandon his family, especially his children. My mother said he was too macho. “He expected his freshly made tortillas and frijoles on the table when he got home each day. That’s not the life I wanted to live. So we fought about it.” I have to admit that when he lived with us our standard of living was fairly good. He was a Mexicano, who worked as a longshoreman and foundry worker. I remember smelling the scent of burnt sand and metal in his clothing when he got home each day. After he left we sank into poverty, relied on public assistance and lived in public housing in San Francisco.

 

My mother was our anchor. She loved us, cared for us, provided for us within her means. She was a tough Chicana who provided a nurturing environment, taught us to dream of a better life, was our spiritual guide and guidance counselor. She gave us the life talks, which included to not abuse girls and women and take responsibility for our actions and relationships. She wanted us to have a better life than her own. She was capable of working, but couldn’t get hired for certain jobs due to discrimination. If it wasn’t for public assistance I don’t know what our lives would have been like.

 

Living in poverty presented us with multiple challenges. We lived in a community of contradictions with absent fathers, overwhelmingly single mothers, and although not directly related, we were surrounded by drugs, alcoholism and criminal behaviors. This was our “normal.” Our lives were complex, mixed with good and bad experiences. In spite of those challenges my mother always held herself together for our sake even in the most difficult of times.

 

I didn’t grow up celebrating Father’s Day. Neither did most of my friends. There was no reason to. My mother was my only parent. She made our lives livable, taught us how to be men and demonstrated how to be a parent. 

 


Caption: My mother and her three sons. I am in the middle.

 

I have tried to live up to her teachings as did my brothers. I always think of the times she chose to reason with us and helped us to navigate through life. My mother’s life was difficult. She understood racism, discrimination and inequality because she experienced it. She encouraged us to strive to be better people, be proud of our Mexican heritage, as well as to stand up to oppression. I am an extension of my mother. My only connections to my father are his surname and DNA. 

 

I’ve always and unevenly made a conscious effort to be a husband/partner to my wife, Lucia, in sharing family responsibilities with her, demonstrate respect to my family and be a source of inspiration and support to our daughters. That should be a normal way of life. I’m not sure it’s necessarily cause for celebration. Yet I feel obligated to acknowledge and appreciate the men who co-raise their children and remain in their lives throughout their lifetime. I have always known one thing for sure, that I never wanted to be like my father.

 

 

Relief

My father often

Spoke to me
With his angry eyes
And his angry hands
 
When he suddenly
Disappeared into nowhere
I almost felt nothing
Except, of course, relief






Joe Navarro is a Literary Vato Loco, poet and creative writer. He has been published in seven chapbooks of his poetry and has been included in seven poetry anthologies.

 



Friday, June 18, 2021

I looked back to see if you were looking back at me.






La Bloga has floated in cyberspace since 2004, making this offspring of drunken conversations and naïve blind ambition "The world's longest-established Chicana Chicano, Latina Latino literary blog." (It says that on our masthead so it must be true.) We've had numerous contributors, guest bloggers, interviewees, and spammers over the years, and because this is the Internet, you can still read any or all of the thousands of posts that we've published. We have a colorful history that includes arguments with authors and agents of authors, contributors who volunteered and then never showed up, people who insisted we were the devil, and the strange fact that for a prolonged stretch, La Bloga was persona non grata on Facebook and our readers had to outwit Facebook algorithms or go directly to La Bloga to get their daily Bloga fix. I never thought we were that subversive.

We survived. Chances are that in La Bloga's archives you will find a review of at least one of your favorite books, or an interview with one of your favorite authors, or a photo essay on one of your favorite artists, or an opinion piece about a unique topic such as early Los Angeles history, immigration reform, writers of color, the danger of Trump, the joy of cooking (with recipes.) You might find short fiction or long poetry.

When I look back, it's apparent that I was quite energetic (I was younger, of course.) And I wrote about all kinds of stuff. Here's my post from December 29, 2006, in which I review my past year of Bloga articles. Seems like only yesterday.

__________________________________


While hunkered down in my house because of yet another Colorado blizzard, I reviewed my participation here on La Bloga for this past year and decided to reproduce some of what I consider my highlights of 2006. These are excerpts from my posts -- the archives are a good place to get lost in once in a while. Try it.

January: The Mario Acevedo Interview
Q: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received or that you want to give to other writers? 
Mario: One. Read as much as you can. And write. Don’t wait for inspiration. The muse works for you. Go club her on the head and make her help pay the rent. Two. Get involved with writing groups whose goals support yours. Three. Have faith. You won’t know when you will get published but if you quit, it will never happen.

January: The Lucha Corpi Interview
Q: Did it matter in the big scheme of things that you were acknowledged as a Chicana poet and novelist? 
Lucha: I think it mattered, maybe still matters, to others, who seem to have a hard time categorizing or labeling my work. In over 35 years I’ve been writing, I’ve been asked many questions about my cultural and linguistic identification and the content in my work. Am I a Mexican or a Chicana poet? Should I be considered either? Am I being opportunistic by using as background for my novels events in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement? Shouldn’t I stick to writing only poetry in Spanish because that’s what I do well? Did I know that writing mystery novels—“genre”—would prevent me from ever again receiving recognition as a “literary” writer? To be honest, I hear the questions but I don’t particularly care to explore the issues in them. I was, am and will continue to be a Chicana poet and fiction writer by choice, and beyond that and most importantly, because of the two cultures that have formed me, which are reflected in my work in one way or another.

March: "Lalo's Notebooks" written by Denver's new poet laureate, Chris Ransick.
This poem opens with these lines: 
She handed me the blue canvas bag, said These are from his family; it weighed as much as a life lived, a big soul full of roses and the other blooms, the unnamed ones, laid on the graves of broken workers and women who would feed their children more if there were more to eat. How could I open such a bag. I carried it down the street and my hands ached, not with pain but with love for the poet I’d never met and the words that were really flames of ancient fires, hot enough still to give light in this dark time.

March: Writing Short
The thing about a short story is that the obvious is true but that doesn’t make it easier. A short story has to get to the point quickly and effortlessly. The best advice I ever heard about writing a short story is "start late, leave early." Easier said than done. What writer doesn’t want to indulge the details? To eschew subtlety for in-depth development? To expose the back story and the epilog, to wrap everything up in a neat, tidy package of setting, conflict, climax, resolution? The best short stories, in my opinion, rebel against these tendencies and snapshot the human condition in one quick frame, not an entire reel. In this type of fiction, the role of the reader is essential - fill in the gaps, put the pieces together, jump to the writer’s conclusion. However you want to say it.

April/May: The May Day Specials
La Bloga participated in the May Day Immigrant Celebrations by posting a variety of articles, reviews, essays, fiction and opinion pieces. Click on the archives to read these tributes. In May we also learned that Tu Ciudad Magazine had selected La Bloga as Best Blog.

May: Review of The Man Who Could Fly and Other Stories by Rudolfo Anaya
This slim volume represents a lifetime of quality writing and much appreciated storytelling. It is an essential compilation of Anaya’s cherished abilities to illustrate truthfully the intersection of human foibles and triumphs and to expose the mysteries of the natural and secret world often taken for granted by its human inhabitants. The short story form challenges any writer. Here are eighteen examples of how to meet that challenge.

June: This Mestizo Thing Has Me All Mixed Up
This poem included these lines: 
My fat bud, Buddha, serenely grins at my wife's sad but reverent Virgen flag flapping in the dry wind, while I try to understand the sad but existentially true stories of the Chilean novelist who had to wait for death to find readers.

July: Review of Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez
This book, excuse the pun, is a sleeper. It should resonate with readers on many levels. I appreciate Hernandez’s finely-tuned talent and I especially like the fact that he uses his art to probe and expose some of the complex dynamics swirling around those groups of kids all of us see in the malls, lethargic and seemingly without ambition or motivation, almost as though they were sleep-walking. Maybe they just woke up from a coma?

July: Review of Adiós Hemingway by Leonardo Padura Fuentes
Among many other themes, Adiós Hemingway examines the aging process and the sense of loss that two men, who never knew each other, share across the decades, linked by a decomposed body hidden under earth, myth, and legend. For example, Conde has his close friends and his set rituals, but he lacks romance and passion. His vitality has waned and he triggers sexual release with thoughts of the beautiful and sensuous Ava Gardner parading naked around the grounds of Finca Vigía, just as Hemingway was reduced to using a pair of Gardner's black knickers as a wrap for one of his handguns - a weird thrill that combined two of his obsessions.

October: Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño
The characters wander aimlessly, or pursue private, unlikely quests. They seldom succeed but it does not matter. The exiled Chileans meet one another in exotic and famous locations around the world, but the settings do not matter. These places -- Acapulco, Barcelona, Goméz Palacio -- are hazy and ephemeral, serving only to frame the anxiety and sense of loss that looms around the aging men and women who fought or ran away or never knew the struggles on their own continent. For the most part, they failed to participate. When all is said and done, the characters themselves do not seem to matter. Some are referred to only as B or M. The structure of the stories is first person narrative. No dialogue and very little of what we have come to call "plot." The narrator is detached, and often the end is simply a place where the narrator decides to stop. The end does not mean resolution. The effect is as though the reader must provide the voices and story line. The reader is required to participate.

November: La Bloga Día de los Muertos Amoxcalli-Descansos Contest
We celebrated Day of the Dead with a writing contest and were able to showcase several excellent pieces and writers. Looks like we will do this again.

November: Review of Brownsville by Oscar Casares
Place is nothing without people and Oscar Casares’s characters are complicated and layered and contradictory. Their stories are sometimes amusing, the people pitiful or admirable. These strong tales of human failure and victory pull the reader into the secrets and whispered gossip of Brownsville, enough so that a voyeuristic thrill rubs against the conscience.

December: Review of The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani
A powerful, frightening and challenging book. The kind of book that readers often talk about wanting to find -- a piece of writing that says something new, that disturbs the status quo and moves the reader to action, or at least uncomfortable thoughts -- but, once found, produces a deep and uneasy hesitation, a pause in the contemplation of the writing because of the troubling images and quirky use of words.

That's my short review of a year with La Bloga. Prospero Año Nuevo to one and all.

Later.

_________________________________

Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction.  His latest is Angels in the Wind.


Thursday, June 17, 2021

Chicanonautica: And Now, a Blatant Act of Unashamed Self-Promotion . . .

by Ernest Hogan


 Yeah, here I go again. I know some folks think that a literary artiste should stay aloof in their assigned ivory tower (which is usually not ivory or a tower), but in my career, I’ve learned that if you want people to read your work, you have to go out and make noise. And I consider it my right in non-paying gigs like this one.


I always have great expectations when I start a story. I think, wow, this one is going to set the world on fire! Who cares if the short story has become an artform that most people ignore, we have social media, it’s quite possible if the word gets out in the right way, it could go viral. It could become The New THING! Society would be influenced. The course of history changed . . .


‘Scuse me while I do my diabolical mad scientist laugh.


It was that way when I wrote “Those Rumors of Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.” I have been traveling around Aztlán, and particularly New Mexico, seeing things from my Chicano (pardon me, but I have to be specific about what part of Latinx, and the Greater Latinoid Continuum I’m talking about here) viewpoint, with its political and historical baggage. I also took note of what I saw, how things were developing, did some extrapolation, played the time-honored sci-fi game of What If? . . . and came up with (if I can get away with saying it myself) one helluva story.

 

Of course, I sent to all the usual markets, and thanks to email submission, quickly exhausted the possibilities. Undaunted, I kept scanning the horizons for new ones to come along (I am sorry to say that this process can take years).


Finally, it sold to Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology. Let’s have a round of applause for the editors Alex Hernandez, Matthew David Goodwin, and Sarah Rafael Garcia! 


Then there was the process by which the book actually came into being, which took a few more years. Yep, this publishing business takes time. If you want to be an overnight sensation, go into pop music or politics or something more appealing to the masses.


And to go beyond finally, Speculative Fiction for Dreamers is coming out. There’s a page on Amazon where you can pre-order it.  On the page the publication date of September 8, 2021 is emblazoned. Or if you prefer an alternative to Amazon, go here. (Note: This is your cue to click and pre-order.)


Why should you take my word that you should take my word that you should spend your hard-earned cash on this book? Well, you not only get my story but 400 pages of stories by the likes of Stephanie Nina Pitsirilos, Patrick Lugo, Frederick Luis Aldama, Lisa M. Bradley, Pedro Cabiya, Scott Russell Duncan, Julia Rios, Sabrina Vourvoulias, and others who represent an emerging community or writers who are creating diverse new possibilities for the Latinx imagination.


Besides, Publishers Weekly says, “This is a knockout.


They also mentioned my story:


Ernest Hogan explores decolonization in “Those Rumors of Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice Have Been Greatly Exaggerated,” in which two truck drivers in the liberated region of Aztlán—formerly the southwestern United States—pick up a hitchhiking American anthropologist.


So there!


Maybe this one really will go viral and shake the world!


Think I’ll do my mad scientist laugh again.


Ernest Hogan is considered to be the Father of Chicano Science Fiction. His dyslexia and lousy math skills are all that kept him from becoming an actual mad scientist. The human race should be thankful for that.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Merci Suárez Can't Dance


By Meg Medina 



Publisher  :  Candlewick 

Language  :  English

Hardcover  :  384 pages

ISBN-10  :  0763690503

ISBN-13  :  978-0763690502

Reading age  :  9 - 12 years

Grade level  :  4 – 7



A Kirkus Reviews Most Anticipated Book of 2021

In Meg Medina’s follow-up to her Newbery Medal–winning novel, Merci takes on seventh grade, with all its travails of friendship, family, love—and finding your rhythm.


Seventh grade is going to be a real trial for Merci Suárez. For science she’s got no-nonsense Mr. Ellis, who expects her to be a smart as her brother, Roli. She’s been assigned to co-manage the tiny school store with Wilson Bellevue, a boy she barely knows, but whom she might actually like. And she’s tangling again with classmate Edna Santos, who is bossier and more obnoxious than ever now that she is in charge of the annual Heart Ball.


One thing is for sure, though: Merci Suárez can’t dance—not at the Heart Ball or anywhere else. Dancing makes her almost as queasy as love does, especially now that Tía Inés, her merengue-teaching aunt, has a new man in her life. Unfortunately, Merci can’t seem to avoid love or dance for very long. She used to talk about everything with her grandfather, Lolo, but with his Alzheimer’s getting worse each day, whom can she trust to help her make sense of all the new things happening in her life? The Suárez family is back in a touching, funny story about growing up and discovering love’s many forms, including how we learn to love and believe in ourselves.



Review


Merci returns for another year of challenges and triumphs at home and at Seaward Pines Academy...Merci’s maturity and growth are as engaging and compelling as they were in the author’s Newbery Medal winner, Merci Suárez Changes Gears (2018). The cast is broadly diverse; Merci and her family are Cuban American, Edna is Dominican, and Creole and Cajun Wilson has a physical disability. An uplifting sequel told with heart and humor.

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


In this sequel to the Newbery-winning Merci Suárez Changes Gears (2018), 12-year-old Merci takes on growing responsibilities both within her family and as a seventh-grader...Filled with the familiar, laugh-out-loud humor from the first title, this sequel will quickly pull readers, both returning and new, into Merci’s world... Fans of Merci will root for her as they are immersed in her vibrant world full of unique characters and heartfelt surprises.

—Booklist (starred review)


Newbery Medalist Medina artfully chronicles another year of highs and lows in the life of Cuban American middle schooler Merci Suárez via this winning sequel to Merci Suárez Changes Gears. . . Medina continues to build on the stellar character work of the first book, balancing laugh-out-loud one-liners (“Buy a Heart Ball ticket if you have absolutely nothing better to do in this sad life”) with vulnerability. . . This is a sequel of the finest quality, perfectly capturing the feelings of awkward first crushes (“Did he say I look nice? Or did he say I look like a rodent? I can’t decide”) and evolving friendships.

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Merci navigates the troubles of home and seventh grade – and the gap between the two – with her irresistible combination of spirit and heart in this follow-up to the Newbery-winning Merci Suárez Changes Gears (rev. 9/18). . . . Her relationships at school strengthen, to mirror the bonds she has with her family at home, and when school and home lives merge, Merci discovers the best way to manage change is with a bit of bravery, a welcoming attitude, and people you trust.

—The Horn Book (starred review)









Tuesday, June 15, 2021

MAMA LOVE: She's almost there. She's there.

Editor: Alzheimer’s Dementia is a terminal disease that takes its toll on the Personhood of someone living with the increasingly dismaying progressions of the disease. A family member, either a spouse or an adult child, becomes despairing caregiver to the disappearing personality. At the End, dementia overcomes the organism so it abandons its shell. 

Caregivers have final obligations over time: deciding when to begin in-home hospice and palliative care, then watching the body leave the caregiver’s home for the last time. 

Time. That’s all we have after that neurologist fills out that form “dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.” Time is what we have. 

Today’s Guest Columnist, Nicki De Necochea, updates her February 16, 2021 column (link). That was a time three months and 27 days past. Every minute of every day, caregivers live with the disease. Before today, De Necochea was able to end her column recalling a sparkling moment lucidity:
My favorite thing she still does when hugging me is when she says, “you’re beautiful mija”.  My mother not only is communicating, expressing her love, but she knows at moment who I am to her.  Gratitude; I take nothing for granted.  







MAMA LOVE: She's almost there. 
Nicki De Necochea 

My viejita has for a time maintained her status, as stable as we could possibly expect, for where she is in in her Alzheimer's disease and trajectory. This has included hospice care for the last two months. 

Weaker and thinner, but still sitting up, standing for long enough to sit her in her transport chair, responding to simple questions and hugs and I-love-Yous as recent as this Thursday, and amazingly, remaining part of her daily "being," until this last Friday. 

Something changed and it was dramatic. A seizure of sorts, glazed eyes and she is in another realm, and no longer responsive. No muscle tone, and her body now just weight. Taking nourishment and hydrating has been consistently less, and has now, as of two days ago been replaced with inability to do these as well. 

Her transition is noisy, part of the Alzheimer’s which includes involuntary groaning and moans, distressing because that's what we as humans do when we're in pain. I've used an eyedropper to give her her anti anxiety med/and pain med, just so I feel better in case she does have pain or discomfort, and she's not "drinking" so the drops make it more able for her to swallow. 

I'll let the nurses take over tomorrow should she need something stronger. Some of the stuff we do is so we feel better as caregivers, right? 

I lie next to her and speak to her just to tell her I love her, that I’m here, that she’s not alone. I’ve read our hearing is the last sense to go, so I reassure her as best I can that I am right here, we are together and she can rest. That I'm not going anywhere. She quiets when I do that. Music is on, Pandora sweet stuff. 

Yesterday was the marked big change, and a sign that she's working hard to make that transition. This is the hardest part, for her; but also, for us. It’s hard to feel powerless. 

I’m list making, cleaning, fidgeting and doing all the keep-me-busy things, I can think of. Lists…like I'll Up the nursing visits to daily starting tomorrow. Place the order for the hospital bed not needed until now. 

Figure out what to dress her in when she passes; ask for hospice to have someone come to help me bathe and dress her when she does pass; be sure I know who to call if she does; because my brother is out of town as of Wednesday and I'll be on my own if that happens sooner…shit like that. All the just in case/just in time stuff. 

And my expectation is that these hospice “angels” will help us with the acceptance part, with less anxiety, and a better idea of what my gut says is the reality, and imminent. 

Why am I sharing this? Well, because it helps me process, and face the truth; and maybe one day will help one of you know what to expect in a similar circumstance. And because I think discussing such a huge family milestone should not be a quiet thing. Just as important as the births, birthdays, Mothers Days, anniversaries; family celebrations and the lot....maybe more so. It should be spoken, felt, shared and laid down. 

I am so grateful for these past 7 years with her under the same roof; both of us helping each other adjust to the coming of this very time, this exit, this reality that she has given us her all, and we too have given her all we have been able to, and willingly gave to make these years just the absolute best. Thank you to each of you who have given me so much strength, support, encouragement and shown your humanity in your caring. 

She was a force! 

We are also fortunate to have that force of family and community caring and the openly shared concern and affection. Thank you from my heart. 06.12.21


6.14.21 There

My mamacita passed this morning with me at her side, peacefully in her sleep. 

We stayed up together until about 2 a.m., me doing all the talking, and listening to music. She was gone by 5 a.m. So a very heavy day, with a lead weight for heart. 

Just now, my first chance to get to take a deep breath, the house too quiet, the bed empty and not a thing that needs doing. What now. She's gone....and her body too. Too much reality is so painful. I'm calling up the chingona in me to get me to keep me moving into the next steps. 

The hardest, hardest part of this journey was not the work, or the selflessness, or the sadness of watching the disapearance of who she was. The hardest part was watching strangers roll her body. All zipped up and removing her physically from me. Cabrones! 

Then, a gutteral wail from the depths; oh, and then I threw up. So indelicate.

Interestingly, when she passed, I opened every window, the bedroom door to the outside patio, and I saged her and my house. The open door and windows symbolic of allowing her soul to take flight. 

I couldn't believe how calm I was. I went out to the patio, to call my niece and as we were talking, a hummingbird came within 2 feet of my face, and just hovered for what seemed a message. Symbolic and reassuring. 



Monday, June 14, 2021

Chuy’s Speech: “I want it to stop. No more cages, no more escaping, no more swollen feet.”


By Daniel A. Olivas

In my play, Waiting for Godínez, each night, immigration officials kidnap Jesús (aka Chuy) and throw him in a cage with the intent of deporting him. But each time, Jesús escapes and makes it back to the city park to be with Isabel (aka Chavalita) to wait for the mysterious Godínez. Inspired by Beckett’s iconic Godot play but with humor deeply steeped in Latinx culture, Waiting for Godínez explores the meaning—and absurdities—of identity and belonging.

My play previously went through development after its first reading with Playwrights’ Arena last year (directed by Dr. Daphnie Sicre). The current version of the play was chosen to be in The Road Theatre’s Summer Playwrights Festival and will stream via Zoom in a reading on Sunday, July 25 at 6:00 PM PST. This version is directed by Sara Guerrero. For more information on how you may watch it, please visit the Festival’s page.

One of the ways the play developed after that first 2020 reading with Playwrights’ Arena resulted in my writing of a new speech for Jesús/Chuy where he goes into the horrendous details of his capture by immigration agents. After sitting through rehearsals and watching the actors perform this portion of the play, I was in tears. The actors brought to life the anguish and absurdity of one person’s existence as he is hunted and hounded because of his immigration status. I want to share that speech with you now, and I hope you will make time to watch the entire play on July 25: 

JESÚS


(Sighs, resigned to ISABEL’s desire to hear all the details. Stands, limps to center stage, looks up at the tree, thinking, turns to audience, envisions the events he is about to recount, starting slowly, assuredly, but as his tale continues, he grows more agitated, frightened.)

Last night, you sat under that tree promising to keep watch over me as I sleep on this bench. You said, “Chuy, my dear friend, you have nothing to worry about. Te prometo. A promise from me is as good as gold.” That is what you say every night: Good as gold. So, I believed you. Why not? We have been friends since we were little children, and you have never lied to me. Pues, I closed my eyes, I was safe, and sleep came to me. And then it happened: I felt strong hands grab my arms, my legs, my head! These strong men and women –- agents -- in green uniforms lifted me from the bench. I struggled! I tried to call your name, but nothing came from my mouth. I hoped that you would see what was happening to me! I twisted my head even as one of the agents squeezed it with strong hands. And then I saw you! Asleep, snoring under that pinche tree! A carefree baby! I tried to scream, but my tongue was dead within my mouth. The agents tightened their grip, and carried me away. And you snored! They took me to a big, black van, threw me in the back with all of these men, women, and children. Los niños estaban llorando. And the agents piled into the front seat, and laughed at us. The driver said: “You are going home now.” Home! But I was already home, here in this park with you. ¡Contigo! And they drove throughout the night until suddenly we stopped, and an agent opened the back of the van. The other agents pulled us out, one by one, and herded us to a row of small cages. And one by one, they put us each into our own cage, so small, I could not stand, I had to crouch. The children kept crying, then their parents started to cry, too. And one by one, the agents closed the cages with a loud clang and they laughed at us. ¿Entiendes? The more we cried, the louder the agents laughed. And as we whimpered, the agents congratulated each other on a good job. Some lit cigarettes. Then slowly, they wandered off, laughing, joking, proud of themselves. ¡Qué valientes! Finally, we could hear them no longer. And after an hour or so, in those cold, dark cages, the others quieted down, and eventually the crying was replaced with soft, sad snoring. The children and their parents, all in their own cages, were tired, and all they could do was sleep. ¡Pero no dormí! I refused to sleep. I needed to come back here, to you, Chavalita. I needed to stay awake and come up with a plan. And then it happened. As I tried to get comfortable, crouching in that cage, to plot my escape, I leaned against the cage door, and it fell open! I could not believe my luck! Those babosos forgot to lock my cage! I crept out, on my hands and knees like a baby, and then stood, like a man. I looked at the pobrecitos in their cages, snoring softly, and my heart broke. But what could I do? I have no doubt the agents did not forget to lock all of the cages. That would make no sense. So, I was the lucky one. I looked around and could not see any of the agents -- they were probably drunk someplace, laughing at us, celebrating their great conquest. I crept away, silently into the night, to come back to this park, to this place, my home, to be with you, my friend.


(Sits again, exhausted.)

Esa es toda la historia. And do you know what I thought about as I walked those many miles back to this park? I thought of you, Chavalita. I thought of your face, your voice, your embrace. That is what kept me walking, step by step, mile after mile. The thought of you. But I also had other thoughts. Tenía preguntas. Such as: Why do you lie to me? You make promises to protect me, but you do not. And that means you lie to me, each day, every day. ¿Me estás escuchando?

ISABEL

Oh, Chuy, that story is unbelievable! How can any of this be true? You know I would always protect you, even from a horde of agents with strong hands. You must be dreaming. My word is as good as gold, I have told you. I would never lie to you. ¿Entiendes? If agents ever tried to touch you, I would fight them off!

JESÚS

¡Cada noche!

ISABEL

Oh, Chuy, lo siento. I know you would not lie to me. If you say it happens every night, it happens every night.

JESÚS


(calmer, sighing)

Cada noche.

ISABEL


(soothingly)

Sí, Chuy. Cada noche.

JESÚS


(resigned, calm, the storm is over)

Chavalita, I want it to stop. No more cages, no more escaping, no more swollen feet.


(Holds up right palm for emphasis.)

Ya basta.