Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy Birthday!

to my biggest owie

(and to Mackenzie Carignan, too!)

Now, off to par-tay!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Re: Hi; Or, Life Is What Happens To You When You're Busy Making Other Plans

"Hey B,

What's up? I would have called but T said you might be in Albuquerque. I may have just missed you - I was there for a handful of days over Labor Day weekend for a conference. Then, I went to Texas for a series of readings. I just got back a few days ago. If the school has my number, that's no problem -- thanks. Sorry, I must have you listed as a friend of the family. I hope you are (!) Sorry for being out of touch, but things change here daily.

As John Lennon says, "Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans." I was fully intending to commute. I had a nearly impossible time trying to enroll J in school, it took weeks -- we had no address and have no documents here as I was planning to come back after summer. So, it turned out there was no way I could leave him here, at a Mission middle school, alone. I had no one to watch him, and he needs to be in school, and needs me around to help him through this transition, and just middle school stuff. I had a plane ticket to fly back right before classes, but it was refundable and exchangeable, so I was waiting until J was settled. That night, right before classes started, I realized that there was no way I could commute as a single mom. What happened is that on thursday, the day I was originally going to fly out, J still couldn't start school and T emailed that he had just gotten laid off -- after 28 years, effective immediately. That changed everything in terms of commuting -- he would be there with me and not at work, and he might sell the house sooner, before the semester is over. Anyway, I'm in the middle of trying to write about it all -- as I have no option but to resign, immediately, in order to deal with having to live here. These past 3 weeks have been very interesting. I need to stay -- I just found out that (SNIP) She found this great storefront, a large live/work space about 3 blocks away that she wants to buy, but is not for sale for a couple more years. I ended up renting it and signing a 1-year lease on it the day after I heard from T. I'm hoping to manage The Mission Poetry Center out of it, and continue holding these writing workshops. Then, miraculously, N threw me a class at SFSU -- I was applying the day I taught the first class that wednesday I was supposed to start the Ethnic Studies class at CU. So, I just found out about it the morning classes started and I couldn't make the flight the night before. That sort of sealed it for me, my fate, that is. I just realized that trying to commute was going to be lot harder than starving here in Cal without a job (I get paid in one semester here what I make in one month at Boulder.) Commuting would have been too expensive, and taxing on my health. Too crazy. When I missed the 7:30 pm flight on monday, I was just intending to call in saying that I couldn't make that class on tuesday -- but ended up emailing and saying that I couldn't come in at all, all semester. I had no choice at that point. It was very reluctantly, since I really wanted to teach that Memphis Minnie course for Al. But it was just not humanly possible. Not at my income and credit score. Then, the house I was subletting in Pacifica for a few weeks in August, which I had just moved out of to move to this place in SF, came up for sale. So, now I am resigning, and will be taking a penalty on withdrawing my retirement funds to buy it (66,000) - in order to rent it out for income as part of these poetry workshops. As I said, my life is changing daily. I'm just trying to figure out how to retire and do it as soon as possible. What choice do I have?

Anyway, please don't take it too personally. I've been running around with all this paperwork I have to do: taxes, credit, divorce, benefits, housing.... and all without a car. Susan and the rest are real busy right now with their projects. I'm prepping for class a lot: 49 students (why Naomi didn't want the class) in Chicana and Latinas on the Borderlands - an Ethnic Studies class. I don't even think I'm officially on the books yet. And I was hired at the absolute minimum -- which was better than nothing. (J qualifies for free lunches now, much to his dismay.) My new place comes with a housemate, an artist friend of the family, so he helps take care of J when I'm away. (But can't do it every week)

Otherwise, I'm happy and (most important) healthy. Staying out the emergency room. It was too much stress and hard on my health working under (SNIP) It's all evil, evil, evil. I'd, evidently, rather starve out on the streets. Which is not likely to happen. My work is going the best it's ever been. What I really need and deserve and have earned, is a sabbatical. In 18 years I've only been given a semester - not even the customary semester as an assistant that (SNIP) everybody else was offered and given. Meanwhile, there's a poet's job opening up at (SNIP) next year. For the time being (isn't that a monster?) I'm out of academia for good, and doing real well in terms of the quality of the work - and my relationship with J & family. I hope you can come down and visit sometime. I'll be back when I can afford it to pack up.

Where are you? On the cell? I'll call when I get a chance. I have to vacate right now as my landlord's coming to get some things out of the place. I'll probably go to Pacifica where this house is, I have rented it, too, for the month. (I got a loan last month) I'll try and work there. I have a poet lined up (I'm offering it for poetry retreats) who might be able to pay and move in right away.

Take care. Hope to see you soon.

Lorna Dee

"On a mission. In the Mission. On Mission"
"Porque La Misión tiene una misión poética que cumplir."

Cervantes Studios
3431 - 3433 - 3435 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(this addy is also 3435 and 3433 - all in the same building.

On Sep 20, 2007, at 11:14 AM, B wrote:

Hi, Lorna,

I called the house on Miami way to see if you were around the first week of school - T said he hadn't heard from you at all. I heard that Al was particularly upset, but I think they sorted things out in Ethnic Studies after all.

I guess I understand that everything here in Colorado is on your bad list, (SNIP).

BTW, when the school called me about J, I figured you must have given them my phone number, and I went ahead and gave them yours. If you did not want me to give it out you might have asked.

Anyway, I hope all is going well.

Take care,


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Road Recap And Poem For Austin's Mex. Amer. Cultural Center, "Imagination Knows No Borders"

It's so, so difficult to recapitulate what goes on when I'm on the road, like at the conference over Labor Day in Albuquerque or the readings in Texas. (I LOVE Texas!) And I mean the biological, maybe religious, sense of the word: recapitulate. I know I evolve with every hug and handshake, with every uttered and listened to word, with every shared breath. Strangers become friends (hi, Lyle!) and friendships renewed. I learn so much, and come away inspired. It's such a blessing, what I do. And it's so hard to settle the rush of new thoughts and ideas and images. I wish I had more of a reviewer's mind, or more time to review. The conference was awesome, empowering, enlightening. New discoveries, new books (!) And, this time, even a new poem. I wrote this after being asked to "speak for the dead" in the form of 16 actors "view-pointing" 16 historical and heroic Latino and native figures for the grand opening of the new Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin: 30 years in the envisioning, 10 years in the building. The Center is absolutely incredible, breath-taking. The opening was heavily attended. I got to read/ present the poem over a mix of music while the actors/dancers did their thing. It's was a wonderful experience. I so thank the director of the center, Amparo, and others for asking me to do this. The theme for the opening was "Imagination Knows No Borders" -- a line I really liked, so I ran with it. In many ways, it was easy to write -- and I like it. I wrote an introduction to be read and it had the line: "Lorna Dee Cervantes has written poems - which have appeared in over 200 anthologies and textbooks - inspired by Austin poet, raulsalinas." And it was recieved with heavy applause and cheers. I wasn't able to make the event honoring raulsalinas the week before which was held at the new MACC, so it was my little way of acknowledging the poetic debt. And, raul was there! It was so good to see him, up and around. Just one small blessing in a field of dreams.

Here's the poem. Provecho!


for the inauguration of the Mexican American Cultural Center, Sept. 15, 2007

Imagination knows no borders,
is the gold rein on a stampeding horse,
the lasso of lips pressed to the kiss
of the past, the last lancet thrust
into the bull of an unknowable future.

Imagination knows no borders,
it's the certificate of legitimacy handed
down to the nun with an indigenous mother,
the native poems of Spirit breathed
in to us in the words of a shamanic leader,
a dream-vision of peace ending the hunger
and injustice in the fields, los campos, la selva,
buried in the soiled mines.

Imagination knows no borders,
es una princesa imperial holding the birth
of a nation in her heart and hands,
un grito de independencia declared
in the movement and moment of an endless
present -- the endless present presented
in a moment of torture and the resistance
that comes to us all at once like the passage
of wind through a tropical jungle.

Imagination knows no borders,
it's the poem inscribed on a woman's
single suffering body, the living wound
lived through, the flowers and stones
that adorn us with our heritage, the simple
paintbrush of what we love and lost, and all
the spilled ink of separate histories.

Imagination knows no borders,
it's the chase and the catch, a round locket
of unused bullets strapped to our hearts,
it's the one waiting at home, the one
who feeds, the hands that do -- and say,
and live to sing of it, the homey verses
passed down to the new generations.

Imagination knows no borders,
it's the larrieta of the last laugh,
the last looking back, past the lash,
past the class of the penniless poor;
imagination is the ability to laugh
at ourselves and revere the tears that come
when we, finally, say it right, the way
we were meant to say.

Imagination knows no borders,
it's the sentence that never ends,
when there's always a clause and a cause
to pull us through, to yank us up
and out of our muddy boots, to pull
us up from the shortened hoe, the waterless
tank in the field where we harvest the good
food of our desires and dreaming.

Imagination knows no borders,
it's the benevolent eagle's gaze below
a simple sign that reads: REFLECT,
it's the learnéd mind talking back,
it's the bent body taking back, taking
root and seeing flight -- it's the hat
that makes the man.

Imagination knows no borders,
it's 3 fifths of a person, half an age
tied to the stake, to the yoke it unravels; it's
in the voices of those who have come
before us: the tillers and toilers, the lovers
and the loners, the brothers and sisters, the soul
inaugurating a form; it's all the animals
gone extinct, but there.

Imagination knows no borders,
it's an endless translation written
by an undying translator, it's a way
to get it back, to move it forward,
to give it up and back to ourselves
via others porque los they are us.

Imagination knows no borders,
it's the gold rain and a brilliant shower
of seed, of living wage -- and waged, of honorable
ways and the machete which clears the way
for us, for you, for me; imagination is
the community cultural center;

Let them all bless this one.

Lorna Dee Cervantes

Thursday, September 27, 2007

They're Killing Monks in Burma (From AVAAZ)

Dear friends,

Clicking below will add your name to this petition to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council:"We stand alongside the citizens of Burma in their peaceful protests. We urge you to oppose a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, and to support genuine reconciliation and democracy in Burma. We pledge to hold you accountable for any further bloodshed."
Click Here to Sign Now
The Burmese protests are widening, the international response is building--and the Burmese generals are panicking. Today the Burmese junta banned gatherings of more than 5, and sent thousands of troops to take control of the street -- but still the monks and protesters march. Desperate officers have beaten, tear-gassed and fired on their own people, reportedly shooting five monks in Rangoon.

The next 36 hours are crucial. Leaders have called an emergency session of the UN Security Council--but only a decisive initiative will prevent a massacre like the one from 1988. Already 85,000 people from 192 countries have signed our emergency global petition.Please click the link below to sign (a single click will add your name), then send this email to others so they can too--we'll send the updated petition to the Chinese government and the UN Security Council members every day:

We're calling for UN powers--above all China, which holds the economic strings of the Burmese regime--to apply decisive pressure now to stop the violence, and to broker a peaceful transition. If they fail to do this, the massacres will be sudden.

The protesters have declared they will not back down. The Burmese have showed their courage. The scenes fill our television screens--now the world must act.

In hope,

Paul, Ricken, Graziela, Ben, Galit and the whole Avaaz team


Filed Under: Headlines We Like to See

"Cockroaches are morons in the morning, geniuses in the evening."

And, does this mean we're dating again? Nah, but I am lining up the ducks - and you may add a fricative to that. Hey, what can I say? That's what a day of Joni Mitchell will do to you ... downtown, the dancehalls and cafes...

And someone did a search: "Lorna Dee Cervantes married." And, for someone else, it was "poems about melting."

Meanwhile, I miss another date, another deadline, another head-line -- but, laughing.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Play - Seven Minute Poems From Last February

Just found these - I kind of like them. All from the first week of February, '06

Sunshine Knife Blades

Fifteen years old in five year old jeans,
my shepherd pup, my traveling rainbow,
my loyal thumb
bulging with desire. My road
rutted and rutting, my dead ahead
sorrow. My moccasinned feet
rolling in small kisses of bruising,
a cartography of touch
languishing over the tan.

He put his necklace of
anger safe at my throat.
My ivory recorder, a still
white bird in my lap. An avenue
of alcoholic vapor filled the fear.
In those days our pass to pass
was our smile. Innocence
was a gumball treasure
and all our pockets were picked.

Whetted, whelped, well
on our way out -- we hemmed
up the fortune of our flounce
and folded into ourselves,
jack-knifed on the dare -- and glinting.


People Talking In Their Sleep

Who comes out of that dead end
alive, untouched? The surface
of glass, gasping with breath,
the thick gauze touched up
with sighs. Out of the woodwork
of dreaming comes freedom
from the dance of life, comes
the future in a wheel-barrel
filled with the nickels of nightmare.
Come up on the stoop, play
the marbles in your head
through the gritting teeth.

All the truths of summer
slumber there on a dime.
All the wits of winter
wake up to grumble of game.
All the leavings of autumn
cry out through the teeth
of sleep - in the dream
talking to its person.


Guitar Strings

I didn't need to know what
you used to whet me, what gauge
silk and sinew and slay
to woo me. I didn't need to know
how far to the sill of your strumming
me up to the saddle, stitching
my fluff back to the bridle.
I didn't need to know
how you found them
in an obscure music store
peddling 5-string banjos
exhibiting heart and a lyre
and a cure -- mallets
for what you need to beat out.
Sing out. Sailing. Zing.
Stringing guts and clash,
wallets and ash.


Grassy Hallways Lead Up to the Path of Eyes

and expire, lettering out
the line of living. What is it bound
up in the asking? tolerable
white mags of passion, a
hog's head of luminous fire,
a pathway to the summit,
fineway to a heart in frost.

Take the grassy way through
half - zeniths and sundays
strolling through. Take the lead
up to the path of eyes, the gray
thinking in the dawn.

I will wait for you there,
holding my hemlocks and hair,
riding my tender-footed dreams
in the archway of your mind.


Quick, Look!
Her Blue Face Soaked In All of the Sun

Four weeks passed. The dog passed
on, the chickens flew or floated,
were eaten or drowned. The kittens
passed on the first day, two days
after the terrible trembling began
and the city started filling
like a tub in cold water. Fanciful
hummers and rafts -- stuck in the attic.
Family far away, the incessant dripping,
the helicopter whirl overhead
telling her -- no. They had not been abandoned,
not deserted, forgotten like these soaked boxes
she sleeps on, leaching life from
the furrows. She hangs on,
treads water, is taken from her
special slumber until someone says:
"Quick, look! Her blue face soaked
in all of the sun!"


Coal Mine

Black diamond rust
Fortune spent in a rush
Hard shale of disavowal
Sad lives chipped to death

From the depths of the dead
The leaf mold and sensuous shucked
Worm lives and skin cast down
The hole that doesn't heal

Hope lumps into nuggets of gold fire
Burrows into pouches of dirt money
Black smudged prayers, hands held
For the asking. Digging in, they ask

For more from the company books


Burn Ward

I would love you like Walt
Whitman loved his fellow man,
like a volunteer in the Civil War loves his wards.
I would pack up your abscesses,
pile on the cotton 'til what bleeds
ceases and you cease to amaze you.

I would love you like Walt Whitman
loved the turtles, the small places
in a body a soul can hide.
I would love you like skin loves
the taste of salt, like water loves
the high mark. I would love you,

love the ketones of your flesh
hardened into hands, love
the damp epitaphs, the masking, sensuous lines
of your forehead -- no matter the pain.
I would dip my cloth into your opening.

I would leave it there, some new marble
of me grafted to your hide.
I would sacrifice my ice and tears,
my bandage of lip and mouth, my art
of putting back the you that falls apart.

Lorna Dee Cervantes

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On Rumsfeld's Appointment to Stanford

"Nobody learns faster
than somebody being shot at." (sic)

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
November, 2004

"Found Poem: On the Berkeley Bus"

Found Poem: On the Berkeley Bus

"The trauma! The trauma! The trauma!
The essence of Clown Town.
Sesame Street.
Is any one alive?"


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"Poem For Michael McClure"

Poem For Michael McClure

It isn't
that a good
should remain
so pretty
so long


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