Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Adios mamá, aneh huitzilincuatzintahtli

The hummingbird whir of her hands, nimble fingers that stitched quinceañera dresses, built delicate sand castle-sized cakes from roses and flowers made with sugar frosting can be heard faintly. Her small, strong and stoic hands, hands that once picked cotton and tomatoes and okra, are pressing against my breastbone gently in the dark. Her spirit has returned to remind me of those moments as a child when only a warm glass of milk and her thumbs in circular motion along my temples could get me to sleep. She is gone you see. Se nos ha ido la bella picarrosa. She ascended on Saturday night in a room far away. I would have spoken of weeklong dread, a foreboding that was countered by a good meeting on Friday with old friend, author and community advocate Luís Rodríguez at Tia Chucha's Café Cultural and a visit to both Ave. 50 Studios and Trópico de Nopal as a tag along with friends who knew I was anxious to be near my mother's side. I searched frantically for a one-way flight because I could not change a previously purchased reservation in order to arrive sooner, but it was not soon enough. Juliana Zepeda Vela, the woman from whom everything beautiful, my appreciation for all things creative, aesthetic, sensitive or artistic comes, is no longer here. I know hurt greater than any heartbreak now. My artist friend Daniel Gonzalez, a printmaker from Boyle Heights says "Que tragos amargos nos da la vida!" Media artist Maritza Alvarez sends me into the aftermath of my beautiful mother's ascencion with "fuerza y paz." But the loss is no less painful. At 69, she succumbed to liver cancer, almost as if the posting of the previous poem was a prophetic foreshadowing. We knew it would happen. We just didn't think it would happen so quickly. The poem was posted shortly after a run along Huntington Drive to Alhambra--a stab at cardiovascular health--where I discovered a hummingbird on the pavement midway between the El Sereno Community Garden and Fremont Street. Irridescent, the nestling was barely alive, its tiny heartbeat racing uncontrollably. I moved the injured baby bird to a cooler, less visibe place. And I did not realize it was a message for me until I opened the box of adornments my mother had often worn and wished me to have as a gift when she was gone. Last night inside my mother's home, my sister Alma handed me what seemed to be a watch or bracelet case. Inside, I found a silver a hummingbird broach. It lay alongside a pendant, an antique woman's watch and a bracelet, keepsakes meant for me by a mother who embodied style and grace as the visible evidence and an extension of her natural talent as an artesana. Remarkably, the pendant--a silver Thai circle with an aqua-colored stone set in its center--suits the dress she selected for her burial, perfectly. Since she had never worn the dress, we removed it from her closest with the price tag still attached. I've decided she will take the pendant with her. I have my family's permission to place the pendant around her slender neck during a memorial service tomorrow. The brocade huitzilin I will keep as a reminder of the mission she has symbolically entrusted to me. Y como me mandó mi querida madre, voy empezar pidiendole publicamente las disculpas a la hija de ehecatl. Ojalá que un día me pueda perdonar. Pero no la culparía si nunca quisiera jamás. I will honor her memory as well, while I seek transformation and peace. As instructed by my mother, I will leave the past where it belongs and hover fearlessly in the face of the future.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

fantasmas personales: poesía COMO movimiento

It is the iron and blood offered on blue black

flower stems or rusting hulks of palm tree decay,

the children who rage and perish in green cellblock

isolation, medicated under guard and lock and key,

a street-bred godson lost in the slow suspicion that his

chameleon gifts are unwelcome and misunderstood,

the propaganda that paralyzes thought and dissent with

threat and fear amplified on screens and speakers

bought and paid for with clueless taxpayer complicity.

It is the bitter sound of homelessness on worn sneaker

soles under the anonymous face of addiction and exile,

the Iraq war veteran with a gun to his head as he recalls

atrocity in a desert he should never have known,

his grandfather who cries silently at dawn for lost loves

and the borders like walls and turrets that drove them away,

the bent and fractured poet who twists with insomnia

and recalls every unfinished dream like the color of dread,

his mother with a blooming flower of death in her liver,

as if to say innocence can only be rewarded with fire.

It is the unforgotten beloved he could not regain,

the stainless steel memory of refrigerated nausea

against the gray-smoke haze of anguish or remorse

or the sound of a blackboard under his fingernails

until the blistering exhaustion encircles his neck

and rakes all of his pores along barbed-wire truth

like the time he woke up on the curb, his face tired

and the spring a season of despair longing for hope.

El Sereno
November, 2007