Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Despiertas - The Women's March in LA. On-line Floricanto for Francisco.

Women March For Women's Issues
Michael Sedano

Gold Line arrivals at Union Station

I cannot see the end of the ticket line at the Allen Avenue Gold Line station in Pasadena, but that doesn’t matter to me. As a frequent passenger I carry a “Tap” card with pre-paid fare credits. I snake through a gap in the line, tap my one-dollar plastic on the sensor.

The elevator opens to the sight of dozens of sign-carrying riders scattered along the platform. A train rolls to a stop, the doors slide closed in my face. I cannot board the jam-packed car. The next train a few minutes later arrives. I think of the subway in Japan where uniformed men use long wooden rods to herd passengers through the door into the car. With this many riders it is clear the march will be wildly successful. People shuffle good-naturedly to let me squeeze in.

At each subsequent stop—until the driver begins skipping stops—a few more people push into the car to protests of “no more!” and “no room!” even as they move back. There’s a little girl next to me and I lean against the crowd pressure to allow her space. I feel the nalgas of the woman behind me pressing into mine. There is no escape. Passengers whoop victoriously at the people waiting at the stops. Los de afuera whoop back and wave their signs at us. Already we are united in our single-minded purpose: to get there.

One day in Mexico City I had the misfortune of packing into a rush hour subway car that grows so densely populated that a young woman in front of me is spooning against me from head to foot. I want to apologize but helplessly stand stock still, mounting the same stoic face everyone else wears. We sway and rock as one, left, right, back and forth, leaning against gravity at each stop then leaning the opposite direction as the train gathers speed heading toward Insurgentes. I’m thankful the ride from Allen Avenue to Union Station is not quite so intimately felt.

The din of the crowd shuffling toward the escalator seeking the light above ground charges the air with puro excitement. At the top landing the mass is so thick that someone is shouting “be careful! Watch out!” Inertia shoves me forward where there’s no place to go. I twist and step sideways away from the escalator into the teeming mass.

Advancing millimeters at a time, I find the curb and step into 5th Street. Using the gutter as a guide, two women escort a crying woman toward the subway station. I imagine she has been overwhelmed by the restive crush of bodies who exercise immense restraint at the growing density. We are trapped and going nowhere. Photography becomes a challenge, not finding the ideal moment but a clear line of sight.

A few photographers have claimed space atop the public toilet and signal switch boxes. I am so tightly surrounded I cannot lift my camera to look through the viewfinder. Not that I would be able to frame freely. Heads, faces, signs block every aspect. I raise my arm and rise on tip-toe to expose a few images. I am helpless to change lenses from the 100mm to the wider-angle 18-55mm standard lens.

So much to see, so difficult to get the perfect moment. I retreat into a hole between the toilet and a garbage receptacle where I change lenses, safe from my own clumsiness and the restless people. I begin a halting path through the mass with “con permiso” and “excuse me” until I see a father with two kids in front of me, a woman in a wheelchair to my right. To the left people stand shoulder to shoulder. I can advance no deeper into the throng and reaching the assembly point in Pershing Square is hopeless. This is LAPD territory but a sheriff helicopter whirls above us.

It’s a festive and peaceful gathering. One fellow on the switch box shouts a cheer, and when few half-hearted responses answer to his awkward phrase, he nods with satisfaction and abandons efforts to stir up enthusiasm. There’s something innate about rhythm and rhyme that he doesn’t understand. Only a handful here would know the cheer I long to hear: “¡El pueblo, unido, jamas sera vencido! The people, united, will never be defeated! El pueblo, unido…”

Pero sabes que? No one needs chants today. There’s a spirit in the air, it’s infectious. Every soul here is in her own heaven. The people are united, each to her own reason for her presence, and that is enough. No one goes into the voting booth with you and this downtown intersection is an expansive voting booth.

“He’s trying to get through,” someone calls. A fire department paramedic truck gradually approaches 5th Street coming down Hill Street. “Move back! Move back!” people in front call. At first there’s a subtle shift of momentum as bodies begin pushing backwards in slow motion that grinds to a halt against the solid wall of people. The red lights remain immobile, unable to advance into the intersection. I wonder if they were summoned to help the overwhelmed woman?

The majority of people trapped within sight of Pershing Square wave their signs, chatter among themselves, shift from leg to leg. Spontaneous gritos infect the milling throng. I do not see nor hear what sets their joy bubbling out every few minutes. A spark of sound begins, rises, increases in volume and pitch, “yeowww, yeEOWW” then subsides.

“Start the march!” several shout. A few pick it up, then slowly, moving like a single organism we lumber from a dead stop to begin flowing toward Broadway. We are marching!

A brass band at the corner of Broadway and 5th raises spirits as we wheel left and advance by inches, but finally the mass is moving pa’l norte. The phallic spire of City Hall looms in the distance. Far up the street, a rumbling of distant drums melds with rhythmic chants, the march moves into a zone of voices chanting, “No more hate! No more hate!”

A few U.S. flags wave but most signs and shouts reflect California’s need for comic relief. A plurality of signs espouses women’s issues, many reflecting the theme of our bodies are our own. Keep your hands off my pussy, viva la vulva, this pussy bites back reflect the debacle in D.C. the day before. Numerous signs more explicitly condemn the New York developer. That fellow is not today's overriding issue. Today is about love. Each person and sign expresses the individual's idea, each is motivated by love of country, patriotism, and caring for one another. This is what our country looks like.

In a jarring sight for me, one poster warns “Keep your small hands off my Mexican, muslim, black, LGBT, female, immigrant friends.” The figure spreads its arms echoing the dancing Anthony Quinn gracing Eloy Torrez' recently restored mural, “The Pope of Broadway,” soon to be seen at the corner with 3d Street. I want to cleanse my mind of the thought.

The Pope of Broadway (November 2016)

Marchers fill the 4th Street incline awaiting a signal to descend onto Broadway
Crossing 4th Street I see a dense cohort of sign-bearers filling the uphill slope, waiting a signal to descend into the fold. I cut away from Broadway to capture this perspective. Here is where I spot the tiniest protest sign of the day, the size of a post-it note impaled on a stick and fastened to a woman’s turtleneck sweater. Just then a woman marches past waving one of the largest signs of the day, a surrealist portrait of an angel lifting her skirt to reveal a glowing ovum freshly descended from her vagina.

The tiniest sign of the march.
The largest sign on the march
I spot the only cop of the day, other than those helicopters and a handful of CHiPs assembled near the Chinatown station on the way in. The man is not really a cop but an unarmed traffic control officer. Remembering mindless hours on alert during my time in the Army, I ask him what goes through his mind while standing his post. “No comment, sir,” he demurs. Judging from the red flushing of his cheeks, I imagine he’ll go home and tie one on in frustration.

I am done for the day. I have marched one block in three and a half hours and captured 250 exposures. Ahead lies the other entry to the Pershing Square station. A scattering of likeminded people are heading in that direction, too. I give my hand to three women taking a muddy shortcut through a Natal Plum hedge, warning them to beware the espinas.

At the station, new arrivals ascend the escalator in sign-carrying groups of three or four. My train arrives in short order. In a corner of my car, two women and a man huddle in a corner. I ask them to turn their signs toward the camera. They happily oblige me and it is my final exposure of the Los Angeles Women’s March.

Pachanga Huizache: The Video

Last week, La Bloga-Tuesday featured a foto essay (click link) from Dagoberto Gilb's west coast launch of Huizache, the Magazine of Latino Literature, hosted by Virginia Espino and Héctor Tobar.

This week, it's a pleasure sharing Latinopia's videos of readings by Nikolai Garcia and Josephine Nericcio.

Click this link to hear a pair of outstanding writers you'll want to hear again, and read their stuff in the current issue of Huizache.

On-line Floricanto for Francisco X. Alarcón

Beautiful Voice
By Kim McMillon

El Mensaje
Por Ralph Haskins Elizondo

Un poeta chicano
Por Sonia Gutiérrez

A Chicano Poet
By Sonia Gutiérrez

Canto profundo
Por Juan E. Miranda

Carta Póstuma a Francisco X. Alarcón
Por Betty Sánchez

Beautiful Voice
By Kim McMillon

                for Francisco X. Alarcón

Beautiful voice
May we awaken as a people
On the precipice of change
Healing real and imagined wounds
Too fragile for this earth
But nowhere to go but the stars
For we are borderless
We are humanity

El Mensaje
Por Ralph Haskins Elizondo

A un tecolote anoche me encontré,
y después de compartir con ella mi botella
de mezcal me contó esta verdad:
“El mensaje más importante
de nuestro maestro fue,
que celebremos juntos aquí,
nuestro peregrinaje de toda la vida,
donde la meta es el mismo camino”.
Sigamos dejando nuestras huellas pues,
viajeros compañeros,
por la vereda de las palabras.

Un poeta chicano
Por Sonia Gutiérrez

Había una vez
un poeta chicano
que todo
lo que veía
lo convertía
en poesía

le salían
por los oídos,
de las mangas,
y hasta por la suela
de sus zapatos
y le daba tesoros
de papel
a las niñas
y niños
del Nuevo Sol

Cuando su lengua
de gusto
hacía temblar
a la tierra y al mar.
Y la gente,
se acercaba
a escuchar su llamado.

Con su
a las cuatro direcciones


Para que escucharan
Para que escucháramos
Somos del mismo sol,
de la misma tierra,
del mismo viento,
y del mismo fuego—
Un pueblo

Y con sus alas
de venas negras
las mariposas
monarcas le aplaudían
desde las nubes,
y las ballenas
a lo lejos
desde el verde hondo mar
siempre le regresaban
su canto a Panchito

Y ese poeta chicano
de corazón
con grandes alas
se convirtió
en San Francisco X. Alarcón,
Santo Literario de Aztlán
con su último
punto final
bien marcado
para que nadie
lo borrara
de la historia

A Chicano Poet
By Sonia Gutiérrez

Once upon a time,
there was a Chicano poet
that everything
he’d see
he’d convert
into poetry

He poetized
would come out
of his ears,
his sleeves,
and even the soles
of his shoes,
and he’d hand treasures
made out of paper
to girls
and boys
of the New Sun

When his tongue
would speak,
he would make
the earth
and sea tremble
with joy.
And people
would gather
around him
to hear his call.

With his
he’d invoke
the four directions


So people would listen
So we could listen
We are from the same sun,
from the same earth,
from the same wind,
and from the same fire—
One people

And with their orange wings
with deep
veins, monarch
butterflies would clap
from the clouds,
and whales
from afar
from the depths
of the deep green sea
would return
Panchito’s song

And that Chicano poet
with a heart
with two enormous wings
became San Francisco X. Alarcón,
Literary Saint of Aztlán
with his last period
well marked,
so no one
would erase him
from Gringolandia

Canto profundo
Por Juan E. Miranda

(Poema para Francisco X Alarcón por el día de los muertos.)

A último momento te escribo un poema,
Que más que poema es la voz que ruge
dentro de lo más hondo de tu emblema.
Standing Rock, Davis y tus amigos te recuerdan,
cantan a los cuatro vientos
El grito de aliento de un pueblo entero,
un pueblo verdadero, sediento de agua,
Sediento de justicia, que labura con esmero.
Éste, no es tu día, no creo, no creo que esté muerto quien pelea,
No creo que muera alguien que cobra vida en tantos versos.
Y si de pedir se trata, no dejes solos a los que te piden por sus derechos,
A los que erguidos resisten en la roca serena.
¡Qué tome profundidad mi canto y en esa voz sea rotundo,
se convierta en hondo: ¡Un rugido desde lo profundo!

Carta Póstuma a Francisco X. Alarcón
Por Betty Sánchez

Tu partida
sacudió mis cimientos
aturdió mis sentidos

En un intento por retenerte
leía frenéticamente tus poemas
y evocaba tu nombre noche y día

Hasta que al preludio
de un crepúsculo matutino
apareciste en mis sueños

Después de ese encuentro furtivo
pude vislumbrar tu misión
más allá de tu presencia

Tu vida fue un poema
sin punto final
un clamor constante de justicia

Alzaste la voz por el planeta
y sus habitantes desafortunados
No hubo suceso local o global
que no fuera objeto de tu inspiración

Tu duende giraba travieso
a tu alrededor
murmurando en tu oído
haikus haigas tankas sonetos
odas elegías invocaciones
a través de ellos
seguirás entre nosotros
Dejaste esta dimensión
para transformarte
en verso
claro de luna
en el más bello de los recuerdos
Los que te amamos
somos una renga colectiva
de tus obras altruistas

Imitaremos el espíritu guerrero
que desplegaste hasta el final
haremos eco del canto hondo
que entonaste dignamente
en pro de un mundo mejor

Mi amado poeta
tan mío y tan del mundo
volveremos a encontrarnos
del otro lado de la noche.

Floricanto For Francisco: Meet the Poets

Beautiful Voice By Kim McMillon
El Mensaje Por Ralph Haskins Elizondo
Un poeta chicano Por Sonia Gutiérrez
A Chicano Poet By Sonia Gutiérrez
Canto profundo Por Juan E. Miranda
Carta Póstuma a Francisco X. Alarcón Por Betty Sánchez

Kim McMillon is currently completing a Ph.D. in World Cultures/Interdisciplinary Humanities at the University of California, Merced, with an emphasis on the Black Arts Movement and African American Literature.  In collaboration with UC Merced’s Office of Student Life and Center for the Humanities, Ms. McMillon produced the UC Merced Black Arts Movement Conference 50 Years On, February 28 - March 2, 2014.  As President of the UC Merced African Diaspora Student Association, Ms. McMillon produced programs on race and culture with such renown speakers as Askia Toure, one of the main architects of the Black Arts Movement, and former Black Panther Charlotte “Mama C” O’Neal as well as facilitated a graduate panel on diversity at UC Merced.  In September 2016, Ms. McMillon produced the Dillard University-Harvard’s Hutchins Center Black Arts Movement Conference at Dillard University in New Orleans.  Kim McMillon was awarded the Martin Millennial Award honoring her contribution to Southern Arts and Letters.  Past recipients include Houston Baker, Ishmael Reed, Jerry Ward, and Kalamu ya Salaam. Ms. McMillon is a guest editor for the spring 2017 issue of The Journal of PAN African Studies special edition on the Black Arts Movement and has been asked to contribute to the Black Power Encyclopedia (1965-1975), a two-volume reference work that explores the emergence and evolution of the Black Power Movement in the United States.  From 2001–2005, Ms. McMillon produced the Oakland Literature Expo with PEN Oakland as part of the City of Oakland’s Art & Soul Festival. From 2010 until 2014, Ms. McMillon’s radio show Arts in the Valley aired every Saturday on 1480 KYOS AM in Merced, California.  In 2014, the PEN Oakland anthology Fightin’ Words, which she co-edited with Claire Ortalda and Judith Cody, was published by Heyday Press in Berkeley, California.  Ms. McMillon is the graduate student representative on The Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance Committee at the University of California, Merced.

Ralph Haskins Elizondo was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. His family moved to South Texas during the social turmoil of the 60’s. The new cultural challenges he experienced led him to express himself through poetry. Many of his poems touch the cultural and political issues of our times. Today, Ralph lives in McAllen, Texas where he supplements his poet’s income by moonlighting as a science teacher at a local high school.

Sonia Gutíerrez, Francisco X. Alarcón, Abel Salas
From 2001 to 2002, Sonia Gutiérrez was an Exchange Lecturer at the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain for the Centro Idiomas. Since then, she has had an opportunity to teach writing at California State University San Marcos, Palomar College, Mt. San Jacinto College, San Diego State University, and MiraCosta College. From 2015 to 2016, she completed a full-time interim position for Mt. San Jacinto College at the San Jacinto Campus. She enjoys teaching composition, critical thinking and writing, introduction to literature, and creative writing.
Her poems, written in both English and Spanish, have appeared in The San Diego Poetry Annual, La Jornada Semanal (Mexico City), and Tres en Suma (Madrid), among other publications. La Bloga’s “On-line Floricanto” is home to my “Best Poems 2011,” “Best Poems 2012,” and “Best Poems 2016.” Her fiction has appeared in the London Journal of Fiction, AlternaCtive PublicaCtions, and Huizache.
Her bilingual poetry collection, Spider Woman / La Mujer Araña (Olmeca Press, 2013), is her debut publication. She is a contributing editor for The Writer’s Response (Cengage Learning, 2016), a college textbook. Her second bilingual poetry collection, Legacy / Herencia, is seeking publication. Currently, she is revisiting her novel, Kissing Dreams from a Distance, and working on her third poetry collection, Sana Sana Colita de Rana. She has moderated Facebook’s Poets Responding to SB 1070 since the summer of 2014.

Juan E. Miranda nació en Texas y creció en Mendoza, Argentina. Es actualmente estudiante de doctorado en la Universidad de California, Davis; además de ser estudiante, es escritor de poesía, drama, cuento, spoken word y novelas cortas. También ha publicado en diferentes revistas universitarias, antologías y concursos literarios. Este poema es en honor a Francisco X Alarcón, un escritor y poeta infalible, que se fue demasiado pronto, como un cometa que comparte mucha luz y sigue su rumbo.

Betty Sánchez

Norma Beatriz Sánchez, poeta mexicana.  Miembro activo del grupo literario Escritores del Nuevo Sol. Sus poemas se han publicado en las antologías Voces y Cuentos del Nuevo Sol, The Border Crossed Us, Poesía en Vuelo, Soñadores; Mujeres de  Maíz Zine 10 y 13, y  St. Sucia VI edición.  Ha contribuido en La Palabra, La Bloga, y Poetas Respondiendo a la Ley SB1070.

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