Today I will share with you the sky, because I can. In case you haven't noticed, I've got what someone in one of the many random books I've read called "lighthouse" focus. I am constantly scanning back and forth. Some people have a laser focus. That is not me. I do have a laser focused appetite, however. Once I ate only tortellini and ham for a month.
The sky has been doing some amazing things lately. I can't think about these rain clouds without thinking about the drought that Kimberly Alidio has been talking about in Texas, as well as their rolling blackouts.I can't think about the drought without thinking about the water crisis in the Southwest. The Southwest makes me think of the Rio Grande Valley where some of my friends are teaching, and the Rio Grande Valley makes me think most of all of Gloria Anzaldua, editor with Cherrie Moraga of This Bridge Called My Back, a book that changed my life. Anzaldua died in 2004:
Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to
the pull of the gun barrel,
the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;
In the Borderlands
where enemies are kin to each other;
you are at home, a stranger,
the border disputes have been settled
the volley of shots have shattered the truce
you are wounded, lost in action
dead, fighting back;
To live in the Borderlands means
your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart
pound you pinch you roll you out
smelling like white bread but dead;
To survive in the Borderlands
be a crossroads.
--from Borderlands/La Frontera
This in turn reminds me of J. Michael Martinez, a poet of whom I am currently enamored. I love his book Heredities. He does things like include his own beautiful drawings from Gray's Anatomy ("Articulations of Quetzalcoatl's Spine"), marginalia from instructions on the Spanish Inquisition by Torquemada (who was of Jewish heritage) and write:
 The Word is The Gaze Between the Body and Its Listening
Margin is the whiteness in our silence. I said, Difference is already spread between the body and the gaze. You said, We lament the name we give; we give word to find respite from the shallows between. Your irises close, black flowers folding toward the silence of their beginning. I place a cup of coffee before you. I said, The name never sutures to the named body.
In "The Poetics of Suspicion: Chicana/o Poetry and the New," by Martinez and Jordan Windholz, which addresses exclusionary ideologies in the U.S. avant-garde, the authors assert: "... identity and representation themselves are highly problematic given their tendency to push toward an essentialist ontology. Post-structuralist theories, and history itself, have taught us that any affirmation of an “essential” Chicana/o identity erases particular Chicana and Chicano subjectivities, and that such essentialization excludes even as it attempts to include. However, to say that there is no “real” Chicana/o identity also dismisses the real social, economic, and physical damage done to those subjectivities as a result of a dominant culture’s own essentialization of the “Chicana/o.” Indeed, one can say that a certain shared Chicana/o experience can exist because of the dominant culture’s imposing social and economic oppression."
Here is a picture of "Binding of the Reeds: The Banishment of Topiltzin-Quetzalcoatl:"
In the background there you can see a peek of my high school journal from 1985 and copy of Tongues Untied, with poems by Dirg Aaab-Richards, Essex Hemphill, Isaac Jackson and Assotto Saint.
"Quetzalcoatl" reminds me of my friend Monica who taught in Arizona, where the decision to declare ethnic studies programs in the public schools illegal is being challenged in court this Friday. She explained to me the Nahuatl idea of "precious knowledge": from the "quetzal" -- the beautiful bird representing that which is precious, and "coatl," the serpent which represents wisdom and knowledge. "Precious Knowledge" is a film about the struggle of a multiracial coalition of students and teachers at Tucson High School to preserve their Mexican American Studies program.The film screened here in NYC today and tomorrow, and is being shown around the country:
Martinez won the Whitman in 2009, which made me think of the Yale Younger Poets Award, for which I am now too old. Which made me think of Carl Phillips, this year's judge and one of my favorite poets of all time, who selected Eduardo Corral, who characterizes himself on his blog as the love child of Robert Hayden and Federico Garcia Lorca. Swoon. He lives where? Arizona. See what I mean? This is from his Web Del Sol chapbook:
Once a man offered me his heart like a glass of water. No, once…Here’s a joke for you. Why do Mexicans make tamales at Christmas? So they have something to unwrap. A lover told me that. I stared into his eyes believing the brown surrounding his pupils were rings, like Saturn’s. I have to sit down to say this. Once a man offered me his heart and I said no. Not because I didn’t love him. Not because he was a beast or white—I couldn’t love him. Do you understand? In bed while we slept, our bodies inches apart, the dark between our flesh a wick. It was burning down. And he couldn’t feel it.
Finally, I can't wait to see this lovely new journal, Huizache: A Journal of Latino Literature out from the University of Houston-Victoria: