Thursday, April 24, 2008

Home Again, Hanging In There, Good Arroz Con Pollo, A New Mailing Address, and "Highway of Tears"

Home again after Chicago where I had a great time under extraordinary weather and in the midst of even more extraordinary company. The students at DePaul University were all the bomb. It was so good to see good people again: Francisco Aragón and my old friend, poet and fellow bookslinger, Carlos Cumpian—a rare treat. And what can I say about Rigoberto Gonzalez? He is so good he sends shivers up and down your spine. He was reading new work and in good form. It was all good. 'Though I spent most of the time in my hotel room (single mothers with 13 year old boys will understand that one) and too shy or something to try and seek out Oprah or "her people" to discuss the option on my screenplay. Someday. Meanwhile, I worked on it, breathing in Kid's streets and feeling the air of lake kiss my neck as I walked along her banks—all the while thinking about the repressively hot summer days when, if you were black or colored, you couldn't even dip a hand in to cool you off. And, the riots one hot August day. She must have been there. I felt her there, with me. I swear, she was humming in my ear while the movie rolled through my mind. Some day.

Coming home, I missed my good friend, Francisco Alarcón read at La Peña. I just couldn't get there in time, having just arrived that afternoon. I actually put in my BART ticket but just missed the BART train to Berkeley, and realized I would never make it in time, so came back home. Which was okay. I needed to spend the time with my son.

I had discovered this tiny Colombian restaurant with "pollos ricos" written on the door frame across from the 24th Street BART station next to the McDonald's with my step-mother's (Precita Eyes) mural painted by local kids. I was in a hurry, didn't have much cash despite the book sales (thank you!) and wanted something quick and substantial. I ordered arroz con pollo and the last arrete of the day. The owner cooked it right in front of me. I was kind of surprised, watching her saute onions and bell pepper. I was in a hurry, but it got to me quick, along with fried platanos and a salad. The arrete was a new one for me. It was delicious. Slightly sweet and creamy in the center, like a fat little tortilla. Then, since I was hungry, I opened the to-go package there in the tiny restaurant to sample the arroz con pollo. I almost got tears in my eyes thinking of my grandmother's food. Especially after having watched that woman's quick hands prepare it in front of me. It was SO GOOD!! I scarfed it up and practically licked the container. I walked out, after giving her a hefty tip and an exclamation of "bien rico!", and waited for the bus across the street. Then thought of the rest of that arroz con pollo in the pan. She was closing and putting everything away, but I went back and ordered another to-go for my son. We ate well on that for two days. I made a rice omelet (my mother's favorite breakfast) the next morning with the left-overs. Good arroz con pollo. I can't wait to go back and see what else she's got cooking. And the next afternoon, I got to hear Francisco read and talk on KPFA. It was so good to hear his voice, my dear old former housemate.

Sunday, I went to the Lunada at the Galeria de la Raza to hear my other good friend, Naomi Quiñonez read. But, sadly, her father had just passed and she was still in LA. My sincerist condolances to her. My son went, and that was good he got to hear. There were a lot of people for the open mic, and it was all good and invigorating. Marc Pinate sang a few songs. Goddesses, is that boy a fine lyricist! I told him, when I had my turn at the mic, that he has to burn me a cd of his songs, and I'm sure I'd crank out the rest of my novel just listening to them. Very inspiring. Look for it.

I decided to read this new poem I just finished between dancing all night, for hours, to reggae music at the Embarcadero for a 420 celebration. I love writing to music. It felt good to feel it out, in that audience of brown and smiling faces, with new and old friends there. Even my son thought it was "not bad" — high praise from a 13 year old. Here it is, although maybe not for long.

I hope you are walking in sunshine, smiling with new and old friends, eating something so good it brings good memories and tears to your eyes and productively dancing through your life.

Me? I'm hanging in there. Barely making rent, and it's late, what with waiting on the checks to dribble in here and there from past readings. I'll be reading at the Cafe Boheme for International Workers Day on May 3rd at 6 - 9 pm. And, I'll be at Gavilan College in Gilroy on May 6th. Otherwise, my Cinco de Mayo's free and clear. Good time to ask me. Have Poems. Will Travel!

I have a new mailing adress, too. Send me your book orders (DRIVE - $25, BIRD AVE y New Mission Poems - $10), inquiries, your manuscripts for consultation, your books, your best wishes.

Lorna Dee Cervantes
3181 Mission Street, # 16
San Francisco, CA 94110

Highway of Tears

You signed the wind
with your blood. What
is the color of violence?
Is it the same as the color
of justice? This solstice,
this soul state is full of you and
your absence, here in an unmarked
grave of tomorrow. We are soldiering
on, a new way through yesterday's
underbush. Do you see? Is
there an end to this war with the other?
Let us fight for the truce
of one to the other, to hold hate
in the palm of love. The tendered bullets
spell their names in shattered splats
of light. The miserable trade
freedom for exploding faces, imploded
skulls, history slipping down the losing
slope. What can we salvage of a bleeding
heart, a child's oozing finger, a grandmother's
eyes searing into some new space,
some new traveling show of macabre
art? Come and heal the wounded
geography of hunger, settle the stunned
birds, the fearful flight into the rest
of our lives. Handle with care, these piled
on corpses, these shredded flags of bones
laid on the Constitution's levee like sandbags.
Become the other, heartened, though swollen
with the polluted waters of corporate greed.
Something enforces when the heart
becomes the border's pass, when the hand
becomes an opening fist, when the stroke
becomes a way to get across. All
the wet backs and the muddy footprints
become a fairy tale of the way
things were—once divided, now
a unity in multiplicity; the complicity,
yesterday's myth, a hard luck story
told to children, another broken line, another
missing in the chain link fence that once kept
us out and Liberty's aguila locked in.


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Blogger Tammy Gomez said...

Glad you got to feel Minnie's spirit there in Chicago. My curiosity
about MM grows as you evoke the passion you have for her place in yr own life, Lorna Dee.

24/4/08 19:24  
Blogger Francisco Aragón said...

Great seeing you, too! Loved what you did with "Bird Ave" as your finale. I have to order more copies of OCHO #15: as soon as I do, I'll send you one, as promised. And yes, I will be in touch about future contributions to LPR, perhaps starting with the bilingual volume JVP gave you that night.

24/4/08 21:21  
Blogger Lyle Daggett said...

I've loved every time I've been in Chicago, every occasion there something amazing, miraculous, unbelievable about it. And always a little teetering on the brink. One Friday night arrived in Chicago, five of us in a VW van with a bad ignition, insane crazy traffic, and the engine died at an intersection on Lakeshore Drive, and four of us had to get out and push the thing turning through the intersection onto a sidestreet, and every last person in that entire intersection saw what was going on and they waited for us to get through the intersection and out of the way. Then we got our stuff out, locked the car, and walked a few blocks toward the tower of the Y building to see if we could get rooms for the night...

You're working on a screenplay? Not sure if I've spotted mention of that by you, but clearly it will be a good one. Oh and the whole thing about the arroz con pollo has now made me so hungry I'm climbing the walls but will be fine in a few minutes. Hee hee.

One night within the past year I had a dream about Oprah Winfrey, that I went to her house, which was on the ground floor of some snazzy gentrified apartment building, and I just walked in, wandered around a little, there were maybe some other people there but they ignored me, then as I wandered room to room I met Oprah in one of the rooms, and she gave me a bunch of prizes, just kind of picked things up from a table and gave them to me (I can't remember what any of the things were, just the word "prizes" always comes to me when I think about it), and I left and went to catch the bus home. I don't have the slightest idea what it means. I mean, in waking life the last place I could ever imagine going is Oprah Winfrey's house...

28/4/08 20:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hola Lorna, from one of those DePaul students you've given a shout-out to. It's Sandra (quien sabe si te recuerdas) and I just wanted to say thanks again for the reading and for the talk. Mi profe Gonzalez said you had many wonderful things to say over the dinner we could not attend. Thank you, and I hope Cafe Ba-ba-reeba lived up to its reputation; The mango sorbet is my favorite!

1/7/08 17:05  

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