Sunday, August 20, 2006


Book Meme - tagged by Suzanne and Lee (thanks for bringing me back to the blog after an absence... I'm currently rethinking the blog, maybe will start a new one).

One book that changed your life: Dictee, by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. It certainly changed the way I think about books, what a book can be. Beautiful, beautiful work. Even the movie camera written into the book is like a character, a lover's eye and heart. I read this book about two years ago and thought Where have you been all of my life? I think I will write a poem with this epigraph from p. 57: "They say you look other than you say. As if you didn't know who you were. You say who you are but you begin to doubt."

One book that you've read more than once: Asylum, by Quan Barry. I feel very close to many of the concerns raised in this book.

One book you'd want on a desert island: Swimming to Antartica: Tales of a Long Distance Swimmer by Lynne Cox. Haven’t read it, but it sounds like something that might come in handy.

One book that made you laugh: La Maravilla by Alfredo Vea Jr. (because so many little details remind me of family stories, from outhouse humor to relationship banter b/t the grandparents...though I want to say that the book as a whole is far from humorous).

One book that made you cry: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (when I was a child, of course, although I’d likely cry again. Haven't read it in a few decades).

One book that you wish had been written: Theresa Cha’s next book before she was murdered in her early 30’s.

One book that you wish had never been written: Generic U.S. history textbook by No People of Color. Well, it had to be written and served its purposes (both positive and negative), just wishing I had learned more about my peeps growing up in school. Or as I'm just learning (in Ernesto Chávez's book ¡Mi Raza Primero!) that the Brown Beret's included this concern in their Ten Point Program before I was born: "We demand that the true history of the Mexican American be taught in all schools in the five Southwestern States." This is still a concern in our communities today... that any significant amount of Chicana/o history is taught at all. They also requested an end to Urban "Renewal" Programs that destroy neighborhoods... another concern that remains and remains. I'm surprised that I write this as if surprised that these are still concerns.

One book you're currently reading: How Long She’ll Last in This World by María Meléndez. Some gorgeous word combinations, like "ageless azimuth." Didn't know 'azimuth' till I looked it up just now, but love it just as a word. I want to eat it. And these lines from "Why Can't We All Just Get Along?" especially the last two of this excerpt here, resonate.

"I'm not an angry person, really.
I've never yelled at the snow for
Or cursed a grasshopper
For disappearing into the weeds
When I wanted to catch it.

A river killed a man I loved,
And I love that river still."

One book you've been meaning to read: Hearts and Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times, by Luis J. Rodríguez. It should be coming in the mail soon. Looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I have not written much this week. I fear sounding whiny and ungrateful about the future when I am extremely grateful. But the truth is truth when sadness arrives... I see the tan and white adobe homes form a window of sky and happiness between a streetlight where mosquitoes gather under stars and moonlight. It's damn hot and I'm alive.

Some grass is growing for the first time in the soft soil after all the rains. Not much, just the tiniest patch is a surprise. Yards changing every day with the sun and elements.

I'm usually a packrat of paper and memory.

The past was my forte.

This past year has been my present more than ever.

Right now the future feels distant. I will discover it and embrace it once I have finished up things here. I'm feeling resistant to release my life from this beloved place.

I didn't anticipate crying today when we said good-bye.

I always assure them it's okay to cry if they need to, and this time around I stopped my tears and apologized.

No good-byes when words and memory fill our lives.

What I wish for them: healthy, safe lives. Freedom from violence. The big day of opportunity will arrive for them soon.

There is change and struggle every day.

In my life, when the big changes come, the ones that are supposed to improve my life situation, I welcome them as much as anyone. I've lived and moved all over with great happiness and excitement. This time is much more difficult because this place has become home. I don't want a release date from this place or the work I've begun here. It comes down to funding.

I suppose it is good for a writer to always desire a home and not possess.

I feel like a place cannot be possessed (although I know too well the reality of history and present day land grabs).

I should say I feel like I should not want to possess a place.

I have never felt quite home like this.

I remember the children crying 50 years ago in the greyhound bus as they left their life here for another one in another desert, a hotter place in another state. From adobe to HUD housing with indoor plumbing.

I remember this as my mother's memory.

This isn't about leaving family since my dear ones still live in Cali. I "returned" to this place of distant memories (in EPT) not my own, but somehow the most necessary in me making my own.

I didn't anticipate making my own memories. I'm past anthropology.

I haven't checked the graves in the old cemetery after the rains. I will soon.

I will keep this casita as long as I can, and return when I can.

I started this blog this summer to help me work toward what I anticipated facing right now. This has been a very trying week, and I've kept silent and trying to get thru.

I'm thinking of tortoise.

I'm thinking of love, how it is something that arrives with deep respect, through continuous struggle, with honesty, and acknowledgement. Acknowledgement of the past, present, and future--the beautiful truth, the ugly truth, and the struggle. Acknowledgement of life's tiniest warriors. Scorpions and hungry eyes. Acknowledgement is different than tolerance. Without the continuous, changing acknowledgement and struggle I believe it is difficult to truly love. Without acknowledging one's own place in it all it is difficult to love.

I never thought I would love a place as such. Perhaps place is a state of mind, but I don't believe that right now. I think I have finally experienced Aztlán, my way, without ever thinking I was searching for it as such. Mentioning Aztlán in this context does not capture exactly how I am feeling, or maybe I am shy to admit it in this way, as it has always been a concept I viewed as observer, a critical reader of texts, with acknowledgement of others through the lens of history. This is the first time I have ever thought of it in a live way that applies to me here and how I am feeling in this place, right here, right now, in El Paso, in Ysleta, in this exact neighborhood, this dirt, this sweet damp smell when I walk outside. The changing pattern of soft dirt cracking in the backyard according to the weather. The sewer smell of past summer nights. The streetwise, lifewise animal staring at me not quite mammal, part devil, thoroughly mammal, thru the window, eyes refusing to soften. The roosters a constant cry of life and the globemallow plant always grows back each rain. The kind neighbors who wave hello and goodbye and hello, the ones who remember my family here 50 years ago, the ones I wish I visited with more. International bridge just down the road but it is quiet here. It is quiet here though I know that people of all ages, especially youth, out and about, everywhere, seeking acknowledgement. This is not about myth or Aztecs.

I can say in all honesty, that this has been one of the most meaningful years in my life. Right now I'm thinking about John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Maybe because the first part of the suite, 'acknowledgement' readily comes to mind as it builds towards the other sections "resolution, pursuance, and psalm." But it's not about language. Some of it is online right here.

Peace is around us.

Monday, August 07, 2006


Pitched grenades
(a cuss word not in my vocabulary)

flooding, sputtering

bang bang flame

fascinated by caterpillar eyes



Trina, Chicanita


Entrenched in your love

Put the needle on the record and the drumbeat goes like this

Friday, August 04, 2006

Rain gods

Since I rarely watch television, I didn't realize the extent of flooding and damage to El Paso, Juárez, and the surrounding area until the morning after my frog post when I read the paper. That rainy afternoon: home, my microcosm. I taught that morning but returned before it got really bad. Homes and stores flooded, filled with mud. People staying in shelters in both countries. Lots of damage. The paradox of empty river and then it all came at once: News

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Frog Studies 8-1-06

This little fella and his pal nearby (not pictured) woke me up yesterday morning croaking/bleating (among rooster cries that don't wake me anymore). They were darn happy about the rain. One frog would make a sound while his pal (pictured) sat calmly. Then the pictured fella would respond to the call with a throaty enthusiasm. They had a good rhythm going, back and forth. It rained all day yesterday, flooding everywhere, and these creatures were thrilled to be alive. Pictures were taken thru my window screen so not too clear. I call them frogs even though they might be spadefoot toads which are really frogs a friend recently confirmed for me. I woke up excited, saying, "the barking frogs outside the window!" even though I've never seen a barking frog before. Then I thought only bullfrogs did the throaty thing, but more and more I'm thinking they're spadefoot toads (frogs). Any herpetologists in the house? I told the students at the detention center about them when they asked about the rain... they seemed excited to hear about them too. The frogs stayed in the temporary pool of water beside my house pretty much all day. Once in awhile they'd take a little swim for a few inches among mesquite pods and brush. Watching them spread out like that made me think of the packed public pools I used to go to as a kid. Your little swimming space heavenly. All the crazy activity around you blocked out for the joy of a brief float.