Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ode to a '54 Chevy And An Enormous Army of Trained Pigs Won From the Lotto

I'm working on a poem (most of my work is in my head when it's not a "play" poem, like a 7-minute poem, an "unconscious muttering" or hay(na)ku poem or a gift from the goddesses) right now that has the word, "Chevy" in it. I think it's about a primer red '54 Chevy truck (with wood side boards and a cherry engine) but that will depend upon the musings and amusements of the Muse. But, definitely, it will have the word "Chevy" in it, especially in the title. Why? Because Billy Collins thinks that's a word which should never belong in a poem. But, hey, he's Irish, so what can I say? The man doesn't know Chevy from Shinola. (I'm smiling! I'm a mad fan of all things Irish, Scotch and Gaellic. Heck, what Lorna Doone wouldn't be?)

For the past I don't know how many decades I've been using the word, "heart" in every poem that I write. This isn't real conscious, I've just finally become fully aware of it recently, now that my good friend, poet Alfred Arteaga, is having such a problem with his real heart I've become hypersensitive to the word. But I know it delights me every time it shows up in line like an ace basketball player waiting to get picked for the team. I never fail to find some way to use her without sounding trite or cliche. (Ojala) I love to renew a word like that, like jazz, like how Cuchito Valdez just can't play a bad note badly; everything in context, a context that grows from the poem like a mollusk shell. I also try to use the words: river, crystal, moon, sky, love and water.* Why? Because once when I was still in school someone or other said one should never use those words. Like "heart" -- so I wrote a whole book to the human heart: From the Cables of Genocide: Poems On Love and Hunger. I don't know how many times the word shows up, but, strangely (to me now) it was Alfred Arteaga, wearing his good critic's beret, who pointed it out and wrote on it. I like resurrecting the word. Why not? We poets have such little power anyway. If we can polish horse chestnuts for the future picking, why not? Just to say, Look! Far-out. And it's such a simple thing, nearly unnoticed -- like Cuchito's subtle shifting in and out of the dominant cultures on a keyboard and with silence. It's interesting to me, how many times I can a use the word "heart" and have it mean differently. My last poem, "real" "poem poem" that I've written, that I feel good about, hinges on the last word, which is the word "heart" -- and I didn't even know it was going to do that. But it was right. It was the "poem" I saw/heard, that "something" in the image, in this case, the image of a hand, presumably a woman's hand, shelling pecans into a bucket in a short film by Lourdes Portillo that's now at the SF MOMA in the Chicano Expression's show (Cheech's collection, primarily). I commented on it to family when I first saw the show, that there was a poem in there, somewhere; there was something about the deftness of that aged and calloused hand, the strength and the delicacy necessary to crack a hard pecan shell and gently but firmly rub off all the hard inner shell within the "brain" of the whole pecan. The hand does the work in about a minute, and the pecan meat is left whole, the two halves still attached -- and worth big money in "the industry". t's a skill you just have to practice. You just have to do. And do. And do. And do. Like poetry. Or, loving well. And it helps, if you really really like pecans.

Well, it's like a longtime long running inside joke. These words. And having heart. Try it. You may find that you can have your heart and read it too.

Rainbow Line

What's in a word? Who knows. It's like a geode. You have to break it open, pert'near destroy it, execute it on the page before all the crystalline goodies come pouring out on the dirt. It takes a long time to recognize what one is, and only after you have found one, and gotten out the hammer, can you tell.

Rainbow Line

So, here's a piece by my own dear heart, my 11 year old son. I actually paid for this piece, I liked it so much, to use on the blog. He drives a hard bargain. Prose is so much more lucrative than poetry, que no? Okay, here's my kid:

If I won the lottery? I would use it first to buy a monkey. Then I would also use the money to buy a Ferrari car and of course it would be painted slick red. Last I would buy an enormous army of trained pigs. That would definitely be what I got if I won the lottery.

Then, he signed it with his new name, the one he invented for middle school. Why not? I always hated my name (a cholita in the barrio named after a cookie??!) so I gave him about five and assumed he'd pick his own when he was ready. I like the "slick red" with it's "of course" and of course, that "enormous army of trained pigs." Is this my kid, or not? At the back to school night, I read a poster he did on culture. He said that our family's faith was kindness and treating everyone fairly and with respect. God, I almost cried.

Rainbow Line

Here's one for the heart: I got this from one of my absolute favorite po' bloggers, Rebecca Loudon. I hope it's still up. It's a video she posted because "This makes me happy." It's like me and the word "heart" -- it's a goofy little dance I always do everywhere I go. It just makes me happy.

This makes me happy:


* What beautiful Maná song would be the same without those words?? Corazon. Cielo. Agua. Rio. Cristal. Dime Luna. "Amor. Amor. Amor. Mi amor. Amor."

Rainbow Line

And a poem for the passing:

After Heraclitus

You can step in the same river
twice. Be there in the flow
of sweet water, reason raining on
the face of it. All of it. El mismo
destino. Breaking away from it:
swirling picks of ice, sex foam,
fins. The fist of it in the pit,
a pock of light, surrendering.

Gather up the window of your mirada.
Hold it there, in the flame of cold
renewal. An arc of blessing, the stunned
fish fresh from the grab. Here
in the sudden treasure, a glimpse
of what huddles in the heart of the word,
the winding regouging, the recompense
of cliff rock, the breaking; this
breakwater of you stopping the flood,
the force of the drop that cracks the other
open. Open. All penumbra and flush.
All windswept and rush. All sweet
taste and gush. Again.

Lorna Dee Cervantes


Blogger Radish King said...

Every day my office mates and I watch this little video and we all do the dance and laugh like crazy, before the boss gets in.

I think Chevys should be in every single poems. And hearts too.

17/9/06 10:45  
Anonymous Nezua Limón Xolagrafik-Jonez said...

I use heart a lot, too. Core, glow, heart, rhythm, rise, flow, dawning, shadow, rivers.

Corazón was my first favorite word in Spanish...I think it still is. I like cielo, azul, la noche, necesito....but I have a lot more words to learn, too....

17/9/06 11:43  
Blogger C. Dale said...


I posted a response to your invite over at my blog. But I am leaving one here as well. As flattered as I am at the invite, I am on call that night and cannot give a reading. But I hope it all goes well.


17/9/06 22:00  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Lorna Dee,
This business of the Chevy poem got the better of me, with results seen here. But where did Billy Collins say that, I wonder? Your gesture to make excuses for the chap is noted. But what was he thinking? Perhaps this is his way of being provocative. (At any rate, I trust it's not a case of his owning Chevy stock and playing the negative publicity game.) Here on the east coast, some of us get by without owning / driving cars. Still, they are part of humanity and the world. That in itself could seem to argue for inclusion. In what ways is a poem written by including? and to what degree is it written by excluding? These seem questions. The heart is good heart medicine.


22/9/06 03:04  

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