You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2015.
Michele’s work influences my dreams (Chinatown NYC, 2010).
this young group confronts me in an East L.A. parking lot, this troupe of players, performers, as if off the bed of an El Camino pickup, getting ready to sing, but they stop me, the lead guy won’t stop bending my ear, he goes on and on, I know all about it, I have my sympathies, the girl in her vintage clothes and bright red lipstick frowns at me dubiously, so I say all right, all right, I already bought some, I already bought like 4 of them! How much are you selling them for? $5? gimme two more—it’s a chapbook called CLUNKY CHANCLAS, by some chicana doing like a michelle serros thing, these are her friends selling her chapbooks in the streets, doing performances to make sales, and it’s a dream
—Chinatown NYC, 2010
construct and iota alluded to in a dream or reformulated as “vegetables”.
June 4 or June 11, ice left behind in a glass on the table of the cafe.
ice melting, beans softening into the shape of event horizon of Thursday.
inserted from the left, instrumental music without melody (memory of it evaporated).
maybe it was alluded to as noted “in a dream,” or in passing conversation.
(how much conversation can you recall from Thursday June 4?) recycling.
thoughts, newspaper language of social compact, who scratched those clouds on the sky?
who were we (major referents subsumed like energy neither created nor destroyed),
telephone poles of the avenue reorganized as “dogs,” dogs recycled as mountains of the evening…
sunset on mountains recycled as the burnt part washed off the pan, the fire returning as
a paper bag of Thursday crumpled along the edge, unfolded and shook out like a feeling,
as I read about the bicyclist killed by a hit and run driver doing 80, dragged 500 feet on Figueroa.
- “Shipping Manifesto: The Zeppelin Attack Dirigible Sessions”
2. “Shipping Manifesto: Fly the East L.A. Dirigible Air Transport Lines”
3. “Beautification Proposal for the City of Los Angeles and Other Incorporated Cities of Los Angeles County from the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines”
4. “Pollos Rostizados LEAD”
5. “Dr. Eufencio J. Rojas discusses the Publication Filth Saints/ Manifestos/Ballons”
6.“East L.A. Balloon Club Scrapbook”
7. “East L.A. Balloon Club Scrapbook, May 2012”
8. “East L.A. Balloon Club Highlights”
9. “Pollos Rostizados/LEAD” (different video from #4 above)
10. “Overheard at the El Sereno ELADATL Station”
11. “Land Dirigibles of East L.A.”
12. “Zep Diner Menu: Today’s Specials”
13. “The Latest Inventions in Personal Aviation”
14. “Build Your Own Airship: Step by Step”
15. “Zeppelin Attack Dirigible (ZAD)”
16. “Cloud Studies I”
17. “Atmospheres, Explorations in the”
18. “So Our Best Efforts Were Undone (Includes Free Ulysses S. Grant Favorite Recipe for Pancakes)
19. “What is The Purpose of Mystery? (Oscar Zeta Acosta the Man Known as)”
Off-line or in print:
20. “Kraken Destroys Zeppelins”
21. “Interview with Juan Fish (Supposedly”)
22. “Sky City”
i like you, so here are your instructions:
- rattlesnake grass, yucca, prickly pear
- interiors illuminated by lightning, structures and ridge lines seen from the back
- the hard part is not the fight, the hard part is to get to the fight, to find it
- the hard part is not losing, the hard part is to find out how to get into the fight
- the hard part is not having lost, the hard part is being side-lined out of the fight forever
- how does your blood taste this time
- how is the wind this morning
- for now we shall forget some of that other shit
- memory of rain on wood, rain on tin
i like you, i said to myself
I saw dad sitting on the porch of the rooming house on 6th Street, San Jose. Leaning back in a ratty chair with a tall can in his hand, he hadn’t shaved or cut his hair in months. I saw him before he saw me, staring off at a distant point. When he fixed on my face as I crossed the yellow lawn, he recognized me and grinned.
I saw Mario Ybarra standing in the center line of Sunset Boulevard at dusk, between lines of streaming traffic. I yelled “Hey Mario!” driving by, but I don’t think he heard me.
I saw Selene Santiago at the Alhambra farmers market, and when I turned around, she was gone.
In a warm summer drizzle in Manhattan, somebody said, “I heard someone call out your name.” I stepped off the corner at the corner of 5th and 34th and looked up and down the avenue between skyscrapers at the crowd emerging through corridors of plywood and scaffolding, flowing across the intersection in four directions, but I recognized no one.
At the Public Theater in Manhattan, on my way to see Roger Guenver Smith’s solo play, “A Huey P. Newton Story,” I got in the elevator and Roger entered. “Hey Roger,” I said, and he said, “How are you?”
Jimmy Lew had been a runner in hike school, and now on the trail to Vernal Falls at dawn in the Yosemite Valley, he rushed ahead of me. I hurried to keep up, breathing hard, lungs aching in the frozen air, trying to keep him in sight as he zigzagged the icy trail above.
My brother told me that the last time he saw Zeus Gaytan, he was on TV, wearing the blue helmet of a UN peace keeper in Bosnia. The last time I saw him was in the 1980s, in the Japanese garden on the rooftop of the New Otani Hotel, talking about people we never saw.
I had the wife and kids in the pickup truck; we’d visited one of my wife’s college friends who was working as a public defender in San Jose, and then drove downtown to 6th Street, where my father lived in a rooming house. He didn’t have a phone. He didn’t know we were in town. One of the boarders whose name was maybe Kevin (he’d mentioned other boarders in his frequent letters) said my father was out, but that he’d tell him we had come by. My wife said maybe we could return to see if he was in later. As we turned to get back in the truck, my father crossed the street and met us. He was drunk and looked like he hadn’t slept at home in days. In fact, he said he’d spent the week “across town with the Indians.” I could see him trying to shake off the drunkenness, to get a grip on himself internally. “Just a minute,” he said, walking over to vomit into the shrubbery. “Are you all right?” I asked. “I just need a cup of coffee,” he said. And it was true. He heated coffee on the stove in a tiny kitchen, drank two cups, and was ready to meet his grandchildren.
I saw Harry Gamboa in the Starbucks in the Fremont Ave. Alhambra Starbucks; as I entered, he saw me and rose to say hello. I saw Harry in the Mexico City Starbucks off the zocalo.
Dad grew angry when we said we all had to be quiet because the kids were going to bed. “I’ve never been treated so badly in my life!” he exclaimed, as he stalked down the stairs and away through the trees, a twelve pack in a sack under his arm.
The first time I saw Lawrence Ferlinghetti, I was walking toward City Lights Bookstore and saw him arranging books in the window.
I saw Rick Harsch sitting on my balcony, smoking and drinking a beer. He emitted anxious smoke like my brother.
I saw a raven clucking and burbling in a tree in the Yosemite Creek Campground. Later, maybe it was the same one, the raven was taking a dust bath in the dirt road.
I saw Ernesto Cardenal under the eves of the fairgrounds in Managua where we went for the First International Nicaraguan Book Fair. The U.S. booth consisted of a consortium of small presses, including Children’s Book Press of San Francisco, Calyx Press of Oregon, Curbstone Press of Connecticut, and West End Press of Albuquerque. The Cubans and Mexico had big booths the next aisle over. Across the aisle, facing the U.S. stall and its improvised shelves and tables, were the Iranians with their giant laminated photographs of dead torture victims of the U.S.-supported-SAVAK strung like sheets on a clothes line next door to the North Koreans, with their immaculate white booth housing one shelf of books, the collected works of Kim Il-sung, underneath his smiling portrait. Sandinista Minister of Culture Cardenal toured the stalls, saying hello. I thanked him for hosting us, and especially for his own poetry, which I said was crucially important to me. Later I met Cardenal’s British translator, who said his books only sold a few hundred copies in the U.S.
Out on the flat Sea of Cortez, the broad back of the whale (a blue whale) broke the surface like the inverted black steel hull of a ship underwater, black and smooth and shining, with a kind of nub on the crest line down the center as it arched its back and swam on.
I saw Carlo Pedace sitting on my sister’s back porch, smoking. We’d first met Carlo in Naples in 1978, and now his hair was gray, but he looked good. Three generations of distant family gabbed around him, but he was thinking of something else. He looked like he was waiting.
I saw my grandmother Alberta Northway sitting on her couch alone in her apartment in Santa Barbara.
In line at airport in Philadelphia, I saw my co-worker (Doctor) Joe Cocozza enter the line behind me. He introduced me to his partner.
I saw him at the table of professors with Karen Yamashita. I had walked into the cafe looking for lunch, and when Robert Allen started talking about the Port Chicago explosion and mutiny, I told him, “Robert, we met in Nicaragua more than twenty years ago,” and we laughed and hugged. He had talked about the 1944 Port Chicago explosion and mutiny case in Nicaragua twenty years earlier. “I learned about Port Chicago from you,” I said, “In fact, you’re the only person I’ve ever heard talk about it.”
I saw Willie Herron walking down the long hill on Eastern Avenue by the Dolores Canning Company, toward Floral.
I saw the yucca spike was a light golden blonde, its seed pods rattling like ear rings, halfway between the heavy reptilian green of its emergence and the last blasted desiccated hollow black stalk it would become.
- we will meet in our office space (to be determined, it has to look real)
- we will reconstitute the constitution and reogranize this organization
- we will have applications for those who wish to join
- we will recognize natural leaders
- we will takes notes on stuff that people want done
- we will have some sort of agenda like this
- we will have music of avant garde noise
- we will have food and drinks and refreshments for people
- we will have posters and stationary of the organization
- we will have sunshine coming through the windows
- we will have screenings of films of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines
- we will have poets or writers read work related to the air
- we will make it official
- we will have an agenda and stuff
I met Juan Felipe Herrera around 1988. Ruben Martinez, Lindsey Haley and I drove to San Jose in my little white pickup truck to participate in a Flor y Canto commemoration of the series of floricantos that took place throughout the 70’s. Flor y Cantos were Chicano literary festivals JFH participated in with heavy hitters of the day, like JFH’s former roommate Alurista, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Jose Montoya, raulrsalinas, and that whole first wave of Chicano writers (of whom JFH is sort of like a champion, because he’s the LAST ONE STANDING). Ruben and Lindsey were invited to participate in the Flor y Canto and I went along as their driver. We drove to San Jose where JFH had a house with his partner, the poet Margarita Luna Robles and their kids. We participated in Flor y Canto readings at Casa Zapata at Stanford, where both JFH and my wife had gone to college. Afterwards we went to JFH’s backyard with JFH grilling green onions, nopales and chiles and passing them out in tortillas to everybody, exclaiming about the importance of Nino Rota’s music for Fellini movies. He played selected tracks for us on a boombox, while we listened intently. We’d driven 300 miles north for this, both Ruben and I busy in L.A.’s Central American solidarity movement. Ruben shook his head later, asking me, what do you make of all this? I don’t know where Ruben and Lindsey went, but I ended up going with JFH to his son’s soccer game, and that night I slept in the back of my pickup across the street in the camper shell. The next day I wandered into the house a little stiff and groggy—but apparently I’d brought a cassette recorder, so I interviewed JFH while he drove to San Francisco, which took maybe an hour or so in a green and white lowrider classic car straight out of a Frank Romero painting, plying JFH with all the questions I could think of about Chicano literary history.
In 1988, it seemed totally possible that this generation of great Chicano writers would pass by unpublished or unknown, just like the generation of outstanding Chicano movement muralists. In the 1980s, no corporate New York presses published Chicanos. First Maxine Hong Kingston and then Sandra Cisneros a few years later would break through that wall, open up the whole U.S. market. But in 1988, it seemed likely that a whole generation of West Coast writers of color like Jessica Hagedorn, Alejandro Murguia, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Omar Salinas, Jeff Tagami, Ntozake Shange, Cherrie Moraga and Ana Castillo would only be known by the rest of us in small circles, like friends, with their books published by tiny presses in small editions, like Lorna Dee Cervantes’s Mango Press or Ernesto Padilla’s Lalo Press, which published JFH’s atomic hand grenade of a book, Exiles of Desire, as well as the first edition of Michelle Serros’s Chicana Falsa, which started her career. Who has ever seen a copy of JFH’s Exiles of Desire? Why not? It’s such a brilliant book, the literary equivalent to Asco’s work in Los Angeles at the same time. Why were those editions limited to a few hundred copies sold out of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco or Midnight Special Bookstore in Santa Monica or Bookworks in Albuquerque. In those days, who knew any of those books, those presses, or those writers but a few of us? So many voices went unheard, so many lives were silenced, and outside of outposts like Ishmael Reed’s Yardbird, there was no certainty that “multicultural” literature would be allowed to live. In the interview with JFH I asked him about all those literary scenes from Austin to Fresno, from the Taos Poetry Circus and the Bisbee Poetry Festival, from Barrio Logan to the Mission District. JFH was a mover and shaker everywhere he went; he knew about all those scenes; he’d performed with Culture Clash and teatros, on pyramids and stages in Mexico, coffee shops and college campuses across the U.S. for hipsters and Chipsters, pochos and campesinos, for anyone and everyone.
For me, that’s one of the beautiful, essential things about JFH. That’s why he’s a master. Poets like JFH are senseis for the rest of us writers. JFH will bring the poetry to anyone. He will lay it at the feet of everyone. When I met him, JFH was teaching poetry in Soledad prison. We drove past it on highway 101, and he talked about what he did there. He didn’t tell the prisoners, you’re a convict, you’re despised and feared—no poetry for you. He ran the same writing exercises he used with college students. He is not going to say, what, you’re a little kid? No poetry for you. He didn’t say, you’re a farmworker from Oaxaca, barely speak Spanish? No poetry for you. You’re a woman who works day and night, trying to keep your family alive? No time for poetry. You’re from a lost generation, a lame suburb, some mysterious fate? No poetry for you. No! You might be a ghost, a spirit, a raven, a nahual, some unformed being not yet emerged from the air. JFH still has a poem for you! JFH will bring it. Look at JFH’s books. Spanish, English, poetry, prose, novellas in verse, children’s books, memoirs, young adult books, performance pieces, articles, interviews, JFH went there! He does not say, here’s my poem, I don’t know who you are but maybe if you can rise to it, you might be able to read it. Instead, he gets out there, he hits the road, he shatters his own poetry into dust and puts the powder in a little paper sack or a folded paper; he takes it to people wherever they are and says, “This is ours—this is our poem we’re making.” He’s not theorizing a democratic poetics, the political poetry of a public intellectual. He’s doing it; he’s been doing it for forty years. He’s a sensei.
There It Is
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake
They will try to exploit you
absorb you confine you
disconnect you isolate you
or kill you
And you will disappear into your own rage
into your own insanity
into your own poverty
into a word a phrase a slogan a cartoon
and then ashes
The ruling class will tell you that
there is no ruling class
as they organize their liberal supporters into
white supremist lynch mobs
organize their children into
ku klux klan gangs
organize their police into killer cops
organize their propaganda into
a devise to ossify us with angel dust
pre-occupy us with western symbols in
african hair styles
inoculate us with hate
institutionalize us with ignorance
hypnotize us with a monotonous sound designed
to make us evade reality and stomp our lives away
And we are programmed to self destruct
to get buried under covert intelligence operations of
unintelligent committees impulsed toward death
And there it is
The enemies polishing their penises between
oil wells at the pentagon
the bulldozers leaping into demolition dances
the old folks dying of starvation
the informers wearing out shoes looking for crumbs
the lifeblood of the earth almost dead in
the greedy mouth of imperialism
And my friend
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake
They will spray you with
a virus of legionnaire’s disease
fill your nostrils with
the swine flu of their arrogance
stuff your body into a tampon of
toxic shock syndrome
try to pump all the resources of the world
into their own veins
and fly off into the wild blue yonder to
pollute another planet
And if we don’t fight
if we don’t resist
if we don’t organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
Then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizarre look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is