Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Terry McMillan & Company - Is It Fiction Or Memorex? Or, On How Stella Lost Her Groove & Then Just Lost It (drive/ she sd)

Prologue: Most spelling is intentional.

This from a blog that's been on my coffee table a long time from a writer who can come to my house any old time, or even a young one, Mohogany Browne keeping the Big Apple shiny. (Click on her name to read the dirt on Waiting to Exhale author, Terry McMillan: love, loss, bank accounts, no accounts, divorce & homophobia.)

I could be rich. Instead of baking hobo apple pie (recipe to follow, some blog, I promise; Part 2 of Hobo Cookery forthcoming, as I am oft' apt to be) and huevos rancheros — tamales from scratch, arroz con pollo, inventive recipes from discounted and clearance condiments, leftover Jewish holiday stock is the best, Cinco de Mayo next — which 't aint so bad. Hanging out here in life's Victory Garden. "If he's so famous how come he's not rich?" asked my son about my father at his recent memorial & regarding this year's mayoral proclamation declaring April 6th "Susan & Luis Cervantes Day" In San Francisco. "That's not what it's about," I answer, quoting his often heard phrase around his always bountiful dinner table.

Death is expensive.


Layered like a hobo potato pie.

I could have been rich. In answer to one of those questions which don't interest me, as a writer, nearly as much as "What Was I Doing At 17," regarding literary repect or fame & fortune—and which are you gonna choose? I always did detest the either/or & had a secret lust for Kierkegaard ("I'd show him God," I said to myself at 17) and as I would do if required to perform any literary—I almost typed 'military' & let it stand, but I know how my rollercoaster logic must be hard enough to read as it is sometimes & I wouldn't want to get the blame for it: typing against the government or some other Kafka's choice—"exercise"; I'd find another way to do what I want. But do it.

And do it well. (A bowl of water?) ("And, thou..."?) As Saint Gramma always said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well."

Well, back to hobo pie. And having to take a ticket.

Joseph Papp once bought my ticket to be a one-day worm in the Big Apple. And I gladly took it. It was better than an eye. And I got to be the lost seed, finding her groove in the grooviest world on earth: The National Writers Union...Convention? Conference? Gathering? Uh, I was mostly into the Union part of it, and poetry. Sitting amongst the idols, true gentle giants of literary genius; seated on a panel on Poetry & Politics (hey, I just go where they point me) with Audrey Lorde (& deeply disappointed over Brodsky's absence) and others I wouldn't want to name for the exclusion and the consequences of my hard drive, so to speak. All the (living) luminaries of my childhood, all My Black Muses, smiling and shaking my hand. Gwendolyn, for the second time. Jerzy Kozinsky fixed me with a smoky stare 40 minutes long and long down the hall of desiny and around the dim corner of fate. What a winsome half-lear to go with that eye half-cocked, face chisled as a fighting cock. Definitely dangerous and delicious. All his books in my matching stare, the double dare, there. He had eyes the color of my own, eyes the color of yes. Lock stepped. And unaware. My marriage vow of silence. The groove not taken. "y volver, volver, VOLVER. . .".

I got to talk to Joe Papp. We had met earlier, when I was a guest of Miguel Algarín, when I was spending those years working for free good poetry, sucking in mangos beneath the nourishing roar of the waterfall (think Paterson and other modes of dynamos) that was/is The Nuyorican Poets Cafe. That spell. El Coco Que Habla (RIP) to the slick white suits of stanzas from newly NEA knighted Noel Rico. Joe & I were once waiting for Amiri to sign books at the Theater, and the others, Miguel, Amina, were chatting with someone, maybe Ntozake: wearing a white transparent blouse (without a jacket) long before anyone wore anything transparent as anything other than a personal/political statement, much less braless—and it was just Joe & I for nearly 2 hours, me not realizing who he was; we talked about small press, my rasquache printing set-up in my cocina, cheap good stuff right away, the masses aren't asses even though Pedro Pietri's perky & pricky play says they are. (Book review: Google a rare copy of The Masses Are Asses by Pedro Pietri. And anything else by him. He's good.) We talked for a long time; he seemed interested in the technical details of the press and I was always a sucker for talkin' shop, how you make do with what you have. (It's doing it well that makes it "rasquache" and not cheap.)

I never thanked him for the ticket. He startled me by asking me to come to NY to work on a production for the theater based upon "Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway." I told him thanks but no thanks, as politely and quickly as I could. I told him he could do whatever he wanted to do with the poem or the book, but, more or less, leave me out of it. "But, I'm a poet." Seemed reasonable to me. He tried for a long time to convince me. He assured me that I could do whatever I wanted, even just stand there and read. No. "But, I'm a poet." Not that I couldn't play the part. I started out in Po-Biz via Chicano Theater and acted in lead roles in junior high through community college and was up for the lead in a community theater production of Wait Until Dark when I sprained an ankle, badly, on the day I was called in for first rehearsal; so I knew theater, and what a theatrical production entailed—from any role. But, no. I'm a poet. He had just had a smashing success with Ntozake's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" and was going into rehearsals for Linda Rondstadt's "Pirates of Penzance" (sp?) (I've been up odd hours with this book/s.) Linda is one of My Ladies & down with her xicanisma, but even that wasn't a big enough carat for me to switch to the fruit bowl. It was like telling a really nice guy who happens to be crazy rich, thanks for the proposal. "But, I'm not *in* love with you." But I'll always love you.

And then he died.

Don't get me wrong, there was nothing romantic. Strickly Post-Romantic Tragedy with a musical twist. For all I know, Joe Papp was gay. None of my business. I've always preferred the company of men (none of your business), to be one of the boys, little sister to the lead guitarist & never the groupie; my best friends, who were never lovers, have all been gay men. Or lesbian women (and, no, that's not a redundant construction) because they just 'act right.' (None of your business.)

But, I'm a poet. In a way, everything I say is suspect. Who cares? A poet may never be America's next American Idol. But, it's a channel. And current, if not good currency.

Orlando Ramírez circa then: "Can I go into the Safeway and say/ the reason you should cash my check/ is that I'm a poet with a steady muse?" Quoting from memory so don't hold me to the breaks.

To break or not to break. That is the question. Whether it's Nobeler to suffer the sings and bellows of lesser editors/ Or bask in the sorrow of Sunshine (what the main light on a lead in a 'motion picture' is called) ("We'll sing in the sunshine/ we'll laugh everydaaaaaaay/ We'll sing in the sunshine/ Then I'll be on my way...) to court. There are worse fates than hobo pie (the apple is delicious, I swear) and reading the above article made me think of them. And think about the power of a good line.

It's sad. And sorry. All of it. Death. Love. Loss. The rut in the road ahead steepled with erosion. As a poet (which already assumes the lifelong admiration), Jack Gilbert, once remarked after introducing a poem he was about to read to his deceased & beloved wife whom he was convinced had come back to him in the form of a neighbor's tethered dog: "Love, it's terrifying. Why anything can happen!" And it does. Drive, she sd. Enough of the novel. "Let it go/ my morning mantra..." (~LDC, '86)

But, it's my business. All of it. Even what I give to you. As long as I ride the carriage return.

"Y volver volver, volver/ Y me mueron por volver." And other polvo.

The smoking gun. Newspaper fine print staining the cloth. Another poet-friend, stranger-friend's tragedy distant from me but I bleed. And imagine. And know—it's enough. I wouldn't tell you because no one talks. And, what can I say?

And, enough said. Why bash? It happens. Love happens. Grooves erode in a traveling act. We fall in and out, but the way remains the same. How we treat each other in the day to grumpy dailiness. No such luck. "Detour ahead...". And very shaky ground for a plot.

Death is expensive. Even the petit morir, le petit mal or the Grand One. But joy glistens in the flushings like nuggets of truth, like love caught in the roots of the fallen oak at the bank, all golden from the picking. And there for it.

(And what does it have to do with being gay?)

She asks, cradling the aside.

So, what is poetry's power? Poetry is just poverty without the vee of flight and a pound of the present tense.

recommended listening: Memphis Minnie: "Ain't Nothin' In Rambling"


"I will tell fortune that I will play no game with her,
and she may reach me in my Asia of serenity
and indolence if she can."

~Thoreau's Journal: 27-Jun-1840
posted by Greg at 11:23 AM

copyright c 2005 Lorna Dee Cervantes
blog alert (to Self): Could I Thoreau it down for a year? Hymmmmm, "For a plover in the clover..."


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