Tuesday, December 04, 2018

What A Bird Forgives Dances in the Santa Ana Winds. Bolillo y Cocido

Review: Melinda Palacio. Bird Forgiveness. Denver: 3: A Taos Press, 2018.  
ISBN 978-0-9972011-8-5

She delights surprises then kicks you in the gut.

That's my one-sentence review of compañera bloguera Melinda Palacio's tour-de-force poemario, Bird Forgiveness, from 3: A Taos Press. (link)

A single sentence is as difficult as a thousand words to comprehend the delicious array of moments, insights, vistas that fill a single title. There are forty-eight individual titles. Some don't do all that, but all are enough.

La Bloga-Tuesday rarely reviews poetry collections owing to the fundamental unfairness of collectively reporting on poems that each deserve consideration for themselves, not as an element of a mass. Case in point, Melinda Palacio's 48 potential injustices--the ones who don't get mentioned. Disculpe, poems.

Palacio proves that birds of a feather don't flock together after all. With editor Andrea Watson, the book pairs facing-page poems that  contrast or extend one another, summarize an emerging theme, echo and mirror earlier titles. That's an added measure of pleasure, considering each poem for itself, then with its pareja.

Some poems don't have birds at all, not in the title, not in the lines, not suggested in diction. The poet invites the reader to address the absence of a bird in a collection about birds forgiving people. Is there no forgiveness?

"And, Then, the Dismantling of the Boudoir," a two-page poem that stands apart from the paired sensibility of other works, where there are birds. The poem opens with an old woman gasping her death's breath. A relative seizes the ownerless possessions. There's a sense of ruthlessness in the poem that encourages even greater respect for the dead than ordinarily attends a eulogy. Palacio has followed a gentle path, then in between the ominous line "And then, the dismantling of the boudoir," and the delicately genteel line "No more silky unmentionables hang on a line" the poet makes a reader gasp:

And then, the dismantling of the boudoir.

An appraiser bought the bed and vanity. 
Blue velvet bodice with black bottom snaps,
lingerie she once fucked in flung to the trash.

No more silky unmentionables hang on a line.

No birds. No forgiveness, but for whom? The prudish sister, the covetous neighbors, the silenced memoir? Readers will want to take account of those no-bird poems and account the nature of their absence. "When They First Came," for example, places a couple of hippies (my word) on Santa Barbara Chumash land. The invaders don't deserve birds. Facing that poem is a Mardi Gras NOLA poem, "Carefree in New Orleans." Wonder Woman makes the scene, but no birds. There's music, however. The title pays tribute to Professor Longhair's "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," and 'Fess' disciple:

Harvest music, blues guitar, and a stormy sky.
She waits for Little Freddie King and the king who needs no introduction,
Alain Toussaint, to take the outdoor stage on Lafayette Square.

The birdless "Carefree in New Orleans" belies its title in the closing stanza. Here the poet populates the poem with ironic surprise at what the persona finds in a bite of cake:

She devours the last bite of Doberge cake.
The separation of equal parts chocolate and lemon
reminds her of a bygone era when her elders used
a secret language with words that tasted bittersweet.

The poem sits in the Human Forgiveness division, no birds expected. La-dee-dah when you're not looking, care manages to slip past one's idling carefree meanderings.

An involving example of pairing facing-page poems are those on page 52 and 53. "South-Central Beauty," and "Beneath the Devotion of Birds." The two distinctively of their places--the poemario is as much about place as it is about birds--a  classroom and a church building. In the classroom the dark girls learn that blonde and white is the standard for beauty. The church stands in disrepair, except a white dove. For the rest, the children in the pews are learning to forgive. Both are poems of resistance trapped in frustration. The poems offer crystal clear observations that things like this are not right but right now, uneasy about it, we take it.

Skim through the book, re-read the tricky ones, savor those special lines, like the opening to the powerful "What Doves Bring," a favorite of mine just because of Palacio's opening line:

Mourning doves arrive with a bruise of dawn.

The collection's opening poem catches readers off guard for being puro funny. There'll be numerous laughing and chuckling passages mixed with heavy-duty cerebrum-intensive thoughts after"Caged Bird Cries." Kick back, laugh out loud.

The opening piece introduces the autobiographical persona centered in the collection. Her grandmother kept a talking bird who repeated "vieja cabrona". "Caged Bird Cries" wins smiles with funny names like those an uncomplicated soul might assign her parakeets, Tweety, Lola, Tweety1, Tweety2, string of Tweeties. And the talking bird.

She speaks Spanish, Spanglish, and anything dirty.
Vieja cabrona, Lola parrots the neighbor.
She watches telenovelas with my grandmother and discovers
the answer to all questions: Vieja cabrona.

Who drank all the milk? 

And later, you get "Elvis" for funny. Did you know all blue jays are named Elvis?

The collection comes in four sensibilities: I Bird Forgiveness, II Mating Calls, III Human Forgiveness, IV Flying Away. The Epilogue and closing matter add interest to the collection. The striking cover, a part human part Pelican figure, inspires the last poem, "Pelecano Pardo 29º N, 90º W."

Pelecano Pardo answers the frustration left hanging in the classroom and broken-down church. Change, mutability; not of the "this too, shall pass" variety. That's effortless. Palacio knows change comes with energy and difficulty:

From male to female, he is now a she.
Wings unfurl from long matted hair.
Awake in awkward mutated state,
the landing and take off prove hardest.

Human. Avian. Which way does change lead? One direction, to more of the same. Only one direction offers substantial change, doesn't it?

She prefers brown and white wings to hands.

Readers will prefer this book physically. 3: A Taos Press and Michele Braverman, Designer, installed a comfortable tactile personality to the publication. Heavy stock gives each page a character of its own. Stiff yet pliant, the hefty paper feels good in the page-turner's fingers, and the 8" x 9" size has a comfortable feel on a browser's lap. Physically the object encourages readers to linger in the book. 

Readers can order publisher-direct at this link. With the ISBN in hand, your local indie bookseller can order it you can help the local economy. Special offer for classroom sets. That's a grand idea. Butterflies and hummingbirds occupy notable places in several poems, not accidentally. Those are but two of the diverse pleasures in store for the studious or casual reader, as if one can read good poetry "casually."

Living Room Floricanto: liz gonzález Dancing In the Santa Ana Winds

Living room floricantos fill a home with gente and arte for a few memorable hours, the perfect way to celebrate friends, community, culture, a whole lot of good things. For liz gonzález, Saturday afternoon celebrated the publication of her recent collection,(link).Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds: Poems y Cuentos  New and Selected.  

I wish my Dad and Mom were still around to sit with us. gonzález' work would have tickled them pink, literature of the valley, Berdoo, Rialto, Colton. Places we grew up in. My Dad courted my Mom in Cucamonga, took her to the Azteca on la Mt. Vernon for movies. liz gonzález' family knew these streets at the same time.

My parents loved reading and believed literature from our experience impossible. And here's liz gonzález, writing and growing up in the part of town I was born in. My abuelita made tortillas at the tortilleria behind Las Cuatro Milpas on Mt. Vernon. liz' grandmother certainly ate tortillas my great-grandmother made by hand. I sure did. Maybe liz' grandmother was one of the helpful people my mother talked about when we went to the old haunts.

I've enjoyed hearing the author, photographing her reading her own stuff, over years of attending eastside and northeast readings, "here's a page from my unfinished novel." There's a conecta between liz and me that extends beyond her readings and writing into something elemental. On that account, Casa Sedano had to host a reading of her stuff. When I invited liz to bring Dancing In the Santa Ana Winds to the house, she said she'd do it and so we did.

My wife and I used to frequent literary events, sabes, but like the song goes, we don't get around much any more, so having the Living Room Floricanto and Dancing In the Santa Ana Winds reading here, solved a great need in our lives. You know what they say about bread alone. We don't eat much bread here.

Dancing In The Santa Ana Winds Floricanto will appear soon on Latinopia. Treviño's Latinopia and Sedano's La Bloga-Tuesday column team up regularly, taking road trips with the Librotraficantes (link), enjoying video interview visits with Rudolfo Anaya, Felipe Ortego, and Ernest Hogan.

Latinopia is Treviño's cultural infotainment centro, the internet's definitive site for raza history, literature, music, video and columnists. A master of multiple genres and media, Treviño's sci-fi papers and script archives reside in UCRiverside's Tomás Rivera Library, and his Return to Arroyo Grande is a 2016 National Book Award laureate. Like liz' book, Casa Sedano hosted the debut of Return to Arroyo Grande in a backyard floricanto.

Jesus Treviño offered not only to document the afternoon reading for Latinopia, he brought lunch and vino for the 25 invitadas invitados.

A hit of the afternoon's delectables--Eagle Rock Italian Bakery sandwiches and cookies, Melinda Palacio's chocolate chip gluten-free blondies, chips, wine, fruit punch, water--was the Porto's Bakery fruit tart liz and Jorge Martin shared.

Delightfully, the tart features sliced pitaya for a spectacular display of tropical wonder! The Gluten-free Chicano admires from afar the dragon fruit, kiwi, apple, blueberries, mango, fresa edible art.

The author shared both poem and prose from Dancing In The Santa Ana Wind. She capped off the presentation reading from an ominous encounter with a redneck on a dark road on the way to Rialto. The story approaches peak danger, the audience at the edge of their seats, and the author stops there. As she should.

People will buy the book today and find out how the story ends. Others have already had their copies signed at earlier readings on the Dancing tour, and don't offer spoilers.

liz gonzález wears fuschia eye shadow and blouse to match the title's color

Stocking-stuffers 2018
Bolillo y Su Conjunto CD Urban Conjunto Sounds

Bolillo y Su Conjunto play with good-natured sensibility fueling a driving intensity that gives their music enough electricity to light up a dark dance floor after a hard day’s labor. Not any dance floor, but that really hot club with live music, where la palomilla goes on payday or anytime a lonely vato has seven dollars and a thirst.

El Resbalón on calle Third is a long way from south Tejas where this sound came from, but it’s all from here now, look at those sweaty vatos and that white guy on the accordion gathered around the microphone. ¡Hijole! those vatos saben tocar. It’s down home music that everyone knows the words, played with an LA twang. Nothing goes slow, everything drives hard, just like this place.

Puro Spanish lyric gives over to code-switching songs give over to intercultural communication when Bolillo and the muchachos whip out some NOLA rhythms. Think Fats Domino on the button accordion, that’s Bolillo.

About that name, Bolillo. It’s a metaphor. A “bolillo” is a French roll, soft white spongy bread some tipos dip into their menudo or cocido to soak up that caldo, or kids dip into hot chocolate, slurp. “Bolillo” is also an anglo, a white dude. But the term comes not in a foul pejorative way like “gringo y su conjunto,” would. Besides, then people would then call them “pinche gringo y su conjunto” and wouldn’t sell CDs. No one can say “Bolillo y su Conjunto” without a smile. Nor hear their infectious brand of conjunto styling.

Smile when you click the sample below of some superb instrumental stylings and all of that driving rhythm and singing con todo gusto. Supply your own gritos.

For a completely different musical flavor, check out Bolillo’s video of Coco Rayado, free at this link.
Good-time-music lovers will get their mojo working with some jambalaya in two of the album’s cross-cultural samplings. "Homenaje" pays homage to great songs performed superbly.

No matter the style or content, Bolillo y su Conjunto sparkles with virtuosic skill that merits extended listening, an opportunity that comes from owning the record, and giving it to a loved one. Homenaje. Bolillo y su Conjunto. Link.

Listeners can stuff a virtual stocking with Bolillo y su Conjunto’s debut album with a click of a download. Through the wonders of technology, you can do a modern update on the 45 RPM single: solve ten gift problems buying individual tracks for ten different friends, one track each.

Keep those stockings stuffed, gente.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks: Cocido Serendipity

The vato came in from the cold. The party was over, he’d messed up the time and it was my fault for being unspecific and assumptive when he confirmed the invitation. RSVP y todo. Ni modo.

It was a dark and clear night. I stepped outside to check that I’d locked the car and an unfamiliar car parked at the curb. “Is this Em Sedano’s house?” a voice asked from the shadow. “Em Sedano” is The Gluten-free Chicano's Facebook name.

I was about to eat some cocido I’d made yesterday so we sat together and shared it. The poet's timing was perfect.

Nothing, I say again, nothing, satisfies a soul like a bowl of cocido. Add a cold winter night tinged with disappointment and that’s a recipe for contentment when there’s no reason to be.

Actually, there’s a reason. The vato came out of his way to join us for a living room floricanto with liz gonzález reading from Dancing In the Santa Ana Winds, to invited homebodies of the author, and a few friends of the host, including the misled poet. We had a great conversation over our cocido. Serendipity is the English word for cocido on an accidental evening.

Cocido Serendipity
The Gluten-free Chicano kept it simple using the most basic ingredients. There is no salt added but provided at the table. El GFChicano bought the neck bones by price, around five bucks. The leg bone was three bucks.

Bell Pepper, 1, rough chop, 7g
Celery, slice 3” or 4” off a bunch. 2g (carbohydrates, raw/boiled)
Carrots, 3 cut into rounds. 12g
Red or White Potatoes, 2 cut into ¼ chunks. 6g ea (boiled)
Onion, brown. 1 medium sliced. 21g (boiled)
Garlic. 1g (raw)
Dried Garbanzos. ½ cup. 45g. (boiled per serving of one cup!)
Beef Neck Bones or Short Ribs (expensive, greasy, tasty). 0g
Beef Shank Bone with “O” bone intact. 0g
Salt. 0g
Dried Chile de Arbol or any dried suitably chiloso capsicum pod. .35g (each dried)
Limón (yellow Bearss Lime or standard lemon/lime). .45g (wedge)
Olive oil. 0g.

I used my mother’s 1940s Cocido/Menudo pot. It adds soul to the caldo. I show the carbohydrate values of a cooked serving. A bowl contains a fraction of the total. Served without tortilla and all the salt you want with limon and lots of chile, this is a gluten-free diabetic’s happy meal.

Wear an apron, wash your hands, steel the knife.
A thin coat of olive oil heated over medium flame to first smoke.
Brown sliced onion and garlic.
Scoot the limp vegetables to the side and drop in meat.
Brown the beef. Shake the pot, turn the pieces. It doesn’t have to be entirely brown.
Add sliced carrot, celery, chopped pepper, and quartered potatoes. All the vegetables.
Fill ¾ of the pot with tap water.
Lower the flame so it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot.
Simmer for an hour and a half.
When the meat easily pulls out of the neck bone crevices, fish out all the beef onto a plate or the pot lid. Let the meat cool a little.
Leave the round bone in the soup.
Take the meat away from the hueso, discard the bones. The chickens love that stuff.
Return the carne to the caldo.

Turn off the heat.
Let the cocido sit for a day.

Or, serve fresh, hot, steaming. The flavors are way better the second day, like when a poet parks in front of your house.

Serve with a lemon half and a chile, or crushed chile, salt. Good talking.

No comments: