Friday, December 08, 2023

Poetry Connection: El Salvador Edition

Melinda Palacio

a version of this column was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent

Alexandra Lytton Regalado


Last Sunday, poet Alexandra Lytton Regalado gave a salon style reading and discussion at the Ridley Tree House where she is in residence for the week, thanks to a collaboration with Santa Barbara City College and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with Alex over the years, first at a writing conference and later through Swwim Everyday, an online journal for women-identifying poets where she is an editor. 


It is no coincidence that her last name sounds like a regalo. As much as she is honored to reside in a home overlooking the mountains, during one of Santa Barbara’s many good weather weeks, she is a gift to the city. Don’t miss her free workshop on Thursday. I didn’t have much advance notice either or else I would have talked up her reading in previous columns. The salon’s intimate setting allowed the poet to speak to us candidly with what she called, confianza. She said Sunday’s event was like a gathering with friends.

Alexandra Lytton Regalado, Melinda Palacio, Michelle Detorie, Emma Trelles


Alex describes herself as a double agent because she was born in El Salvador, left for Miami as a child during the country’s civil war and moved back to El Salvador as an adult. She has spent 24 years in Miami and 23 years in El Salvador. Now, she finds herself the matriarch of her family. As the adult in charge, she says she is comfortable being displaced. 


Her words carry the weight of being the matriarch of her family as well as the eldest sister. With this responsibility comes a grit that Regalado says is natural for Salvadoran women who must have the quality to aguantar. She says being the keeper of memory is the hardest. When her sisters want to throw away old photographs of unknown people, Alex feels compelled to dig into memory and name those unknown faces. She says she has rescued many photographic memories from the garbage. As the matriarch of her family, she is sensitive to the fact that those saved photographs represent a grief for those who are only with us in photographs. For Regalado, grief is always expected. She describes grief as a way of life, an inheritance.

Alexandra Lytton Regalado


Photography and the visual arts are dear to Regalado. She has a degree in visual art and photography. She is still fascinated by visiting museums. I loved the way in which she discussed how we translate a poem or song in the same way we might ascribe meaning to a painting in a museum The idea of honoring personal interpretation makes poetry more accessible to people, yet another form of poetry connection. 


Alex said this isn’t her first residency, but her third; however, it is her first in California. “The house is full of light and has amazing views of mountains I can see from my desk window,” she said. It also helps that the Ridley-Tree House is in the same neighborhood as her sister-in-poetry, Emma Trelles, previous Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara. Alex has had a long-standing connection to Santa Barbara via Emma Trelles and the Mission Poetry Series, offering translations for the winning chapbooks for the Alta California chapbook prize; and this year she has served as judge for chapbook contest. “I’m honored that three Santa Barbara poet laureates attended the reading,” she said, “I’m looking forward to Thursday’s free workshop at SBCC from 3 to 5 pm at the Multimodal Lab—I’ve developed writing exercises centered around wonder and loss and a great reading packet of poems to share with the group.“  

This week’s Poems feature Alexandra Lytton Regalado.




I left red gladiolas on the altar.

Patrón Santiago Apostól, your horse is spattered with mud.

San Alejo, your shoes are worn.

Acompáñanos y líbranos de todo mal.

This bridge is long and rickety.

Rotten planks, rusted nails moan every step.

Who built this?

We’ve had to leap across all that collapsed.

I have no choice.

Can’t stop to ask why.

Can’t rest.

There are people in front of us and people behind us.

The way back would be just as long.

Best to keep going.

We must get to the other side.

Con cada paso mi sombra pierde color.

The dark water offers my face and I say to it:

This is my one and only life.

Already others are pressing up behind me.

And others have moved too far ahead.

When someone falls I cannot stop to help.

Even though some look like papá, but younger.

Mamá, but mixed with my daughter’s face.

An old friend who died long ago.

Patrón, who will save us?

Will I turn into a fish if I fall?

Will I be jolted awake?








After Leonora Carrington’s painting

After Tracy K. Smith


Daughter, you need to grow into your body,

understand its dimensions,

how to move in this world.

I tell her this as she mops up water

from a glass she’s knocked over.

She is constantly bumping, tripping,

leaving frames askew.

She hides in hoodies & sweats,

but the girl is all legs, taller than me

at thirteen. I want her to live in her body,

not padded in layers of fabric, shoulders

hunched, veiled in long hair, behind

glasses. Push it back, I tell her,

I want to see your pretty face,

in the voice of all women, telling all

other women how to be seen.

She talks of feminism, tells her brothers

Mami will disown you if you are not

a feminist; quick to bark, quick to snap,

to claw, to sink in a tooth.

Arrows & daggers at her feet

& her moon head overcast, as she watches

wide-winged geese circle her body. A family

takes refuge between her ankles,

us or her future family. A lumen cape

hangs from her shoulders, but the egg—

all sun—she holds close to her chest.

How to be a tower, a pillar

of confidence, to inhabit that body

at thirteen, still surprised to be on this earth—

how is it that things work? Do you want to play

a game with me? She wants to skate on smooth

streets, go out into the world without someone

shadowing her. She wants to live in her skin.

I bite back my anger at her awkwardness,

show tenderness for the fawn stumbling

to find its legs, mewling kitten. She is far from

these helpless animals. Wolf at the foot

of her bed, she draws or reads, curtains drawn

in a freezing room. She doesn’t belong to me

as much as her body belongs to her.

I look up to her, rising stories

above me, rising above her own body

&—haven’t I seen her

elsewhere & before—she

is what waits to be said.





Alexandra Lytton Regalado is a Salvadoran-American author, editor, and translator. She is the author of Relinquenda, winner of the National Poetry Series (Beacon Press, 2022); the chapbook Piedra (La Chifurnia, 2022); and the poetry collection, Matria, the winner of the St. Lawrence Book Award (Black Lawrence Press, 2017). 

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Short Cuts

 Dedicated to the vets at Pearl Harbor


Short cuts to make the opening kickoff....

      Whenever I passed it, I could hear my bay window call, “Hey, bro’, it’s time to get a painter out here.  Look at me. The old paint’s cracking and peeling. The rain’s coming, and I’m going to get soaked, maybe mildew, and, who knows, termites.”

     I’d ignored the plea as long as I could. I mean, from the sidewalk, the bay window looked okay, presentable for public consumption, but up close, unless you were blind, the damage was obvious, shabby and in need of care. Then, I heard, “You better get your ass in gear, dude.”

     “Alright,” I answered, and started calculating, always intellectualizing everything, from home repair to a subject for another novel. For a painter, it’s a small job. Most painters won’t come for one window, not cost effective. A handyman? Like those guys who hang out at Home Depot, holding signs, or calling out, “Trabajo?” One measly, bay window, I thought. I can handle it. I looked over, one more time, at the dried, peeling paint, the bare wood almost exposed. I answered, “Yeah, yeah, stop griping. I’ll do it myself,”

     I thought I could hear something like a groan, then, “You’re a teacher, Ay. What do you know about prepping and painting?”

     I ignored the last comment, except it was true. I hadn’t done work like that in some time. I’m getting spoiled. At my age, I don’t like getting dirty, anymore, or the hassle of it all. Lucky my Chicano, WWII parents didn’t shy away from giving us, kids, chores, from housework to yardwork and everything in between; though, at the time, I guess we thought of it as a form of punishment. There was no allowance, but if we wanted to go someplace, like to the movies or out with friends, my mom would always fork over a half-dollar. For the Saturday movie, that’s all it took, a quarter to enter, a dime for popcorn, a dime for a soda, and a nickel for lollipop.

     My dad wasn’t a dynamo with tools. In the garage, hanging on the wall, he had the basics, a hammer, saw, a couple of screwdrivers, a wrench, and pair of pliers. I still don’t know why they call it a “pair,” since it’s only one set. For minor repairs, which he saw more as an annoyance than a challenge, my dad saved Saturday mornings, after we cut the lawn and pulled weeds. Anything with a motor or engine, forget about it. If the job included something electrically charged or carrying pipes transporting large amounts of water, he might give it a look, but, ultimately, he’d pass and call an expert, usually a friend. We were blue collar people.

     He and his friends, each an expert in some type of skilled trade, bartered for complicated work, his expertise in cement and stucco for theirs in whatever he needed, except for his childhood friend, Georgie Saenz, a true wizard of repair, who had the knack to fix anything you put in front of him, from a broken toaster to a leaky water main and even getting a sputtering 1965 Dodge Charger with a Hemi humming like a kitten.

    Whatever repair my dad attempted, he had me by his side, not as a display of fatherly, son affection but, more, to hand him whatever tools he might need, especially if he was up on a ladder. Of course, I’d always rather be doing something else, like hanging with my friends. What I did like about helping my dad was he didn’t waste time. He took short cuts, if he could. He was like in-and-out fast, vamonos, let’s go. It wasn’t that he didn’t’ do the job right, but he was far from a perfectionist. He was more like, “Hell, it works (or looks) better than it did before we started.”

     The reason he started early Saturdays, and took short cuts, was, mainly, I think, because he wanted to be in his chair, in front of the television, for the 1:00 P.M. kickoff, usually for UCLA during football season, and the opening tipoff in basketball season, a real college sports enthusiast -- the pros, not so much. Sunday, to him, was the Lord’s Day, even if he hardly ever attended mass. He made sure we did. He’d dress nicely, casual, and wait to see which friends or relatives would drop by for a visit.

     I wasn’t an expert at this stuff, by any means, but, thanks to my parents, I learned to work and do certain repairs. Over the years, especially in those early days when paying someone to do small repairs was out of the question, I’d improved my skills, though to be honest, after I graduated college, I’d prefer to pay someone else do them, like Jose, my gardener, who is in and out in about fifteen to twenty-minutes, what they call, “mow, blow, and go,” all for $75 a month.

     I could take care of my own yard, but, for me, time has become a commodity, which I value tremendously, especially as I come to realize I have less and less of it in my future, so I prefer to let Jose do it. Besides, I paid my dues, before college, years of landscape-gardening, shlepping tools under the blazing sun across hillsides from Brentwood to Hollywood. Those memories stayed with me, a form of minor PTSD.


One more coat of paint and ready for rain

     So, there I was, attending to my bay window, up close, realizing how much I had neglected it. So, I got to it, like my dad had taught me, starting with the putty knife, scraping loose dry paint from the wood. Then came the electric sander, grinding away the years of accumulated coats of paint, stubbornly sticking to the sill and window edges. In the old days, we did it with sandpaper wrapped around a block of 2 x 4. As the sander roared, I could feel the old bay window rattle, paint chips and wood dust flying everywhere. There were more layers of old paint than I remembered, past homeowners, probably dead now, their handiwork under attack by my sander.

     I couldn’t remove all the layers of paint, I mean, I could, but it would take longer, and the mighty Black 'n Decker might chip away at the wood and cause gouging and splintering, an entirely new problem, which I didn’t need.

     As I worked, goggles, face mask, and old clothes covered in dried paint and wood soot, I noticed a hard crust begin to crumble and drop onto the sill. I turned off the sander, took a screwdriver, and tapped at the old glazing. It dropped onto the sill in chunks, exposing the edges of glass. The aggressive sander had loosened the old glazing. “See what you did now, smart ass,” the bay window scolded, “probably because you’re rushing.” The words and voice sounded familiar, like my dad’s.

     Would I need a window "guy" to re-glaze, to get it right, to be precise? I didn’t have time. No window guy would come out for such a small job, anyway. Should I call a friend. Hell no, too macho, my conscience saying, "You can’t tell a friend you don’t know how to glaze a window." I mean, I knew I could do it, not as nicely as the “guy,” but good enough.

     I remembered, once, when my dad had to change a broken window in our bedroom. My brothers and I had been horsing around and thrown a tennis ball through it. I'd done it before, so I could do it again, but it was scary, just the idea of exposing the entire glass pane to the elements. I got to it, again, scraping off all the old glazing, hoping I’d only have to re-glaze one pane. The other three looked okay. As I worked, I could see my dad, making me, a kid, watch, as he scraped away all the old glazing, removing the broken glass, measuring the empty space, going to the hardware store to buy a new pane and glazing, coming home, setting it in, just right, and glazing it with a putty knife, smoothing the glaze, so it wasn’t lumpy, and making it straight along the edges. When he finished two sides, he handed me the putty knife, and said, “You finish it.”

     I did, awkwardly, lumpy and a little too crooked along the edges. My dad clasped his big paw over mine to show me how much pressure to put on the putty knife and how to angle it to get the slanted edge, wiping excess smudges off the glass with a wet cloth. Then, he had me do it again, alone, an Independent Studies, of sorts, not perfect but better. Since that time, whenever I had to change or re-glaze a window, I’d panic, at first, then remember myself, at ten-years of age, a kid, and my dad teaching me how to do it. 

    I had to let the glaze dry for a couple of days, so, in the meantime. I spread putty, on the windowsill, in places where the old paint and the wood didn’t meet evenly. The house is seventy years old, a lot of uneven places, and splintered wood. Miraculously, today’s putty dries in a few hours, like the paint, which I applied with a brush, old school, no electric spray gun, again, not with the perfection of a professional but with the skill of a novice, enough to make it look good and protect it from the coming rain.

     When I finished, I put everything back in its place, somewhat proud, even with the slight imperfections, unnoticeable to the eyes of the casual pedestrians walking past on the sidewalk.

     Some memories of our childhoods come around when we least expect them, and sometimes they are more than just images. They return as life lessons, or like I heard the bay window say, in a voice much like my father’s, “Good job. That’s how you do it. Now, let’s get in there for the kickoff.”

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Los Monstruos: Felice and the Wailing Woman

By Diana López


Publisher: Kokila

Language: English

Hardcover: 288 pages

ISBN-10: 0593326490

ISBN-13: 978-0593326497



The twelve-year-old daughter of La Llorona vows to free her mother and reverse the curses that have plagued the magical town of Tres Leches in this delightfully sweet and spellbinding adventure by beloved author Diana López.


When Felice learns that she’s the daughter of La Llorona, she catches a ride to the magical town of Tres Leches, where her mother is said to be haunting the river. Growing up with her uncle Clem in Corpus Christi, Felice knew that she had been rescued from drowning—it’s where her intense fear of water comes from—but she had no idea her mother remained trapped between worlds, looking for her. Guided by the magical town’s eccentric mayor, Felice vows to help her mother make peace with the events that turned her into the most famous monstruo of US–Mexico border lore. Along the way, she meets the children of other monstruos, like La Lechuza and the Dancing Devil, and together they free Tres Leches from magical and metaphorical curses that have haunted its people for generations. 


Diana López’s electric return to middle grade—the first in a series—brims with magic, adventure, and Mexican folklore, and is perfect for fans of Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega and the Jumbies series by Tracey Baptiste.





"A bewitching adventure."



“A fresh, feminist take on Mexican folktales rooted in family, belonging, and acceptance.”

—Kirkus Reviews


"The novel presents a great lesson on love, acceptance, and overcoming fears. Recommended for readers who enjoy a fast-paced fantasy with folkloric roots." 

—School Library Journal 



Diana López is the author of the adult novella Sofia's Saints and numerous middle grade novels, including Confetti Girl, Nothing Up My Sleeve, and Lucky Luna. Her debut picture book, Sing With Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla, is available in English and Spanish. She also wrote the novel adaptation for the Disney/Pixar film Coco. Diana retired after a 28-year career in education at both the middle grade and college levels, but she still enjoys meeting with students when she visits schools to chat about books and writing. She lives in her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Deontic Choice: Readiness Is All

Readiness Is All: Two Essays on Memory
Michael Sedano and B. Nicki De Necochea

The Fall of A Butterfly
Michael Sedano

There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.  

If it be now, ’tis not to come

if it be not to come, it will be now

if it be not now, yet it will come

The readiness is all

Brilliant orange wings lay outspread upon la tierra's rough brown garden detritus. It's this butterfly's habit, resting like this. Naturally, I have hundreds of fotos of orange butterflies resting. But not this one, I don't have its foto. I must go down to la tierra again, and all I ask is the butterfly not move.

The Gulf Fritillary doesn't flinch when my lens approaches. I think this is one of those serendipitous meetings producing symbiosis between butterfly and camera, a social contract: one agrees not to fly, the other agrees to share the joy of a close-up photograph. It's the ineluctable nature of garden walkabouts, butterflies come in beauty, people come in wonder. 

The butterfly's four wings show little, if any, wear, and no tear. The edges are pristine, no perforations anywhere mar the perfect orange expanse stretching between branching venas. The butterfly is dead.

I take the Gulf Fritillary into my palm, turn it toward the sun where mosaic underwings glow with the sheen of burnished silver. It's a color the camera cannot capture, the spots bear an inert, dull grey-white coloration. 

Life expired here sometime in the past few minutes, a "now". Now, no immortal hand nor eye can recapture flight nor fluttering wings. 

Ants will find the butterfly's remains in the branches of the casí-flowerless Buddleia bush where I dropped the empty shell. A dearth of flowers could mean this Fritillary starved to death. Any number of somethings could have brought the butterfly to earth. To my eyes, it's dead before its time. I call this less Providence than more nature's deontic logic, yet it will come.

It came in 2023 to my house. The year began in a special providence, I knew this would be our "now". All we had was Time. I lacked Hope and didn't need Hope. After February, it was not to be. I'm glad we're almost done with these four numbers, 2023. 2024, it will come.

Memory: written in 2019 when De Necochea was living with Alzheimer's Dementia
By B. Nicki De Necochea

As I was writing my Christmas cards this year, I was also appreciating that I do love the “old school” ways of communicating from brain, to hand, to pen to paper.   My handwriting is changing, not so perfect as in the old days, but nonetheless it’s mine, and like my personality, laugh, and smile - and even my fingerprints, unique.  I also now do my mother’s cards to the remaining friends on her list.  She is 91 this year, so the list of her friends is getting shorter.   This brought to mind a reflection on my mother’s once gorgeous handwriting.   

She can no longer even sign her own name, and likely cannot tell you what her name is if asked on a day she can’t recall it.  However, my personal archives of her writing are now so representative of who she was, and no longer can be, in a verbal sense.   Her penmanship was elegant, and her messages deep and meaningful, her heart and her hand immediately recognizable.   When I now run across a handwritten recipe  or note, I  know it was hers even if not signed, because her writing had its own personal identifiable strokes, and pace, beauty and grace.   

It’s as if I’m looking into her face, when I come across her writings on notes, cards, her old address books, and handwritten lists.   It’s so thought-provoking that no one has identical penmanship, even given that the manner in which we were taught longhand likely had all the similar steps, and instruction and basis for connecting the letters of the alphabet in a harmonious twist of the hand, grasping the pen or pencil and gliding the words across a page. And like artists painting the same landscape, the outcome will be unique to the artist or the writer.  

Yes, we could all write the same words, sentence or paragraph and the words would have their own personalized  look and feel, as our brain’s recall makes connection from head to heart to hand ----the loops and dips, curls and feeling of thought laid down as  a beautiful form of communication.   To me, her lovely and thoughtful wisdom, once imparted on the special Christmas cards and birthday notes, in which she conveyed her love, and sage wisdom are like the works of art of known masters, no longer with us but no less appreciated.  Her ability to write has long since left her, as those parts of her brain have stiffened or dissolved along with the needed cognition, now just another one of her lost arts.  I’d give anything to get one last card filled with her wisdom, heartfelt desires for me, or wise conveyances.   

So, let’s not take for granted our ability to write with love, to share a note that expresses who we are in longhand.  I say, write for those who will outlive us, to share exactly what we are thinking and feeling in the moment.  Let’s all leave behind some semblance of who we once were, as indelible and retrievable.  May my great grandchildren who I will likely never know be able to hold my words, executed in my own hand, in theirs.    I do my share of contemplating how short life is, and thinking about how I will be remembered.   And, it’s OK if people remember how I was so “old school”, handwriting my Christmas cards, long after it was “the” thing to do.   Instagram, email, texts and Facebook all have their place in this new quicker is better electronic age.      

Handwriting is an art form, but also a heart form.   I’m curious if my sons have or will save any of my writings like I saved my mother’s …to appreciate them in the future in which I will not be.   Daughters perhaps might be more likely.  If you are of the era of handwriting and penmanship, continue your long-handedness.  Put your thoughts to paper without the need for any technology other than your own hand, and brain power, pen and ink.   There’s a beauty in it I can’t describe, but can only appreciate.   

So thank you to my lovely mother, for taking the time to pick the card, write the letter or note to be re-read and appreciated as well as coveted so many years later.  And, even more appreciated now that she can no longer pen her own messages.   I cherish her written words but also her “hand”, and the lovely penmanship from an era where penmanship mattered.   

I encourage you to write to your loved ones, little notes, cards, messages.    And not just the mothers. Dads, consider taking the time to feel the feelings, share the thoughts, and leave the legacy in your own handwritten expressions for your children, and grands.  What I wouldn’t do to have a handwritten note of my father’s.   

Love, peace and everything else!  

B. Nicki De Necochea is a So Cal artist, residing in San Diego who embraces her art and writing as a form of creative self-expression.   She is a painter in oils, acrylic and mixed media.   Her writing addresses personal themes and experiences as another vehicle for using art for growth, human awareness, and for her own self-discovery.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Riverfront Reading Series

Riverfront Reading Series


On December 8 at 8 p.m. CST on Zoom the Riverfront Reading Series features Gloria Vando, Denise Low, and Xánath Caraza. Register for the reading in advanced at  Please join the event.


Gloria Vando’s books and poems have won numerous awards, including the first Kansas Arts Commission Artist Fellowship in Poetry (1989-91). She is founding publisher/editor of Helicon Nine Editions, which received the 1991 KS Governor’s Arts Award and co-founder with her late husband, Bill Hickok, of The Writers Place in Kansas City. She is a contributing editor to the North American Review, and serves on the boards of the Venice Arts Council and Beyond Baroque, a literary center in Venice, CA.   


Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, won a Red Mountain Press Award for Shadow Light: Poems. Forthcoming is House of Grace, House of Blood, docu-poetry from the University of Arizona Press, Suntracks series. Other publications are The Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (University of Nebraska Press); Jigsaw Puzzling: Essays (Meadowlark, KAC-Coffin Award); and Casino Bestiary (Spartan). Low is a founding board member of Indigenous Nations Poets, former board president of AWP, and literary co-director of The 222, an arts organization. At Haskell Indian Nations University she founded the creative writing program. She now lives in California’s Sonoma County, homeland of Pomo people.


Xánath Caraza is a traveler, educator, poet, short story writer, and translator.  She is the author of twenty books of poetry and two short story collections. She writes for La Bloga and Revista Literaria Monolito. In 2018 for the International Latino Book Awards she received First Place for Lágrima roja for “Best Book of Poetry in Spanish by One Author” and First Place for Sin preámbulos / Without Preamble for “Best Book of Bilingual Poetry”.  Her book of poetry Syllables of Wind / Sílabas de viento received the 2015 International Book Award for Poetry. She was Writer-in-Residence at Westchester Community College, NY, 2016-2019.  Caraza was the recipient of the 2014 Beca Nebrija para Creadores, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in Spain.  She was named number one of the 2013 Top Ten Latino Authors by Caraza has been translated into English, Italian, Romanian, and Greek; and partially translated into Nahuatl, Portuguese, Hindi, and Turkish.  



Friday, December 01, 2023

Does Poetry Get Old, Too?

These two poems were written over thirty years ago.   And I thought I was getting old back then.  Doing 40 On Highway 50 appeared in Saguaro, (University of Arizona, 1988.)  A Name On The Wall  was published by Pearl Street Press, 1989.  Both of these literary journals are long gone.  I hope my poetry had nothing to do with their demise. 



In reply to your recent inquiry,


Yes, I remember the kids we once were.

Back then,

The trip down Highway 50 from Florence to Pueblo

Was a dry, hot hour in my father's blue Plymouth.

It seemed like days.

I watched for the white water tower,

The sign the journey was nearly finished,

Before we toured the dying center of

The Steel City



The streets crowded with sweaty gente.

My father insisted we eat at El Sombrero

How strange to order hamburguesa

From the girl with obsidian eyes and a pony tail

While the old man slurped menudo my mother stared

At what the other women wore.


I traveled on that highway

To places far beyond Pueblo

In the shelter of our house near the river.

Years later, when I passed the tower for a final time

And my feet stepped where my mind had been

I searched, vainly, for El Sombrero.


You and others drift by now, from those times

When the headlines were filled with our exploits,

And they made movies about us

Or so we thought.

You sense the loss I see from inside, then turn away

Or comment on

The grayness,

The baldness,

The sagging flesh,

And laugh, for you see yourself in a few



Last week.


Remember that sunrise

After that night we had to live,

We could not say we had not been warned.


And the minutes rain down on us from the corner

Where we stored them.

They drown us in showers

That wash away the steam on mirrors we don't use.


Oye, cabrón!  Lighten up!

It's only your birthday.



Mighty Frankie Valdez, Jr.

Jumped on his bike

Rode through

The most dangerous sidewalk

In North Denver.

Granpa held the back of his seat

Mighty Frankie pedaled and steered

Skimmed over lawns

The curb

Across the street.

Granpa hollered



Grabbed for the bike

Missed the boy.

Frankie's legs were demons

His bike a rocket

Launched into heaven

Among the clouds where

Mighty Frankie laughed like a two-year-old.

He landed in Johnson's hedge.

"Jesus Frankie.  You're either

Real stupid or

Real brave

I don't know which

Just like your old man."

Photograph in the golden frame

On his mother's dresser

Young man with dark eyes, thick moustache

Brown, serious uniform

Flag draped in the corner.

Mighty Frankie Valdez, Jr.


Climbed back on the bike

Rode through the afternoon

Granpa stood back and watched.



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. Read his latest story, Northside Nocturne, in the award-winning anthology Denver Noir, edited by Cynthia Swanson, published by Akashic Books.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Chicanonautica: The San Andreas Fault and Zapotecan California


by Ernest Hogan

We had to check out the San Andreas Fault, that keeps rattling California but still hasn’t managed to sink the state the way it was supposed to back in the early Seventies. The Golden State doesn’t seem to be destined to be a new Atlantis, but then the Pacific plate whose northward movement causes the dreaded earthquakes is more likely a chunk of lost Lemuria.

Not far from the fault is the remarkable and somewhat Lemurian town of Parkfield, population 18. It’s the home of the University of California Berkeley Seismological Laboratory–a metal shack that seems to be home to some machines--and a bluegrass festival, though there isn’t much room for a big crowd. There’s the Parkfield Lodge that wasn’t open, guarded by a wooden Indian and a monument to the Yokut, the local Indigenous tribe. and some fanciful buildings and odd structures that could well be Lemurian plumbing fixtures.

Back on the road Mike asked about the word “logistics” on trucks. Then we looked it up: the detailed coordination of a complex operation. Hmm. I pretended to answer a phone: “Mysterious Logistics, what can we do for you?” We all laughed.

Then I saw some roadside datura.

We checked into a motel in Monterey–the bathroom in our room had a sign with a Tralfamadorian heretic reminding us not to flush “flushable” wipes.

We felt like Mexican food. I like to eat Mexican while on the road, not just too feed my addiction, but to see what kind of variations on the theme are going on as the virus spreads. The young woman with orange/purple hair and a lip piercing recommended El Milagro down the road in Seaside, her personal favorite. Her family was from Oaxaca and their menu was Oaxaqueño. We went for it.

It had some nice murals and Día de los Muertos decorations, and the food was great. Not the generic Mexican fare you find in most of Aztlán. They didn’t have my old, beloved,reliable tacos, beans, and rice, so I went for their tacos and a cold cactus salad. The taco was what I would call a burrito, and the salad was made with nopales, known in the Anglophones as prickly-pear. It was made from the paddles, not the fruit. I usually have nopales fried, and with eggs and salsa for breakfast, but the salad was a new treat.

A lot of the customers, and the employees, were from Oaxaca. The manager was impressed that I had been to Oaxaca, and knew about Zapotecan culture. There seems to be a Zapotecan colony there.

Mexican immigration to California has changed over the years. Decades ago it was mostly people from the border states–like my family, on both sides–and some from as far south as Mexico City.

In recent years, we’ve come to see an influx from the south, where tamales are wrapped in banana leaves. These days the Pacific Coast Highway now bristles with Mexican restaurants boasting a diverse selection of cuisines.

And there are so many of them. I thought that my hometown–Glendale, Arizona–had a higher density of them than parts of Mexico, but this, I'm afraid to say, blows us out of the water.

So many Mexican restaurants, so little time. I’m going to have to come back someday.

The next morning, I found a news story about scientists discovering the Law of Increasing Functional Information. More information, even if it’s in the form of molecular structure, triggers evolution.

And here it’s happening with La Cultura.

Later at a Pacific Grove thrift store, I found a copy of Cortez and Montezuma by Maurice Collis. The guy who rang me up told me his name was Quetzalcoa, dropping the “tl” like a modern Nauhuatl speaker.

The functional information keeps coming. Maybe some mysterious logistics are in order.

Ernest Hogan’s first short story collection, Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song, is available on Amazon. What are you waiting for?