Saturday, July 29, 2006

Desert Tortoise

parts of notebook entry last Sunday, 7/23/06, before the rain came later in the week:

goddesses visited this home. Desert tortoise came by early evening after I returned from a day of hiking.

I’ve lived here six years and never saw a tortoise in this area, much less my neighborhood. I didn’t even know tortoises lived here in the city or surrounding desert until a friend mentioned them this very afternoon during our hike, during a larger conversation about wildlife in EPT. He expressed, with great concern and frustration, how the tortoises are disappearing and how they used to be in greater abundance not too long ago.

A few hours later a desert tortoise happened to walk by my front door window for the cats to see and alert me.

I remember the crema de tortuga sold in Ensenada. Thick yellowish tortuga lotion in plastic containers. Stories of sea turtles eaten during Lent, as if they were a type of fish.

When I lived on Cape Cod one winter, I remember hearing how sea turtles were washing up, cold-stunned, by the dozens during NorEasters. I was sad for days. I tried writing poems about them that never materialized. What’s material. The words on the page. The shells on the shore. I am saddened by heaven’s musical instruments. I watched the desert tortoise today and felt more than language.

Turtle water. Tortoise earth.

Ancient tortoise rains patience. Ten or so circles on back, 10 beauties, 10 beauties like a sun-star rippling on the ocean. I fear feeling so much like carapace, need tortoise.

Feared water, loved it once inside a body of it, wave killed me, I remember the fear of jetty. He said jetty and I had no idea what that meant. He from elsewhere, me So. Cali. The tortoise has been living for thousands of years, longer than the Jornada Mogollon rock art at Hueco with its red nature-paint lasting in caves. Small oak trees live near water source edges. Coyotl’s tail disappearing into foliage. I miss the creatures who live with me every day. They too are beautiful. Microchip them, they say, so we scan them at the self-serve line that’s always broken after shopping for the least expensive wholesale food. Tlaloc, you either bring suffering or luck. I'm imagining blue sky and turkey vultures circling the maze for jackrabbits, a ground squirrel scurrying across a dirt road with a squirrel-child riding on its back. Creosote blooming yellow. I see that we need to open up the conversation. Look into the middens and catalogue what we, what I, have taken for greed of beauty.

I don’t profess to know the secrets of spirituality but I do know that I trust my instincts more and more and I don’t question them as much as I used to. I used to think something was wrong with me for suspecting others might have ulterior motives or were possibly sexist, power-hungry, underhanded, racist, etc. I wanted to be wrong. I still want to be wrong but I give more trust to initial and continued observation, feeling, instead of giving more power to the oppressive actions of others by feeling such oppression as my own shortcoming. I remember the small cacti like an army of penises. I remember the oak tree shells, some kind of acorns. I remember the swallows lived above a Tlaloc and its lightening designs. I remember the snake painted under the two twin masks that look like kachinas. I remember pain. At the thought of sweet releases. No release but sadness. It was all the color pink or bumblegum yellow like cactus flowers growing out of the most spiked misnamed succulent.

I remember the red and yellow and black pictographs.

Caves where the spirit rises to music. Caves the sun can’t hatch. And dirt where tortoises lay eggs in burrows where the sun reaches and heats through and through, where the sex of the hatchling depends on the incubation temperature, not chromosomes, females requiring more heat. Is this chance or feeling?

Summer Rain

The rain has arrived. Last night it was flooding everywhere. Tonight is lighter but still plenty of puddles. Spadefoot toads out of estivation, hopping along the street and in my yard. Some have already started their bleating. Some just chillin. I love summer monsoon time when everything digs up and soaks up in the desert.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

'That Thang' - A Little Rant

This is a painting by Andres Muro... thanks Andres for letting me post it

This week, I read a wonderful Juan Felipe Herrera poem called "Are You Doing That New Amerikan Thing?" (1983) in Literatura chicana 1965-1995. It's from his book Exiles of Desire. I was inspired to write a piece inspired by his, although this is hardly a poem or anything near his piece which I find exciting and as fresh today as it must have been over 20 years ago. I really recommend reading his poem and forgiving me for this exercise. :)

That Thang

Are you doing that El Paso thang?
Doing that I wish we were more like Dallas or Austin thang?
Wishing for Disneyland or more sea lions balancing beach balls on noses in the desert thang?
Averting your eyes when the man with whiskers speaks thang?
Doing that City Council is the Last Supper thang?
Hoping for that Olvera Street thing?
Getting your big sombrero ready for that thang?

Are you doing that “activist” thang?
That self-proclaimed, self-congratulatory thang?
That appearances are everythang?
The careerism chain?
The supportive of your peers but really advertising yourself thang?

Doing that “oh, god not another political poem” thang?
Asking for italics for uncomfortable words in Spanish thang?
Or catering to the audience thang? Because acceptance is love is everythang?

Doing that “god she’s self-righteous” thang?

That fundraiser for yourself disguised as charity thang?

Doing that “she’s got a chip on her shoulder” thang?
That career threatening thang?
The god-gave-me-testosterone-worship me thang?
Doing that it’s okay to treat women in your culture worse thang?
The mijo thang?
The $50,000 car professional, and living with Amá thing?
The tortilla flipping while everyone else eats thing?
The--those grad students don’t have a clue because they didn’t worship me but they’re still hot--thing?
That still (and ever) calling women malinchistas thing?
The thing instead of thang thing?

Doing that total destruction is progress thang?
That ashamed of your culture thang?
The don’t write about dead grandmothers thang?
That Manifest Destiny and calling it progress thang?
The Polk thang? The removals and trails of suffering and Andrew Jackson bills thang?
That Hispanic thing?
The right-wing religious more money for us than them thang?
That “Chicana/o means poverty or lower class or gang member” thang?
Doing that class thing?
that academic obfuscation thing?
The coffee shop, private school Marxist thang?
The “she’s a Valley girl” thang?
That beating yourself up thang?

The narcocorrido thang?
Loving the killer thang?
That Chicano gangster rap lyrics thang?
That calling girls 'hynas' thang?
Doing that crystal meth thang?
The I like “getting stupid” with a big proud smile thang?
The I’m going back to my old ways thang?
Doing that I’m no good thang?
That glazed eye thang?

Doing that flirting while at the same time putting her down thang?
That she looks too _______ to be a professor thang?
The bragging to earn minimal respect thang?
The Democrat and Republican almost mean the same thing thang?
The community thang?
Doing that recruitment in barrios thang?
Doing that we’re saving the other country from themselves thang?
The humanitarian killing and dying thang?
The electric chair thang?
The minimum wage gas raise thang?

Doing that appalled that she speaks her mind thang?
The where did she get her confidence thang?
The when is she going to have kids thang?
That you’re so selfish thang?
Doing that token thang?
That pretending to be radical for la raza thang?
That Chuck E. Cheese for kids’ parties thang?

Doing that don’t label me anything thang?

Are you doing that not wanting to get off company phone with friend when customer walks in and apologizes to you thang?
Doing that power thang, that “you’re wrong” thang, to avoid veering from bureaucracy comfort or asking questions thang.
The so-called health insurance thang?
Doing that I only have generosity and kindness for my family thang?
The minutemen have the right thang?

Are you doing that (s)he's nice and thus weak thang?
That if only he weren't so nice... thang?
The she's really nice so I'll try to take advantage thang?
The she asked for it in the desert thing?

Are you doing that "thank you" is not part of my vocabulary thang?
That I don't need to express empathy when a friend's suffering thang?
The you know what I mean thing.
The my arms go limp when I see you struggling to carry a thousand books and can't muster the feeling to open the door for you thang.
The I don't have to express my opinions thang, only get you to express yours so I can judge them thang.
The radical feminist princess thang.

The smoking on the steps and expecting kisses on cheeks thang?
Doing that why did you leave me thang?
That I’m going back to Cali thang?
The I’ll hurt myself so you’ll care for me thang?
That assumption thang?

Forgetting that revolutionary thang for a calm evening and acceptance thang?
The you should keep your mouth shut thang.
The where did all the revolutionaries go thang?
The we like it the way it is thang.
The comfort has us repeating history from our couches thang.
The we don't even have to leave the house thang.
That you're too sensitive thing. That get over it thang?
That rhetorical questioning, slapping the reader thing?
Oh, but this is a dramatic monologue thang?
The laughing and laughing while crying thang?
That life is but a stage or a "G" thang?
The why don't you see the beautiful things in life thang?
I think you're beautiful, a gorgeous thang
I saw a picture of you on the internet spam email thang.

That angry at self-righteousness while self-righteous thang?
The they don't believe the same things I do thang?
The how could they thing?
The can't we all get along thang?

Have you started that forgiveness thang?
The 12 step, 2 step thang?

Doing that Plato was right about the poets thang?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Recording Session for El Paso Youth

The challenge is getting all of them gathered in one location for the recording session. I am sending a prayer to the universe that we get a good turnout. Transportation, work, family obligations, incarceration... the list goes on. All of the beautiful, powerful poems written by El Paso young adults these past six months deserve a wide audience. These young people and voices have changed my life, and I am especially grateful to them for their courage and pride.

BorderSenses' Spoken & Written Word
Poetry Project for El Paso Youth presents...

Spoken Word Poetry Recording Session
for teens/young adults who have participated in our program
Saturday, July 22nd, 11:30am
Lower Valley Branch Library
601 N. Yarbrough (near Bel Air HS)

We plan to make a poetry cd with selected recordings to celebrate your poetry, for the enjoyment of youth in our community, and for educational purposes.

For more information, please visit
Recording Session Flyer and
Spoken & Written Word Poetry Project for El Paso Youth

or contact Project Director at

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Dangling. Waiting for mask on screen, screen as mask, mope etched in rock. Waiting for the right people to find. Waiting for a glass of light. Waiting for the chase, the chase, the chase, the chase. Waiting to catch up to it by the tail. Waiting for albino dog eyes on Yarbrough to get untangled from cement street divides. Running from light, from police, from politics, waiting for yellow tape shred into ticker tape. Waiting for god to show up and show down in thick grass blades, waiting for chickens to steal for the homeless boy on the run. Waiting for trips to trees. Waiting for misnamed frogs. Waiting for salt and wings and insults softened by I need yous. Waiting for I need you. Waiting for concrete ditch drain you called river. You who worried about your people. You who worried about tomates and apples in bookbags as you stepped up and spoke in a language everyone understood. Waiting for elders. Not for apologies or I’m sorry. Waiting for blue-green dreaming not ending in cliff violence. Waiting for blurry words in books to speak. Hoping not to mess up, hoping to catch a glimpse of tv behind the coke machine. Hoping for rabbits instead of chickens to add themselves to the hanging branches.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Years ago I moved to a place of suffering looking for those I love who live elsewhere.

One chance glance of a forgotten photo in my hallway last week triggered an incomplete funeral inside. I stopped the tears to get proper for work. Throat stung like swallowing bruises.

I remember buying the ceramic frame at some pre-Riots dollar store in L.A. and pretty-ing it up with puffy glitter paints before mailing it off with snapshot of us in Irapuato inside the heart-shaped window.

This February, relatives urged me to take the framed photo with me. I hesitated—felt like stealing. Stealing what no longer existed in the home. Stealing dust and expired shelf life, stealing lost time in the fifteen years that passed while the same guy pushed the same cart afternoons on a street in Northern Cali. Bells ringing. Chunks of mangos in paletas, chunks of sweet icy dying in the home that always felt transitory, the fruit trees more permanent, the night train always shocking deep sleep, to ignore is to survive, to acknowledge to live, the love she had for too many people in the Nescafé, a whole country stirred by a spoon, she pledged allegiance a great many years later, hesitant yet to renounce faith in her memories. For nearly a century, her body an immigrant home. I loved her hands and arms.

That morning, I still expected her to rise when her children stood like testimonies beside her.

And later, the cows on the hillside kept their heads down in extinct (sic). Morning grass welcome, moisture welcome after decades of desert. One daughter’s bones 35 years and a few feet beneath hers.

I felt the busy streets beyond and knew it was only a city.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


The sky above Armijo Park in Segundo Barrio this past Saturday after rain. Today, in contrast, is an ozone action day.

Last night (all night and early morning) I longed to write poetry. The big moon hovered in surrounding halo and darkness above the adobe house between the cottonwoods. I am free to watch this from my screened-in porch without feeling air, breathing sweetness, or slapping absent mosquitoes.

I will teach poetry this afternoon in the units. The concrete floors, smoothed rocks. Among cinder blocks and in the absence of windows, young poets will write their ways to creation.

It's been so long since I climbed through and scraped my knees on the stucco.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Protest before City Council Meeting yesterday

Protest against the current downtown 'revitalization' (demolition) plan before a special city council meeting early yesterday evening.

Francisco Delgado's painting El Plan. Francisco is pictured on the left.

Over 60 people spoke up at the city council meeting and a few hundred were in the audience clapping for various sides throughout the evening. The divisions remain clear. Many plan proponents who will not need to sacrifice anything continue to encourage others (residents and business owners) to sacrifice their livelihoods for the future of the city. (Many younger proponents also cited how this plan is going to ensure their future and the futures of their own children too but did not give any specifics beyond faith.) My goodness, since when did upscale or big box stores or strip malls truly brighten our future? Are their children going to own a Target store or such in the Real Estate Investment Trust? Will their children have more bars and clubs to go to and therefore not leave their families for another city? I apologize for the rhetorical questions... I simply can't understand the logic of many who say they believe in "their hearts" that this plan will transform the lives of all El Pasoans as justification for supporting the plan without question. It seems like they really believe in manifest destiny (they don't even cite the possibility of increasing the city tax base as a reason why they support the plan... they really seem to believe that the cosmetic changes will save the city's image and bring an abundance of everlasting happiness). They really seem to believe they have a right to destroy a portion of Segundo Barrio and many local businesses to build into their playground.

The city proposed to give Segundo Barrio residents in the proposed demolition zone relocation assistance of equal value. So if a family lives in a 2 bedroom apartment right now, they will get a nicer, equally-sized 2 bedroom apartment somewhere else (that is how the city and others justify taking over... they suddenly pretend that this plan is saving people after continual neglect by the city to maintain city codes in substandard apartments). At one point someone cited how plan proponents are truly helping residents... how some residents have up to 10 people living in a small space. So I guess that means the city will move all 10 of them to another 2 bedroom apartment. Well that sounds "progressive," the word many keep using like a mantra. In this city, the so-called "progressives" seem more and more like Machiavellian capitalists as the days pass. And what about any undocumented residents in the area. Will they qualify for any government housing assistance? I believe if the city were truly concerned about the residents and that area of Segundo Barrio, they would help build it back up in a way that celebrates its cultural survival and importance, not hand it over to private investors because "location, location, location" is of utmost importance in this economic development plan at the expense of the cultural and historical destruction of one of El Paso's oldest neighborhoods. Where are the plans for increased education and outreach? Increased social services? I don't believe these things come along with the proposed Real Estate Investment Trust, only more low-paying service jobs, and a historic neighborhood gone in exchange for a gentrified one.

(The expensive promotional video for this plan states, “Now think about big, urban retail chains just like in larger cities. We’ll have great shopping downtown, including stores that are America’s favorites.” And: “Even more exciting, an urban lifestyle mall. A collection of lifestyle stores like you’ve seen in other cities. Exactly the kind of mall you probably planned a vacation to see—except now it will be right here, downtown.”) Progressive and creative? I don't know too many people who plan vacations to visit malls, and if they exist as I'm sure they do, I really worry for them no matter how much money they have to burn. And it sounds like this part of the video is targeting El Paso shoppers. And while this is only one piece of the plan, it's really indicative of what we're dealing with here.

Many, many opponents spoke against the current plan last night, and nothing much has changed. A significant area of Segundo Barrio is still in the demolition zone and many residents will still be displaced. Many business owners will be forced to forfeit their businesses under the current plan. City council passed a resolution for a 12 month moratorium on the use of eminent domain in the downtown plan to try and silence the opposition. It makes for a good newspaper article about the city's sudden concern (in fact, several tv news clips I watched make it sound like the Segundo Barrio is not going to be touched at all, or that the city is suddenly saving it... terribly sloppy--or intentional--reporting? How are the majority of El Pasoans who don't attend the city meetings ever to know the manipulation they are being fed? I can't believe the amount of misinformation spread through the news media). The city created the opposition by having a plan that did not come from the people but from a private group of elite business folks who paid $1800 to join this so-called "civic group" that hired a San Francisco-based firm to work with them on the plan (with $250,000 of taxpayers' money in addition to additional funds they raised). So now many community members are upset as they should be (except those who do not have to sacrifice or who do not recognize that the sacrifices others will have to make are unjust). And now the city council makes it appear like they are "kind" and "listening" because for 12 months they won't use eminent domain to take away properties for private investment even though they'd need longer than a year to really get started on obtaining the properties for the plan. Unfortunately, there are only three city council members who are clearly against the use of eminent domain in this plan.

As a community member, it was disturbing to see some city council members chatting with each other last night while people were addressing them. One council member in particular often gives his good ole boys the thumbs up sign and smiles when they get up to speak in favor of the plan. It is embarassing to watch his ego on display.

We spent hours last night listening to public opinions again. If city council had voted before the public voiced opinions last night, they still would have voted the same. They have been "listening" to the community for months now after the plan was unveiled but it's as if many of them have not heard a word. It is clear why they did not want to hear from us during the initial planning stages when the maps were drawn and destruction of certain areas was decided upon. Their publicity campaign for the formal adoption of this plan continues. They seem to enjoy wasting everyone's time in this so-called effort to gather community input. Their decisions are firm and their so-called resolutions are calculating, appear scripted, and continue to further their publicity campaigns. Their methods are transparent and their "empathy" disingenuous. They are banking on the disinterest, mild interest, or genuine interest of thousands of uninformed and misinformed El Pasoans who don't or can't attend city meetings and might read the Times or catch a grossly inaccurate news blurb on tv here and there. They must also assume that El Pasoans are easily manipulated. Less than six degrees separate many of the good ole boys and gals that are on their side. It is all so transparent. We are all in a game that has just begun. They are hoping the opposition will give up in exhaustion. But each time there is another meeting of significance, even more voices of opposition speak up. This is only the beginning.

Some excellent interviews David Romo conducted with local leaders in today's Newspaper Tree (Voices of Dissent: Interviews with Pete Duarte and County Attorney José Rodríguez). I recommend these interviews and for anyone who is interested in what's going on around here.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Letter to the Editor

From today's El Paso Times opinion section:

English-only errors

On June 26, I read an interesting letter by Fermin-Fermon Torres regarding English only and I would like to point out several errors in its content.

The writer says that English only is part of the reason the U.S. is a "failed leader." The truth is, I don't see millions of people all over the world trying to get into Mexico (failed leader?).

He says that racism exists on the border. Yes, it does, and anyone who could read the signs carried by Hispanic protesters for illegal immigration could see that anti-Anglo sentiment is present on the border.

It is wonderful to be bilingual, trilingual, or polyglot -- at home. The cult of active multicultural is killing our national identity and, because of it, many immigrants are coming to this country for the money and opportunities but not to assimilate and become Americans!

Philip Darryl
West El Paso

I am often sickened to read the opinion section of the El Paso Times because I am not wanting to face the reality of the blatant ethnocentrism (thinly disguised as U.S. patriotism) that is alive and well in the border community as in other U.S. cities. While I did not read the Torres letter that Darryl responds to, the logical fallacies present in Darryl's response to that initial letter are clearly evident. Many people I know say they have given up reading the opinion section of the Times because they cannot stomach much of what is written.

I admit that I felt the same way for a long time about the opinions reflected in the Times, but now I realize that it's better to know who and what is out there rather than ignore it. And while it's not surprising that this letter comes from the westside of town, I know that plenty more people of all backgrounds feel this way all over the city and express it daily. These are the opinions that continue to silence our youth. These are the opinions that continue to encourage assimilation (at the cost of identity) and cause many vulnerable youth to feel ashamed of their culture to avoid being categorized as anti-American. Some parents are aware of these views and act accordingly to negotiate a world for their children with the least amount of conflict. And some parents hold these views themselves. Either way, some believe their children will not be afforded certain opportunities in life if they do not assimilate. Some parents don't give a care about pressure to assimilate and continue life as they see fit, and I give them a lot of credit.

Opinions like those stated in the letter above are the opinions most often written and printed. These are the opinions that seep into the consciousness of many educational policies and educators who pound 'english only.'

I can't tell how many young, bilingual poets are shocked when I encourage them to write in Spanish. Shocked and happy (for the 'permission'). They are likely shocked because they know that it is still taboo in most school situations. And I'm not talking so much about local college students (although many of them are initially surprised too) as I am the incarcerated youth. Even if my Spanish isn't great, I will have my dictionary by my side if need be. The beautiful words of la gente come alive in letters to parents, in poems about Juárez, El Paso, L.A., and beyond... in poems that switch effortlessly between worlds and situations so that the word "switching" becomes the academic trying to break down the brilliance for others looking in on what is alive and well in our neighborhoods and people.

Opinions like the ones in the letter above that pretend to support bilingualism (if it's only at home, mind you) should be reminded that such bilingualism has a hard time surviving the generations schooled in English only. Of course this is the intent of assimilation... bleach out what's "foreign" so that we are all more comfortable with each other. Bleach out one of the most powerful tools for the cultural survival of many ethnic groups and thus attempt to strip them of their identities in the hopes that their voices (and thus opinions) sound more mainstream. I want to say: Admit it... there is political power in the Spanish, Navajo, Vietnamese, and many other languages in the United States!

Opinions like the ones in the letter above also continue to encourage publishers to encourage writers to italicize and give context clues or provide a glossary when "foreign words" are used. As a young writer who just assumed it was the "proper" thing to do (italicize words in Spanish), I now offer another perspective to students who also assume it's the proper thing to do: "but the words aren't foreign to you, or to many of us sitting in this classroom, or to your characters who are speaking to each other in the story." It is so easy to pick up a dictionary or look at online dictionaries if words are "foreign" to readers... I do this all the time when there is a reference made to something that I don't know in English, so I don't see it as any different. I give a lot of credit to those writers who paved the way in their innovative use of two languages in their writing. But I worry that today the pressure to continue using italics continues (now if writers choose this themselves I respect them for feeling what's best for their writing). In writing published now, the use of italics for the pure acknowledgment that words are in another language (not for other types of emphasis, and not if the writers themselves would like to use italics) appears to me like a drum roll from publishers....... ta-da! get ready readers! for the words in Spanish! we don't want to make anyone feel too uncomfortable! so italics will be used to let others immediately know that this word might bring a little discomfort.

How many of us grew up always aware of how we were being perceived outside of our communities? This extra sixth or seventh sense of knowing what to do and say to fit in. Sometimes I feel like I (and others) have catered to the comfort of others at the expense of myself (and ourselves). I grew up knowing that the dominant society felt "The cult of active multicultural is killing our national identity" as the above letter written in 2006 states.

And it's not always views on the other side of the spectrum that keep us down. I am tired of some (apparently like-minded) people judging others for not being completely fluent in Spanish as if it were a conscious life choice to be snooty. I know there are some Latin@s who are proud (unfortunately) not to speak Spanish fluently (likely as a response to discrimination outside of our communities and poor education about our history), but that is not the case with me and many, many other 2nd & 3rd generation Chican@s who grew up listening to Spanish. The issues are much, much more complicated, and I don't offer them as excuses. Many judge themselves plenty--plenty. And we're trying to undo the damage of circumstance without the burden of guilt and fear of sounding wrong (grammar, diction) or being laughed at (even by our families) that continues to worsen the situation. One Chicano writer recently put me down and I will never forget the experience (this was immediately after other put-downs and bullying remarks made in response to the shock of me speaking my mind about something unrelated... basically he made the comment about fluency as an easy opportunity to twist the knife, something I'm finding common among Latin@s and non-Latin@s alike (academics especially), who somewhat seem to enjoy equating lack of fluency with having zero knowledge of the language, and thus with the culture, which are both so far from the truth, completely cruel in intention, and I wouldn't say ignorant but a deliberate attempt to stereotype for their own purposes. People: your intentions are quite transparent and even silly. Read Gloria Anzaldúa’s essay "En Rapport, In Opposition: Cobrando cuentas a las nuestras"). We have enough problems in our communities. We have a lot of work to do. Where we exert our energies is of utmost importance. Do we fight each other or do we fight those whose opinions are so deep-rooted and will not change? This is a rhetorical question. I can't use it in good faith without pointing out that I am aware of its intent.

My hope is that we will write, write, and write. My hope is that we will encourage Chican@, Mexican@ youth, adults, the elderly to continue using their languages, and sharing their cultures, their experiences... They don't need teacher-writers at all to express and survive but I say this perhaps selfishly for wanting access to more oral histories, documentaries, stories, poems, songs... the words of our communities beyond college campuses... I have much to learn from them and myself. We have much to learn from each other and beyond each other. History repeats itself daily, hourly, by the minute. We need to keep writing our own histories. Everything I have said above has been written before in many forms and continues to be written because it continues to be felt and experienced. It still has a tough time making it in the curriculum of most public schools, including those that serve Latin@ majority populations.

This goes along with my "On 'Blight' and Beauty" entry of June 28th (below). The downtown El Paso "revitalization" plan that includes the destruction of a historic Segundo Barrio area adjacent to downtown is further evidence of the people in power telling us it's time to change with the times if we want to progress. Changing with the times to them means destruction and bringing in a new way of life, new people, and stores, including "America's favorites" as their expensive promotional video states. They want to make the area of Segundo Barrio (which is not downtown) more "attractive" to outside investors. They really believe they are doing all of us a favor (or again, am I too generous about all the unexamined and examined motives? When the outcome is destruction and displacement, the outcomes become the motives). I'm tired of reading about urban removal in other cities as I see history repeating itself here even though the planners insist it's not urban removal in their legal haven backed by lots of $$$$$$. I'm tired of knowing that what's been done was done with the intent that few would protest and those who held out the longest would be the "anklebiters" who changed a tiny decision here or there but nothing significant enough to prevent their elite plan from pushing through as intended. They did this, of course, without caring to reach out to the majority of residents and business owners in the proposed demolition zone before the maps were drawn to ask their opinions on their future displacement via the likely use of eminent domain. This was a conscious decision. History repeats itself and so do the actions and words of those of us who do not like what is happening.

There is a lot of work to do. A lot of people are counting on us to give up. What they don't realize is that the downtown issue is only one facet of the larger issues that continue to exist and we will continue to write and write about and encourage others who feel the same way to voice opinions in the hopes of future change, understanding, and social justice.

I have said nothing new in this entry and that frustrates me. I rarely write about these things because I feel like they have all been written about, studied and examined time and time again. It's frustrating to see history repeating itself in this community and all over the U.S. and recognize the necessity of writing about it in a tiny effort to call attention to its continued existence.

The sky is so blue today... I want to absorb its clarity beyond the green cottonwood leaves. I want to climb up into it and ask it to feed me.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

On the way to nearby White Sands and Three Rivers last weekend for a two day holiday... train headed south, me north.

Beyond the mesquite tree: solstice snake coiled in endless spiral.

I can imagine the adobe home here... nice spot.

Just when the poem was getting meaningful, I switched directions. I remember pointing this out in much gentler terms to the young poet this morning as if I were speaking to myself. The splash of bright color in the desert offers its red silk as a screen for its needle bed like a brain or heart. Memory resides in dna along arroyos in the sun and dislodges only during flash floods.

I remember motorcycles and wearing a helmut. I remember Crenshaw Boulevard. I remember handing numbers and coins to hands and mouths that wanted everything and nothing. I remember how sometimes fiction makes memory possible, when the confession room makes small gifts feel pushed to the limits. The cleared space with cottonwood remnants either a ruin or a restoration. Why only two choices? Teeth come and go, come and go. The first of the spadefoot toads arrived two nights ago like the promise of the underworld needing the one we live in as much as we need the surfacing. This separation of twos, true or false, is the problem with this line of thinking. Sometimes I forget that childbirth is human, yet I protest when the young poets erase a line of their own hoping for a better one.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Wishing a very speedy recovery to poet raulsalinas, an extraordinary activist in our communities. Received word today that he was hospitalized this weekend. He is home now—I send him all of my prayers.

During a recent visit to El Paso, raul made it a priority to visit an alternative school and share his poetry, encouragement, and experiences with the high school students. I feel extremely fortunate to learn about his life and his work with youth that afternoon during lunch with him and friends. I am in deep admiration of his commitment to working with incarcerated youth too. At the time, I had only taught a few months at the detention center—his example continues to guide me.

With gratitude and many prayers for raul...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Drawing with the Moon

If only I could paint, if only I knew calligraphy, if only I could write effortlessly. The perfect ysleta evening. This morning lovely too. Vecina's grandchildren splashing in irrigated grass at seven a.m. and all the living bones rose.

The white rabbit sits ancient on damp earth that soaked hours before in sun-water. I love the red smell of dawn at night.

Rain from years ago grew grass in the concrete canal. Carrizo stalks stand green at the dirt ditch mouth. All summers here gather and explore in small pools of water.

A stranger's disrespect turned kindness. The morning turned cement and microphoned walls. A room of young people typing for their lives. A boy wrote how he likes to help people. It is without question or hesitation that I report this. Four teenage fathers raised their hands when called upon. The L.A. riots came to mind when someone mentioned home. He was about two years old at the time. Memory is a brush of x-ray light, a child popping pyrotechnic sounds in the absence of fire. Evening is a morning of young people with hope in their eyes.