Friday, September 30, 2016

Kali Fajardo-Anstine: Writing the Outcast

We are always happy here at La Bloga to feature fresh, exciting writers who bring new voices and perspectives to the literary world.  Today it is my pleasure to shine the spotlight on Kali Fajardo-Anstine, a Denver writer making waves with her short stories. 

Kali’s fiction appears in the American Scholar, Boston Review, Southwestern American Literature, the Idaho Review, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the University of Wyoming. Kali’s writing focuses on Chicanas in the American West and she is at work on a Depression-era novel set in Denver.


Manuel Ramos Welcome to La Bloga, Kali.  And thanks for taking time to answer a few questions for our readers.  To begin:  Why writing?  What has brought you to the point where you are published and working on a novel? 

Kali Fajardo-Anstine  I write because I’m in love with literature. Long before I wrote stories, I read chapter books and dated encyclopedias. I was sent into the hallway in fourth grade because a teacher caught me reading The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe inside my social studies textbook. My relationship with traditional schooling was always rocky and when failing high school, my AP English teacher kicked me out of class for not turning in any assignments. Before leaving school for good, I handed her an essay on Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People and said that I loved the character Hulga.

Though nothing I have written matches the greatness of the books that inspire me, I hope to someday get closer. I suppose attempting to write a beautiful story is my thank you to the books that kept me company when there was no one else.

MR  Little bit of rebel with a cause - in the fourth grade? C.S. Lewis - and then Flannery O'Connor in high school?  Nice.

Given the focus of your writing (Chicanas in the American West), have you found editors or publishers receptive to your work? That is, have you had to contend with issues of race or gender in order to pursue your writing goals, or have you found varied and encouraging opportunities? Or is it something else entirely?

KFA I haven’t yet tried to place my short story collection or novel with a publisher, but some magazine editors seem excited to see characters like mine represented in literature. I will say that as a writer of color, one from Denver, who is mixed-race, it was lonely starting out. My work was often misread. During my graduate thesis defense, a reader asked how I felt that I was writing stories about poor people. I’ve been asked to put more elements of magic realism in my work. I’ve been asked to explain, in a short story, the entire history of Hispanos in the southwest.

Despite all this, I’ve found a community in writing workshops like VONA (Voice of Our Nation Arts Foundation) and my MFA program at the University of Wyoming, where I worked closely with Joy Williams and Rattawut Lapcharoensap. Both championed my work and gave me the courage to write race and gender in a way that felt true to me.

MR  The support and validation of a good teacher (or mentor) often is the turning point for a writer.  I also owe a debt to a teacher that supported my work.  

How would you describe your professional writing experience, especially to other young writers who are just beginning to pursue their creative dreams?  Has the experience been positive, motivating, discouraging, or something else?

KFA My experience as a writer has been a full one, if anything. My writing has sent me around the country. I’ve taken literary opportunities in California, Wyoming, Florida, and South Carolina. There’s exquisite beauty in the diverse peoples and landscapes of the United States and as a young writer in my twenties, this almost meditative roaming has been vital to my worldview.

Moreover, it’s been isolating. There have been years where the writing hasn’t come so easy and the rejections seem relentless. Because I’ve had some success, I know that these things are cyclical. When I was starting out, I didn’t have this foresight or patience. My advice to young writers is to keep working, even when it seems you’re throwing your soul into a rather off-putting sea. The tide will change.

MR Keep on keepin' on.  Sometimes that's all a writer can do.

I've read only one of your stories (All Her Names, which I thought was excellent), so it's unfair to generalize, but in that one story, your main character, Alicia, is a street-wise young woman who knows what she wants but who also has some regrets and even second-thoughts about her choices. Do you often write about such characters? What is it about Chicanas that makes you want to write about them?

KFA I often write women similar to Alicia. When read together as a collection, I want my stories to create a historical and cultural landscape that is undeniably unique. I want these Chicana characters to feel as real as the lands they inhabit, even if the lands themselves fall victim to mythology.

I write about Chicanas in the American West because I want my region represented in a way that feels accurate, the land as I know it—a populated urban center with skyscrapers, universities, homelessness, and an ongoing cycle of boom and bust. Denver, my Queen City of the Plains.

MR   A rich vein of inspiration, yes, I agree.  Denver, the New West, life in the Rocky Mountains.  

How much of Alicia comes from people in your own life, if any?  Some readers might react negatively to a character who relies on folk medicine "cures" and tags freight train cars under cover of darkness.  Why should the reader care about Alicia?

KFA I’m an outcast. I’m a Chicana. And I’ve certainly known people who paint trains. It’s only natural that these voices come to me. Alicia is sort of an archetypal character. Different versions of her appear throughout the stories, and somewhat in the novel. She’s usually emotionally closed yet funny and sensitive. Alicia, like many of my characters, also carries within her the pain of generational suffering. That is to say, the sorrows of her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are transferred through story and memories of place.

In All Her Names, Alicia has lost her heritage language, she’s been displaced due to gentrification, her mother abandoned her, and her father died of cancer brought on by hazardous working conditions. Even before the story begins, Alicia has known mostly loss. That’s why readers should care about her. She’s deserving of love. Sometimes I wonder, however, if readers expect a greater level of sentimentality from women writers. The ways to hurt another human being are innumerable, and for reasons I can’t quite know, mapping those crimes feels valuable. I think my Chicana characters are often misread as unemotional, numb, and even cruel. But I view them as fierce, even if they are wounded.

MR  I find the subject of your novel-in-progress intriguing -- Depression-era Denver --in fact, I've played around with my own story idea about that time period.  There's an abundance of drama about that time in Colorado:  dustbowl poverty, the political power of the KKK,  the status of various immigrants who worked in the fields, mines, and on the ranches, the mystique of a vanishing prairie and frontier, etc.  What can you tell La Bloga's readers about your novel?

KFA The novel is inspired by my family lore, in particular the tales of my great-grandmother and her sisters. With sections that move between the late 1890s and mid 1930s, the story follows Luz Lopez, daughter of a Pueblo/Spanish woman and a Belgian miner. Luz and her older brother are abandoned by their father in southern Colorado, somewhat for being mixed-race, and sent to fend for themselves in Denver.

The novel in some ways is a story of migration. Luz and her brother cross no physical borders, but as they enter the city, they encounter international characters and customs. And, hey, there’s also snake charming, sharpshooting, and tea leaf reading. 

MR  That sounds great.  I want to read it.  Good luck with the writing and then the process of getting it published.

What do you think is in store for Kali Fajardo-Anstine, the writer?  What would have to happen for you to say you had a perfect day as a writer?

KFA I’d like to find a home for my collection and novel. Then I’d celebrate with a shot of Don Julio, and maybe get a tattoo, a Toni Morrison quote from the end of Beloved. But in general, I’d like my work to reach a wider audience. An eighth-grade teacher in Vermont once sent me class projects her students made after reading my story Any Further West from Boston Review. Their work was remarkable. It was the first time that I saw art created after my writing. That was the perfect day for me as a writer.    

MR  Thank you, Kali -- so glad we've crossed paths, can't wait to read more of your stuff.  I'll see you at Lighthouse on October 9 (Kali and I are both presenting workshops for Lighthouse that weekend.)  Best of luck with the writing.
Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles. His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book Award. My Bad: A Mile High Noir is scheduled for publication by Arte Público Press in October, 2016.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Chicanonautica: Did You Hear the One About . . .

by Ernest Hogan

We were heading toward Farmington through a part of New Mexico we’d never been to before, enjoying the Aztláni landscape, when I blurted out a joke about how Trump will have to hire illegals for his deportation force, and they’ll take turns arresting each other.

You’ve got to write that story!” My wife said. 

I grumbled in agreement.

I may not do it, for a number of reasons.

First, I’m very busy with things I’ll be blogging about soon -- as usual.

Then, despite how I feel about the election, it’s one of those ideas that makes a better one-liner than a story. There’s nothing beyond the essential concept. I could flesh it out, but it will lose its punch in being adapted into dramatic narrative. Believe me, I wrote a lot of these abortions early in my career.

It’s also a timely idea that will seem dated by the time I write it and publish it. Under normal circumstances, it takes a ridiculously long time for something to get published. Sometimes it takes years. It’s really sad -- one of the ugly truths of the writing biz. By the time your avant-garde cutting edge spec fic gets published, it’s usually nostalgic steamwhatever.

Yeah, I have found that my stories about the Latino condition surprise me by holding up decades later; I have to make changes of names, places, and time that would further weaken a story that didn’t have much substance to begin with.

And where could I publish it?

I’ve lucked out in the past, and sold timely stories to editors who wanted them, or who gave me the freedom to do whateverthefuck I wanted. It happens -- at least it does to me. But not often enough to make it worth my while to pursue such ideas.

Also, I tend to need a character to come to life, then I just write down what they say and do.

I suppose I could try to create a character for this one. How about a young, short brown gal, like the kind that you see all over TV these days; make her a single mother, for whom being in the deportation force was her big break. She has a picture of President Trump next to one of Jesus in her living room. She’s also a bit of nerd, and fantasizes about being a superhero while on the job. When it’s her turn to be arrested and deported, she visits her cousins who are working on the border wall.

Sometimes having an opening line helps, like: “I love busting down doors -- it makes feel like a superhero.”



The monster just lies there on the slab. The zaps have no effect.

If a story comes to life, the characters start talking and doing things -- hopefully getting into trouble, and it practically writes itself. This one ain’t doing that.

Probably, this is because it needs something to become a real story, and not just a half-baked idea. By half-baked, I don’t mean it’s a bad idea. It just needs something, to cook more, to developing into something that will work as a piece of fiction.

I know. I always have lots of ideas stewing away in my subconscious. It doesn’t pay to thrash them around prematurely. And sometime it takes years -- decades -- for this to happen. Sometimes they never come to life. I’m probably going to die with a lot of these ideas in my head.

It’s a safe bet that this story isn’t going to to come together before the election.

And the main reason may be that this idea isn’t a story. Ideas can take many forms. Shit, sometimes they’re just ideas! This one may just be a joke.

Rather than twist it out of shape and try to make it into a product I can sell in a dubious literary marketplace, I should just give it to the world.

Hey, everybody! You hear the one about the illegals hired for the deportation force! Tell it, even improve on it! It may not sway the election, but I’ve learned never to underestimate the power of tickling people’s minds.

Meanwhile, who the hell is that pounding on my door?

Ernest Hogan is off on another road trip with his wife this weekend. Maybe it will give him a few more ideas.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Shame the Stars

By Guadalupe Garcia McCall

  •             Hardcover: 288 pages
  •             Publisher: Tu Books (September 15, 2016)
  •             Language: English
  •             ISBN-10: 1620142783
  •             ISBN-13: 978-1620142783

Eighteen-year-old Joaquín del Toro’s future looks bright. With his older brother in the priesthood, he’s set to inherit his family’s Texas ranch. He’s in love with Dulceña—and she’s in love with him. But it’s 1915, and trouble has been brewing along the US-Mexico border. On one side, the Mexican Revolution is taking hold; on the other, Texas Rangers fight Tejano insurgents, and ordinary citizens are caught in the middle.

As tensions grow, Joaquín is torn away from Dulceña, whose father’s critical reporting on the Rangers in the local newspaper has driven a wedge between their families. Joaquín’s own father insists that the Rangers are their friends, and refuses to take sides in the conflict. But when their family ranch becomes a target, Joaquín must decide how he will stand up for what’s right.

Shame the Stars is a rich reimagining of Romeo and Juliet set in Texas during the explosive years of Mexico’s revolution. Filled with period detail, captivating romance, and political intrigue, it brings Shakespeare’s classic to life in an entirely new way.

Guadalupe Garcia McCall was born in Mexico and moved to Texas as a young girl, keeping close ties with family on both sides of the border. Trained in Theater Arts and English, she now teaches English/Language Arts at a junior high school. Her poems for adults have appeared in more than twenty literary journals. McCall is an up-and-coming talent whose debut YA novel, Under the Mesquite, won the Pura Belpré Award and was named a Morris Award finalist. McCall lives with her husband and their three sons in the San Antonio, Texas, area. You can find her on the Web at


Houston Public Library 
Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
September 15 - October 15, 2016

Saturday, October 1, 2016 | 1PM - 5PM
Central Library Plaza | 500 McKinney St., 77002

Join us for the 5th Annual Houston LibroFEST, a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month that spotlights books, art, history and culture through library presentations, activities, performances and more. Local literary organizations, community groups, writers, artists and notable speakers take part in the festivities. This free event is for all to enjoy! 

Follow #HOULibroFest on Facebook and Twitter

12:45 PM  |  KICK OFF: HPL Welcome + Performance by High School for the Performing and Visual Arts group, Mariachi Los Pasajeros

1 PM  |  Two Trailblazing Latina Leaders: Former Texas State Representative, Diana Dávila Martínez, and former Houston City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Houston, Gracie Saenz, share their experiences as Latina civic leaders.

2 PM  |  Aliens, Mothers and Family Trees: Bilingual storytime with Salvadoran children’s author, René Colato Laínez!

2:45 PM  |  Music performed by Dan Oviedo & Friends

3 PM  |  Readings by local writers sponsored by Gulf Coast Literary Journal, Writespace, Public Poetry, and the University of Houston’s Center for Mexican American Studies

4 PM  |  American Dreams: Poet Javier O. Huerta and Wall Street executive-turned-author Julissa Arce speak about their immigrant experiences and remarkable accomplishments; moderated by Claudia Kolker.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hey folks - More great storytelling from Tell Your True Tale.
Sarah Alvarado recounts an ELA love story set amid the burgeoning video movie industry of the 1980s.
Take sometime out of your work day to check out Sonias.
Please share it if you like it!

Hitched! Digging Through the Fat. Women Who Submit. September songs: On-line Floricanto

Prose in the Afternoon at Holy Grounds
Michael Sedano

A busy industrial thoroughfare is an unusal place for an enchanting coffee house but that’s not the only distinguishing feature of El Sereno’s Holy Grounds Coffee & Tea. The garden, a splashing fountain, a tiny performance stage, add to the oasis-flavored ambience for this week’s Hitched reading.

It's standing room only as the audience settles in for the afternoon's joy.

For many years, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo curated Hitched at Venice’s Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center. Already attracted by the name, I wanted to hear the stellar lineups Bermejo collects. I don’t do well at night, and avoid the westside like a plague. When Hitched! comes to the eastside on Sunday afternoons, I know I’ll finally take the opportunity to show up. I miss event after event, and only this week managed the short journey from northern Pasadena to eastern El Sereno.

Juanita Mantz

Juanita Mantz starts the reading. She’s from my neck of the woods, the Inland Empire, with a sad story of a family’s disintegration. Mantz constructs a beautiful contrast having her character writing a report on Romeo and Juliet while her mother loads up the car and leaves their father to his drinking and absence.

Jo Scott-Coe

Jo Scott-Coe pronounces the name his familiars call him, “Charlie.” The name rings with unnerving familiarity but totally out of joint. The man was a monster. Holed up in the tower at the University of Texas, he spent the last hours of his life picking off pedestrians on the campus quadrangle, Charles Whitman. Scott-Coe's nonfiction captures conversations with Charlie's survivors. The monster murdered his mother and wife before climbing to his height.

Désirée Zamorano

Désirée Zamorano reads with practiced cadences, a writer’s distinctive voice narrating a horror story that springs out of quotidian domesticity. A wife hears the nursing infant’s cry, nudges her sleeping man to go bring the baby to her. He is not sleeping. Sometime during the night, he’s died.

YiShun Lai

YiShun Lai reads uproariously her uproaringly bizarre happenings on a Vegas business trip. I know sales people from running a sales force for many years. Industrial marketing, not advertising where Lai’s character makes her living, but much the same. Young, stupid, over-indulgent saleswoman rings true-to-life. Lai’s character drinks too much—don’t they all?—rises too early because that’s how businesspeople work. Hungover and making stupid choices. This will not end well, though the audience laughs at the self-ridicule this person bestows upon herself.

The writers and host deliver a thoroughly wonderful time. Clearly, the series should have an exclamation mark to its name, Hitched!

Jo Scott-Coe, Désirée Zamorano, Juanita Mantz, YiShun Lai, Xochitl-Julissa Bermejo

Digging Through The Fat Press is kicking off

Inaugural event on Thursday, October 6, 2016 at The Living Gallery, 1094 Broadway, Brooklyn, 7 - 10PM.

Our art exhibition will include works by: Cynthia Alvarez (our fantastic Creative Director who is responsible for this lovely invite), Summer J. Hart, and Charlotte Sims.

We'll follow the exhibit with a poetry reading, where we'll introduce four of our favorite poets: Roberto Carlos Garcia, K.T. Billey, Justin Petropoulos, and Jenn McCreary.

This event is free and open to the public.

Women Who Submit Fall Workshop Series

Women Who Submit seeks to empower women writers by creating physical and virtual spaces for sharing information, supporting and encouraging submissions to literary journals, and clarifying the submission and publication process.

The Women Who Submit Fall Workshop Series, in partnership with PEN Center USA and Avenue 50 Studios, is a not-for-profit event created as a fundraiser for future WWS programming, events, and conference presentations. It is open to people of all genders, orientations, and creeds.

Proceeds benefit Avenue 50 Studio, PEN Center USA, Women Who Submit, and the participating women writers

On-line Floricanto Joins 100 Thousand Poets for Change
Jo Reyes-Boitel, Sharon Elliott, Sonia Gutiérrez, César L. de León, MariJo Moore, Sandhya Suri, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Eréndira Santillana, Jessica Meza, Andrea Hernandez Holm

In solidarity with 100 Thousand Poets for Change, the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070: Poetry of Resistance, issued a special Call for Submissions to coincide with poetry events going on around the globe on September 24, 2016; when poets, musicians and artists organized poetry readings, parades, gallery exhibitions, music and dance performances focused on issues of peace, justice, and sustainability. This important annual global act of solidarity is the core activity of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, a non-profit organization.

La Bloga and our friends Poets Responding, joins 100 Thousand Poets for Change in a ten-poem offering engaging a peaceful global discussion of issues such as war, global warming, poverty, racism, gender inequality, homelessness, gun violence, police brutality, lack of affordable medical care, censorship, and animal cruelty.

Poets Responding was moved to invite all poets who wanted to take part in a virtual event on Poets Responding to SB 1070’s Facebook page and culminating with this special La Bloga On-line Floricanto.

Thanks to all of the poets who contributed their poems and a special shout out to all those featured here. Tlazocamati,

Special thanks for this effort go to Odilia Galván Rodríguez and Iris De Anda for Poets Responding

“Dragonfly” By Jo Reyes-Boitel
“Drought” by Sharon Elliott
“Van Gogh’s Border Eaters” By Sonia Gutiérrez
“Quetzalcoatl in Aisle 5” By César L. de León
“We Were Stars” By Sandhya Suri
“Geographic Dreaming or What it means to be Chicana” By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
“América” Por Eréndira Santillana
“Pennies” By Jessica Meza
“War” by Andrea Hernandez Holm

By Jo Reyes-Boitel

*Dragonfly Woman 1989-94 Photograph/Mixed Media 20″ x 16″

[a meditation on the meaning of freedom for women]

Sometimes I fancy that we may one day see
Her head shoot forth seven stars from where they lurk
And her eyes lightnings and her shoulders wings.
– Christina Rossetti

for women,
freedom is action
not words

a cemented thing
sitting on the porch

always there
but just now realized

the same with the stars
living within our bodies,
the lightning of our beliefs
firing through eyes,
our shoulders arched back
in knowing

always within

not gifted
by those we cater

despite what we
are taught


dragonfly wings – that is what we are –
translucent beauties
having unfortunately learned
we must cover up

our knowledge
that our favors are sacred
but to be hidden

that our offerings are only important
in relation to whom we gift them
linked always with our virtue,
that elusive creature
brought into daylight

like an ill-fitting coat
carried through summer

women, once sovereign,
quickly made servant

backs twisting to accommodate
the demands of our lives

women, once backbone,
now slippered shoes
and talcum skin

at once tissue papered
precious thing

and weighted fist
expected to hold everything

By Sharon Elliott

throats constrict
water is gone
rain holds itself
in abeyance
every cloud
a wastebasket
for grief

too tired
to close her eyes
she dreams
of rivers marching

minds are empty
the moon gives birth
spilling the contents
of her belly
across the sand

isn't optional
it's the birthplace
of wisdom
wake up

Copyright © 2016 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.

“Van Gogh’s Border Eaters”
By Sonia Gutiérrez

At the Tijuana/San Ysidro
Port of Entry, I cross paths
with Van Gogh’s potato eaters,
where gaunt strong shouldered Mexican men
draped in zarapes rebound
the evil eye, and cinnamon and sugar
churros a la mexicana sweeten life.

At the border, mango roses
descendants of Filipino
and Indian seeds
bloom as I wait and wait—
in my car for the interrogation,
and I am reminded
how rich poor folk are
and how poor rich folk are
as mango juice drips
down my brown fingers,
savoring yellow.

On their extended arms,
vendors carry merchandise,
from windshield wipers
(replaced on the spot),
to Mexican hand-painted
fiery flowered piggy banks
that once pranced
across Rancho Tía Juana’s
border in the 40s, and la mera mera
Virgencita de Guadalupe and crucifixes—
wooden ones, chiseled ones
and hand-crafted ones,
or woven ones—go by
for all the worry people
as I sit and stare
through the Window Pane Era.

Mechanical cashiers
at their royal booths fifty feet away
sniff paper, plastic, and accents
as the potato chip vendor with a grin
carries a potato mountain
and squirts lemon juice
from a recycled water bottle,
as he hands a small bag
to a child—at her mother’s
dinner request. With one dollar
less in his pocket, the potato vendor
handles the hunger problem
Pope Francis, Presidents Peña Nieto,
and Obama’s multimillion
faith industries evade in their sleep.
And I am reminded
abducted golden potatoes
forcefully left Peru
for centuries and muffled
the hunger of Europe
and smuggled tomato nugget seeds
confiscated from the Aztec Empire
on pirate ships destined for Spain and Italy
became unequivocally Tortilla de Patata
Española and Roman pasta sauce.

Here in Kumeyaay land,
Alta California
and Baja California meet,
California clasps her hands
and blushes at the sight
of a spiked fence
protecting a crumbling
Yankee Doodle erected obelisk
hanging from her tattered dress.
At la línea, baked Mexican tostadas,
steaming Mexican corn with chile y limón,
and Mexican mazapanes go by
and feed this ravenous woman
who lives in a famished country,
starving for low-waged workers
and crosses oceans and borders
to fabricate great American products
made in China, India, Turkey, and Africa
and whose country is so thirsty
for black gold of the earth
it unleashes white-owned dogs
on river water warriors
in the homeland and releases chlorine
and gas on desert children.

Every day la frontera Tijuana/San Ysidro
eats at Van Gogh’s clock striking six.
I contemplate a lawsuit against the border
for rupturing a table of five,
urinary tract infections since 1492,
the layer of smog since 1889,
and the pulp faces who never found
the North Star.

Hours later at sunset, still sitting,
I apologize to the dark brown man
who dusts my black car
for not having more change
as he greets me a flirty smile
and chuckles at me.
The man takes my last Washingtons
and Lincolns and blesses me
good night and tells me,
“Doñita, never apologize for that.”
I sit uncomfortably cushioned—
he stands in muggy heat,
and I am reminded
how rich poor folk are.
I listen to one song;
he listens to sounds
in all directions.

At the man-made invisible line,
protected with bullet proof vests
the navy blue-uniformed officer asks,
“What brings you to México?”
I answer, “I was starving
for México in all directions.
I came to eat tacos de papa
harvested and folded by hands
like my mother’s.

I want to cross California’s
frontera as effortlessly as Americans
land in Costa Rica, Puerto Rico
Cancún, and Jamaica.
I want to cross into México
as effortlessly as the wind
in my hair like the time
I crossed from Spain to Portugal
in a convertible away
from the fluorescent lights,
big sticks, shiny metal bars,
stray bullets, and sniffing dogs
before occupied America
became a steel rod Stromboli.
“Do you have anything
to declare?” s/he asks. “Yes,
ten tacos de papa in the trunk
and Mexican seeds—
lots of invisible Mexican seeds
in my pockets.”

Quetzalcoatl in Aisle 5
By César L. de León

Let’s do brujería
in the scented candle section.

Burn vainilla incense cones and lavender infused soy candles,
sweep the air with decorative cinnamon brooms,
sprinkle comino, sea salt, and oregano
smuggled from the spice aisles all around us
for protection.


Bring the snake skin
we found behind the pink oleanders
in the corner of the parking lot.
We can bring it back to life!

Use baby oil and rattles from the infant care aisle,
watch its scales multiply and glisten
under the fluorescent store lights,
watch it grow enormous feathered wings.
-quetzalcoatl in aisle 5.
-Quetzalcoatl In Aisle 5.

After lunch we can release him
into quiet suburban gardens
that want to scream like jungles.
Let him work his own hechizos.

Turn house cats into jaguars, sparrows into eagles,
swimming pools into sacred cenotes
from which rejuvenated deities can emerge
under the stars, wrapped in the perfume of a million flowers,
dripping universal wisdom like moonlit birdsongs on river currents.

We can do this, you and I.

No tengas miedo.
His iridescent plumage will protect us.

By MariJo Moore


Le hanhepi
Kin oyate ki iyuha lowanpi.
(This was the night
All the people sang together.)
Le hanhepi
Kin oyate ki iyuha inhanblapi.
(This was the night
All the people dreamed together.)
Le hanhepi
Kin oyate ki iyuha wacipi.
(This was the night
All the people danced together.)
Le hanhepi
Kin oyate ki iyuha wacekiyapi.
(This was the night
All the people prayed together.)
Le hanhepi
Kin oyate ki iyuha okiyutapikte.
(This was the night all the people began to heal.)

We Were Stars
By Sandhya Suri

Dedicated to my family and to the millions who lost so much. Nobody remembers to outrage for what they had to go through...every outrage is for those who threw them out. Justice is dead.

we were stars
in midnight spasms of paradise dreams
you and I, we played
under the same setting sun
the tulips danced
as did we, on wooden carts
sometimes I rode
sometimes I pushed

we sat together
shared iftaar meals
and the warmth of kangris
in frozen snow-clad streets
sipping on saffron flavoured tea
often salted, sometimes sweet

then rose the bile
deep flowing vile streams
you and I did not understand
at least I didn't
torn, we stood on different sides
of the Jehlum that reddened with time

countless took flight, to safe havens
the photographs of memories burned
taps frozen in winters
deafening silences rattled with guns
suddenly it was just your Kashmir
and we, abandoned, belong nowhere

we were Kashmiris
under summer suns, we now cry and burn

Geographic Dreaming or what it means to be Chicana
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Dreams of place to call our own
one where we are at home
in our melding of ancestor cultures
Of razas who never left us
who refused to melt away
in that pressure cooker pot
Which has become the way
in these lands called US of America
a place for all, but for no one different
You must fit their mold
complete with Indo-European looks
what their hate speech spewed down
In all the papers and books
of what is Supreme
what they’ve built this system
On the backs of our world
But this is about what it means
to be me, a woman of that Raza Cosmica
who is Chicana proud despite all the years
Of not fitting Here nor There
knowing we were something new
a mezcla to embrace
Holding my head high
teaching the young ones
to be one-hundred percent
Proud of all of who we are
birthing that nation of ours
together with them

Por Eréndira Santillana

-El Quijote muestra el perspectivismo que muchos no osan entender, le dije al sobrino más amado del Tío Sam, quien pese a su ilegitimidad sureña es un verdadero <> y no estadounidense. -I am American. -Reiteró con su cinismo maravilloso, emblema del austero modus vivendi en el que viven sus ojos azules, piel nevada y labios granate. Yo, hija de Coatlicue, también soy americana. E hiriendo su etnocéntrico ser, le recordé que desde los remotos confines de Canadá hasta la enigmática Tierra del Fuego, América es Terra Nostra. Besó mis labios, buscando el Edén de tequila y cacao. Besó mis pies, por haber pisado por décadas el suelo mexicano. -You don't look like a Mexican. -Dijo, mientras se hacía a la idea que México no resguardaba su Dorado. No comprendería que lo enigmático de mi herencia mestiza yace bajo el camuflaje de la tez clara. Aún le faltaban cruzar un sinnúmero de fronteras. Y redimirse. -Soy del Norte, tu Sur. Conozco 5 continentes, tú 7. Esta tierra es una y no te pertenece. Es un solo continente, aunque en tu cosmovisión intentes perderme. Mi piel no es canela. Mi lengua es española. We communicate in English. Sí, americano oriundo de Estados Unidos, lamento no ser Columbia... pero más me pesa no ser Malintzin.

By Jessica Meza

The world turns with no rhythm or rhyme
And some people just don’t have the time
To give and take what once was mine
It’s these days that remind me that I have no change to give away
Because this change isn’t dollars and cents I found astray.
It’s the revolution and reunion of people who suffer to this day,
But my pockets lie empty because I have no change to say.
So I’m stuck sucking at the tit of a mother who was only taught to love her sons.
Taught to be submissive from very young
But look, I found a penny It’s simply one of many.
Not a nickel, not a dime,
It’s a change in due time.
Nothing near the trillions we need but better than none.
So here’s a penny for your thoughts, to think and think
One by one.
They say the penny costs more to make than to take
So it’s worth nothing to someone who’s never heard of a slum.
So the levee breaks and it breaks
And they take and they take
And what are we left with?
We’re left with none.
Why were we born a daughter?
And not a son?
Why were we born for footnotes?
While they were born for a front page read?
Why is our skin tinted a muddy brown?
And not the shining porcelain that only hate seems to breed?
Now I can’t take all the world’s problems and turn them into a rhyme,
People are dying while I just take my time
Black boys are getting beaten for “looking like a suspect”
Women are getting stabbed for not showing enough “respect”
People are killed for loving in a different aspect.
Jon Stewart once said that, “Evil is relatively rare but ignorance is an epidemic.”
Here we have all the right wings
That think everything they say is the right thing.
That’s the sound a chandelier makes when gravity is too heavy to take.
Is the sound of a simple car ride turning into a ride to their own wake.
Boom, crash, bang.
Is the sound it takes to see the light in a young boy’s eyes slip away.
People who are trying to make a change are being mocked and ridiculed
for thinking a different way.
And don’t tell me I’m wrong
Now don’t think I’m mean, I just trying to live the American dream.
You know, the one where only the rich & white can succeed.
Check my history book if you don’t believe,
Things were hard to wrap my head around, even for me.
Hate, genocide, greed.
Now don’t think the world’s gone to shit,
Even I have to admit,
Even though ignorance and hate reign to this day,
Look at the change they’re giving away.
Not dollars and dimes, but mere sterling’s from ancient times.
They’re outdated and old,
Not to sound cold.
But maybe it’s time to switch to a different currency,
One used more currently.
Not one that forbids knowledge of our natural pulses
Or one that forbids shorts because of male impulses.
Believe whatever you believe but as long my actions don’t hurt anyone or me,
Please allow me my space to breathe and be free.
Do we let freedom ring?
Or is the caged bird the only allowed to tweet?
When we live off pennies, are we allowed to speak?
So the message to you is to save up your pennies turn them into dimes
Crescendo up to time where you give the world it’s rhythm and rhyme
Turn the copper into gold,
wrap it into coils where they tried to wear down your soul
Sit on the fortune of change you have to give to the world,
Give It to the starving, homeless, and sick, make the message stick.
Your change may be small but it’s not nothing at all
And when people laugh and judge your efforts.
You say, it may be a penny but it’s simply one of many.

By Andrea Hernandez Holm

We know the absence of water well
And are familiar with the dry itchy
Tenderness of parched lips, skin, and hearts
But our antepasados knew natural springs, lively pools of water
Between desert swells that
Wet our living memories
Just enough to keep our souls hydrated
And strong enough to battle.

Meet the Poets
“Dragonfly” By Jo Reyes-Boitel
“Drought” by Sharon Elliott
“Van Gogh’s Border Eaters” By Sonia Gutiérrez
“Quetzalcoatl in Aisle 5” By César L. de León
“We Were Stars” By Sandhya Suri
“Geographic Dreaming or What it means to be Chicana” By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
“América” Por Eréndira Santillana
“Pennies” By Jessica Meza
“War” by Andrea Hernandez Holm

jo reyes-boitel ~ poet and writer – third world latina mezcla - working class graphics designer - music researcher - libertada y realizada.

Sharon Elliott has been a writer and poet activist over several decades beginning in the anti-war and civil rights movements in the 1960s and 70s, and four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador, especially in multicultural women’s issues. She is a Moderator of Poets Responding to SB1070, and has featured in poetry readings in the San Francisco Bay area. Her work has been published in several anthologies and her poem “Border Crossing” appears in the anthology entitled Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, Francisco X. Alarcón and Odilia Galván Rodriguez, eds. She has read it in Los Angeles at AWP and La Pachanga 2016 book launch, and at the Féis Seattle Céiliedh in Port Townsend, WA. Her book, Jaguar Unfinished, was published by Prickly Pear Press, 2012. She was an awardee of Best Poem of 2012 by La Bloga, for The Day of Little Comfort.

Sonia Gutiérrez’s teaches English composition and critical thinking and writing. Her poems have appeared in the San Diego Poetry Annual, Konch Magazine, and Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Change. Her vignettes have appeared in Huizache, AlternaCtive PublicaCtions, and Sunshine Noir II. Sonia’s bilingual poetry collection, Spider Woman / La Mujer Araña, is her debut publication. She is a contributing editor for The Writer’s Response (Cengage Learning, 2016). Her manuscripts, Kissing Dreams from a Distance, a novel, and Legacy / Herencia, her second poetry collection, are seeking publication. Currently, she is moderating Poets Responding to SB 1070 and working on her manuscript, Sana sana colita de rana.

César L. de León is a lifelong resident of the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. His poetry is included in the anthologies Along the River 2: More Voices From the Rio Grande, Juventud!: Growing up on the Border, Lost: Children of the River, and The Border Crossed Us: An Anthology to End Apartheid among other anthologies and journals. In 2014, César was awarded 2nd place for Literary Magazine Poem from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association, and in 2012 he was awarded 3rd place in the Golden Circle Awards from The Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Currently, he is an MFA candidate in creative writing with a certificate in Mexican American studies at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

MariJo Moore is an author/editor/anthologist/psychic/medium. The author of over twenty books including A Book of Ceremonies and Spiritual Energies Thereof, The Diamond Doorknob, When the Dead Dream, Red Woman With Backward Eyes and Other Stories, The Boy With a Tree Growing from His Ear and Other Stories, Crow Quotes, and Bear Quotes. She is also editor of several anthologies including Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time Indigenous Thoughts Concerning the Universe. She resides in the mountains of western NC.

Sandhya is a retired Naval Officer who works full time as an HR professional. Born in Kashmir, India and brought up in various places, she writes "to breathe" covering various emotions, passion for land, people, courage, love and soul. She is forty four and looks to a life well lived.

Odilia Galván Rodríguez poet, writer, editor, and activist, is the author of five volumes of poetry, her latest, is a collaboration with photographer Richard Loya, The Nature of Things, from Merced College Press. She is also co-editor, along with the late Francisco X. Alarcón, of the anthology Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, The University of Arizona Press, 2016. For several decades she’s worked as the editor for several magazines, most recently at Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba and Cloud Women’s Quarterly Journal online. She also facilitates Empowering People Through Creative Writing workshops nationally, and teaches on-line. Galván Rodriguez is also the administrator for the Poets Responding to SB 1070 and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and well-being of many people. Her poetry and short fiction has been widely anthologized in creative writing collections and literary journals in print and on-line media.

Eréndira Santillana (Valle Hermoso, Mexico, 1994) is a cultural promoter, translator and an aspiring educator. Santillana holds a B.A. in Spanish from The University of Texas at Brownsville and is currently pursuing the M.A. in Spanish at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. In 2015, Santillana was selected as one of the four recipients of Sigma Delta Pi’s Study Abroad Scholarship for the Instituto Franklin (University of Alcala, Spain). Santillana co-edited, along with Rossy Evelin Lima, the Antología 2016 for the International Latin American Poetry Festival (FeIPOL) hosted by the Latin American Foundation for the Arts. She currently serves as FeIPOL´s Registration Director.

Jessica Meza is a Texas native, born in 1997 in Corpus Christi, Texas. As of 2016, she began attending the University of Texas at Austin to major in Neuroscience. She considers herself in no way a professional and can’t say she achieved more than the run-of-the-mill nerdy high school student. She is a feminist, an artist, a musician, a scholar, a revolutionary, and a poet with enough anger to self-combust. Beyond anything, Jessica is a survivor, partly for being raised with an emotionally abusive, mentally ill father, but mainly for suffering from clinical depression and anxiety for a lot of her life. But she used those experiences to drive her more than anything, by creating art, music, and spoken word, by competing in state competitions, and by graduating Valedictorian of her high school class. No matter what she decides to do, she wants to do it for the betterment of people.

Andrea Hernandez Holm is a desert storyteller, poet, and scholar. She was a 2014 featured poet of the Stjukshon Indigenous reading series at Casa Libre en la Solana and 2011 Indigenous Poets and Writers Exhibit at Arizona State University. Her writings have appeared on La Bloga and Our Spirit, Our Reality; The Blue Guitar Magazine; Wisdom of our Mothers; and Tribal Fires. Her poetry is included in the anthology, Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice (University of Arizona Press). Andrea is also a scholar of Mexican American Studies and her writings have appeared in Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of MALCS and Arizona Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. She is a former editor of Red Ink: A Native American Student Publication and moderator for the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB 1070”. Andrea lives in Tucson.