Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Leatherbound Tales. On-Line Floricanto.

Leatherbound Tales. A Box of Books.

Michael Sedano

This box of books comes with rata ravages, water damage, neglect, memories, and treasure. I remember the old man whose books these are. Born a French-speaking Canadian, he’d worked for the U.S. Treasury at the Embassies in Mexico City and Paris then settled in Los Angeles. The old guy danced in happiness, speaking Spanish with my family at the boda joining his granddaughter to my familia back in 1968.

After his death and then his wife’s, their son--my suegro--gathered the old man’s possessions piled them into boxes and shoved them into a disused space of his own home. Then, after my wife’s parents died, the boxes, along with other of her parents’ possessions, wended their way to a disused space in my home.

A rat made the move with the boxes. A plumbing leak took me into the disused space where the starving rata had piled detritus for who knows how long atop and within the boxes. Textiles had no value remaining, not even the hand-crocheted bedspread the rat gnawed but did not consume. Acrylic? Not even the most desperate poor want hand-me-down rat piss-stinking good cotton Levi’s. Into the recycle trash.

The only textile worth preserving is a lovely blue velvet woman’s hat with veil. I imagine the veil sat through many a Mass and church social. Now it sits in a metal box, waiting its next life. Who will provide it? (Click image for a larger view.)
The books fill me with heartbroken dismay. Volumes sit sadly destroyed, gnawed beyond redemption by the infernal rat. A couple have been soaked by the drip. These I toss into the recycle bin with a silent ave atque vale. Pulp to pulp. The rat, I think I remember the cat bringing me its head one day. Good kitty, now get that crap outside where it came from. Dang thing was inside, its final meal these boxes: my new books, some of which are 100 years old.

Thirtysix adequately preserved volumes are the glistering loot remaining after I inspect and clean the books.

It’s an eclectic collection of publications originating in Montréal, Chicago, Mexico City, Paris, acquired by J. Eugene Cauchon and his familia, from 1910 to 1955. Most have matching leather binding. Clearly my wife’s granpère paid to have his personal library bound into these luxurious tomes, probably when he worked at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Other books reflect a man who respects them and paid for top-quality leather bound volumes.

Worked leather spines feature raised bands defining pockets for gold-stamped titles and authors. Other volumes bear a different leather binding, a couple original cloth covers. One novel has the original paperback cover bound over within the set's leather. World Cat finds a few copies of one or another to-me obscure titles, others zero, others I do not look up. Some titles give pause to consider, why the deluxe binding on this? Others, obvious gems that deserve such elegance, require no apology.

There’s lots of Catholic propaganda and courtesy books in French. A set of essays about François d’Assise looks serious in a dark leather original binding. From Paris comes Femmes Fortes, Dans Les Temps Modernes, Choix de Beaux Exemples Offerts a la Jeunesse, a young woman’s courtesy book. From Montréal, Blanchard de Gaspe, En Garde Divers, a 1915 treatise in defense of the French language in the face of creeping Anglicisms like “play ball!,” and other idiomatic expressions contained in a lexicon. Per World Cat, a single copy of the former is shelved, no results on the latter.

Several worthwhile volumes come in English, Spanish, or French. There are six by Mark Twain and one W. Shakespeare, The Complete Works, in English. In Spanish I find A. Gamboa Ricalde, Yucatan desde 1902 (a binder’s error, the book’s title page reads “Yucatan desde 1910”), Tala, poetry by Gabriela Mistral, and Real Academia Española, Grammatica Española. The French collection includes notable titles by A. De Lamartine and the bulk of the devotional stuff.

Much as folks today, Cauchon writes his name and acquisition date on an inner leaf. Several belong to Cauchon’s wife, some signed Irene Potvin in Montréal, another signed elegantly, Mme J Eug Cauchon. In another “Mrs.” signature, Irene uses the spelling Poitevin. Amédée Cauchon signs two textbooks, geometry and surveying. She was, perhaps, a Religious, signing once with four letters, e.e.g.c., or is that c.e.p.c. or…? I cannot decipher the letters. I wonder if this is Sister Rose, a nun whom I attempted to visit in Japan, when I took R&R from Korea in 1970?

One young woman’s courtesy book (the collection includes a parallel volume, for young men) comes with a bit of added delight. The owner signs, Mme. J. Eug Cauchon, dating the book on 4 Juin 1912. Tucked inside the book I find a certificate issued by Pensionnat de la Présentation de Marie for meritorious achievement in: Ouvrage Manuel, Grammaire, Orthographe, Lecture, and second prize in music. The awards name Mlle I. Potvin, dated 24 Juin 1912. Perhaps the book had come as a betrothal gift from a obliged mother? I discover on an internet genealogy site that lists “Eugene Cauchon married to Irene Potvin on Sept.1-1913 in Montreal.” Was Irene reading the book during her high school graduation, hence the award tucked in at page 98? Did she return to the title later? After all, the subtitle promises, “Ce Que Toute Jeune Femme Devrait Savoir.” Not really, after I review the chapter on the bedroom.

All volumes now feature yellowing paper, some I suspect are water swollen so I’ve placed them into a hot dry attic space. Nineteen of the books form a set, perfect bound in matching leather, evidently after sitting in Cauchon’s library in original bindings, given the range of acquisition autographs dating between 1910 to 1955.

I have two copies of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. One bound to the set, the other an original red “limp leather” binding from Harper and Brothers, dated 1917. Inside, Cauchon tucks his sales receipt from “Brentano’s Inc Successor to McClurg’s Retail.” The store was located at 218 south Wabash Avenue in Chicago. Phone Harrison 8380. The book sold for $2.50 on 7/12/1923, equivalent today to $32. An expensive volume today and then!

I discover at least one with the author’s autograph, a 1949 gift of Yucatan Desde 1910 (Volume I) to Cauchon by Alvaro Gamboa Ricalde. It is the author’s signature if that last scribble says “Ricalde”, danged if I can tell. Still, someone named Alvaro Gamboa something or other signed elegantly, “Para el Señor J. Eugenio Cauchon con mi más alta estimación. Mérida Yuc Junio 1949.” (Click image for larger size view.)

The signing may have been associated with a celebration of Yucateco emancipation thirty-six years earlier. Inside the cover I find a four-fold broadsheet titled, “Homenaje de gratitude del pueblo yucateco al libertador de los jornaleros de campo Ing. Don Eleuterio Avila .” Dedicated “En conmemoracion del 36o Aniversario de la expedicion del memorable y transcendental decreto de 11 de septiembre de 1914, en el que abolio la esclavitud en el estado.”

What treasures of memories and family histories. I look forward to finding other books from my first wife’s grandfather. I remember seeing a volume of beautifully illustrated color plates displaying the traje of French priestly orders. It is around here somewhere. Now that I've got these cleaned up and indexed (link below), she looks forward to what I next discover.

Advertissement. Advertencia. Hear Ye!
I renounce pack ratism. I will divest myself of that blue chapeau at the earliest opportunity. Voici una lista de los libros. I will divest myself of some of these books. Eventually.

I will keep the Twains, Mistral, Shakespeare (torn cover and all), RAE...


La Bloga's On-Line Floricanto Mid-June 2011

Francisco Alarcón and the moderators of the Facebook group, Poets Responding to SB 1070 send in a delightful feast for the eyes, mind, and alma.

1. "Chunks / Trozos" by Arnoldo García

2. "The Beat" by Andrea Mauk

3. "Desaparecidos" by Tom Sheldon

4. "Ice Falls" by Viktoria Valenzuela

5. "Wind" by Raúl Sánchez

Chunks | Trozos

by Arnoldo García

Ofrendas | Flesh Offerings

I went to the border where
women assemble the world
I saw my cousins laugh
through the poison, bring
home suiches, Magda said.
I make suiches all day. She
brought home the poison
in her veins and passed on
to her husband, his semen
was poisoned too, her womb
poisoned the fetus assembled
at the maquila, born deformed
flowing into the Río Bravo twisting
dumped into her waters
drowning herself. Madga places
her newborn in a barrel cut in
half and sets it afloat on the Rio Bravo disappearing
into the Gulf of Mexico: will this
deformed distorted baby return as
the new Moses


The sea
does not
of being
the sea
yet I am tired
of being

She dances with
the moon
I dance with her
the moon objects
sends an earthquake
to tap me on the shoulder
cuts in on us
separates us with
a little tsunami.


There are tiny apparitions
on my tongue:
Guadalupe | Coatlicue,
whirlwinds of dust,
tongue-twisting huracanitos,
spent shells,
my body
its molecules
in equal portions
for every nation
and in the future,
my semen,
swimming toward
the impatient sun,
maíz, bultos of
human rights movements,
orchards, her ruby
the explosion of volcanoes and earthquakes
the DNA of her thoughts and
the hum of bones,
the vibrato of desire


We are dilemma:
no one
You may have lost them
because you lost their way.
When you don't know
where you're from
who your ancestors are
where your bones are buried
where your seed explodes
what season
what time
what color
your past
it is because you
are both
an elder before your time
you pluck yourself from your ribs
you engender new dust
your bones are sperm for the future.

Palabras descalzas
lengua pelada
ojos pelones
corazón zurco abierto
la naturaleza se viste de humana.

un acto
una acción
un pensar
un pensa-
con piernas
con sangre
con vida
en movi-
y practicable:
Ah palabras
que no son bombas
ni guerras
Abren senderos
en las venas
de tu sonrisa
el horizonte
los zurcos
semilla maciza
viento suave
lluvia madre
agua dulce
sobre la tierra
de mi lengua
lanzadora de reinos

Quién me despierta?
Quién me hace soñar?
Tu ternura
tu cuerpo
tus sonidos
(que no hacen ruido)
tus palabras
que derrocan reinos
y lenguajes duros.

Yo escribo
hierbas, hojas, semillas
Ella cuida enfermos
Yo infecto imaginaciones

llenas de
sus velas
esclavizando al viento
para llegar
a nuestro mundo
Yo envío

I will make
to you
in Baghdad
when the U.S. flees
stops the bombing
ends the occupation
Baghdad will once again
be the cradle of a new
world civilization
with no WMDs
with no occupation
with no torture prisons
with no enemies and no
The Euphrates will flow free, clean
we will drink form her waters
baptize our love
From Ho CHi Minh City
to New York City
no more America holocaust
will threaten Indians or
Tortillas de maíz will be globalized
everyone will aspire to be a
land worker, a tiller of fields
a keeper of seeds
with dirt underneath the fingernails
a mark of humanity
Aztlán will finally accept the sun's sperm
and gestate
the sixth grandfather
the seventh grandmother
when we can become a people again
with a place in the cosmos
in your arms or in mine
all the space we'll ever need.

I don't want to leave
any space open to
I want
each other
we unleash
we do not
want to keep to ourselves...

The Beat
by Andrea Garcia Mauk

Poetry in South Central has a beat.
It's loud and it gets louder, rattles the headboards
against the walls, makes the100 year old windows
jitter nervously
to the thump-thump-thump of the bass,
reverberates through my core to my icy toes.

Engines rev, gurgle, churn as tools, wrenches
and screwdrivers clang against the pavement.
Footsteps pound up and down the stairs
and conversations fly through the air
hardly comprehensible, its only the parts
you shouldn't hear that come in unmistakable.

The holler of the tamale vendor coaxes me outdoors.
The wind-up music of the ice cream truck,
playing Joy to the World in April, or Snoop Dogg,
and the puppy barking 'cause he wants some, too.
Ice cream, that is.

Sirens coming closer, sirens moving on.
The ghetto bird whirling overhead, scaring
the kids into crying 'cause they don't get the fact
if you didn't do nothing, they probly ain't
coming for you, though you can't be too sure.

Horns blasting, rhymes being spit, laid down,
echoing like tiny earthquakes in the shallow ground.
Gun shots ring out, their sound has no direction.
The silence of fear is so much more detectable.
Mothers yelling, cussing, hitting, makes me cringe.
Takes my words and makes me suck them back in,
swallow them whole and wonder what to do.
Is my beat a part of this percussion of confusion?

Poetry in South Central has a beat.
And if you stay up late enough,
until the hour when the night grows still,
you might even hear the birds sing.


by Tom Sheldon

Your changes have been saved.
The ghosts of immigrants prowl the hills
They are not wholly forgotten,
they do not die but remain
within the soft folds of the earth,
amidst the ash of twilight fires
separation and longing
Unsure of the way home,
whispering down dusty alleys
wind blowing trash in the dawn
A voice sounds from the desert
a soulful reminder of how alone they are,
cradled in the safety of death.

Ice Falls

by Viktoria Valenzuela

Ice falls-
Heavy sheets chip off my house
I cringe inside my yolk like blankets,
ready for the blow.

Inside this cocoon,
this brown-skinned egg of home
I wonder if I’m the only one,
am I America?
Am I, America?

A lurch-
outside this shell of a home,
a militant sound off, “1 – 2;
3 – 4″
sound off; 1 – 2 – 3 – 4; 1 – 2 –
3 – 4,”
a cadence calls for my ethnicity.

I’ve read that the man who created the cadence call
before it was used for this
was a Black man from a segregated troop long ago.
I think it is tragic
to be nearly forgotten
yet keep the up footing
and morale of millions
at least his legacy is written.

– to be Chicano without knowing your heritage.
Which Chicano invented…. anything?
Which Chicano began something?
Who was Chavez? What is left of his?
No one will teach you now.
but where is it written?
They erased Zapata and Chavez and Huerta out of our kids books.
They gave us trinkets instead-
Cell phones and big screen TVs occupy our time,
though much more time is spent working menial jobs to afford the trinkets that adorn us like ice crystals forming on a roof.

They said fight among yourselves
when you are not fighting for us-
toy soldier/ Aztec warrior.
-give us your children
we will not leave them behind for any reason,
or move them ahead-
They’ve banned all ethnic studies in arizona.

They said, Aztec Warrior, we adore your women
-here are the smallest bindings we have to offer,
let us adore the women.
They said
they love our music and bejewel us
They say there is no us.
Only citizens captured by bling,
We all look the same
like so much mud frozen under the ICE, on the ground.
I cringe,
rejecting ice-
ICE, am I America?


by Raúl Sánchez

invisible men
standing outside home depot
the wind knows their name

Arnoldo García, Andrea Mauk, Tom Sheldon, Viktoria Valenzuela, Raul Sanchez

1. "Chunks / Trozos" by Arnoldo García

2. "The Beat" by Andrea Mauk

3. "Desaparecidos" by Tom Sheldon

4. "Ice Falls" by Viktoria Valenzuela

5. "Wind" by Raul Sanchez

Arnoldo GarciaArnoldo Garcia was born in the mouth of the Rio Bravo. A migrant by human tradition, Arnoldo Garcia became a poet on the road and in the fields. He is a long-time cultural worker, musician and ink-writer. "Ofrendas | Offerings" is part of La revolución emplumada, a book in progress chronicling Indigenous peoples' movements for deep community, land and justice. You read more of his stuff and other poetas & locas at http://lacarpadelfeo.blogspot.com

Andrea Garcia MaukAndrea Garcia Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul.She currently calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction, poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won awards. Several of her poems and a memoir will be included in an upcoming anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality. She is also a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has written online extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry.

Viktoria ValenzuelaViktoria Valenzuela is a Creative Nonfiction BA from SUNY Oswego, poet, and single mother living in Oswego NY. She also founded and hosts open mic poetry events under the name "The Fresh Ink Poets and Writers". Valenzuela is working on her first memoir and second poetry chapbook. She spends much of her time freelance writing and fighting for human rights with The Immigration Task Force of Syracuse, New York.

Raúl SánchezRaúl Sánchez is a Seattle Bio-Tech technician, prosody enthusiast, translator, and DJ, who conducts workshops on The Day of the Dead. Featured in the program for the 2011 Burning Word Poetry Festival in Leavenworth WA. His work appeared on-line in The Sylvan Echo, Flurry, Gazoobitales, Pirene’s Fountain and in La Bloga for the fourth time in a row!. His most recent work is the translation of John Burgess "Graffitto" which will be released on July 16th by Ravenna Press WA. Also, he appears in the second Anthology by The Miracle Theatre Viva la Word!, Latino Cultural Magazine, on Bookmarks by the Seattle Public Library 2007 Poetic Art Project, and in the Anthology Speaking Desde las Heridas (Publisher: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). Lastly, soon to be announced his first Chapbook! stay tuned.


Melinda Palacio said...

blue chapeau bid. i'd love to see the Mistral.

msedano said...

melinda, le chapeau bleu is yours. when are you guys next in pasadena / vicinity? but then again, summer's a great time for an abalone dinner at moby dick's coffee shop on stearns wharf. oh, that's right. it's gone. harry's plaza is still there, my long-ago favorite place.

msedano said...

and the mistral.

Anonymous said...

Andrea, Your poem The Beat does speak right through my screen from the other side of the world and gives me shivers. I can hear it too.

xo Thank you,

jennifer said...

andreas poem is great!!! I love it

Azyh said...

Andrea, I felt your poem, The Beat. It was loud and yet transported me into the concrete. Gave me a new persepective of now. I was a street sign, the road, the path way, and all through I felt this heart beat. a rhythym. Some how in all the noise there is heart and a grit beauty. thank you

Sandra said...

Just loved Andrea Mauk's poem. Has my ears ringing! Marvelous.

manofflowerz said...

Thanks so much for The Beat. Yes! Andrea Maulk says it best!

Jools said...

Love The Beat by Andrea Garcia Mauk. It has a fantastic beat of its own and makes my feet tap to it as well as giving me great pictures and feel.

Concepcion said...

Wow! Ves, Michael, PackRats rule... if from the here-after. What joy (& history) those leatherbound treasures contain! Y, el gorgeous chapeau bleu "de pilon". Te ganaste la loteria!

To the poets this week, thank you. Your words have sharpened my awareness.

chely12 said...

gracias por poner fotos d la escritura d mi abuelo el Señor Alvaro Gamboa