August 17, 2021

Gilberto Lucero

THE TWO OF ME

Like Frida, there are two of me.
But they don’t sit next to each other,
hold hands, or watch the other bleed slowly.

One is a boy wearing pajamas with feet
trying over and over to fly off the couch,
to reach some star, give his regards to Jupiter.

The other is a bald-headed man
throwing about orange cones
expecting the potential failure.

He doesn’t want me to lift off, take orbit.
He makes the idea of getting up and out of bed
like Cuba, set off to the side and forgotten.

I think maybe this is God at work
teaching me a lesson. But it’s probably
that bald-headed guy convincing me that
intergalactic traffic jam in my head,

holding down the boy in pajamas with feet
by the arm, trying to silence him as he jumps
on the couch screaming “get up and fly.”

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999
Tribute to Latino & Chicano Poets

__________

Gilberto Lucero: “The son of a Mexican mother and father, and a brother of two wayward siblings, I gain poetic inspiration from meditation and the study of art. I write in order to remember and love.”

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August 5, 2021

Amor Halperin

IT IS MAGIC

It is magic
sorcery,
spells,
science fiction
whatever
one wants
to call it,
the truth is
that there are
incomprehensible
situations:
for instance
this small universe
which is
the brain
is a mystery
for many people.

When I was a child
I thought
that the brain
was an amorphous mass
specially
when my mother prepared
brains in vinaigrette
a gourmet dish,
but for a ten-year-old child
quite distasteful.

Lately I have
more respect
for the brain
after what I went through
during ten months
of anguish
for my family
and me.

In a few words
I will tell you
that an interloper
was damaging
one of my nerves
the acoustical nerve
the intruder
was growing
by dint of my brains
he wanted me
not to hear
the beautiful sounds
of this world
nor the coarse
words
that we hear
frequently.

Well,
then somebody decided
to deal
with the uninvited
visitor
and what better way
than to give him
a medicine,
the Star Wars’ way:
they deal
with their enemies
with a Zap! Zap!
and make them disappear
from the site,
forever.

That’s why I say
in my case
a magician
manipulating
a bundle of rays
bombarded
the intruder
to destroy him
and now that
I am breathing
more easily
I think
that in my horoscope
my sign
Gemini
said to the one
that follows it
Cancer
“Don’t you dare enter
in my dominion!”

Happily
this ends this story
of intruders
and science fiction
and I am getting ready
for the new millennium,
that will come
with more surprises
than one
can foresee.

translated from Spanish by Ida Halperin

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999
Tribute to Latino & Chicano Poets

__________

Amor Halperin: “For many years I worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab, in the unmanned space program. All our endeavors were and are still to reach other planets and expand the knowledge of the universe. The beauty of these faraway worlds where man tries to find, if not the origins of our species, at least another civilization, can best be described as the highest form of literature: Poetry. I say let us go beyond our petty wars and build a world where our children will become adults. My hope is that one day man’s inhumanity to man will be a thing of the past.”

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March 4, 2021

John Olivares Espinoza

ACHING KNEES IN PALM SPRINGS

My brother, Albert, and I,
Spent one Thursday of our Winter break,
Plucking patches of grass
From four beds of Petunias of a condominium—
A one story stucco block in beige,
For those with money in their palms and time on their hands.
We spent these “vacations”
Shivering—raking, trimming, and mowing,
Frozen gardens with Dad.
At the eighth hour, the weight on my knees
Was too much to continue,
Kneeling and picking. So every time I pulled
Out a fistful of grass,
I stood up tall, and stretched. When Dad
Noticed my squatting and the weeds
Slowly filling the trash can, he said to me,
“You’re packing down the dirt,
Kneel on the lawn and weed the beds from there.”
And I told him,
“I’ve been bent down since nine this morning,
I am at least entitled to a stretch …”

I kept the truth from
Slipping from my lips. How I didn’t care
About dirt and weeds, from a garden
Of a bourgeoisie who raked in more hundred dollar bills
Than I did citrus leaves.
I wanted to tell Dad how these men didn’t care
If Mexicans spent nine or ten hours—
A lifetime—bent as old limbs of lemon wood
Weeding out grass, next to the same bed
The following week. I wanted to
Tell him about the hours, how I felt wasted
When we could’ve rested our sore spines
On a bed and drown in the lake
Of a much deserved sleep.
Or sail through Tierra del Fuego,
Standing on the deck and never bowing,
Not even to the sun.
Or how he could’ve learned to read,
And I’d finally show him
A poem I wrote. But I didn’t.
Because I knew what he would say—“It’s the only way
To put you through school—this oily sweat.”

I kept my tongue hidden
Behind my teeth, and watched my younger brother
Hunched over, tossing weeds and his youth
Inside a green plastic can without a word.

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999
Tribute to Latino & Chicano Poets

__________

“John Olivares Espinoza: “I spent my weekends and vacations working in gardens with my father and brothers. Not only do I use my voice to speak out for what I experienced, but also for those who have it worse. I might complain about scraping the dog poop from under my lawn mower, but there are people who lose their fingers doing it. One other thing, those wealthy men that live in country clubs are rich because the cheap bastards refuse to pay the gardener after services rendered. This is what drives me to write poetry.” (web)

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December 8, 2018

Brenda Cárdenas

SONNET FOR THUNDER LOVERS AND PRIMARY COLORS

When Sweet Nothings Just Don’t Cut It

You’re more than soda fizz, than sparklers lit
for kids at play, than fireflies’ flit in sky.
You spin around my heart and up my thigh
with the whistle and boom of a bottle rocket.
Baby, those other jugglers’ gigolo tricks—
magician’s spell and mime’s unspoken sigh—
don’t turn my head, don’t catch my ear or eye,
but your mercury rolls in my hip pocket.

Some women like the subtle hints, require
a pastel touch, a whispered cry and blush,
but not me; I am all hyperbole.
Your howls of red, your strokes of green sapphire,
your cayenne kiss, serrano pepper rush
from lip to nape of knee will do for me.

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999
Tribute to Latino/Chicano Poets

__________

Brenda Cárdenas: “Few books inhabited my childhood home—a dictionary, the Bible, a few encyclopedias—however, I grew up listening to an aunt, grandfather, and grandmother tell vivid stories of dancing horses, hangings, and flights form their pueblos during the Mexican Revolution or drinking at speakeasies during prohibition in the U.S.” (web)

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December 4, 2018

Evangeline Blanco

LOSSES

Are you the woman who worked on her feet
all day as factory forelady
yet danced at night to a mambo beat
and never said no
when I wanted to go
for a wild west movie
or an ice cream soda?

Time is sadistic, mother.
It whittles the unseen molecule
to steal, in bits, your self esteem
by making you fearful of small activity.
Bending is punished with spasm or swollen knee.
It shrivels, shrinks and deafens you.

Time is also torturing me,
weakens my heart to reconcile
your former smooth-skinned energy
with what my eyes now see.
It floods my thoughts with loss and exile,
the vinegary taste of your mortality.

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999
Tribute to Latino & Chicano Writers

__________

Evangeline Blanco: “For the brief period I remain my present self, a Puerto Rican female banker with ninety-year-old parents. My work reflects my roots, touching on the sore scabs of bigotry endured in school and the workplace. Other work is a sharing of ancestors and descendants, flashing a wry smile at love’s illusions and time’s assault on mind, body, and dignity.”

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July 24, 2018

Jimmy Santiago Baca

CELEBRATE

Five hundred and five years
tortillas slapping between mamas’ hands,
farmers irrigating red and green chili, squash, and corn rows,
forming halves into wholes, braiding
two roots into one thriving, ever-deepening, mother-root
bridge between black and white,
blood rainbowing
opposite shores,
connecting south to north, east to west.

Five hundred and five years
of prayers mumbled from lips,
hands clasping other hands to endure,
keeping the line intact,
unbroken hope, rosaried faith,
from Incas, Moctezuma, Cortez, Villa y Chavez,
to the anonymous men sitting on park benches
meditating on the dawn,
to women climbing cathedral steps to attend Mass,
to whimpering, wakening infants
suckling at their mothers’ breasts.

Five hundred and five years
and still they remain
all beating with strong hearts,
strong
hearts celebrating the magic songs,
acts of courage that leap from them
and integrity
that shines from them.

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999
Tribute to Latino & Chicano Writers

__________

Jimmy Santiago Baca (from Working in the Dark): “One night in my third month in the county jail, I was mopping the floor in front of the booking desk. Some detectives had kneed an old drunk and handcuffed him to the booking bars. His shrill screams raked my nerves like a hacksaw on bone, the desperate protest of his dignity against their inhumanity. But the detectives just laughed as he tried to rise and kicked him to his knees. When they went to the bathroom to pee and the desk attendant walked to the file cabinet to pull the arrest record, I shot my arm through the bars, grabbed one of the attendant’s university textbooks, and tucked it in my overalls. It was the only way I had of protesting.” (web)

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July 12, 2018

Jimmy Santiago Baca

SET THIS BOOK ON FIRE!

Rising
in the glow of the embers,
and even in the ashes, I want to tell you:
I’ve spent years
studying stark cries in the cancerous marrow
of inner-city streets. I’ve gone to
Uppidee districts to witness poets
who kiss their asses while adjusting grins,
luring audience approval with politically correct quips.

I want to tell you:
don’t lie! If you’re going to read a poem
about a kid getting his head blown off,
don’t raw jaw your cotton-tipped tongue
to gain the sugary aplomb and donut favor
of English Department heads, who like you
and never scavenged food from dumpsters, who like you
and never stood in welfare lines, who like you
while gleaning misery topics from The New York Times.

I want to tell you:
if you’re going to preach what you don’t follow,
testify to what you haven’t lived,
hoola-hoop your way like a pride-plucked hen
doormatting your heart for moneyed admirers
whose concerned faces ohh and ahh faked empathy,
know that poetry deserves better than that
hee-hawing, educated, hillbilly-mule
whinnying for the crowd response.

I want to tell you:
while you do your sheepish, poor-me routine,
your victim-in-distress sighing,
poor people are being murdered,
prisoners are being zapped with fifty-thousand volts
of electricity to make them behave.
O hollow-hearted, New Age activist that you are,
tell us in your poetry how cooly you’ve risked
your life helping refugees cross the border.

I want to tell you:
what you’re looking for is a new title to acclaim,
what you want is to be hailed a savior
when you spice your poetry with theatrics,
crumpling on the floor and groaning with rage.
O how the world has done you wrong!
The last thing we need is more toothless tigers
stalking thousand-dollar checks from sympathetic patrons
of first-class airlines and four-star hotels.

I want to tell you:
I’m weary of these castrated Uppidees,
poets and patrons who’ve hardly engaged in life.
I’m tired of the prejudice they never own,
tired of them spouting off familiar remedies
to a world of ills they’ve never known.
I beg you both, get out of the way,
please step aside, just a couple of steps,
it takes too much effort to go around you.

I want to tell you:
the flashpoint of paper is 451 degrees.

from Rattle #12, Winter 1999
Tribute to Latino & Chicano Writers

__________

Jimmy Santiago Baca (from Working in the Dark): “One night in my third month in the county jail, I was mopping the floor in front of the booking desk. Some detectives had kneed an old drunk and handcuffed him to the booking bars. His shrill screams raked my nerves like a hacksaw on bone, the desperate protest of his dignity against their inhumanity. But the detectives just laughed as he tried to rise and kicked him to his knees. When they went to the bathroom to pee and the desk attendant walked to the file cabinet to pull the arrest record, I shot my arm through the bars, grabbed one of the attendant’s university textbooks, and tucked it in my overalls. It was the only way I had of protesting.” (web)

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