Wednesday, January 31, 2007

foreigners at the Target

Target's come out with their Global Bazaar series of furnishings, decor and must-haves. It's nice looking, and I get caught up, especially since I'm slowly transforming the house into this multiethnic, multicolored buzz.

It goes to show how much Americans like their consumer goods, and how often majority culture views ethnic goods as easy, marketable things which will "color" their lives.

But theory is different than practice: I knew it would happen - that Tigrette, my little one, would be at some store and someone would allude to her being "foreign". It happens to all people of color. I was once lovingly told at a Greyhound bus stop that I looked so much like someone's Hawaiian niece, the product of a second marriage to their [white] daughter. My coloring, my frizzy hair.

So, my mother returns from one of her weekly trips to Target with Tigrette and tells me this woman approached her and said how beautiful she is. Again, her "coloring, her hair..." and then proceeds to ask her what race she is. My mother, face stone cold, turns to her and says "The human race. And you?" Nicely said, mater!

Usually my mother would go into a tirade that would include some choice words, a reference to "you people" (which never sounds good) and end with a spanish-language slur about the woman's mother. She must have been in a good mood.

So many things are wrong here: consumerism versus actual appreciation of ethnic contributions and cultural expressions; justification of dominant culture to infer details about an "other" and state them without any fear of inappropriateness; beauty relegated to ethnic makeup based on preconceived notions; false sentimentality and community based on gender commonality. There's more.

And to think Tigrette used to hate having to correct people when they thought she was a boy. This type of assumptive thinking is even harder to recognize and respond to because it's along gender and culture lines. Makes me think of Ronald Takaki.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

new poem : keepsake

I am sorry for throwing away all those small notes I wrote
and left in your coat, your lunch bag, the car,
within the index finger of your glove.

I don’t remember now what my voice sounded like when I was in love.
It would be nice to hear again.

new poem : ra/upture

the sky comes apart into birds
three leading the turns
during calisthenics

surprisingly these mark good times

the baby’s head hurts
her belly is warm
each wound she carries
an earthquake beneath my skin

already their disruptions show
how do we heal?

I hear a bell ringing

there is a god, female shouldered,
back slumped over
one side to the other
her fingers threading fissures together
pulling the nylon
slowly bringing those edges in

how I wait for that coming together

new poem : media res

media res

we start our conversation in the middle –
do you hold any secrets?
are there women you miss in your life, wish you’d not been affected by?

there are always women
and sometimes men,
surprising all those around me
who think I’m incapable of feeling

the cleaning ladies at the office walk by,
make friendly, but tell me that I always look so serious

serious is every piece of conversation we hold
and the way my words might stroke something within you

is something more true if the other anticipates the reply,
finishes your sentence and smiles in the knowing?

the momentary quiet
there are no shallow truths
nervousness stirs, changes
but there are deep lies
with the mistake of looking eye to eye

I had secrets when I was young, you say
nothing of any consequence

and you?

I cannot tell you my mine -
my world began with lies
and I don’t remember the morning I woke up
and decided to participate

new poem : tremendo lío

tremendo lío

for J.M.

contigo yo me quemare
contigo yo no morire
porque contigo yo renacere

— Sergent Garcia

on my hands and knees beneath the table
my purse has fallen off the boxes and lost itself
at the edge of the table skirt.

easier to have gone around, I could say
but, two cuba libres have me thinking
less people will see me
this way

and I do need my purse

my lips are dry
the man sitting across the room
has taken my lipstick off with his watching

it occurs to me:
I am not called for
my hips carry no one’s scent
there are no ties here

back to sitting at the table,
I try to compose myself,
smooth down the wrinkle in my skin
that holds my shoulders in

I rub my belly to relax,
open a pamphlet, straighten brochures,
put more gloss on,
and sip this drink that already loves me

what am I waiting for?

my earlier incarnations would have had me walk over
demand some words to go with the turn of his chin,
some conversation to soften the way his eyes move around me

if life were this dream…
I would be there already
warning him:

a step from me
a half circle in my hip
can set this place going, papí

and you are so close
the tangling fire will hold you

¿así lo quieres?

I don’t have time for obligation tonight

in walking over, you begin the dare
vacila’o, you almost mouth
give one step forward,
catch the flesh in your liberating gaze
and pull it in with another step

deep breathing, your beard alone says throw down
gone are those roses I held in my ribs,
the reminders of those who would keep me
push at my lungs

gone that desperation to breath
through the pain of growing fractures
within my ribs

suffocation of duty
– that ceramic heart –
left to me

all gone



new poem : cafe cubano

café cubano

what probability studies exist to show the increased chance
of a stove top cafetera exploding?

it’s tobacco-tinted syrup coating the walls in small specks
of whispers running down, find each other, form widening
streams of tiny voices, yelling

I was only making an espresso because you asked me
and, with oiled pools gathering in the stove’s recesses,
I realize I do not love you

new poem : pledge


the rain moves in strangely, falls on windows,
shards try working their way through the glass

my heart starts to contemplate
the city now called “home”

how I wake each night thinking
of the hours I did not spend with you

all the promises made in love
go with you

they’ll sleep near you, wait for the time
you wake up calling for me

in that wait I grow jealous
those promises – so close to your mouth

Monday, January 22, 2007

nail biting

I had a woman pretend to read my palm Saturday night as I left Rolling Oaks Mall, where one of my daughter's friends had her birthday party at a place called "Inflatable Wonderland" - no, not for adults. She was selling a sugar scrub of dead sea something and, as she turned my hand around said "oh, you bite your nails" in this coquettish sales girl kind of way.

This weekend was rush rush rush but I found some time, about an hour, to just chill with my feet up and a couple of books that have been waiting for me on my shelves. And I did a full hour's worth of cleaning while Tigrette did her guitar lesson.

I have been easily angry lately and I mean to put some routine to my meditation so that I can cut that down but I am actually debating anxiety drugs at this point.

I also spent a lot of the weekend going to northeast SA, with trips to the hospital to see my brother and his girlfriend's new baby, Deja Matilda Reyes De leon. I was telling my mother that I felt a little removed from her because she had parts that I didn't recognize. I realized how ridiculous this was when I claim as family most everyone around me - non of whom have my grandfather's tipped ear, my mother's hazelish-green eyes or my father's big nose.

She is a pretty little girl though. Doesn't cry, sleeps beautifully and has the cutest way of stretching - full body, arms up, head tilting so far back you think she's gonna slip out of your arms. Tigrette's happy with her too, is talking about how she's going to show her the ropes. Great, another revolutionary for kids' rights.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

freezing cold?

Well, I took the ice storm of 2007 much better than I thought I would. I didn't trip out while driving, I wasn't cold in the house and I didn't have any trouble with the plants, pipes or kid. I am glad I paid the extra bucks to get the back brakes fixed up though. You could feel the difference on the road. And, just as they were lowering my vehicle from the lift, the cold front was blowing in Saturday morning.

The city didn't fare as well. Everything closed down. Highways, stores, schools, work, etc. It was crazy. Tigrette spent some time at my mom's, which let me write. I got 13 pages of poems down and, amazingly, they came as a group. I actually see them as the beginnings of a book. So, of course, I've got to fight myself constantly to ensure I keep writing before I lose that feeling and I'm on to another subject. It was hard enough not getting up for every little noise or to make a cup of coffee or check how full of ice the bird feeder was.

This series idea started with an article about a bullfighting school in Southern Califas, where they practice "tientas", a bloodless match which tests the skill of the bullfighter and the bull. A flash went off and I ended up equating the idea with my relationship with Ya Vez. I had debated writing more about our relationship as a way to continue healing past it. Still, I didn't want to give it all the attention an entire book might give. So, I thought to use Anne Carson's new book Decreation, as inspiration. Her other books have offered as much illumination. She's fabulous. I would love to study with her.

Once I sat down with the idea, I wrote very little about the whole break up. It really did leave a bad taste in my mouth, while at the same time, I was thankful to have gone through it and be past it all. Rather than focus on this old air, I was able to write these pieces which focused on my perspective now, how it's changed and how I could bridge that person I was before this last 5 years with the person I have become.

Strangely, last week's final bye with Cliffy, and this new writing spurt were prompted by this one man who was attending the conference a sister office at work was having. He was strangely matter-of-fact when he came up to me while I was at the registration table the first evening during a reception. He asked where the next day's sessions would be, and some other question before telling me I was pretty. Then he asked me another question regarding the conference. He was a gorgeous man. I wasn't unaffected, you know? But I realized, with all the thoughts growing in me, that I had changed with the last 5 years and I didn't like the parts of me that had grown cautious, reserved, secretive or scared. I missed those pieces within me that made me distinct. I ended up going across the street after the reception cleanup was done, to Ruta Maya, and wrote while a drum circle took place for awareness about Darfur.

The next day he and I actually spoke and I was a lot looser than the day before. I felt the freedom that was due me. I can't be so angry with Ya Vez or Cliffy for their expectations but I can be more clear in what it is that I need. I also can't fight hard enough to remove those commonplace ideas of what's considered "normal" or "acceptable" behavior to define me to the point of suffocation.

I know that, as a woman I could easily ask myself why some small compliment was needed to turn me around. I should be able to lift myself up. But, I keep thinking about that night I left Osento, the evening before I returned home from San Francisco a couple of summers ago. I had spent 5 or 6 hours in Osento's getting a massage, loving the dry sauna, reading, meditating, etc. I had spent almost two weeks recommitting myself to my writing, its importance. When I walked out to catch the last bus back to USF, this homeless woman looked up at me and, just as she was about to ask for money, she told me I was beautiful. I thought this was bad ass - yes, you know the transformation you are working on but it's wonderful when someone else catches a glimpse of it too. This man reminded me of the changes I had accomplished but also reminded me that I had pushed some things aside which shouldn't have been pushed aside.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

singing vaquero wanderings

I've not wanted to write much. Don't get me wrong, I have been writing my poetry again, and having fantastic dreams that are assisting me in that writing.

But I claimed my freedom yesterday from Cliffy's wanting/not wanting and I was left with a face full of emotion that hurt more because I had to hold it in because I was at work. I am sure that my note by email faced her in a similar way, since shewas at work when she got my words. But how else to do it? I didn't want to call her anymore and it wasn't like she was calling me.

Last night, I was able to laugh a lot more but I'm feeling a little static today. What can I do? I found this artist, Ricky Armendariz, whose work I saw soon after moving here (this month celebrates one year in San Anto), and really liked. So, rather than all the talk, here is an image:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

If you ask me what I came to do in this world,
I, an artist, I will answer you: "I am here to
live out loud."

-- Emile Zola, "Mes Haines"

Monday, January 01, 2007

new year

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically.

We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly.

We grow partially. We are relative.

We are mature in one realm, childish in another.

The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present.

We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.

--Anais Nin