Friday, June 08, 2007


stop sign. left turn.
three grapefruits moving from their branches in hot wind, must've been loosening, molecule by molecule, molecule model, atom cluster, corn tassels, a slender cow, a slim road called sugar, didn't see the goats cause i forgot. stopped paying attention after termite business sign.

miss the green parakeets squawking near the house we used to rent. they like palm trees. so do cucarachas.

wings grown back, gun clip, a few pink orchids after recent rain. neon green lizard, red ants emerging and diving in earth, a white egret chilling in a tree above the canal across from the muffler shop. past then present. but still across the street. still behind glass or in car or in shoes. still on concrete, asphalt, still in hot skin. the child happy the fish in the river right beneath him, visible as it nears the bank, near his feet, but the egret or turtle head up like submarine scopes not a wonder cuz further away. what we can touch, and what we want to touch. the frogs secrete their small poisons when some lift them, mammals seeking mammalian affection from amphibians. i've read that their presence, frogs, not humans, can tell us if the environment is somewhat healthy. live parakeets, finches, parrots at the pulga like wild flowers and carnations stuffed in cages. easter eggs with feathers. and nest droppings. scorpians, roosters, goats for sale. pulgas on my cats. casual, slight pulgas, disinterested almost. but the bloodwanting the same. a lucha libre tease so you buy a ticket. can't see beyond the bleacher seats from the entrance. no free views. the paparrazi loves celebrities with five thousand dollar dresses and without calzones. the remote control controlled by the viewer. passive and active.

i always forget the word epazote and would like to grow it and eat it. a word is weaker than touch or taste. how to make words touch and taste. implies control, force. how to make them... or how to make them, a recipe. both require measurements, one the threat of a parent or so-called lover. i could chain drink topo chicos. chain drink, chain think, chain, chain, chain. obsession implies both freedom and control. epazote comes from epazotl, nahuatl. learn a lesson from spelling bee kids. "epazotl : epatl, skunk + tzotl, filth (from its smell)"--american heritage dictionary. nahuatl is an american language of the americas, not american as in too-common synonym for united states citizen. it's the common assumption, american, the naming, that's bothersome. maybe 'the americas' an equally problematic label. land named after a man (americas - feminine, the way adam's rib makes feminine). implies the land and people existed, spanked into life, because stumbled upon five hundred years ago. land mass "unattached" to europe, therefore single. you are so selfish that you like to spend time alone. oceans the length of danger and desire. how romantic. the americas become ('the americas' singular or plural? for subject/verb agreement. 'explorers' wanting two continents in one handy grab bag and me hoping all regions one for strength against them, a romantic notion in and of itself, so i'll say singular) the conquistadors' lover. it depends who is labeling the relationship. lover, concubine, girlfriend for the cat (conquistador, explorer, equestrian, settler) whose mate an ocean away. a heterosexual relationship -- feminine land mass named after a man. the word 'relationship' problematic - like the words virgin and whore, conquistador and equestrian. whore or virgin. tony manero in saturday night fever asking annette to make her decision, in advance, before action. before she becomes virgin-whore. nothing new here. every (k)new thought leads to more traps. need a new language, new words for "the americas" and "american." as if words themselves could heal us. how to ever trust the words we read, hear, write. the can of worms reproduces and reproduces. half the can by each worm itself, hermaphroditic, and writer/speaker as accomplice. But accomplice sounds like side-kick, not like the one, the crime's mastermind, putting words into motion. silko's ceremony comes to mind...

revised: can of worms as accomplice.
how to de-criminalize language? how not to ignore the rhetoric in everyday speech, in deliberate speech. i.e. the immigration debate is bringing out the worst in pro-border fence politicians because they know that bringing out the worst in their constituents will bring the best results for them.

***

cabrito in the restaurant window, beautiful. usually i'd say pobrecitos chivitos. aesthetic beauty, but still i won't eat it. i'll admire it from the window, not judge the customers who lick meat off the bones (trying to repress self-righteousness through rationalization or do i really mean it? i don't know yet).

***

p.s.

the pledge we were expected to recite daily after the pledge in middle school, with hands over our precious (yes precious) hearts: i will never forget that i am an american citizen, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles that made my country free. i will trust in god, and the united states of america. there is a seductive beauty in the rhetoric, even in the rote recitation, but this is not "beauty for beauty's sake."

i cannot recall a single moment in my education when i was encouraged to think beyond patriotic assumptions. i'm sure i could have listened more closely to certain teachers (i admit, i wasn't always the most attentive) and maybe there were subtle moments, but i can't recall any... although there was one in college... i remember one anthropology t.a. writing so many questions in the columns of my papers. she was challenging my assumptions and i admit, i didn't trust her because i felt she was not qualified to judge my cultural background (one project in particular was somewhat like a family ethnography, i recall). plus, i was so used to getting negative comments about my mistakes that it was kind of a shock to get feedback mostly about my ideas, or should i say comforts, and this paper was more personal than my papers for other classes. i rationalized that she seemed just too comfortable and high and mighty to be conversing with me about my background, which differed from hers, and for this reason, i resented her comments (i still think she came across as too comfortable with her authority). in retrospect, i think she might have been one of the only teachers who cared to challenge my assumptions. maybe "care" is too generous--who cared to pose questions for the sake of digging deeper, getting somewhere beyond the surface, maybe for her own curiosity, which i interpreted as arrogance because it wasn't like we'd talk about my responses to her questions after my paper was handed back, so i just shut down and stuffed the paper somewhere. my assumptions back then, i can imagine, likely showed my extreme naivete about history. i am at once ashamed of my naivete and resentful that some basic facts were not part of my vocabulary or consciousness (learning was often a shameful process--of trying to avoid the next dreadful comment by an educator). i take responsibility for what i should have been better prepared for and i also lament how the education system did not always serve my needs. but i can only see my needs from today's perspective--back then i might not have felt they were needs (though if i had, they likely would not have been addressed in the curriculum). it is more than the education system and the self. it is the whole of experience. and yet i still feel i am being too generous because i do not want to imply victimization. so this is the part where i shut down to avoid whining and write this isn't supposed to be about my past--it's supposed to be about today and what i see repeating, the true-to-life cliche of how history repeats itself (and my present-day naivete that it is at all surprising that history repeats as many exert only the slightest rigor when thinking beyond surface assumptions. as if my few decades in all of human existence are the ONES. hah!).

in some ways, what's most frightening is how some of the most informed are also some of the most active in feeding the power structure which is ultimately bound to economic interests and/or maintaining/gaining power. the manipulation of "social/moral" issues to falsely engage the public is most bothersome to me at this particular moment. it brings out some of the worst in the public without providing an outlet for communication, understanding, or healing.

i suppose this suggests that i believe in the basic "goodness" of all/most people, but how can we define goodness? the big no-no's we can pretty much agree upon, but maybe rhetoric comes in to cloud the gray areas. but this line of thinking still operates under the assumption that one can determine if the gray areas are black or white, and besides, using black or white to define good or bad is outdated and simply unecessary. nothing said, nothing changes. dog chasing tail.

more satisfaction in poetry, sometimes.

and i have much to learn, to consider.

***

(sin fin)

7 comments:

jip said...

this feels like another book being born, or a very long poem.

i dont know. call me loco. but thas what i think.

i love the flow of it. have you read lyn hejinian? my life? it makes me think of that at points. rock on.

Emmy said...

thanks so much for reading this long post, jp. i am hoping to work on some of this for my current manuscript, so your comments are very helpful. it's the kind of writing that i don't ever want to stop, so i hope it leads to more. i do admire l.h.'s 'my life' very much. thanks again.

o.p. said...

this long post/poem has me twisting and turning and i love that.
what you say near the end:
"in some ways, what's most frightening is how some of the most informed are also some of the most active in feeding the power structure which is ultimately bound to economic interests and/or maintaining/gaining power" is so
true emmy. i just returned from
scoring AP lit essay tests, where i read over 3000 (out of 300,000) essays based on a literary passage that was so white male-centric, that its cultural bias should have been obvious to everyone "in charge" of testing or education, and yet kids from all over the u.s., who took this exam, oftentimes either read or misread the passage based on whether they were familiar with the priviledged cultural perspectives the text embraced. i pictured it like a first question on a passport application to obtain or maintain (social/economic) power: can you read/identify these priviledged, specific cultural codes? if so--proceed, if not, stay to the side. i am heartsick over this. i'm going to be writing about it more, but you are spot on, emmy, spot on.

Emmy said...

hi o.p.--thanks for reading this... you are ever generous.

3,000 essays in a few days--wow! that must have been a whirlwind. i appreciate your insight about those exams... it's alarming how things haven't changed much over the years. i think many students feel this disconnect as their own inadequacy (read: lack of "intelligence") once they learn their exam results on these types of tests and on future college essay exams. i often felt my face hot with embarrassment reading teachers' comments on my papers in college, and in retrospect i recognize that academia is often a cultural code many have a difficult time deciphering without a series of humiliations first. i think many students of various backgrounds are entering college feeling inadequate, feeling they lack intelligence, feeling that their inadequacies are their own shortcomings. this makes me think of what g. anzaldúa wrote in "borderlands/la frontera" about those of us who automatically blame ourselves for perceived "shortcomings" of all kinds (my book is at school... i'll find a passage to quote soon).

i hope you do write a post (better yet, a post that leads to an article) on your experience grading the exams and all that it leads you to think about. when you write, "i pictured it like a first question on a passport application to obtain or maintain (social/economic) power: can you read/identify these priviledged, specific cultural codes? if so--proceed, if not, stay to the side," although not an exact parallel, this reminds me of theresa cha's "dictee," especially this passage about the narrator's mother's experience in the book: "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. They search you. They, the anonymous variety of uniforms, each division, strata, classification, any set of miscellaneous properly uni formed..."

you are so right on with your comments, o.p. hope you write more about this.

Emmy said...

here's the passage from borderlands/la frontera i was thinking about when i last posted. it's in the chapter "La herencia de Coatlicue/The Coatlicue State."

she writes, "As a person, I, as a people, we, Chicanos, blame ourselves, hate ourselves, terrorize ourselves. Most of this goes on unconsciously; we only know that we are hurting, we suspect that there is something 'wrong' with us, something fundamentally 'wrong.'"

while the context of this chapter is much, much more complex beyond the subject of this post, i use the connection here as only one of dozens upon dozens of situations that this chapter makes me think about. i hope that by using it here, i don't detract from the complexity of the chapter that goes way beyond the subject of this post.

i especially admire how the chapter ends with a beginning, when she describes overcoming the coatlicue state as a coming into total consciousness: "...my thousand sleepless serpent eyes blinking in the night, forever open. And I am not afraid."

Emmy said...

here's another thought... what an uproar there would be if the ap test asked a question about chicana/o literature that required specialized chicana/o cultural knowledge to unpack the question.

o.p. said...

emmy, thanks for your reflections and other references on this. yes,
an uproar indeed would ensue if
it were the other way around.