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While we kayaked like tourists along the high rocky cliffs of the island, one of the crew who was a grizzled old fisherman (who the younger crew made fun of for his country ways, his campesino sayings he repeated in his gravelly voice as if pronouncing final judgement) often stood in the surf to his thighs fishing for leisure. One day the captain told him to go get lunch. The old fisherman took the skiff twenty or thirty meters offshore to the south end of the cove, where earlier at the break of dawn a skiff load of tourists had fished and caught nothing. After half an hour or forty five minutes he returned with fifteen or so triggerfish, diamond-shaped silver-gray fish of perhaps 3 to 5 pounds each. He set the plastic buckets of fish next to his plastic chair in the waterline, and as the surf washed about his feet, filleted each fish alive. He inserted the long knife behind the gills, and swiftly slid the blade down to the tail with a zipping noise, pulling the fillet free, as the fish gasped and shivered. He tossed the fillets in a clean bucket, turned each fish over and filleted the other side with that zipping noise, before tossing the spine and head of the fish to the gulls and terns wheeling in a cloud overhead. An hour later we ate the excellent ceviche.

The best haircut ever was by a backstreet barber, an old gent in downtown La Paz, Baja California.

The triggerfish body was so desiccated and empty that the wind carried it along the shore.

I had wonderful brilliant thoughts late into the night and I knew that later, maybe by the next morning, I’d have forgotten them.

I dreamed my former student, Salvadorena, imprisoned in a clandestine jail of the 1970s-80s, underground center of horror and darkness. She negotiated with her captor, her voice insistent with gentle dignity. I awoke thinking of the word “water.”

Dave, Marcus and Caius replaced the rotten balcony. Naomi replaced the porch light.

The organizers discussed my situation with Ron, a tugboat deckhand out of San Pedro, in the other room; and on their return said that Ron would be able to make up the unpaid difference in my flight to Nicaragua, where we worked in the reforestation brigade together. We were introduced and shook hands.

The spider hid behind a curtain.

I flavor the stock by first frying the garlic in olive oil, then simmer grated carrots, diced tomatoes and chopped onions and usually some basil for fifteen or twenty minutes.

We planted eucalyptus saplings outside Managua, to control erosion on slopes that had been denuded for firewood. By cotton fields north of the city, crop dusters in single engine planes sometimes buzzed us, fifteen or twenty meters above, spraying the adjacent adjacent fields with a fog of white pesticide. We covered our faces with our shirts and ran away.

Jimmy and I were walking around Tassajara Zen Center. We helped them lower a piece of damaged roof to the ground. He’s worked the last 25 or 30 years as a doctor to farm workers and the rural poor.

Leonor was driving the white pickup south on the 710 freeway and screamed when a rat jumped out of the dashboard.

A Puertorriqueno from NYC complained in his gravelly voice that the Sandinistas did not put up pictures of Marx, Engels and Lenin in the classrooms; he said if they didn’t instruct the younger generation in scientific socialism, then what chance did the revolution have?

Pelican skull on the beach amid shells, pebbles and pieces of wood.

Raccoon on the motel walkway glanced at us, its dark mask seemed full of fury, as it stalked away on long skinny legs. Its tail was torn off.

On the 710, below the hill where the sheriff department headquarters is located, the young guy was shot to death at the side of the freeway. His girlfriend called him on her cell and he was changing her flat tire.

Leonor complained that it was too dangerous when I stopped one evening to help a car load of Mexicans broken down on the 710 overpass; “besides,” she said, “aren’t they drunk?” “Yeah, sure,” I said, “but their car is broken down too.”

I remind myself how anybody, no matter what they look like or what impression they make, generates that penetrating human intelligence which is erased by circumstance, forgotten even by themselves, and overlooked by everyone. Not to notice and not to perceive that is to make a habit of error.

Chased by something unseen below, a long silver fish skimmed the surface straight into the prow of my kayak with a thump. Disoriented, it hung on the surface for a second, when a frigate bird dropped over my right shoulder, scooped the fish out of the water and flew off with it in its beak.

The Gold Line cars were too crowded with protestors when we tried to get on, so I drove downtown instead. I knew a place to park in Little Tokyo, as hundreds of thousands marched up Broadway and turned down First.

I put rat poison in the white pickup (worried Leonor might crash on the freeway if a rat jumped on her) and when she parked on the street, I pointed and laughed. She’d been driving around town all day with a dead rat atop the vehicle.

The staff of the convalescent hospital does a good job, but it’s hard because the patients feel trapped in their broken bodies and their isolation.

Brown rust on steel.

Crimson oleander blossoms.

Shiny Coca-cola aluminum red.

We spent most of that summer living out of an ’84 Land Cruiser. In Wyoming, at the top of the Green River, a gust of wind caught the car door and hit three year old Ume in the mouth, knocking her to the ground.

Out for a walk, Ofelia slipped on a patch of ice on the winter sidewalk in Albuquerque, and nearly blacked out when she saw her foot pointing the wrong way. She called me from the hospital for advice, because I too, recently broke my ankle.

Outside Pretoria in South Africa’s Freedom Park, in the Sikhumbuto (place of remembrance) on the wall of 50,000 names are names of 2,070 Cubans who died in Angola to defeat the South African army in 1976 at Quifandongo, and again in 1988, at Cuito Cuanavale.

“Ludlow Massacre,” by Woody Guthrie, and a granite UMWA memorial on a patch of bare ground at the edge of the empty field.

I stopped for a woman broken down near Griffith Park, a big-boned older woman with stringy hair and a worn dress. Her kids had been playing in the roadside dirt—smudgy faces, snot running out of their noses and black grubby fingers—I put her kids in the SUV with mine, threw her flat tire in the back, and she got in and we were off looking for a gas station. How many times was that us, when we were little?

A hard orange light of late afternoon swept the sidewalks, cut long shadows across the avenues and shone from the walls of buildings. All of us in that light.

Tuna Street 1930

In the industrial wasteland that is the Port of Los Angeles off Terminal Way, which ends at Terminal Island federal prison by the statue of two Japanese American fishermen, monument to the Tuna Street Japantown of 3000 that was wiped out by removal and incarceration in 1942. The crow’s nest of Ume’s boat was mostly hidden behind the big black petroleum barge that a couple of the cleaning workers were looking at (one shielding his face from the sunset with his hand the whole time), red orange sky over the water with metallic oily silver sheen glinting blackly as light faded from the whole sky, I heard one approach me from behind to ask, “You lost?” as I stared into the depths of the big abandoned sheet metal building with a great steel wheel rising out of the cement floor and a hulking engine relic alongside, the words “compressor building” fading from sheets of corrugated metal flapping loose on the front at the corner of block after block of similar buildings, the abandoned cranes standing over them dockside like peeling gray industrial dinosaurs towering huge above us. “No,” I said, “I’m here to pick up my daughter.” “Nobody comes down here, I thought maybe you you need directions or something.” The whole time the other guy in the bed of the big truck hasn’t let down his hand, squinting off toward the sun or glancing back toward us. “All right,” I said looking at the sky visible through the frame of the roof where the sheet metal was mostly torn away.

“Help! Help! She’s—oh, somebody! She’s in trouble! My God, please, someone!” In the department store crowd coagulated at the scene of an emergency, a voice rings out desperately. I try to make my way forward between people standing around “like furniture.” But it takes too long to reach the front of the musty crowd, the woman is dying. She’s gone. I never got to her, never even saw her. And I awaken in bed, lying with my face in the pillow in the quiet hours before dawn.

I appreciate that the cows were not on fire in the California hills west of the San Ardo oil field
I’m good with the military guys sitting in the stands beside their Humvee with the door open and the blackened earth underneath the live oaks
I nod to the CHP officer head down in the shady car obscured as you come around the curve at 75 miles per hour by glistening dark green foliage
I like it when the civilian population is not terrorized around San Luis Obispo with the signs for Highway 1 Morro Bay and the Madonna Inn big old-fashioned and ornate against the colonialized hillside
I was scrutinizing the shirtless man’s hapless and almost Tibetan but not incomprehensible death’s head tattoos all over his torso as he jerked his face in annoyance
I also drove past so many drivers encapsulated in the quotidian that they most likely experience as jazzy and cool, with my zooming and impatience


Continuing west on Whittier, and also on the right side of the street but immeasurably easier to spot because of the yellow and blue stripes which the proprietor has not only painted over every square inch of his building but also on the sidewalk and up the telephone pole on the street corner as well, you’ll find Peoples’ History Tour Site #2, El Pedorrero (the Farter) Muffler Shop, 4101 Whittier Boulevard. El Pedorrero Muffler Repair, with its “museum” open to the public Monday through Friday from 1 – 5 PM, is small business establishment as total folk art installation.

East L. A. muffler and tire shops regularly employ flashy and eye-catching motifs, often decorated with statuary welded out of tailpipes or vehicles improbably teetering atop roofs or walls, but El Pedorrero outdoes them all. Since July 23, 1978, Bill London (he tells me) has astonished and hypnotized customers while repairing their mufflers.

Every surface including all walls, the concrete yard leading out onto the sidewalk, the sidewalk itself, the fence and equipment or other stationary objects have been painted alternating blue, yellow and white stripes. These colors, Bill assured me, have metaphysical meanings and the capacity to affect one’s health. Blue and yellow signify life and death, he said, white means happiness and black means sadness. “For example, if your mother dies, you may choose not to go to the black but to go to the darkness, instead,” Bill explained to me in Spanish while attending to a customer, but I was too dazzled by the color patterns to follow this logic. Maybe I should have asked him what the psychedelic paint job had to do with muffler repair, but by then we were in his office, and Bill handed me a bullet, which, I saw, had a ring attached to it. I was not clear on what I was supposed to do with it and stared too long at it. “It’s a keychain,” the customer, apparently an old regular of Bill’s, said. If the outside of the building is festooned with strange implements that include a large wooden propeller inset with a clock as the centerpiece and garnished with fifty caliber machinegun cartridges, along with other equally eccentric apparatuses, their intricate immobility manufactures an atmosphere of whimsical obsolescence, while inside the building in the office, garage bay and “museum” off to the side, on interior walls, hanging from the ceiling and piled to overflowing on all sides are what Bill calls “old-fashioned anorancias,” memorabilia consisting of odd items of all sizes, invariably with the patina of age, antiques and relics, toys of various kinds but especially weaponry, statues all types surrounded by similar figures and toys, other souvenirs, knick knacks and dolls so as to give the impression that the statuary is part of an endless dusty spectrum of the human image contorted into a weird American empire of dusty fantasy and industrial decline, mixed as they all are with all sorts of stopped clocks, broken or silent musical instruments, large and small swords, bayonets, replicas of guns, toy guns, maps and kitsch paintings, girly posters whose colors have completely faded, light fixtures, old telephones, fire alarm boxes along one wall, animal statues, stuffed animals, toy car replicas, scales, tools, a variety of pitch forks overhead, everything dusty and collectively adding up to what you might expect to find in the ultimate muffler shop at the end of time.

Crows happily burble with titanium white.

Radiating traffic aura with carmine red.

"Sunshine! I call him Sunshine!" the black nurse said patting him on the head, with isothermic gray.

Whole petal blast of chromium yellow.

Thoughtless breezes with Egyptian white.

Brackish waters of Deer Creek with golden umber.

The encrusted wino scooted out of our path politely, grumbling, with dull matte silver.

Buckwheat fibers with granulated pink.

Conversational breeze with sturdy gunmetal gray.

Fulsome logic in riparian striations with marbled jade.

Jasper and slate images flicking with cyanotic violet.

Blonde on Blonde fluffy with lackluster cobalt yellow.

Yellow-eyed blackbird flashing with infrared crimson.

Bold contours of ephemeral dialectics with indigo ice-green.

Sunlight incrementally with viridescent sepia.

Deleted and overlooked features of the terrain with Indian gray.

Tidy dissemblance of objects with graphite erroneous green.

Dorothy Perry cycling to the adoption hearing of her baby, removed from her household by the state, with oleaginous rose.

Dorothy wants her baby boy back, with porous flushed royal black.

Dorothy rode off with hopes to testify in the adoption hearing of the baby which had been taken from her, with pale hydrous mustard.

Olympia testified at an earlier hearing, too, but they ruled against the Perrys, with fulvous tinted brass.

Purview quartered by brilliance with cadmium sluice ivory.

Tilting meditation on a pulse with radiographic tawny beige.

Abrupt intimations of towns and lives with iridescent dusty purple.

Glaring relapse in sudden rhythms of afternoon, with elliptical calfskin maroon.

[Rita Perry, Ray’s longtime caregiver, described the day’s hearing, with grief and sadness, with primary still patina.]

Allen and Ume brought Iunch, which we shared with Rita, the moment furled obdurate lustrous taupe.

Slight antisymmetry in shifting seconds, with pearly burnt sienna.

CHICO NEWS AND REVIEW: Family ties in jeopardy
Chico couple vow to continue the battle for their disabled daughter’s right to help raise her baby

By Christine G.K. LaPado

This article was published on 12.24.09.

Developmentally disabled mom Dorothy Perry (center) will spend Christmas without her 9-month-old son, Jacob. The baby’s grandparents, Rita (left) and Al Perry, recently lost a bid to become the baby’s legal guardians.
Victory for disabled
In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the Americans with Disabilities Act to mean that states must provide appropriate services for the disabled in the most integrated setting possible. What has followed the landmark decision is an increased number of intellectually disabled parents raising their children.

Rita and Al Perry and their 23-year-old, developmentally disabled daughter, Dorothy, are not getting what they wanted for Christmas.

On Dec. 8, after eight months of juvenile court proceedings, Rita and Al lost their bid to obtain legal guardianship of Dorothy’s baby, their grandson, 9-month-old Jacob Henry Perry. This means he cannot come back to the home they share with Dorothy, the home from which he was removed on April 10 by Butte County Children’s Services, and placed into foster care.

Children’s Services cited “failure to thrive” as the reason for the 13-day-old infant’s removal from the Perry home. At the time of Jacob’s removal, Dorothy and her parents had sought medical care on a number of occasions for the baby, who was born with a multifaceted cleft-palate condition called Pierre Robin syndrome that caused him to have difficulty nursing. The Perrys were planning to take Jacob to an appointment with a specialist at UC Davis Medical Center the same day CPS took him.

“I think it’s extremely unfair,” said longtime family friend Kathy Farrell in a recent interview. “I thought CPS’ job was to reunite families and keep them together. So why didn’t they send someone into that home to help that family and keep the family intact? … How much does this cost to keep him in a foster home, the judge, five attorneys, all the social workers? And the taxpayers are paying for it in a broke state. Why wasn’t all that spent on keeping Jacob in the home with his family that loves him?”

Al pointed to a copy of a recent People magazine article (“‘Mommy Is Always There for Me,’ ” Oct. 5, 2009) about an intellectually disabled (ID) mother who is raising her 12-year-old daughter with the help of social service workers. A sidebar to the article mentions the 1999 Olmstead Act, which marked a major shift in the rights of the intellectually disabled in the United States, away from institutionalization and toward remaining in their own homes. What has followed from the law is also an increase in the number of ID parents raising their own children.

Dorothy and her parents want to know why they cannot raise Jacob under similar circumstances.

“At the very beginning, they led us to believe that he was going to come home after each court date,” Al said. Superior Court Judge Tamara Mosbarger “told us that she wanted him home as soon as possible. That never happened.”

“We were promised in-home [daytime] visits and overnight visits,” added Rita, referring to the time period between their July 16 court date and Dec. 8.

According to the Perrys, Children’s Services social worker Heather Murphy had given them a list of modifications that had to be made to their home in order for Jacob to be allowed back, even for visits. The list, they said, included mopping the kitchen floor, giving away some of their birds, moving their cockatiel cage from the kitchen counter to the living room and putting locks on certain cabinets.

“We did everything she had on the list,” said Al, “and we notified her that we were done and she never came back over to check. … Margaret [Bomberg, Al and Rita’s attorney] brought it up in court: Did Heather ever come back to the house? She said no. She couldn’t even give a reason why she didn’t do it.”

“Even the judge … ordered in-home visits and overnight visits,” continued Al. “That never happened. Dorothy asked for a visit on Mother’s Day. The judge said it was up to Heather and the foster mom. That never happened. Rita asked for visits with Jacob’s great-grandparents. That never happened. Dec. 2 was Dorothy’s birthday—she never got the visit she asked for.”

The Perry family also said that Mosbarger instructed them July 16 to not talk to the press.

“She said that it might have an effect on whether we were going to get the baby back,” said Al, “and that everything is public knowledge and everyone has access to that, but she didn’t want what was going on in her courtroom publicized.”

The Perrys followed the order until earlier this month, when Al and Rita’s hour-long, once-a-week, supervised visits with Jacob at the Children’s Services office ceased. Now, they may only occur at the discretion of Jacob’s foster parents, with whom the Perrys have a strained relationship.

Al, who works as a cook at Townsend House, an assisted-living residence for senior citizens, said that one of the reasons the judge gave for not granting legal guardianship of Jacob to him and his wife stems from a misdemeanor drug conviction of his from 2000 for possession of methamphetamine.

The 22-year veteran of the U.S. military (10 years in the Army followed by 12 years of National Guard service) said he takes prescription medication to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder acquired from time spent in the Korean DMZ, and that he went through Drug Court at the time of his conviction and has not used any illegal drugs since 2001.

Another reason given by the judge, said Al, was that she was afraid that Al and Rita might leave Dorothy alone at home with Jacob, something the Perrys insist would never happen, as they have numerous friends lined up—Kathy Farrell included—who are willing and capable of stepping in to help when needed.

A court document filed on Nov. 2 by Bomberg on Rita and Al’s behalf states that local mental health professional “Dr. Claire Fields has testified she has met and evaluated Al and Rita Perry and found them to be suitable for caretakers. Dr. Fields initiated intelligence testing for Al and Rita and found their intelligence to be normal.”

The document also states that Children’s Services “[s]ocial worker Heather Murphy raised concerns regarding Jacob’s safety in an unsanitary, unsafe home.” Neither Fields nor Butte County public health nurse Holly Pearson, who checked in on the Perrys’ home shortly after Jacob’s birth, observed problems with health and safety, it continued.

Additionally, the same document refutes Children’s Services’ initial claim that Jacob was suffering from a failure to thrive, saying that “Ms. Pearson stated Jacob never lost more than 10 percent of his birth weight while in the Perry home,” which is considered to be acceptable.

When asked to comment on the case, Bomberg responded by voicemail: “The only thing I really would like to say about the case is that I was very sorry that Al and Rita were not appointed as guardians because I think they would have done a wonderful job.”

Murphy could not be reached for comment, as it is not Children’s Services’ policy to allow social workers to speak to the media.

Commenting on the Perrys’ claims of promised in-home visitation, Karen Ely, program manager for Butte County Employment and Social Services/Children’s Services, acknowledged, in general terms, that “if a person is looking to have placement or visitation … they are asked [by Children’s Services] to do corrective action, with a timeline.”

Murphy is “not our usual person who does this,” offered Ely, “but if a social worker chooses to, they can. The social worker would then go back and look to see if those things are done. Sometimes, other circumstances can come up that can change what’s happening with a child [regarding visitation]. In that case, the social worker should let [the family] know, ‘We’re no longer considering you for visitation in the home, or placement in the home. Other circumstances have come to light that have changed the original plan.’ I’m not saying that that’s in any way related to any case you may be asking about, but just in general.”

Ely added that “it is not uncommon for families to make these comments [such as those made by the Perrys], to have misunderstandings. They believe that promises were made. We say, ‘We’ll look at this,’ but what people hear is, ‘If I do this, that will occur.’ It’s what they want to occur, but it doesn’t always happen.”

The Perrys certainly believe they’ve made every effort to regain custody of the child. Three days before Christmas, though, they were back in court for a hearing at which Dorothy was expected to sign over legal guardianship of Jacob to his foster family.

“The foster parents backed out on guardianship and want to adopt him,” said Al, who added that an adoption hearing has been scheduled for April 20.

“This whole case is a discrimination case,” Al summed up, “and if they think we’re going to stand by and let that happen—we’re not. Because we know that people with disabilities have raised their own kids and CPS didn’t get involved.”

Both Al and Rita Perry, and Dorothy Perry, plan to file separate appeals.

CHICO NEWS AND REVIEW: Perry baby case continues
Grandfather on a crusade to help disabled people raise their children

This article was published on 05.13.10.

Al Perry—the father of Dorothy Perry, the 23-year-old developmentally disabled mother whose infant Jacob was taken away from her by Children’s Services in April 2009—is continuing his fight for the rights of the developmentally disabled to raise their own children.

“We did not get offered any services before Jacob was taken,” said Perry, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which says that “reasonable accommodation” in the form of supportive services be made to help prevent the removal of a child from the home of a disabled parent.

The Chico man wouldn’t speak specifically (“so it doesn’t jeopardize Dorothy’s case”) about Dorothy’s ongoing attempt to bring Jacob home, but said that he has been in contact with the California Foster Care Ombudsman’s Office.

Perry (pictured at center) plans to organize “a town-hall meeting for the disabled throughout Butte County” in June “to find out how many disabled families this has happened to,” in a quest to determine if Children’s Services has been following ADA guidelines. For more info, call Perry at 892-2116.,

Alex Cigale’s poems recently appeared in The Cafe, Colorado, Global City, Green Mountains, and North American reviews; in Gargoyle, Hanging Loose, Tar River Poetry, 32 Poems, and Zoland Poetry; online in Contrary Magazine, Drunken Boat, H_ngm_n, and McSweeney’s; and are forthcoming in Many Mountains Moving, Redactions, and St. Petersburg Review. His translations from the Russian can be found in Crossing Centuries: the New Generation in Russian Poetry; in The Manhattan, St. Ann’s, and Yellow Medicine reviews; and online in Brooklyn Rail’s InTranslation. He was born in Chernovsty, Ukraine, and lives in New York City. He may be contacted at

and these are Alex’s links to more of Khlebnikov’s work:

There is a Collected and a Selected Khlebnikov in the English translation of the estimable Paul Schmidt and I’m at work on an updated Selected. (Nota Bene: Russkaya Virtualnaya Biblioteka, bellow, is an indispensable on-line archive of Russian literature). (Paul Schmidt’s translations) (Collected, in Russian)

Read a summary of Khlebnikov and Krucheonykh’s transrational language, ZAUM (pronounced as two syllables, “Za-oom,” literally “beyond the mind”) at MOMA and then listen to Christian Bok’s illustration of it in the video link below, and sample all of their artists book collaborations at the Ghetty Museum’s site (A MUST!) (Phonosemantics essay, pages 27-37)

The timidity and despair of Mushmuscle Boy is real. Translucent tangerine gibber of a feverish heart is substantive as the rock of Hong Kong. Desiccated shame or self-disgust before girls is something you should recognize as your own, covered in a corner by the beginnings of the grin, sneer at the self, useless as a shadow at night. Why else your own tip of revulsion at the half-derisive, half-obsequious grin curling into a sneer? Swallow your disinterest and dislike even of the the polished glint of damp scalp against the five o’clock shadow extending across his skull, sheen and all. His trepidation and balk coming through the sudden hesitation and flush which you view remote as contours of terrain. He noticed your dismissal to the background, without you speaking.

July 2010