Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Celebrating Memorial Day we remember those fallen on the battle field — and also the, more-often-than-not, foolish and/or villainous reasons for the wars in which they fell. Major among such is the continuing illegal, immoral, and untenable U.S. occupation in Iraq. And the war in Afghanistan. And others. Grieving for those who die in perpetual wars, both combatants and civilians, I share with you some thoughts from my notebook from the summer of 2006 when I was in Washington D.C. and visited the Vietnam War Memorial. We again find ourselves as a nation in continuing wars that waste lives and resources. If we truly honored our war dead, we would find other means by which to solve our conflicts.

My first day in Washington D.C., in the heat of August, straight from the Museum of the American Indian, wearing my T-shirt picturing the Apache Jerónimo and his armed companions and reading, “Homeland Security, Fighting Terrorism since 1492”, I walk down the Mall, skirt the obelisk of the Washington Monument, down the reflecting pool, past the white marble Greek temple of the Lincoln Monument, to the Viet-Nam Wall —a pilgrimage to the memorial to “my war,” mine not because I fought in it, but because I fought against it — heart, mind, and soul.

My intent, a kind of penance, like saying the rosary, is to start at one end to the other and read each and every one of the 58,245 names, imagining a face, an age, a history, a life. I know it will be hard, but do not think it impossible (not one of the five million names of the Vietnamese dead are even alluded to.) I start with one name, John H. Anderson Jr. (PFC, 19 years of age, dead May 25, 1968, I later look up in the log), then several, increasing exponentially. It becomes more and more difficult to focus, the faces, the figures of families, lovers, tourists reflected moving against the mirroring black granite Wall is a distraction, their chatter, at times their laughter, an intrusion upon my meditations. As the Wall grows longer, rises higher and higher toward the center, the names crowd upon each other, pile up high and tight, at times difficult to distinguish, I do not know if for the numbers, the height, for the glare of the sun, or for the tears welling in my eyes. The names, the letters blur, run together.

I begin to skim, to let my attention chance upon a name, a Smith, a Cohen, a Bankowski, an O’Mally, a Chan, certainly a González here and there — every European and many another culture represented by a name. How came they to be there, what history of need, what myth or dream of theirs, or of some recent or distant ancestor, brought them to be “American” and die in a war without sense or reason?

After a time my reading becomes cursory, I occasionally stop, kneel to pick up and read a letter, a note of testimonial — of love, of remembrance — left at the foot of the Wall by some surviving wife, sweetheart, mother, father, son, daughter, nephew, niece, friend. A flag here and there, a flower (mostly artificial, a few in soda bottles, wilting in the heat.)

My mind gradually becomes numb, at times almost hallucinatory, wonders —imagines seeing the name there of a moneyed coward with powerful political connections that now inhabits a white house not far away.

* -----*----- *

They say the dead live on for as long as they are remembered. How many of these names etched here are still remembered? A few people, holding scraps of paper against the black stone make rubbings. Most hurry by, the kids impatient to reach the end, the names picked there not interesting enough to hold their attention. The names.

Last year, Xochipilli, my men’s ritual group, in collaboration with the ‘Faces of the War Project,’ created an ofrenda to the Victims of War, for the Días de los Muertos Community Celebration at the Oakland Museum of California. The ofrenda stood against the walls lined with the photographs and names of the U. S. soldiers dead in Iraq, the names, without the photographs, of the Iraqi dead. The names, still fresh, living in recent memory. Another war, as senseless, as irredeemable as that of Viet-Nam. I am tired, my face wet with sweat and tears I do not bother to wipe away. Tourists look at me, respectfully keep their distance, look away. They sense that this, that of Viet-Nam, is my war; I do not know if my shirt gives them a clue as to why.

* -----*----- *

I reach the other end of the Wall, Jessie Charles Alba (Sgt., aged 20, dead May 25, 1968, the middle of the war.)

* -----*----- *

Retracing my way up the reflecting pool, I must climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial from which Marian Anderson once sang, from which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of his dream. I stand before the colossal figure of Lincoln enthroned and read his words chiseled into the white marble to his right: “ . . . a government of the people, for the people, by the people . . .” A pious hope devoutly to be wished.
Washington D.C.; August 15, 2006

© Rafael Jesús González 2010

.Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

Celebrando el Día de la Conmemoración recordamos a los caídos en el campo de batalla — y también las, más que menos, razones necias y/o villanas por las guerras en que calleron. Mayor entre tales es la presente ilegal, inmoral e insostenible ocupación de los Estados Unidos en Irak. Y la guerra en Afganistan. Y otras. Lamentando aquellos que mueren en guerras perpetuas, ambos combatientes y civiles, comparto con ustedes algunos pensamientos de mi cuaderno de notas del verano de 2006 cuando estuve en Washington D.C. y visité el monumento a la guerra en Vietnam. Una vez más nos encontramos como nación en guerras continuas que desperdician vidas y recursos. Si verdaderamente honráramos a nuestros muertos en guerra econtraríamos otras maneras de resolver nuestros conflictos.

Reflexiones sobre el Muro

El primer día en Washington D.C., en el calor de agosto, justo del Museo del Indio Americano, llevo mi camiseta con la imagen del apache Jerónimo y sus compañeros armados que lee, “Homeland Security, Luchando contra el Terrorismo desde 1492.” Camino por la alameda, el Mall, rodeo el obelisco del monumento a Washington, sigo la alberca, paso el templo griego de mármol blanco del monumento a Lincoln, al Muro de Vietnam — peregrinaje al monumento a “mi guerra,” mía no porque luché en ella, sino porque luché en oposición de ella — corazón, mente y alma.

Mi intención, un tipo de penitencia, como decir el rosario, es empezar de una punta a la otra y leer cada uno y todos los 58, 245 nombres, imaginándome un rostro, una edad, una historia, una vida. Sé que será difícil, pero no lo creo imposible (ni siquiera se alude ni a uno de los cinco millones de nombres de los vietnamitas muertos.) Empiezo con un nombre, John H. Anderson Jr. (PFC, 19 años de edad, muerto el 25 de mayo 1968, más tarde busco en la lista), luego varios, aumentando exponentemente. Se me hace más y más difícil enfocarme, las caras, las figuras de familias, amantes, turistas reflejados moviéndose contra el espejo del Muro de granito negro es una distracción, su parloteo, a veces su risa, una intrusión en mis meditaciones. A grado que el Muro se hace más largo, se eleva más y más alto hacia el centro, los nombres se amontonan uno sobre el otro, se amontonan alto y apretado, a veces difíciles de distinguir, no sé si por la cantidad, la altura, el relumbre del sol o las lágrimas que me llenan los ojos. Los nombres, las letras se borran, se corren una contra la otra.

Empiezo a pasar los nombres por en cima, dejar mi atención caer sobre un nombre u otro, un Smith, un Cohen, un Bankowski, un O’Mally, un Chan, indudablemente un González aquí y allá — toda cultura Europea y muchas otras representadas por un nombre. ¿Cómo llegaron a estar allí, que historia de necesidad, que mito o sueño suyo, o de algún antepasado reciente o lejano, los trajeron a ser “americano” y morir en una guerra sin sentido o razón?

Después de algún tiempo mi lectura se hace superficial, paro de vez en cuando, me arrodillo a levantar y leer una carta, una nota de testimonio — de amor, de recuerdo — depositada al pie del Muro por algún sobreviviente, esposa, novia, madre, padre, hijo, sobrino, sobrina, amigo. Una bandera aquí y allá, una flor (la mayoría artificiales, unas cuantas en botellas de refresco, marchitándose en el bochorno.)

La mente se me entume gradualmente, a veces casi halucinante, se desvía — imagina ver allí el nombre de un cobarde adinerado con conexiones políticas poderosas que ahora habita una casa blanca no lejos de aquí.

* ------*------ *

Dicen que los muertos viven mientras sean recordados. ¿Cuántos de los nombres aquí grabados son aun recordados? Algunas personas, poniendo trozos de papel contra la piedra negra hacen borradores. La mayoría se apresuran, los muchachos impacientes a llegar al final, los nombres cincelados allí no lo suficiente interesantes para captarles la atención. Los nombres.

El año pasado, Xochipilli, mi grupo de hombres dedicado a la ceremonia, en colaboración con el ‘Proyecto Rostros de la Guerra’, montó una ofrenda a las víctimas de la guerra para la Celebración Comunitaria del Día de Muertos en el Museo de California en Oakland. La ofrenda se puso contra las paredes cubiertas de las fotografías y nombres de los soldados estadounidenses muertos en Irak, los nombres, sin fotografías, de los muertos Iraki. Los nombres, aun frescos, vivientes en la memoria reciente. Otra guerra, tan insensata, tan irredimible como la de Vietnam. Estoy cansado, la cara húmeda de sudor y llanto que no me preocupo de limpiar. Me miran los turistas, respetuosamente guardan la distancia, alejan la mirada. Sienten que esta, la de Vietnam, es mi guerra; no sé si mi camiseta les sugiera por que.

* ------*------ *

Llego al otro extremo del Muro, Jessie Charles Alba (Sgt., 20 años de edad, muerto el 25 de mayo 1968, a mediados de la guerra.)

* ------*------ *

Retrazando mis pasos a lo largo de la alberca, me siento obligado a subir los escalones del monumento a Lincoln desde los cuales Marian Anderson una vez cantó, desde los cuales Martin Luther King, Jr. habló de su sueño. Paro ante la figura colosal de Lincoln entronizado y leo sus palabras cinceladas en el mármol blanco a su derecha: “. . . un gobierno del pueblo, para el pueblo, del pueblo . . .” Esperanza pía devotamente anhelada.
Washington D.C.; 15 de agosto 2006

© Rafael Jesús González 2010-

Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892)


----------------------73. Full of Life, Now

Full of life, now, compact, visible,
I, forty years old the Eighty-third Year of The States,
To one a century hence, or any number of centuries hence,
To you, yet unborn, these, seeking you.

When you read these, I, that was visible, am become invisible;
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems, seeking me;
Fancying how happy you were, if I could be with you, and become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now with you.)

Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass

73. Lleno de vida ahora

Lleno de vida ahora, compacto, visible,
Yo, cuarenta años de edad el octogésimo tercer año de los estados,
A uno un siglo más tarde, o cualquier número de siglos más tarde,
A ti, aun sin nacer, estos, buscándote..

Cuando los leas, yo, que era visible, me he vuelto invisible;
Ahora eres tú, compacto, visible, actualizando mis poemas, buscándome;
Imaginando lo feliz que serías, si yo pudiera estar contigo, y me haría tu compañero;
Sea como si estuviera contigo. (No estés muy seguro que no esté yo contigo ahora.)

Walt Whitman, de Leaves of Grass (Hojas de hierba)
traducción al español de Rafael Jesús González 1980

Love Note to a Teacher

(on the bicentennial of the U.S.)

I, forty years old the 200th year of the States,
-------pick leaves of grass & wear them
-------in your honor,
------------------------Walt Whitman;
---your dream shows signs of coming to pass.

A great seer from the East walks among us
giving words said with the tongue of the mind,
a great seer in union with the Lord of Dissolution.

& your words are vindicated
& the flowers bloom
& the waters of the bay are holy.

Teacher: the width of my breast proves your own
--------but I do not destroy you;
------------honor does not destroy but augments.

----What is destroyed is the chaff,
----the useless equipage
----that burdens my affections.

--------We simplify, Walt Whitman —
------------we simplify & enrich,
----------------Walt Whitman.

-----------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2010

----------------------(Creative Intelligence 6; London; October 1975;
-------------------------------------author’s copyrights.)

Nota de amor a un maestro

(en el bicentenario de los EE. UU.)

Yo, cuarenta años de edad el dúo centeno año de los estados,
---------pisco hojas de césped y las llevo
---------en tu honor,
-----------------------Walt Whitman;
---------tu sueño da señas de cumplirse.

Un gran profeta del oriente camina entre nosotros
esparciendo palabras dichas con la lengua de la mente,
un gran profeta en unión con el Señor de la disolución

y tus palabras son vindicadas
y las flores florecen
y las aguas de la bahía son benditas.

Maestro: la anchura de mi pecho pone a prueba la tuya
-----------pero no te destruyo;
------------------el honor no destruye mas aumenta.

----Lo que se destruye es la cáscara,
----el equipaje inútil
----que cargan mis cariños.

--------Simplificamos, Walt Whitman —
-------------simplificamos y enriquecemos,
-----------------Walt Whitman.

-----------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2010


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Full moon: The Moon Is Demanded Me


Se me exige la luna

Se me exige la luna. Cuando por alguna razón, que esté en viaje o por preocupaciones o por males del alma (nunca por olvido) se me pasa una luna, los amigos me reclaman — ¿Dónde está mi luna? ¿Qué pasó con mi luna? — De la China, el Japón, Nueva Zelanda, de la India, Europa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Uruguay, Argentina,

Por alguna razón me he hecho responsable por el calendario, por el movimiento de los planetas, de advertir cuando la luna se hincha de luz. Entonces pregono como vendedor de globos — ¡He aquí la luna! ¡Aquí está su luna! — Y la ofrezco atada por un hilo de palabras.

Tal vez sea que haya acostumbrado mal a mis seres queridos que tanto dependan de mí por la luna.

Y cuando me haga achacoso, cuando muera ¿habrá otr@ lunátic@ que se preocupe por la luna y la bruña cuando llena o como a una flor la reviva con un rocío de palabras y pregone — ¡He aquí la luna! — ?

© Rafael Jesús González 2010

The Moon Is Demanded Me

The moon is demanded of me. When for some reason, I am away or preoccupied or because of ills of the soul (never for forgetfulness) a moon passes by me, friends demand, “Where is my moon? What happened to my moon?” From China, Japan, New Zealand, from India, Europe, Costa Rica, Cuba,
Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil.

For some reason, I have made myself responsible for the calendar, for the movement of the planets, for notifying when the moon swells with light. Then I proclaim like a seller of balloons, “Here is the moon! Here is your moon!” And offer it tied with a string of words.

Perhaps it may be that I have accustomed my loved ones badly to so much depend upon me for the moon.

And when I grow decrepit, when I die, will there be another lunatic that will care for the moon and polish it when full or like a flower revive it with a sprinkling of words and proclaim, “Here is the moon!”?

© Rafael Jesús González 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010



Los gemelos,
él con collar de esmeraldas,
ella con collar de perlas,
arrullan en sus brazos
------al aire inconstante
y en sus manos llevan
puños de azogue inquieto.
Miden la dualidad
y en su intelecto brillan
las luces lejanas de Mercurio.

----© Rafael Jesús González 2010


The twins,
he with a collar of emeralds,
she with a collar of pearls,
rock in their arms
------the inconstant air
& carry in their hands
fistfuls of restless quicksilver.
They measure duality
& in their intellect shine
the faraway lights of Mercury.

---------© Rafael Jesús González 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oakland Museum of California

Arts & Leisure

The redesigned Oakland Museum of California has renewed its mission
to engage the public.

Giving Museumgoers What They Want

Published: May 16, 2010

Oakland, Calif.

IN the last 20 years or so, "engage the public" has become one of the most common mantras of the museum business, an injunction to curators and designers to court their audiences with ever more seductive video displays, computer interactives and exhibition architecture. But here in a crime-challenged corner of the Bay Area, a modest civic institution dedicated to the art, history and natural sciences of California has been focused on its own version of that mission for a good deal longer.

Rue Flaherty/Oakland Museum of California
"Coming for Gold," an exhibit in the history gallery at the Oakland Museum of California.

The Oakland Museum of California was known as "the people's museum" even before it opened in 1969, in part because it took pains to consult with and otherwise reach out to its intended audience. Nearly four decades later, when the museum embarked on a four-and-a-half-year, $62 million renovation, its goals included an expansion of the art galleries, a rethinking of exhibits that had changed little since opening day and architectural improvements. But more than anything, said Lori Fogarty, the museum's director, the renovation was seen as "a huge opportunity to rethink how we're engaging the community."

Now that it is mostly done - the museum reopened on May 1, with only the first-floor science galleries still to be rehabilitated - that rethinking is being put to the test. Can a 21st-century upgrade raise the level of public engagement of a project that was already as determinedly populist as the original Oakland Museum?

The museum was initially conceived as a grand social experiment to rejuvenate the city center by melding the city's history, science and art institutions into a single complex. Financed by a $6.6 million public bond, it sought to incorporate some of the era's most forward-thinking ideas about museums by bringing objects from different disciplines together and using them to tell the story of a region. Individual object labels were jettisoned, and docents were trained to encourage visitors to discuss the work. And its ultramodern building, designed by the architect Kevin Roche to suggest a Babylonian terrace garden, had from the start been conceived as not just a public space but also a community center.

Because Oakland's population was about 40 percent black while the museum's governing board was entirely white, the director set up a 51-member Community Relations Advisory Council to make sure that a representative range of local voices was heard.

At first, this effort at engagement backfired. Oakland, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, was a hotbed of leftist radicalism and political turmoil; the year before, Huey P. Newton had been tried at the courthouse across the street in the killing of a police officer. A few weeks before the museum's opening, when the governing board learned of the advisory council, the museum's director was fired, a move that prompted weeks of protests and picket lines.

But the presence of some sort of local advisory group remained central to the museum's operations - members often came up with ideas for exhibitions and events - and in the 1990s these groups began to proliferate. The museum now has Latino, African-American, Asia-Pacific, American Indian and schoolteacher advisory councils, whose volunteer members consult with the staff on a range of matters like collection acquisitions and membership development. Community engagement received an additional boost after Ms. Fogarty was hired away from the Bay Area Discovery Museum, a children's museum she was running in Sausalito, in 2006. (She had previously been the deputy director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.) When she arrived, a relatively modest $24 million redesign was already being planned, but Ms. Fogarty urged the board to take things further.

"I really felt this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for any museum to have 90,000 square feet of gallery space to rethink and reinvent," she said. "I wanted us to be a new model for museums and try a lot of new approaches." The board was persuaded, and Ms. Fogarty, who started out her museum career as a fund-raiser for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, began a capital campaign whose goal soon escalated to $62 million, a figure she said she had finished raising in mid-April.

To serve as the lead creative consultant on the project, she tapped Kathleen McLean, an independent consultant known for innovative, interactive displays, including "Daniel's Story," the children's exhibit at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. (In 2006, the Association of American Museums named her one of the country's 100 most influential museum professionals of the last century.) As it happened, Ms. McLean had begun her career at the Oakland Museum in 1974, as a curator of community-generated shows. When offered the chance to return, she leapt at it.

Part of the plan Ms. McLean and the museum staff devised involved creating exhibits that could be modified easily. Unlike San Francisco and New York, "we're not a tourist destination," Ms. Fogarty said. "We need to have our local community come back, so our big challenge is to have people see that there's something different every time."

In the history galleries, that means presenting the objects and environments on inexpensive plywood stage sets that can be broken down quickly and redesigned. In the art collection galleries, it means ensuring that the work and the wall texts change frequently. "We want to emphasize that our galleries are not an encyclopedia, but an exercise in storytelling," said René de Guzman, the former director of visual arts at the popular Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, whom Ms. Fogarty hired as the new contemporary art curator.

Jeff Warrin/Oakland Museum of California
A Robert Hudson sculpture in the California art gallery.
Exhibits can be modified easily, to keep things fresh for return viewers.

The process they devised to achieve this was "not linear" and "much more messy" than the typical museum exhibition plan, Ms. Fogarty said, which is usually dreamed up by the curator, carried out by a designer and then presented as a fait accompli to the education staff.

Instead, teams of curators, educators and designers hammered out concepts and then, after running them past advisory councils, scholars and others, reconvened to finesse and consult again, over and over.

Ms. Fogarty said that her staff had also sought a dizzying amount of public input from the start. "I figure we've had more than 3,000 people and at least a couple of dozen different groups working with us on the project," she said, from community committees to individual members of the public who happened by at the right moment. (Although the history and art galleries closed in September 2008, much of the museum remained open through last August.)

Through polling and canvassing, the staff members discovered - to their surprise - that their visitors welcomed wall texts. "They wanted more information, and they were reading everything," Ms. McLean said. "It's an urban myth that people don't read labels - they just don't read really dull ones." So they added more, some with background information, others with more personal observations by conservators, scholars, local artists and writers, all of which are signed.

Staff members also learned that their public, which is now heavily Asian and Hispanic as well as black and white, isn't partial to the typical modernist space. At one stage, said Barbara Henry, the museum's chief curator of education, a youth advocate group complained that the art galleries were reminiscent of a hospital: "They said this is not a place where they would bring their friends." As a result, many of the walls are now brightly colored.

Terry Carroll/Oakland Museum of California
Rafael Jesús González installation, "Forces of Change, 1960-1975" at the newly renovated Oakland Museum of California.

Because their public also cherishes interaction - personal as well as technological - there are many opportunities for visitors to contribute to the exhibitions. A room lined with California portraits includes a computer station where people can sketch their own faces, which then play continuously on a framed monitor that hangs within the display. In the "Is It Art?" lounge in the contemporary art section, visitors are invited to vote on whether three aesthetically appealing objects - an American Indian cooking basket from California, a three-foot-high knot of bunchgrass and a mixed-media sculpture by the California artist Gyongy Laky - are art objects. In the history galleries, the Depression section is stocked with Post-it notes on which visitors can write suggestions for fixing a broken social system. Elsewhere, they can pinpoint family origins on a world map, contribute their own memories of the 1960s or pick their own music in the 1940s jukebox lounge.

Despite these many opportunities to interact with the displays and objects, only some of which are under glass and behind stanchions, there has been no damage so far. During the 31-hour opening, which saw visitors lined up throughout the night to get inside, Ms. McLean said, "there were so many opportunities for vandalism, and nothing happened." Instead, she noted, visitors were engaged in avid conversation, with each other and the staff - a striking contrast to the museum's tumultuous birth.

"I kept on going around and saying to people, 'This is it!' " Ms. McLean said. " 'This is the future of America - we can engage in civil discourse!' "

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day


----------------------Las Cobijas

--------------------------------------a Carmen González Prieto de González

Son olas las cobijas que me tejió mi madre;
sus manos las ondean,
manos jóvenes, uñas color, olor, forma de almendras;
manos maduras, fuertes, decisivas;
manos ancianas como arañas ciegas y precisas.
Cuenta y cuenta puntadas el gancho de la aguja,
cuentos de nunca acabar;
parece que crecen las cobijas,
----------------------------------se alargan
y amenazan inundar la casa.

Son una mezcla de sarapes de Saltillo
y tablas huicholas suaves y flexibles
con franjas coloridas anchas y ondulantes.
En sus pliegues y dobleces
parecen desplegarse las leyendas de los soles,
los cuentos de las creaciones,
las historias de los mundos y los dioses.
Son telas, redes de mil colores
para atrapar los sueños como peces
en los mares obscuros de las noches.
Hechizos de mi madre, adivinanzas,
misteriosos criptogramas de sus pensares,
¿qué penas amenguaban, que temores?
¿Qué sueños, qué recuerdos, qué emociones
guiaban sus dedos veloces y precisos
contando puntadas, produciendo estas mareas
de estambres pavorreales?

Ya muerta, sus manos quietas bajo tierra,
en mis sueños siguen creciendo las cobijas
y en las noches de invierno
cuando la lluvia gris asota las ventanas,
aun me abriga con arcos iris
mi madre.

--------------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2010

(Siete escritores comprometidos: obra y perfil; Fausto Avendaño, director;
Explicación de Textos Literarios vol. 34 anejo 1; diciembre 2007;
Dept. of Foreign Languages; California State University Sacramento;
derechos reservados del autor.)

Carmen González Prieto de González

-------------------The Blankets

----------------------------------a Carmen González Prieto de González

The blankets my mother knit for me are waves;
her hands stir them,
young hands, nails the color, smell, shape of almonds;
mature hands, strong & decisive;
old hands like spiders blind & precise.
The hook of the needle counts & counts stitches,
stories without end;
it seems the blankets grow,
& threaten to flood the house.

They are a cross between sarapes of Saltillo
& Huichol yarn paintings, pliant & soft
with wide & undulating colored bands.
In their pleats & folds
there seem to unfold the legends of the suns,
the creation stories,
the histories of the worlds & of the gods.
They are weavings, nets of a thousand colors
to trap dreams like fishes
in the dark seas of the nights.
Spells of my mother, riddles,
mysterious cryptograms of her thoughts;
what pains did they comfort, what fears?
What dreams, what memories, what feelings
guided her fingers fast & precise
counting stitches, producing these tides
of peacock yarns?

Now dead, her hands still beneath the earth,
in my dreams the blankets still grow
& in the winter nights
when the gray rain whips the windows,
my mother still covers me
with rainbows.

----------------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2010

(Rhetorics of the Americas, 3114 BCE to 1012 CE; Baca, Damián & Victor Villanueva;
Palgrave McMillan, New York 2010; author's copyrights)


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de mayo

© Rick Hulbert 2010

------------------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 2010

----------------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 2010

(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.)