Saturday, September 29, 2007

Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra (9/29/1547 - 4/22/1616)

Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra

by Juan Martínez de Jáurequi y Aguilar (c. 1600)

----------El caballero de la cara triste

------------------¡Y Dios no te dé paz y sí gloria!

-------------------------------------------- Miguel de Unamuno

Tratándose del canto
-----en un llano de arbustos silvestres
infestado de las ramillas girantes
----------de molinos rompe cielos,
una figura consintiendo la edad
-----y una mente cavernosa
alanzó al sol embarrando su lanza de luz.

-----(y una estrella mugrosa
----------encendió un cigarrillo lucero
-----para guiar a un guerrero
----------a su lavadura.)

-----Si sucediera una estrella,
-----naciera un canto
-----en algún año decisivo
prometiendo pan y pescados
de que uno no fuera seguro se multiplicaran
¿pagaría la gloria incierta de una aguda herida
el precio de derramar la paz
en una red de empeño enmarañada?

l alto atrever camina en patas flacas
y demasiadas veces la causa de muerte
--------son las estrellas.

----------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

Don Quixote de la Mancha & Sancho Panza
by Honoré Daumier

----------The Knight of the Sad Face

-----------------¡Y Dios no te dé paz y sí gloria!

-------------------------------------------Miguel de Unamuno

Treating of songs
----------in a wild wood plain
infested with twirling sprigs
---------of sky-tearing mills,
a figure indulging age & a cavern mind
speared the sun smearing his lance with light.

-----(& a soiled star lit a cigarette star
-----to guide a warrior to his washing)

-----If a star were to happen,
-----a song born
-----to some decisive year
promising bread & fishes
one was not sure would multiply,
would the uncertain glory of an acute wound
pay the price of spilling peace
-----into a fouled net of undertaking?

High daring walks on spindly legs
& stars too often are the cause of death.

---------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

(in Mark in Time; Nick Harvey, Ed., Glide Publications,
San Francisco 1971; author’s copyrights.)


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Full Moon: Prayer to the Full Moon

- - -
-----Oración a la luna plena

--------en tiempos de ultraje

Luna, luna, luna,
madrina de los sueños,
señora de las mareas,
pone tus suaves manos de luz
sobre nosotros y danos consuelo;
las pesadillas galopan
por los llanos de la tristeza,
la furia nos llena hasta los huesos
y el tuétano se nos congela de miedo
que en los tronos del poder
se sientan perros rabiosos
y en la cuna de la escritura
la arena se empapa de sangre.

Luna, luna, santa luna,
tú que sabes de locuras,
hemos herido a la Tierra
y en las salas de gobierno
se amontonan criminales
Madrina, danos consuelo
y para la lucha valor.

------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

---Prayer to the Full Moon

--------in times of outrage

Moon, moon, moon,
godmother of dreams,
lady of the tides,
lay your soft hands of light
upon us & give us comfort;
nightmares gallop
through the plains of grief,
rage fills us to the bone,
& our marrow is frozen by fear,
for on the thrones of power
sit rabid dogs
& in the cradle of writing
blood soaks the sand.

Moon, moon, holy moon,
you who know of madness,
we have wounded the Earth,
& in the halls of government
criminals crowd.
Godmother, give us comfort,
& for the struggle, courage.

-----© Rafael Jesús González 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

14th Annual Dancing Poetry Festival

(Invitation to an event at which Rafael Jesús González
will be awarded for his bilingual poetry)

Artists Embassy International


Natica Angilly’s Poetic Dance Company

invite you to the

14th Annual
Dancing Poetry Festival

Saturday, September 29, 2007

12:00 noon to 4:00 PM

Florence Gould Theatre

-California Palace of the Legion of Honor

100 34th Street

(near Clement in Lincoln Park)

San Francisco, California

call for information & advance tickets

510 235-0361

adults $15; Seniors $12; Youth 12-17 $8
Children under 13 $4

(Tickets slightly higher at the door)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Autumnal Equinox

Creation of the Sun and the Moon

from the sacred tellings of the Nahua

At the beginning of this world, when it was yet dark and darkness was everywhere, all the gods met at Teotihuacan (Place Where the Gods are Born) and they said, “It is not good that darkness should prevail; it is not good that there is no light. How shall the corn grow? How will humankind live?”

And they all agreed, “A Sun is needed; we must make a Sun.” So said Quetzalcoatl, Feathered Serpent, God of the Wind; and Tezcatlipoca, Smoking Mirror, God of the Night; and Tlaloc, God of the Rain; and Chalchihuitlicue, Lady of the Jade skirts, Goddess of the Waters; and Xochipilli, Prince of Flowers, God of Poetry and Song and Dance; and Chicomecoatl, Seven Serpents, Goddess of the Corn; and all of the other gods and goddesses too many to name.

So they said, “One of us must agree to be the Sun. One of us must leap into the holy fire to become the Sun.” And so they brought many precious woods, linaloe and caoba, oak and cedar, pine and mesquite, and built a huge fire that sputtered and hissed and sent a storm of sparks into the dark.

And they said, “Who shall it be? Who shall leap into the fire and become the new Sun?” And they all looked at one another and they were all afraid.

And from their midst stepped forth Tecuciztecatl, God of the Conch Shell, The Beautiful God, the most beautiful and the most rich, and he said, “I will become the new Sun.” And he walked through the crowd of gods and he was very beautiful to look at and he wore a loin cloth and cape of the finest cotton, soft as the tassel of new corn, embroidered with rainbows. On his head he wore a crown of the finest plumes: quetzal, macaw, hummingbird, parrot. Jade and turquoise adorned his throat.

He was a proud god and rich. His tools of sacrifice were of the finest. To prick his tongue, his ears, his penis for blood to offer to The Earth, Coatlicue, She of the Serpent Skirt, Tonantzin, Mother of all the gods and of us all, he carried, not thorns, but sharp slivers of coral. To catch the blood, he carried, not balls of grass, but balls of quetzal feathers. To offer perfumed smoke he carried only the finest of white copal.

And so he made sacrifice, four full days he sacrificed. He drew blood from his tongue, his ears, his penis with his slivers of coral and caught it in his balls of quetzal feathers and offered it to Mother Earth. He took his precious white copal and placed it on a live coal and sent the perfumed, white smoke into the skies.

Then he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and ran toward the roaring, sputtering, fuming fire.

But the fire was too hot, too intense, too fierce. And he stopped short.

Again the Beautiful God closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and ran toward the blaze.

Again the pyre proved too hot, too fierce. And the god stopped short.

One time more, one more time, Beautiful God closed his eyes, breathed deeply, ran.

And stopped short.

And once again, one more time, again tried the beautiful god. And again could not.

The gods murmured among themselves and the Beautiful God was ashamed, for his heart had not been strong enough and he could not leap into the fire to become the new Sun. And the gods again asked themselves who among them would agree to become the new Sun.

And from far back, from the edge of the crowd of gods came forth the least of them, Nanahuatzin, the Ulcerous One, the ugly god, hunch-backed and crippled, his skin mottled with sores. And poor, he was. His loin cloth, his cape were of coarse maguey weave. His headdress was of amate paper. His tools of sacrifice were only black maguey spines. To catch his blood, he had balls of dry grasses. Too poor to afford even common copal, he had only chips of the bark. The gods murmured among themselves.

But he said, “I will go into the fire.” For four full days he said his prayers to the Earth; pierced his tongue, his ears, his penis with his thorns; caught the blood in his balls of grass; and offered them to the Holy Mother. He took his chips of copal bark, placed them on a hot coal and the feebly perfumed smoke rose to the skies.

He closed his eyes. He took a deep breath. He ran.

------with his heart in his throat,
-------------------------------------he leapt into the fire.

The flames rose higher. They sputtered. They roared. They leapt. They sparked and they fumed. Sparks swirled up into the sky. Embers and coals shot out from the blaze. And the fire threatened to break its bounds, to lick its red and gold tongues into the grasses and shrubs of the land.

But, seeing this, the eagle swooped down from the sky and with its wings swept the burning embers back into the fire. But the live coals tumbled onto the grass and, seeing this, the jaguar scraped them back with his paws and rolled upon them to put out their flame. From that moment forth, the tips of the eagle’s wings are charred black and the skin of the jaguar is marked where he was burned by the embers.

The fire still rose, higher and higher. And for many days the gods watched and prayed not knowing from whence the Sun would come until the sky reddened in the east and from the center of the flames rose the heart of the least of the gods all ablaze and brilliant and flaming.

And it rose higher and higher and stood high and still in the middle of the sky.

The gods stood silent and amazed and they called him Tonatiuh, the Sun. And he burned fiercely and bright and his light was blinding and it became exceedingly hot.

The Beautiful God all this time watched from where he stood among the other gods. And a deep shame overcame him. And, taking heart, closed his eyes, breathed a deep breath, ran toward the fire —
----------------------------------and leapt.

The fire blazed and it rose and it fumed and it sputtered and sparked. And from its blaze rose the heart of the Beautiful God and became a second sun and stood close by Tonatiuh, the new Sun.

And the gods said, “This is not good. If there are two suns and both stand, burning so fiercely, in one spot, all upon the earth will be scorched and burned and the corn cannot grow and none of the animals, including humankind, will be able to live.”

And Quetzalcoatl, Lord of the Wind, said, “This is so.” And he put on his Wind Mask and took a deep breath and blew a hard wind that set the two suns moving across the sky.

And the gods were amazed and they said, “This is not good; it cannot be, for if we have two suns equally bright following so closely one upon the other, all will scorch and burn, wither and die.”

And Quetzalcoatl said, “It is so.” And seeing a hare hop among the grasses and the prickly-pears nearby, he ran after it, chased it down, caught it by the ears and, with all his might, swung it over his head and threw it at the second sun, hitting him round on the face.

Immediately the light of the second sun was dimmed and his flight slowed so that he followed a goodly pace behind Tonatiuh, the new Sun. And the gods said, “This is good. The second sun will be the Moon and he will follow the new Sun who will rule the day a goodly pace behind and light up the darkness of the night.” And it was so.

And because he was ashamed, the Moon had to make penance and atone for his pride and his lack of courage. So he fasts and when he does, he is seen to become, from his plump and beautiful self, thinner and thinner until he is a mere sliver, a shadow of himself. And then he breaks his fast and again grows plump and beautiful until he fasts again.

But even when he is plump and beautiful, one can still see the mark left by the rabbit where it struck his face long ago in Teotihuacan, where the gods are born.

© Rafael Jesús González 2007

[Commissioned by the Oakland Public Library, Oakland, California, while the author was Poet in Residence under the Writers on Site Program of Poets & Writers, Inc. and a grant from The James Irvine Foundation, 1996. Author's copyrights.]

the Nahua Moon

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Independence of Mexico from Spain/Hispanic (Latino) Heritage Month

© Rick Hulbert 2007

----------------To an Old Woman

Come, mother -
------your rebozo trails a black web
------and your hem catches on your heels,
you lean the burden of your years
on shaky cane, and palsied hand pushes
-------sweat-grimed pennies on the counter.
Can you still see, old woman,
the darting color-trailed needle of your trade?
-----The flowers you embroider
-----with three-for-a-dime threads
cannot fade as quickly as the leaves of time.
-----What things do you remember?
Your mouth seems to be forever tasting
the residue of nectar hearted years.
Where are the sons you bore?
------Do they speak only English now
------and say they're Spanish?
One day I know you will not come
and ask for me to pick
the colors you can no longer see.
-------I know I’ll wait in vain
for your toothless benediction.
-------I’ll look into the dusty street
-------made cool by pigeons’ wings
until a dirty child will nudge me and say:
-------“Señor, how mush ees thees?”

-----------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

(New Mexico Quarterly, Vol. XXXI no. 4, 1960;
in When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple; Sandra Martz, Ed.;
Papier-Mache Press, Watonsville, Ca. 1996; author’s copyrights.)

------------------A Una Anciana

Venga, madre —
-----su rebozo arrastra telaraña negra
-----y sus enaguas le enredan los tobillos;
apoya el peso de sus años
en trémulo bastón y sus manos temblorosas
-----empujan sobre el mostrador centavos sudados.
¿Aún todavía ve, viejecita,
la jara de su aguja arrastrando colores?
-----Las flores que borda
-----con hilazas de a tres-por-diez
no se marchitan tan pronto como las hojas del tiempo.
-----¿Qué cosas recuerda?
Su boca parece constantemente saborear
los restos de años rellenos de miel.
-----¿Dónde están los hijos que parió?
¿Hablan ahora solamente inglés
y dicen que son hispanos?
----Sé que un día no vendrá
----a pedirme que le que escoja
----los matices que ya no puede ver.
Sé que esperaré en vano
----su bendición sin dientes.
Miraré hacia la calle polvorienta
refrescada por alas de paloma
hasta que un chiquillo mugroso me jale de la manga
y me pregunte,
-----------------— Señor, how much is this? —

---------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

(On September 13, 2007 the United Nations adopted a declaration upholding the rights of indigenous people. Four nations, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand voted against the declaration. All four are English-speaking nations.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rosh Hashanah & Ramdan

- -
On the dark of the ninth month, at the new moon, comes the time for atonement, for penance and fasting.

Remember that often our greatest sins are those we commit in the name of our gods by whatever names we might address them, call them to witness, to protect us, to assist us in destroying the other. Beware that what we call god is not but a veil to cover our fears, our prejudices, our blasphemies.


These are the days of awe —
time of inventory
-----and a new beginning
when harvest of what we sowed
-----comes in.
(What have we sown
------of discord & terror?
Where have we fallen short
------of justice?)

The scales dip & teeter;
there is so much
to discard,
so much to atone.

When our temples stood
we loaded a goat
-----with our transgressions
----------and sent it to the wild.
Now we must search our pockets
for crumbs of our trespasses,
our sins to cast upon the rivers.

The days are upon us
-----to take stock of our hearts.
----------It is time to dust
the images of our household gods,
-----our teraphim,
----------------------our lares.

-------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

(Arabesques Review, vol. 3 no . 3, 2007; author’s copyrights)


Estos son los días de temor —
tiempo del inventario
-----y un nuevo comienzo
cuando la cosecha de lo que sembramos
(¿Qué hemos sembrado
------de discordia y terror?
¿Dónde hemos fallado
-------en la justicia?)

Las balanzas se inclinan y columpian;
hay tanto de que deshacerse,
tanto por lo cual expiar.

Cuando estaban en pie nuestros templos
cargábamos una cabra
-----con nuestros pecados
----------y la echábamos al desierto.
Ahora tenemos que buscar en los bolsillos
las migas de nuestras faltas,
nuestros pecados para echarlos a los ríos.

Están sobre nosotros los días
-----para hacer inventario del corazón.
----------Es tiempo de sacudir
las imagines de nuestros dioses domésticos,
------nuestros térafim,
---------------------------nuestros lares.

----------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007


The ninth month
when the new moon
------barely appears
the fasting begins
and the penance
until a white thread
is distinguished
from a black one.

When will that be?

------© Rafael Jesús González 2007


En el noveno mes
cuando la luna nueva
----apenas se asoma
empieza el ayuno
y la penitencia
hasta que un hilo blanco
se distinga de un hilo negro.

¿Cuándo será?

------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11

The date of September 11 is a day of tragedy for more than one reason.

photo by Marty Lederhandler AP

It was on this day in 2001 that the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York were destroyed bringing in a new era of fascism in the United States and launching the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, the nation is deep in an illegal, immoral, and untenable war making the world infinitely more vulnerable to terrorism by nations (such as the U. S.) and organizations (such as al-Qaeda.) On that day, I wrote

Love & Thoughts to my Friends on a Dark Day

Since early this morning when a friend from New England called with the news of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York, I have been in a daze, too stunned to sort out my feelings, my thoughts except for confirmation of my deep abhorrence of violence. Certainly pain and anger are there — and great fear.

I have not been able to get through to my friends in New York nor to my friends in Washington, D.C.; I do not know if they are well or not.

And despite the images on television, there is disbelief. How could it happen here? How could it happen to us? The mightiest contemporary nation, the current most powerful empire is vulnerable. Seeing the images of the twin towers, symbol of the greatest wealth and power on Earth, flaming, smoking, and finally collapsing against the skyline of monoliths that is New York made me think, in the midst of the horror of it all, of Goliaths falling in the plain. The Earth is shaken by their fall; the death, the pain suffered by so many through their fall wrings the heart. I am stunned by the pain of it.

But who the Davids are we do not know. Certainly not heroes to me nor to any one I know; villains rather. Davids in size only. But still, seeing some televised images of jubilation in parts of Palestine/Israel, they must be heroes to some — and to some in other places of the world as well.

Terrorism is a frightful term; even more horrible is its reality. What does it mean? Webster’s New World Dictionary succinctly defines it as: 1) use of terror and violence to intimidate, subjugate, etc., especially as a political weapon or policy; and 2) intimidation and subjugation produced in this way. Terror.

I see those images of jubilation on the television and I wonder what could induce such elation at such destruction, such death, such suffering. Terror. Terror like that in New York today except on a smaller scale, day to day terror at the hands of Israeli soldiers, and terror in response, and then more terror in retaliation — a story without end.

The day to day terror in Iraq with children ill and no medicine with which to treat them, little food to give them. The day to day terror in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. The day to day terror in so many parts of Latin America, of Asia, of everywhere. A policy, a political weapon to subjugate.

And who has most to gain by it? A hundred images come to mind, but a simple, nagging cipher blinks on and off against them all: we in the United States are six percent (6%) of the world’s people and yet we consume sixty percent (60%) of what the Earth gives. (And, we hold the highest proportion of our people in prison.) These are formulas of terror.

And we are vulnerable. And I think — the only protection is justice. The only protection is to be so just, so fair that none would wish us ill. No, not even the gods are so just, but if only we tried. If only we concerned ourselves with sharing the Earth’s wealth with everyone of our brothers and sisters. If only we honored the Earth and protected her so that she might continue to sustain us. If only we honored each other. If only we honored life.

I would like to think that we could respond to this horror in New York and Washington, D.C. with a commitment to justice for the world. Not merely the primitive, crude vengeance and retaliation I hear demanded, but true justice that would put an end to terror, not only the terror such as that of this day in New York and in the Capital, but the day to day terror of hunger, of lack of medicine, lack of shelter, of education, of freedom and the violence all that brings. Terror.

But what I see does not make me hopeful. I am afraid. I am afraid of our institutionalized terrorism, our policies of terror that hold the world in thrall. I am afraid of the man in the office of President of the United States who was not elected into office, afraid of his associates, afraid of the Supreme Court which has broken its trust as impartial interpreter of the law of the land. I am afraid of this President who would destroy the Earth for the profit of it, who insists upon an insane system of nuclear “defense” to further enforce a policy of terror.

I am afraid for the peoples of the world. I am just as afraid for us citizens of this United States. I am afraid that the tragedy of today will be used to justify the destruction of what freedom, what civil liberties we have, of a democracy for which clearly the President of the United States and his ilk have no respect.

I am afraid of Goliaths and of the Davids they breed.

But still, more deeply rooted than my fear is my love of the Earth and of its people and of all our relations. Because of this, I trust that our work toward justice and peace will go on in joy of life and that, for all the darkness, it will prevail.

Berkeley, September 11, 2001

© Rafael Jesús González 2007

--------------- The Towers
------------September 11, 2001

The towers fall as if,
-----seen through crossed eyes,
a Goliath fell brought down by a David.

Behind the myths
-----who of us is the guilty?
---------Who the innocent?
What is the distance
-----between justice and vengeance?

Death is inevitable, not fair.
And when the innocent are caught
in the webs of violence, it is terrible.

May the Earth hold them in rest.
If we would make a monument
worthy of their deaths,
in honor & memory of them,
let us pledge ourselves
----- to freedom,
----- true justice,
------world peace.

For if death be not just
let just be our lives.

----------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

(Abalone Moon, Nov. 6, 2oo7; author's copyrights)

photo by Marty Lederhandler AP

------------Las Torres
---------11 septiembre 2001

Se derriban las torres como
-----si visto por ojos cruzados,
cayera un Goliat abatido por un David.

Detrás de los mitos
-----¿quiénes somos los culpables?
----------¿quiénes los inocentes?
¿Cual es la distancia
------entre la justicia y la venganza?

La muerte es inevitable, no justa.
Y cuando los inocentes caen
en las redes de la violencia, es terrible.

Que la Tierra los tenga en descanso.
Si monumento hiciéramos
digno de sus muertes
en honor y memoria de ellos
-----a la libertad,
-----a la justicia verdadera,
-----a la paz mundial.

Que si la muerte no es justa,
justas sean nuestras vidas.

----------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

(Abalone Moon, noviembre 6, 2007;
derechos reservados del autor)

On a more personal level, it was on September 11, 1991 that my beloved friend and comadre, scholar, organizer, activist Guillermina Valdés de Villalva was killed when a Continental Airlines airplane crashed near Houston, Texas. Sick with pain and rage, I wrote

Huehuecóyotl, © Rafael Jesús González 2007

---Advertencia De Coyote

-----------------------para Guille

Siempre lucharé por lo bueno,
corazón en el hocico,
un grito en el corazón
y el corazón en el grito.
Por eso anoche bailé,
-----tiré la chancla,
---------wriggled my butt,
--------------meneé el culo
hasta las horas escuincles
de la madrugada
porque tal como a algunos nos toca
hacer penitencia por otros
a otros nos toca hacer
la gracia por los demás
y por eso les prometo
que seguiré meneando el culo
hasta que ya no lo pueda
y mantendré verde el rabo
hasta que me lo tape la tierra.

---------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

Guillermina Valdés

---------Coyote’s Notice
--------------------------for Guille

I will always struggle for the good,
heart in the snout,
a cry in the heart
& the heart in the shout.
Thus I danced last night,
-----tiré la chancla,
---------wriggled my butt,
--------------meneé el culo
until the puppy hours
of the morning
because such as it is for some
to do penance for others
for others it is up to us
to make grace for the rest
& so I promise
I will continue to wriggle my butt
until I cannot
& I will keep my tail green
until it is covered by dust.

---------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

It was on September 11, 1973 that the U. S. C.I.A. instigated military coup in Chile overthrew the legally elected and popular government of Salvador Allende initiating an era of brutal dictatorship and bloodshed. President Allende was murdered as was the poet-compose Víctor Jara among thousands of others. The aging poet Pablo Neruda was held under house arrest where he died soon after.

--------Rastro de la gota
----------------------a Pablo Neruda


Te recuerdo en Holanda
donde las rosas carecen de olor
y el alma que le diste a la máquina
no conoce a la gente.
Tu vicio es vicio de amar
y en tu lengua hasta el cardo
-----sabe dar miel —
hay sangre como la de Federico
-----que sabe doler.
Pero aquí las pupilas son de vidrio
y la desesperación es una gota de agua
que se escurre por los canales dorados,
no de limones sino de hojas muertas.


Hace nueve años que en Holanda
te compuse un verso —
----lleno de agua, hojas secas
----y visión de limones.

Era noviembre —
--------------------es ahora octubre —
el diez cuento mis treinta y ocho
y te has muerto.

Te pienso amapolas y geranios —
el cuero de España y Chile ensangrentado —
hambre, sed,
---------------uvas y luceros.
Hay inventarios en mis huesos
y ortigas en los surcos de mis dedos.

Poeta — me faltan azucenas de consuelo.
------Poeta — me duele Chile
-----------como una punzada en el cerebro.
------Poeta — estoy entumido;
lo único que siento es que has muerto.

-----------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

------(El hacedor de juegos/The maker of Games;
-------Casa Editorial, San Francisco 1977;
-------derechos reservados del autor.)

---------Track of the Drop

---------------------------to Pablo Neruda


I remember you in Holland
where the roses lack color
& the soul you gave the machine
does not know the people.
Yours is the vice of loving
& on your tongue even the thistle
----knows how to give honey —
there is blood like that of Federico
----that knows how to hurt.
But here the pupils are of glass
& despair is a drop of water
that runs through the canals golden,
not with lemons but dead leaves.


It has been nine years that in Holland,
I wrote you a poem —
------full of water, dry leaves
------& a vision of lemons.

It was November —
--------------------now it is October —
on the tenth I count my thirty-eighth
& you have died.

I think you poppies & geraniums —
the skin of Spain & bloodied Chile —
hunger, thirst,
----------------grapes & stars.
There are inventories in my bones
& nettles in the furrows of my fingers.

Poet — I lack lilies of consolation.
-----Poet — Chile pains me
--------------like a sting in the brain.
-----Poet — I am numb;
the only thing I feel is that you are dead.

--------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

(Laughing Unicorn, Fall 1980; author’s copyrights)

Pablo Neruda

The death of poet musician Víctor Jara has become a legend, almost a popular myth. It is told that being held in the Stadium of Santiago de Chile among the multitude of political prisoners, he took his guitar and began to sing. His songs being so popular, the other prisoners accompanied him. The guards then grabbed his guitar and stomped it to pieces under their boots. Then with their bayonets they cut off Victor’s hands. According to the story, Victor continued singing until, his blood draining into the sand, he died.

jacket of one of Víctor Jara's albums

-----------Las manos

-----------------------a Víctor Jara

Cada cuerda rota
una de seis flechas pintadas
que el arco de tu voz lanza
contra la injuria —
cada dedo un punzón
en la conciencia

---cada gota una nota contra el silencio.

Caen las aves negras,
sus plumas nieve enlutada,
en la memoria
donde la sangre hierve

---cada gota una nota contra el silencio.

Las manos caen en la arena,
cada una una fuente roja
que corre hacia un mar sin islas

---cada gota una nota contra el silencio.

Hermano, los gorriones se espichan;
se han roto los cántaros del tiempo
y tu canto corre por el mundo entero

---cada gota una nota contra el silencio:

---cuando la sangre crece alas
---se le llama libertad

---cada gota una nota contra el silencio.

--------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

Víctor Jara

----------The Hands

----------------------to Víctor Jara

Each broken string
one of six painted arrows
the bow of your voice sends
against outrage —
each finger a lance
in the conscience

---each drop a note against silence.

The black birds fall,
their feathers snow in mourning,
upon memory
where the blood boils

---each drop a note against silence.

The hands fall on the sand,
each a red fountain
that runs toward a sea without islands

---each drop a note against silence.

Brother, the sparrows grow shy;
the jars of time have broken
& your song runs through the world

---each drop a note against silence:

---when the blood grows wings
---it is called freedom

---each drop a note against silence.

------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

(Second Coming, Vol. 14 no. 1, 1986;
The Montserrat Review #4, 2002;
nominated for Pushcart Prize;
author’s copyrights)

* * *

Now September 11 is to be celebrated as a day of pain and infamy which only our work toward justice and peace may redeem.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


A visitor to, say, Sienna, might be hard put to find an expatriate from the U.S. living there, but s/he would have no trouble finding a McDonald’s serving up the same hamburger as in San Francisco, California. And I dare say that even a Tuscan not from Sienna able to identify the heraldic devices of the various wards is quite rare, but rare indeed would be the Italian who could not identify the twin arches or on a field gules.

Such is the globalization of unbridled capitalism that the United States and the multinational corporations are hell-bent on imposing upon the world, while immigrants fleeing into the ‘First World’ from the poverty fomented by such capitalism in the ‘Third world” (there is no longer any ‘Second’) are increasingly discriminated against and persecuted.


(in memory of my comadre Guillermina Valdés de Villalva,
Lady of the Border)*

Born and raised on the border of Cd. Juárez/El Paso, it seems I am destined to borders. Indeed, I now live straddling the border of another couple of cities, cooking my meals in Berkeley and sitting to eat them in Oakland. Mine is a life of borders; I straddle them all and in given circumstances they blur, diffuse, dissolve — racial, cultural, linguistic, philosophical, sexual, emotional, artistic, spiritual, political, what have you. I know borders, and I do not believe in them. So I guess I am a globalist; for a long time, I have considered myself a citizen of the world.

But borders, artificial and arbitrary though they be, exist and are enforced. Even so, borders are permeable, selectively permeable though they most often are. With family on both sides of the Río Grande, growing up with dual-citizenship (until I joined the U.S. Navy just out of high school) and being completely bilingual, I went back and forth between Mexico and the United States with ease and freedom. (Ironically, the only problem I ever encountered was when I returned to El Paso many years later. Driving back from Juárez late after a party one night, I was ordered out of my car and slavering dogs were let loose in it sniffing for drugs while I was stripped searched; I wore my hair rather long then and it made no difference to the custom officers that I was Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso. I can still taste that humiliation, helplessness, and rage.)

I realized even as a youth that my ease with borders was a privilege granted me by circumstance, the class to which I belonged. My family was known in Cd. Juárez and in El Paso and my privilege was attested to by my very speech. I knew the permeability of borders and I also knew that permeability was selective. No gringo (U.S. citizen) was ever refused entrance into Juárez that I ever heard of, but many Mexicans less privileged than I were refused entry into El Paso every day. (I use the word “gringo,” roughly meaning “foreigner,” as an entirely neutral appellative. You see, the citizen of the United States does not have a proper name. The term “American” belongs to everyone and everything in this hemisphere from Alaska to Patagonia, and the U.S. citizen has no legitimate exclusive claim to it at all. In want of a proper name, gringo will have to do.)

Borders have always been a passionate topic, long, long before the first stone was ever laid for the Great Wall in China, but borders is a particularly hot topic in the age of “globalization” where nations (and the corporations, the powers behind them, or at least ours) talk of relaxing them. What they really mean, is making them more permeable, selectively permeable, of course. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) no one is in any doubt but that it is the United States who calls the shots. At least it is so on the border of my birth where the maquiladoras (assembly plants) of mostly U.S. companies have wreaked such havoc, economic, cultural, environmental. According to a survey of the Economic Policy Institute, since NAFTA was implemented after January 1, 1994, what we see are “a continent-wide pattern of stagnant worker incomes, lost job opportunities, increased insecurity, and rising inequality.” Pollution in all three countries has continued to rise, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border where maquiladoras are wide-spread.

Globalization, the relaxing of borders, is only a scheme to make borders more selectively permeable to benefit the haves at the expense of the have-nots. What else is new? The only difference is that the sovereignty of governments becomes subordinate to the power (and cupidity) of corporations, of unbridled capitalism. It is a question of power. The United States is adamant in protecting its borders, but it has never been scrupulous in honoring the borders of other nations, especially those of Latin America. Intervention is endemic to us and the Monroe Doctrine is little more than staking a claim. The fact is that we do not even have to recur to the Monroe Doctrine in order to intervene in countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Bolivia, Columbia, Panama and others throughout the Americas, not to mention others outside the American hemisphere.

Certainly I think trade is beneficial, the exchange of goods that a country produces for goods produced by another country. Sugar cane does not grow in Maine and blue-berries do not grow in Cuba — let’s trade and let borders blur. But it has to be a trade and a blurring between people in their full sovereignty, which means that environmental and social guarantees (human rights as defined by the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights) are in place and enforced. That is the root of the confrontation that occurred in Genoa — and Seattle, Washington, Montreal, Barcelona, and that will take place in other cities in which such meetings to globalize trade may be held.

International trade and the power of corporations aside, the seamless nature of the environment and the Earth aside, borders in the electronic age are made even more untenable by a technology of instant communication, an internet that functions almost like an artificial nervous system further breaching borders, attenuating them, dissolving them, at least as far as traffic in information is concerned.

Here, too, permeation of borders is selective. And as with me growing up at the pass, El Paso, language constitutes the passport, the proof of privilege. Apart from the cost of computers (few people in Mexico have them, many in the U.S. do; the rich have them, the poor do not) it is language that decides the permeability of national borders. It is not only a matter of Spanish, English, Italian, Náhuatl, Maya-Quiché, Guaraní, but the creation of a lingua franca like that of mathematics available to all.

Such a language is in the making, the language of the computer, Computerese if you will. It is a created language and its creation is in the hands of a techno-priestly class whose pope is Bill Gates. All written languages at their beginnings (and arguably their ends) are the domain of the empowered and highly protected by its high-priests throughout history, the Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Chinese ideograms, the Celtic runes, the Latin alphabet, the Nahua pictographs, the Maya texts, a monopoly of those in power. Micro-Soft’s is a protected monopoly, patented, enforced.

As with all language, it creates a cosmology, a consciousness, that can easily be as restricting as it can be liberating. Until the creation, the modification of computer language (or languages) is shared by everyone equally, it will create boundaries, borders, even as it breaches them. (I say this as one hardly literate in computers, distrustful and resentful of those who own the processes, control them, stifle others for the immense profit of it. Thank the gods for the protestors of “globalization,” also for the hackers, Luddites many, guerrillas with their viral Trojan horses undermining the citadels of Micro-Soft and their ilk, with many of us, to be sure, caught in the middle.)

Such it is with borders, and with living on them. Let them dissolve. There is no protection but that of sharing power and the wealth of the Earth. The Earth is one seamless whole; let us be part of it in a sensible, humane way and share in its riches equitably with all our relations (human, animal, plant, mineral) in justice (environmental, economic, political, civil) without which there can be no peace. No other way is acceptable. Let borders exist when they are useful toward this end. When justice and peace become the goals of globalization, borders will dissolve of themselves. Meanwhile I have resigned myself to borders, straddle them, blur them, and dissolve them wherever I can — and work toward justice and peace.

------------------------------------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2007

----------------------------------------------------Berkeley, Alta California

* Guillermina Valdés (1940-1991) among many other things, founder & director of the Colegio de la Frontera, a border-studies institute in Cd. Juárez with branches in Tijuana, and other border cities; and founder/director of the Centro de Orientación para la Mujer Obrera, dealing with women’s issues on the border, especially of the women workers in the maquiladoras (assembly plants), was killed September 11, 1991 in a Continental Airlines crash near Houston, Texas, returning from inaugurating a Colegio de la Frontera in Piedras Negras, Coahuila.

12/15/39 - 9/11/91

* * *

[first published (Spanish & English) in Wired On Line, San Francisco, August 24, 2001; author’s copyrights. Translated into Japanese and included in War and Our World, Koichi Edagawa, Ed.; Taiyo-Kikaku Shuppan Publishing, Tokyo 2003.]