Diane Burns & Pedro Pietri - Riding That One-Eyed Poetry Home
Thank you, too, to The Unapologetic Mexican for a beautifully laid out blog post on poet, Diane Burns. I especially love how he laid out my words for her -- over a background of faces.
Faces and masks. Some carved out of our own features, some like marble casts into which our molten selves are poured. Some just a cast, some cáscara left for some other to use, to hide one's features to a world gone brutal in one's home. Seems to me. Seems to be. Too often, our literati in their graves, reduced to babblers in the streets and in the battered parks our hereditary commons have dissolved into, and shoeless fools on a holiday of the soul searching for their holey mate.
And there but for grace ... I, always ...
I love the stories of her and Pedro, El Irreverand, in serious Sandinista land; how she packed a big pistol for the trip. That trip, I couldn't afford to go. It only cost $600, but that might have well have been $600,000 to me back then when all the money I earned, all those paper dollars went into paper and ink for publishing. "You GO, Grrrl!" I still want to say. Could that have been me, marrying shadows in the depths of the revolution? "You bet!" I want to answer. I wanted to -- heck ya y yoka he! Kiss Pedro? Simon que sí! It would have been a good day to die. Touch those ever-gentle lips that sucked that mana and sprinkled those verses like free joints for poor poets throughout Freedomland in Gringolandia and in the Free World, besides? I would have married him in a heartbeat. But for grace. And sobriety. Respect. Indigenous values, all.
Respect, too, for those poets for whom, as Pedro said so often, "It's poetry or suicide."
Or, as Lalo always said, "La locura cura."
And alcohol kills.
Alcohol killed my mother. The Miller Hi Life, indeed. Poured into that crucible and crusted forever.
Voices now mostly locked up forever in the memories of aging poets, voices muttering and genius-flecting verses into an after midnight telephone line. Our most memorable voices now mostly forgotten memories. Like my people losing the wealth of California for lack of documentation, for the lack of a trace of a mark on paper or a recorded voice speaking the names of the dead in a now nearly dead language. A language long survived in the coos of the mothers, and another native mother loses her tongue to death, a death she poured herself into by pouring another glass into the mold marked: The Best Minds of My Generation.
And we long to tell the stories, to write them down, to record the history of a scholarship spoken from the mouths of those who watched it unfold -- but the best stories are for entertainment value only, it would seem. Shattered and shorn tatters of a truth while the poetry scatters, its yellow pages losing the race of time in a box in someone's garage or attic or moldy basement. Its author reduced in story to a shadow of her former poem, a vacantly staring stereotype drained down to its ironic twist, the tragic-mulata story, half-tragedy, half-comedy about the beautiful Indian Princess adrift in the New World after all the tribes are slaughtered and all the publishers stranded in a moneyless box marked: Return to Sender. Addressee Unknown.
The fistfuls of poems there but for grace.
The grace of friends and editors and publishers and friendlier printers, the sure stitches fine poetry weaves, Maurice and Josh at Contact II, the patient, the fine, the recognizers of good poetry -- and grace. The purveyors of paper and ink. And sobriety.
I always considered Diane Burns to be destined to be the best, in the way I always considered Pedro Pietri to be the best (sorry V H-C!) and the sadness in their passing is the sadness of the passing of their work -- these words, like attempting to grasp at the cloth of their jackets as they're going down into that Laguna del Mar de Olvido.
These words which are always better than ought: a kind of order, a kind of grace.
For you. Por vida. Siempre.