Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Guest: Thelma Reyna. News 'n Notes. Hallowe'en Stories

Guest Columnist: Thelma Reyna
With Poem from New Book by Pasadena CA Indie Publisher

Thelma Reyna

In the wake of historic consecutive hurricanes slamming our nation’s Gulf Coast and the Caribbean—Irma, Jose, Maria—and their unprecedented destruction, our collective anguish has turned to rebuilding and rescue efforts that are expected to last for years. Much has hinged on the U.S. president’s responses to the disasters: his mobilization of federal resources and oversight of FEMA, as well as commiserating with the suffering of the people.

"Hurricane hitting the Island" foto:msedano
Sadly, the current office holder’s report card on handling disasters falls short. His own rave self-reviews aside, the man’s tardy outreach to console the stricken people and his lack of authentic compassion in his demeaning tweets and visits to the storm areas have reinforced the public image of him as self-congratulatory and out of touch with real people’s suffering. Nowhere can this be seen more starkly than in his response to the nation receiving the least of his attention and the brunt of his disparagement: Puerto Rico.

Today, 41 days after PR was struck by Irma, conditions on the island are only slightly less dire as on day one: the death toll has risen; potable water is still unavailable for all; people struggle with insufficient food, power, and communications; patients in hospitals continue to die. Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico’s largest town, San Juan, appeared regularly on TV for weeks, weeping in frustration, begging aid from anyone in the world, criticizing our federal response to their life-and-death struggle, and generally sounding like a broken record: We need drinking water, food, and medicine! People are dying.

But as the world now knows, Mayor Cruz’s reward for caring about Puerto Ricans’ survival was surrealistic: The American president publicly called Cruz a bad leader, depicting the disaster victims as lazy and wanting to “have everything done for them,” which was far from factual. He did not visit P.R. as readily as he did Texas and Florida, both large red states with huge electoral votes. Instead, P.R. had to wait 13 days before their nation’s president went to “the island in the big ocean very far away,” as he referred to it while he golfed and relaxed on his resort, tweeted slanders at Cruz, and Puerto Ricans perished.
"Hurricane damage" foto:msedano   
My new book about life in the United States of America since the election of this president includes the poem below about Puerto Rico’s fate thus far in the hands of the man who—when he finally, reluctantly made it to P.R.—scolded island officials for putting the federal budget “out of whack” because of funds channeled to assist them; implied that the deaths of 16 Puerto Ricans (the death toll at that time) was insignificant, unlike the “thousands” who died in Katrina, “a real catastrophe”; and all but ghosted Mayor Cruz while he praised himself endlessly and praised his FEMA team hyperbolically. He topped off that disastrous visit by throwing paper towel rolls at anxious recipients of aid, instead of taking that opportunity to meet them face-to-face, shake their hands, embrace them, or console them. He “toured” the island for less than half an hour, then departed quickly. He failed in attempting to be human.

Yet, in his callous charade, he continuously gave himself an “A+” for his work and required, as has become typical of him with large groups, that officials in the room praise him lavishly in round-robin fashion, much like “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong Un. In the days since this fiasco, “45,” as some refer to him, threatened to pull all FEMA assistance and complained that the U.S. cannot continue providing aid and military assistance to the island for much longer. So, while Texas is favored with thousands more boots on the ground providing relief, though their situation is not as dire as is Puerto Rico’s, 45 continues his inhumane marginalization and cruelty toward our fellow Americans in P.R.

Here is a look at the heroic P.R. mayor, from my new book of sociopolitical commentary in poetry and prose about the era of the man who would be king. The book is due for release later this year or early next.

By Thelma Reyna

“When it bothers someone that you’re asking for drinking water,
medicine for the sick and food for the hungry, that person has much
deeper problems than what can be discussed in an interview.”
--Carmen Yulín Cruz

He called her “nasty woman,” so she wore “NASTY” like a medal on her T-shirt on TV.
He called her a bad leader, so she focuses like hell’s laser on saving her people’s lives despite him.

He thinks he can tweet her into silence, degrade her into turnabout.
She’s a Latina after all, poor, homeless, with a heart that feels every cut the broken branches make on her people’s hands when they clear roads.
She feels every parched breath pushed like knives into old people’s throats in a nursing home when generators sighed and died.
She feels brittle bones of people she helps pull from waters toxic and putrid.
She feels men’s pain when they cart sisters and mothers and fathers from splintered homes sodden and deadly.
She feels the abyss of grief when she sees toddlers and children muddied and still.
She feels the rumbles and stabbings of hunger and thirst of people stranded alone.

Mayor Carmen wears glasses, rubber waders thick and heavy to her hips, wears her outrage and pleas on her face and lips like Melania wears de la Renta with heels.

Mayor Carmen knows no vanity, like him and her.
Mayor Carmen knows no rest, like him and her in their resort when he lambasted her.

Mayor Carmen knows death and fear, desperation and tribulation, isolation and abandonment every day that breaks.
We don’t have time for her political noise, Trump’s team says.*
Mayor Carmen knows he doesn’t care.

It’s not politics, she said to him.
We need water, she said on TV for the thousandth time with the death toll 39.

But for him it always is,
and they’ll have water when he gets around to it.

*Three weeks into the natural disaster, Mayor Cruz asked again on TV for water for her nation. 
The Director of FEMA, Brock Long, replied: “We filtered out the mayor a long time ago. 
We don’t have time for the political noise.” 

THELMA T. REYNA, Ph.D. Thelma’s books have won 8 national literary awards. She has written 4 books and, as Poet Laureate in Altadena, CA, has edited 2 anthologies showcasing the poems of about 100 local and regional poets.

The title of Dr. Reyna's new book is:
READING TEA LEAVES AFTER TRUMP. Pasadena, CA: Golden Foothills Press. ISBN 978-0-9969632-3-7

Thelma's fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in literary journals, anthologies, textbooks, blogs, and regional media for over 25 years.

Thelma Reyna is an editor with her writing consultancy, The Writing Pros; and Chief Editor at her indie publishing venture in Pasadena, CA, Golden Foothills Press. Dr. Reyna holds a Ph.D. from UCLA.

Visit her website at www.GoldenFoothillsPress.com

News 'n notes
Alburquerque Gente Can Sponsor a Piñata At NHCC
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Email link: Tey.Nunn@state.nm.us

Poli Marichal Animated Gem At Latinopia

Multi-talented artist Poli Marichal discusses her interests in digital and animated art. A noted printmaker, Marichal's stop-motion animation, Sin Fronteras, is visually arresting, an especially useful way to involve audiences in the ideas threading through Sin Frontera's visual and aural delights. And, being digital, a viewer is free to start and stop, rewind and look again, before moving on, then repeating the experience as many times as one clicks.

Be sure to visit Latinopia for the full interview with the Los Angeles-based artist. 

It Happened Along the Old Road
Michael Sedano

I didn't want to stop, in fact my pace picked up but then I stopped. The joke has a lot of truth in it, though the gente in that house have no idea how their tableau unnerved me with its faint then insistent recall of one of those life's scariest moments.

The road from Redlands to Hemet winds along the eastern edge of the cemetery where Alessandro Road descends into San Timoteo Canyon. In those days, the road fords the creek near the forgotten indian graveyard to cross into San Timoteo Canyon, where the two-lane blacktop hugs the bluffs of the broad creek on its way to Live Oak Canyon and the pass to the Moreno Valley.

The young man drives his Model A with practiced ease. He's made the trip to Hemet every weekend since the chavacanes got ripe and his girlfriend's family went to la pisca. He started work earlier than usual that morning, to be able to work a full day and still get away early. As it happened, that day the foreman assigned him to prune deadwood from a neglected row of yellow limones, the tree with thorns.

His arms itched from hundreds of needlepoint wounds and he wasn't paying close attention to the switchbacks along the rising road. But he realized it and slowed. Approaching "dead man's curve" he downshifted into second gear against the climb to the top of the ridge, and prepared to brake and let gravity wheel him around the series of "S" curves at the summit.

He is thinking of his girl. Only fifteen, her father insists that the two chamaquitos keep the enamorados in their sight. The young man doesn't mind, just being near the most beautiful woman in the world is his only pursuit in life.

At the final "S" curve, his foot off the gas, the Model A's headlights leave the pavement to swing across the open space above the valley floor. Into the curve, the headlights find the gouged walls of fossil-bearing ancient mud. He loves the sight of the beams sweeping across open space until the first salt bushes appear at the right of his vista that beams across bushy sage and flowering buckwheat and in a flash across the final curve, a horrible sight.

Here, at the most treacherous curve, at the highest point of Live Oak Canyon Road, a shiny black Phaeton hangs over the precipice. The young man's lights had swung across the chrome hood ornament, a rampant eagle, claws deployed in the act of killing. His headlights caught the driver's door, hanging open. A figure sitting on the running board, a figure, a woman cradling a baby. Then his headlights swung out into open space, the Phaeton and the mother a burning afterimage in his vision.

The young man carefully pulls out of the curve onto the shoulder. He stops and sets the handbrake. His flashlight batteries are old but able to cast dim yellow light giving a ghostly cast to its world. The beam finds the rear bumper first. As he moves closer, the beam shows the left rear wheels planted firmly on earth but the Phaeton's right-side wheels disappear into the blackness waiting to claim its next victim.

He speaks English as he approaches, shining the light at the rear passenger door, not in her face. The shadowed woman hums to calm the swaddled form. Her elbows rock slowly. The young man stops ten feet from the teetering Ford. "Let me help you," he says.

The darkness beyond swallows his voice as completely as it swallowed his headlights. The words fall flat yet he remembers them as booming in his ears. The woman stops humming.

In the moonless night of Live Oak Canyon, alone on the old road, his eyes lock on her head. In the silence she looks up. A gloved hand pulls aside her mantilla. When she makes eye contact with the young man, he flees in terror from the skeleton face that glowed out of her hood.

In Hemet that night, the teenager wonders about his absence. Had her father scared him away?

The old road is gone now, a lot of years. When motorists speed along the sleek blacktop into Moreno Valley from Live Oak Canyon now, not many of them look up at the ridge, where the curves are tighter and here and there, patches of the old pavement still hold their ground and their memories.

1 comment:

Concepcion said...

Michael, ese relato me dio escalofrio! Que susto!