Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Villanueva Magic. Veterans Day. On-line Floricanto with Nancy Aidé González.

Review: Alma Luz Villanueva. Song of the Golden Scorpion. San Antonio:Wings Press, 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-60940-346-1

Michael Sedano

After a seductive flirtation on a Vallarta dance floor, the aroused thirty-four year old rich Mexicano
doctor bangs on the hotel door of his quest, a fifty-eight year old Chicana celebrating her birthday.
“”What do you want?”
“Tu sabes, you know.”
“You’re old enough to be mi hijo…”
“Qúe rica”

Xochiquetzal opens the door to a dozen pages of puro passion that climaxes with feverish screams and mangoes.

And magic. With their union, a spark of life forms in the woman’s spiritual womb. She gives birth to her soulmate. Their love gestates, grows, explodes with eros and graphic sexuality without being too lurid, then succumbs to the test of time.

The Song of the Golden Scorpion reaffirms author Alma Luz Villanueva’s position among the best U.S. novelists. She elects challenging themes. Young/old eros, freedom and liberation, indigenous spirituality, multiculturalism. The eros sets convention on its head, the predator male carried beyond his own sexual boundaries, confusion wrought in intersections of sex, love, custom, and culture. Culturally, Xochitzalita as her doctorcito calls her, stands out in the Mexican ambiente for her indian name and indigenist traje, for her liberated spirit. She’s rich, and that helps.

There’s a sadness about the text, however. Villanueva, or her editor perhaps, doesn’t let the characters speak in their own voice. In nearly every speech where there’s a Spanish language phrase, the text includes a translation as an apposition. Code-switching speech, including appositional translation, reflects an emotional state or some other conversational strategy. Crafted authentically, the style enriches a novel and character. But drat, translating almost every single Spanish word brings narrative flows to screeching halts. Makes characters dunces. For one awful example, Javier and a man exchange insults on the street.

“I’m going home to my old lady, where else?”
“Qué te vaya bien…May it go well!” Pablo yelled.

No he didn’t. Chicana Chicano writers need to recognize they cannot write for the entire English-speaking world and a Chicano or chicanesque reader either understands the Spanish or accepts outsider status in the spirit offered. There's never a need to translate code-switched or Spanish phrases in Chicano Literature.

Four hundred pages of that stylistic flaw grate on a reader. However, for certain, readers will admire Villanueva’s blazing new trails for women characters. Xochitzalita is a completely free soul who’s bringing her body along for the journey. The challenge, which Villanueva pulls off with dexterity, is keeping the story from becoming the lurid romance that onlookers see when the much younger man is tonguing the older woman in public.


“And my men had to carry you to Xaochitzalita’s tent, doctorcito!” Pompeii gave a sudden grito of such joy, every man in the room responded, including Justin, Hank, Ari, as well as la bonita macha, Muriel.
(The Energy Child trembled, surrounded by such joy—than (sic) added her/his own grito that sounded like tiny, golden bells.) 384

The young man older woman relationship is complicated, to observers. And a source of chisme. And here is where author Alma Luz Villanueva injects the magic. Xochitzalita and Javier live in a world within a world where those rough-edged real world things have silk-cushioned impact. The free spirit who is Xochiquetzal could not survive the harsher realities of public scorn and stand-offish strangers. In a world where her lover has bedded most of the women in his social circle, protective men and women buffer the claws and the world is filled with benevolent gente.

Readers will either love the woman or be confused. Xochitzalita is an ex-patriate artist and professor who pulls a potlatch of sorts in the US and sets to wandering from Santa Fe to San Miguel de Allende, New Mexico to Oaxaca. In her world, a chance encounter becomes a lifelong friendship; a Huichol craftsman strikes up instant carnalismo with a Hopi tourist, they exchange indian names, and sing songs of mutuality.

Villanueva is careful not to go all breathless on the indigenism, although she likes to push its limits. In the novel’s most magical moment of pan-indianism, the Huichol explains the ancient symbols in his textile and the professional photographer Xochiquetzal starts snapping her shutter. The Huichol asks her to email him copies.

Villanueva has the luxury of time and space. Her publisher, San Antonio’s fabulous Wings Press, allows the author 450 pages to populate a novel rich with confluences among lovers, mothers, sons, parents, peers, children, wives. There’s also the unspoken issue of time. In any relationship, at 58 and 34, the gaps are easily filled. He’s a tigre with a willing serpent, she’s an orchid with multiple orgasms. Gente age fast. In thirty years, she’s going to be 88, and he a still robust 64, with a wife and children.

Villanueva goes there with her story. Every great love affair ends in death, so must we all. And beware the evil twin. Song of the Golden Scorpion has dozens of interesting threads jostling one another for a reader's attention.

Sex, passion, love--especially love—aren’t bounded by age, nor time. Javier and Xochiquetzal’s union came as no spontaneous assignation but the recrossing of soul paths. In other lives, they had been together, as children. In this life, they are together until as the aged crone, her soul precedes his into the next cycle.

Veterans Day On-line Floricanto

Twice a year the U.S. whips out a ritualized but sincere day of recognition for members past and present of our armed services, Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

"Thank you for your service," gente say to me and my friends who are Veterans. I went to a Korean mountaintop. To those who went to Vietnam, I say not only thanks but I'm damned glad you made it back."

And to the men I trained with, in Basic and Radio School, I hope you made it back. That day the Army ordered me to Korea every other man in line got orders for Vietnam.

Winter 1969,  Hwaak-ni Korea
The most remarkable difference between soldiering and civilian life is following orders. Tell a soldier to cross that Italian river in the face of impregnable Nazi defenses, and that soldier will jump in the water against all odds. And thousands of Texas soldados razos died. Incredible bravery in the face of callous stupidity, one Texas historian writes .

An unknown Chicano wrote this about that WWII action:

To brothers dead crossing the rapido river…194?
in a day
in an afternoon
in a night
in years of fury
and tears
alone and far from home
away from familiar sounds
tender arms
you fell on the earth of italy
blood of mexico
blood of the northern
blood of the bitter border
spilled on earth of italy
on the earth of italy
hope of america
the vain hope of america
never realized hope of america
against a wall of teuton steel
you waded the chilling river
waters tasting of death
far from home
tasting of sudden death
left your dead on the river banks
tears of mothers on the river banks
hopes of sweethearts on the river banks
left tomorrows on the river banks
bitter yesterdays on the river banks
for a hope
vain hope

Anonymous pp 42-43 in Antonia Castañeda Shular, Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, Joseph Sommers. Literatura Chicana. Texto y Contexto. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, 1972.

November On-line Floricanto: Nancy Aidé González

Nancy Aidé González is a Chicana poet and educator. She graduated from California State
University, Sacramento with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. She attended Las Dos Brujas Writer’s Workshop in 2012. Her work has appeared in Mujeres De Maiz Zine, Huizache The magazine of Latino literature, DoveTales, Tule Review, Seeds of Resistance Flor y Canto:Tortilla Warrior, La Bloga, and several other literary journals. Her work is featured in the Sacramento Voices: Foam at the Mouth Anthology (2013). She is a participating member of Escritores del Nuevo Sol, a writing group based in Sacramento, California which honors the literary traditions of Chicano, Latino, Indigenous and Spanish-language peoples.

La Virgen de Las Calles
Pink Sentinels
Mujeres Del Maíz
La Pulga
Tapestry of Dawn

La Virgen de Las Calles

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.

Pink Sentinels

Smoke stack emissions rise contaminating the atmosphere
jackals roam looking for las hijas de México
one more female homicide increased body count
no one knows exactly how many  500   1,000  5,000

silent screams
fill the night in a fallow
cotton field from catacombs
cries of women that have disappeared
into the twilight
give testimony to the smoldering moon
in low tones they beseech that we not forget the transgressions of those that took their lives
they request tangible justice while mocking rebuke
for crimes overlooked for a price
dust-covered case files piled on disarrayed desk
the spider web binding them together

mothers hold signs take to asphalt
march, weep, light candles that illuminate twinge wounds
 pink splintered crosses stand as sentinels
for the abomination mire entwines.

( Sacramento Voices:Foam at the Mouth Anthology 2013)
Foto: Andrea Mauk

Mujeres Del Maíz

Somos las mujeres del maíz
we are the women that
walk among
the mazes
of corn,
crisp green
leaves moving
like arms

Somos las mujeres del maíz,
we watch the pollen swirl
as the whispers of the ancients
echo in our ears.

We were shaped from maíz,
the staff of life
breathed into our lungs.
Somos las mujeres del maíz,
we touch the verdant stalks
with our brown fingers,
kiss the apex of the
stem that ends in
a silky tassel,
our feet leave footprints
on the fertile soil.

We harvest
the mother grain,
utilize its medicine
to heal,
we grind the kernels
in our molcajetes,
kneading the masa
to make tortillas,
that nourish,
sustain our families.

Somos las mujeres del maíz,
we are the women that
return the corn
to the earth
at sunrise,
cycle of life

("Tortilla Warrior" Seeds of Resistance Flor y Canto Issue no. 1,2013)


The forgotten rust colored key
fit in the palm of my hand
its ridges would unlock a door
leading elsewhere.

The key could open a
door to a place with green fields
where sorrows are laid to rest
and wildflowers grow without weeds
a spot where we could speak of things
that will never make sense

There we could whisper the desires in our hearts
we could laugh, and laugh
and kiss
and fall asleep .

There we could spin all the things that
weigh us down into satin ribbons
weave the ribbons into kites
fly the kites
and let them drift
away into the wind.

(Tule Review, Fall 2013)

La Pulga

Vibrant Dora and
Spongebob piñatas
sway in the wind
ready for a fiesta,
Vero Mango lollipops,
De la Rosa Peanut Mazapan candy,
and spoon suckers made
with Tamarind and chili,
wait patiently on tables
a taste of Mexico,
of home.

Ripe oblong
red juice dripping,
Large strawberries
seeds smiling,
Fragrant papaya
mustard yellow,
Red and green
chiles dancing
in their bins
ready to be
made into
savory salsa.

Imitation Gucci
and Coach purses
placed among tables,
later to be filled with lipstick,
wallets, and keys.

Bumpy leather
alligator boots
lined in rows
no teeth ,
await the warmth of
macho feet.

Cumbia, salsa,
old school ,
hip hop,
rap beats,
a fusion of
meshing into
a rhapsody.

Aromas of
carne asada ,
barbacoa ,
and carnitas
and delicious
offerings from
food trucks.

out bikes
with low seats
and high
handle bars
chrome grips,
seats carefully covered
in plush velvet
on display
ready to
glide down
the boulevard.

Framed pictures
of Emiliano Zapata,
Pancho Villa, and
La Virgen de Guadalupe
Mexican symbols
to be remembered

Little girls with
black pony tails,
small boys with
toy trucks,
women with
colorful house
men with
large silver belt buckles,
women with
silver high heel
men with
all looking for
small treasures,
a slice of happiness.

Flea market
to be experienced
and enjoyed on
after church.
(Huizache The magazine of Latino Literature, Fall 2012)

Tapestry of Dawn

Sun, summoning dawn
truth will come with portraits of consciousness
narratives of shelter

interlocked woven fabrics
find equilibrium
strings of transcendence in cosmos

beyond ancient knowledge alive
planets orbit echoing memory of universe
saffron stars manifest wholeness

nimbus treasures – rain
jaguars roam spirit realm
leave prints where

trees take root
in tierra firme
drawing humanity closer.

foto:Andres Alvarez

Poetry Journal Features 43 Poets, More Poems

Poet and La Bloga friend Richard Vargas comes to market with his seventh issue of The Más Tequila Review. It's a worthwhile acquisition and ideal for a stocking stuffer at only 7 dollars with another three for postage.

Featuring 43 poets spanning 115 pages, Vargas ordinarily prefers one poem per page. This septimo piece departs from that standard. In some cases a poet like E. A. Mares writes a memorably evocative poem covering several pages, "As I Walk Through La Plaza Vieja,"or like David Roskos, writes short, pithy pieces that don't take up much room so there's room for one more. For the most part, the poems are laid out one per page to allow focused satisfaction on the single work.

Of special note is the ample white space the one-per-page rule allows. Even better, TMTR elects 12 point lightly serifed type so every page is a reading pleasure simply owing to its readability. The bios come in hard-to-read 10 or 9 point type.

The Más Tequila Review is one of those old-fashioned literary mags. You get lots and lots really good stuff for your money, but you buy it the old fashioned way. Send a check for $10 Richard Vargas, ed. 1717 Gabaldon Dr NW, Apt B, Albuquerque NM 87104. You can order TMTR via internet distribution channels. Visit the #6 website for further details.


Alma Luz Villanueva said...

Gracias, Em...Thanks, Em hahajaja...The 'code switching' from Spanish to English-Enlgish to Spanish, was entirely my own writing, choices... but not EVERY Spanish word/phrase was translated for the record, only extended dialogue. And I'm so glad the Eros wasn't 'too lurid,' but lurid enough. Latino/male writers have that 'privilege,' so I continue to claim it my own self. Again, gracias for your time and attention...have been hearing from readers from Asia to Europe to Russia- regalos. Almaluz

Alma Luz Villanueva said...

**And Mexico, Latin America- mas regalos. And in that wide spectrum of gente, they seem to fall in love with all of the characters, each one, QUE VIVA...

Alma Luz Villanueva said...

One more...I just read ALL of la poesia, que maravilloso todos...

Alma Luz Villanueva said...

Una mas, pain in las nalgas hahajaja... The novel does NOT open on a dance floor in Vallarta, but on the BEACH...the dance floor scene appears about 100 pages into the novel, San Miguel de Allende. What I've learned is that each reader brings their own point of view to the novel (this my 4th novel), making it their own...if the reader focuses on the sexuality of this novel, or the spirituality of it, or BOTH, it's simply a reflection of who they are, what they need, and ultimately that's the human experience. But much of the novel, it's interconnecting stories, themes, those 'magical moments' are missing here- read it and make it your own, gracias.

Alma Luz Villanueva said...

Numero #5...Just re-read the review, regarding Xochiquetzal..."She's rich, and that helps." X is NOT 'rich,' she's a retired photo professor, not yet on Social Security, but doing okay. Javier is from a wealthy physician/business family, but again X is not 'rich,' although very rich in espiritu and isn't that what counts, YES. In Mexico, I'm considered an 'upper class Mexican,' I travel back and forth across the ancient trade routes to teach, visit la familia, friends- I fly both ways. And I have light skin, hazel eyes, and carry myself the way I carry myself...so I'm often 'duena.' I used to groan inwardly but now play 'my role' to an extent as I learned if you don't you only make OTHERS uncomfortable. The class system is alive and very well here- if you live in Mexico longer than a couple of years and are observant, it all becomes clear.

I've lived here going on 9 years and in fact have begun to 'blend in'...people simply assume I'm from Mexico City, whereas in the first year I had more of the 'pocha vibe' haha. Living here I swim among my childhood Spanish (my first language, the racist 50s), people I feel at home with, and what strikes me (so beautifully) is that no one's 'trying to be Mexican,' they simply ARE who they are, Mexican, with the class system intact. The beautiful greetings morning, noon, night- countless times as I walk to Centro, people leaning into me as I eat semi-yelling, "Provecho!" I no longer jump but laugh, "Gracias." GRITOS that are pure sorrow or pure joy, and once in a while that perfect blend...in the streets, a worker/workers letting one sing, in restaurants one grito, others joining in, laughter...I feel at home.

Also, Javier's twin is NOT 'the evil twin,' but a very wounded man, which becomes clear the night of the bull fight scene...and Pablo's mansion in San MIguel de Allende, now amigo de X y Javier....the gathering of all of the main characters, a magical, hard-won (each character) all night fiesta, and more. As I tell my students in the MFA creative writing program I teach in (the past 16 years)- "Read deeply, let go of your ego, as you do when you truly are WITHIN the fictive dream, writing, and enter the fictive dream of the writer you're reading." QUE RICA, EL ESPIRITU...UN GRITO
**Nancy...I love 'La Virgen de Las Calles,' especially (I see her here as well), but all of la poesia maravilloso... hope a book is on the way, andale, MAS GRITOS.