Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

---En Domingo de Pascuas

Cuentan que en este día
determinado por el baile
de la Luna, el Sol, la Tierra,
---hace pocos siglos
un dios muerto resucitó.

No cosa inaudita
---que un dios hiciera
pero, no como su género
---y superando a su padre,
era a la vez bondadoso y justo.

Murió, dicen, traicionado.

Pero resucitó, dicen sus fieles,
---supongo por lo que veo,
---------sobrevive traicionado.

----------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

------On Easter Sunday

They tell that on this day
set by the dance
of the Moon, the Sun, the Earth,
a few centuries past
a dead god rose.

Not a thing unheard of
for a god to do,
but unlike his kind
and out-doing his father,
he was both kind and just.

He died, they say, betrayed.

But he rose, his faithful say,
from what I see,
survives betrayed.

-----© Rafael Jesús González 2011


Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

Si no hablamos

Si no hablamos para alabar a la Tierra,
es mejor que guardemos silencio.

Loa al aire
que llena el fuelle del pulmón
y alimenta la sangre
del corazón;
que lleva la luz,
el olor de las flores
y los mares,
los cantos de las aves
y el aullido del viento;
que conspira con la distancia
para hacer azul el monte.
Loa al fuego
que alumbra el día
y calienta la noche,
cuece nuestro alimento
y da ímpetu a nuestra voluntad;
que es el corazón de la Tierra,
este fragmento de lucero;
que quema y purifica
por bien o por mal.

Loa al agua
que hace a los ríos
y a los mares;
que da sustancia a la nube
y a nosotros;
que hace verde a los bosques
y los campos;
que hincha al fruto
y envientra nuestro nacer.

Loa a la tierra
que es el suelo, la montaña,
y las piedras;
que lleva los bosques
y es la arena del desierto;
que nos forma los huesos
y sala los mares, la sangre;
que es nuestro hogar y sitio.

Si no hablamos en alabanza a la Tierra,
-----si no cantamos en festejo a la vida,
----------es mejor que guardemos silencio.

© Rafael Jesús González 2011

Escrito especialmente para el Congreso Mundial de Poetas,
Tai’an, Provincia de Shandong, China, otoño 2005

(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.)

If We Do Not Speak

If we do not speak to praise the Earth,
it is best we keep silent.

Praise air
that fills the bellow of the lung
& feeds our heart’s blood;
that carries light,
the smell of flowers
& the seas,
the songs of birds
& the wind’s howl;
that conspires with distance
to make the mountains blue.

Praise fire
that lights the day
& warms the night,
cooks our food
& gives motion to our wills;
that is the heart of Earth,
this fragment of a star;
that burns & purifies
for good or ill.

Praise water
that makes the rivers
& the seas;
that gives substance
to the clouds and us;
that makes green the forests
& the fields;
that swells the fruit
& wombs our birth.

Praise earth
that is the ground,
the mountain, & the stones;
that holds the forests
& is the desert sand;
that builds our bones
& salts the seas, the blood;
that is our home & place.

If we do not speak in praise of the Earth,
-----if we do not sing in celebration of life,
----------it is best we keep silence.

© Rafael Jesús González 2011

Written especially for the World Congress of Poets,
Tai’an, Shandong Province, China, Autumn 2005

(147 Practical Tips for Teaching Sustainability:
Connecting the Environment, the Economy, and Society
Timpson, William M. et al, Eds.,
Atwood Publishing Co., Madison, Wisconsin 2006;
author’s copyrights)


Thursday, April 21, 2011




El toro de la tierra fija
lleva como un diamante
entre los cuernos
la estrella matutina.
---Su corazón de esmeralda
---oculta un valor firme
y al cuello lleva yugo de cobre
que lo une
-------------a la tierra
-------------a la estrella
-------------a lo infinito.

------------© Rafael Jesús González 2011


The bull of the fixed earth
carries the morning star
like a diamond
between his horns.
----------his emerald heart
----------hides a firm worth
& at the neck he wears a copper yoke
that joins him
------------------to the earth
------------------to the star
------------------to the infinite.

------------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Can Poetry Save the Earth? April 27


A reading based on

A Field Guide To Nature Poems

by John Felstiner.

Poetry by Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Denise Levertov, Robert Frost, A.R. Ammons, William Stafford, D.H. Lawrence, Robinson Jeffers, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Gary Snyder and more.

Read by Susan Griffin, Rafael Jesús González, Lucille Lang Day, David Shaddock, Chris Olander, Dennis Fritzinger, Jahan Khalighi, and Kirk Lumpkin with commentary by John Felstiner (Professor of English at Stanford University, author of the prize winning Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew.)

“Felstiner’s [Can Poetry Save the Earth?] is a series of deep reflections on some of the finest, steadiest British and American poets of the last five centuries . . . It is not about their ideology or activism, but their seeing of the actual world . . .their deeply felt love for it.”—Gary Snyder, poet, Beat, Pulitzer Prize winner

Susan Griffin is a poet, essayist, playwright and screenwriter. Named by Utne Reader as one of a hundred important visionaries for the new millennium. Her book A Chorus of Stones, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Award, and winner of the BABRA Award in 1992 and a NY Times Notable Book of the Year. Her play Voices, which won an Emmy in 1975 for a local PBS production, has been performed throughout the world, including a radio production by the BBC.

Rafael Jesús González, is a poet, Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing & Literature, & founder of Laney College's Mexican and Latin American Studies Dept. In 1996 he was named Poet in Residence at the Oakland Museum of California and the Oakland Public Library. He was chosen for the Annual Award for Literary Achievement by Dragonfly Press in 2002. His most recent book is La musa lunática/The Lunatic Muse.

Lucille Lang Day is the author of eight poetry collections and chapbooks, most recently The Curvature of Blue. She has also published a children’s book, Chain Letter, and her memoir, Married at Fourteen, will appear from Heyday in 2012. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in such magazines and anthologies as Atlanta Review, The Hudson Review, The Threepenny Review, and New Poets of the American West.

David Shaddock is author of the psychology book From Impasse to Intimacy and the poetry book In This Place Where Something Missing Lives.

“David Shaddock’s poems take up the ancient Jewish tradition which Arthur Waskow . . . has called ‘God wrestling.”—Denise Levertov

Chris Olander is a CPITS poet, eco-educator, and a California State Championship Poetry Coach for Poetry Out Loud.

Dennnis Fritzinger is the author of Earth National Park, Tame Wilderness, and Poetry Editor of Earth First! Journal.

Jahan Khalighi is a spoken word artist who was a member of the Eugene Slam Poetry Team, and has co-organized Eco-Arts Festivals around the Bay Area with CommuniTree. He is a staff member with the Ecology Center and a Board Member for Planting Justice.

Kirk Lumpkin is a poet, performer, and works for the Ecology Center as the Special Events and Promotions Coordinator of the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets. “ . . . solid real illumination...”—Michael McClure, Beat poet & playwright "No matter what, he will make sure the sidewalks are shaking before you go home.”—

Cost: FREE

Open to the Public

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

7:30 pm

Ecology Center Bookstore

2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, California

(San Pablo at Blake St., just south of Dwight Way)

Accessibility: Public transportation —
Buses on San Pablo Ave. and Dwight Way;
street parking, wheelchair access.

For More Information: (510) 548-2220 ext. 227;

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Full Moon After a Full & Glorious Day

---Luna después de un día lleno y glorioso

Los oídos aun zumbándome
de tantas hosannas,
mi burrito cansando
de pisar sobre tantas palmas
dado de comer y en el establo,
nos sentamos a ver la luna llena salir,
mi amado Juan, mi querida María y yo.
Fue un día glorioso
lleno de amables muchedumbres
pero estoy inquieto con presentimientos —
es poderoso el imperio
y sus secuaces que aprovechan de él astutos,
lo suficiente de bobos entre el pueblo
que contra su propio interés
los apoyarán.
Y en mis treinta y tres años he aprendido
que la traición puede caber en un beso.
Aun temo que me pueda convertir en culto,
uno entre tantos, con sacerdotes
que eleven en mi nombre
obleas redondas y blancas
como esta luna que sale de por los olivos
y me devoren los que se digan mis fieles
y desmientan todo lo que enseño
de la justicia y la paz.
Dicen que es inconstante la luna
pero aun más inconstante es el corazón humano.

-----------------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

---Moon After a Full & Glorious Day

My ears still ringing
from so many hosannas,
my little ass tired
from treading so many palms
fed & stabled,
we sit to view the moon rise full,
my beloved John, my dear Mary, & I.
A glorious day it was
filled with loving crowds,
but I am disquieted with foreboding —
the empire is powerful
& its minions who profit from it cunning,
enough fools among the people
that against their own welfare
will support them.
& in my thirty three years I have learned
that betrayal can fit in a kiss.
I even fear that I may become a cult,
one of so many, with priests
who may lift in my name
wafers round & white
as this moon that rises over the olives
& my so-called faithful will devour me
& belie all that I teach
of justice & peace.
They say the moon is inconstant
but even more inconstant is the human heart.

--------------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

Palm Sunday

Pagan Bearing Palm Branch

I have traveled throughout the lands under Caesar Augustus and the world is much the same; the rich rule and justice is an uncertain thing and there is more war than peace. Here among these people who call themselves Israel, it is no different. I have studied many gods and what is said of them and this god of the Jews seems but little different from the rest, except for his aloneness. They call me gentile here which means that I believe in many gods. The Jews believe in one only, a male of whom they are prohibited of making an image, or even saying his name. Yet when they tell of him he seems much like our own Zeus or Jupiter — jealous, vengeful, just, arbitrary, blood-thirsty, kind to his own, but unlike Zeus, without a goddess to keep him sweet. Indeed, unlike our Zeuz, he does not seem to like women much. They call their god Father, but how is there a father without a mother unless it be holy Gaea, the Earth herself? And in truth, she has her Sun. These Jews do not paint nor make clay or wood or stone images of their god but idolize instead their strange ideas of him.

Now I find myself in Yerusalem for the Spring celebrations of the Jews. Yerusalem is lovely this time of year and festive and I cannot but be joyful holding a palm branch someone thrust into my hand. A goodly crowd is welcoming a young prophet I have been observing for some odd years. Yeshua they call him, Iesous in our Greek. Son of Yoseph the carpenter, he comes from the countryside, the village of Nazareth, having left behind his craft to teach. He is an unusual man by any count and wonders have been ascribed to him such as changing water into wine, and walking upon water, and raising up the dead, casting out demons, healing, feeding a multitude.

I do not know. I have been present at only one of such purported wonders, a time he is supposed to have fed the crowd. He spoke atop a small hill and people came to hear him from about the countryside, a good sized crowd (though not the myriads that have grown with each telling.) Yes, he spoke long and the folk overstayed their intentions and had to eat. But let us remember, these are country folk, peasants and fishermen, who know well enough to carry food in their knapsacks when they go on an outing, coarse bread, salted or dried fish, fruit. All in all, I dare say there was enough to share. It is said this Iesous multiplied but seven loaves of bread and a few fishes to feed them all. Perhaps; the Earth is full of wonders, but I doubt it. If miracle you can call it, it was enough that he opened the hearts and generosity of the people to share their food with those that had none. I suppose that is miracle enough.

This Iesous, unlike the god of his people, likes women much and frequents their company, consorting with women of even the most lowly and despised among the Jews, like the Samaritans and such. Indeed particularly close to him is one Maryam, a woman of Magdala by some venomous tongues called a prostitute, a social outcast here, not like the holy women in our temples devoted to Divine Aphrodite. I doubt not but there is an amorous tie between Iesous and this Maryam the Magdalene who has nothing of the whore and is much respected.

Still, it is apparent that he likes men just as well. He always has about him a small group of favorites that hang upon every word he says, worshipping the ground he walks upon. Of these, his very favorite is a comely youth named Yohanan, for obvious reasons called “the beloved.” It is apparent that they are enamored each of the other. These men are for the most part simple folk, peasants, fishermen, artisans, tradesmen, illiterate, though some I am sure have some learning, certainly at least in the lore of their religion, some like Iesous probably village rabbis.

They do not have much, indeed this Iesous is not much popular among the rich, the polite classes. He consorts too much with women and children, with the despised, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the unlearned, the outcasts. The fact is that to speak for the unfortunate this Jew puts to test the laws of his ancient cult. I have seen him save a poor woman, caught in adultery, from being stoned to death, according to the law of the Hebrews, by shaming the villagers with their own transgressions. He preaches that the homeless must be sheltered, that the sick must be healed, that the ignorant must be taught, that the foreigner and outcast must be embraced, the prisoner visited. The bone of his teaching is love; the meat is justice and peace.

I have spoken with his mother Maryam and his brothers Yacob and Yoses and Shimon and Yehudhah, and his sisters, his family whom he has left for his preaching. Some say that they think him daft, that his kinsmen try to restrain him as mad. I doubt it (indeed, I believe some of his brothers form part of his inner circle.) I have heard him speak and he makes much sense. He speaks well and strongly, but there is a sting in his words to the powerful. Iesous does not hesitate to call them hypocrites, unfaithful stewards, and such. In his eyes, they are not so much the keepers of the law, but abusers of it. And indeed it would appear so. They grow fat on the suffering of others and do not honor our mother Gaea The Earth.

Another thing is that he does not much believe in the virtue of labor, of work to produce what serves no purpose but to produce and produce. I have heard him say that the Earth already holds enough to sustain us pointing out that the flowers of the fields are more beautiful than the luxurious vestments of Shelomon the legendary king of the Jews. Iesous certainly respects the honest work of the peasants, the fishermen, the artisans, the tradesmen, but he abhors usury, greed. I have seen him in anger upset the counting tables of the money changers in the temple, which caused much outrage among the bankers and such, not to mention the priests. I have heard him tell the young heir of a wealthy family that it is more difficult for a rich man to enter paradise than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. (I believe they call the narrowest gate to the city “The Needle’s Eye.”) No, the rich and the powerful do not much like Iesous.

He is a gentle man this young preacher who is fond of teaching through stories whose principle message is: “you were invited to party but you did not come.” I would not put it past him, if he could, to change water into wine. He can certainly change the hearts of his listeners to something sweeter and more good. Just as he tries to change the image of Jehova (the unspoken name of their harsh god) into the gentler, kinder image of his own. Although there is little effeminate about this Iesous still there is much that is feminine in his nature. I believe he is trying to give his god the one thing Yehova really lacks — a mother, or a sister, or a wife.

He treads a dangerous path, does Iesous, tampering with the stern, one-dimensional image of his nation’s god. Judge not lest thou be judged, he says, but I fear he is much judged already. You without sin cast the first stone, he challenges, and I fear there are already many all too willing to stone him. It is dangerous to broaden the dimensions of the gods, especially those that exist only in people’s heads, defined in books, their laws minutely prescribed (our own Socrates was killed accused of contempt for the gods.) And Iesous does just that. I have heard him say that he brings a new commandment to supersede all previous law: love god above all else and your neighbor as you do yourself. And he did not specify only your Jewish neighbor, but included all us gentiles too. Another time, he said that the law was made for humankind and not humankind for the law. Dangerous stuff.

What the powerful really fear is that a Socrates, a Iesous, and others of their kind may incite the people to question, to think. Thought leads to judgement, judgement to demand. And demands perhaps to action. Before a people aroused, even Caesar must quake. The meek just may inherit the Earth, as Iesous says, but first the meek must find their voice and speak. He has just said that if these should remain silent, the stones themselves would cry out.

The day is beautiful and indeed I do not mind holding this palm branch. I think I too am a bit in love with this beautiful man. There is so much kindness and joy in him — and truly so much courage. The crowd cries its hosannas, hosannas jubilantly as he enters the city to celebrate their ancient Spring celebration, the ritual feast marking their freedom from slavery. It is a joyous time and the people are all glad that it is Spring. There are flowers among the palm fronds strewn before the hoofs of the little gray ass Iesous rides through the street. By Kore, it is a glorious day to be alive. We smile at one another and shake hands and hug — Jews and the Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, Arabs, Romans, among them, representative of all us gentiles. Many carry palm fronds only because someone pressed them into their hands and they only want to join in the festivity. It is a glorious day on which to wave palm branches.

Still, I worry for him. He speaks his truth freely and the priests, the rich, the powerful are far from pleased. What if more people listened to him, truly listened? What if they bespoke and followed what he teaches? What if truly the people desired justice and peace? What if? Then, by the Graces, truly it would be glorious and I would be content to wave a palm frond every day I live. But I am not an idolatrous priest, nor am I rich, nor powerful — greed and lust for power is a terrible disease. And there are the fearful, the superstitious, the stupid. The people are of divided opinion; some would die for him, some would stone him for blasphemy, some teeter, change opinion one moment to the next. One hears rumors and many are not pleased. This Iesous, I do not think he will live long. He treads a dangerous path. I, the Hellene, the gentile, the pagan, fear for him. The rich and the powerful, they do not love him much.

But it is about us, the people that I wonder. Our rulers indeed are hypocrites — liars and cheats, thieves and scoundrels, war-mongers, that hold the Earth for little and twist the law that would protect the common good to their own advantage, growing evermore more rich and powerful at our expense. And yet, several times already the crowd itself would have killed Iesous. It is not good by any measure.

Today we gather and wave palm branches and yell, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” in joy of Spring, and Iesous, and each other, but this joy that should be the root of our empowerment tomorrow will dissipate and our burdens will not be a grain of wheat more light. Unless, unless finding our voice we demand justice and peace and veneration of holy mother Earth.

These people say humankind was expelled from an earthly paradise and that we must look for a paradise on the other side of death. But it is here, in this life that we hunger and thirst, that we bear the cold and the heat, that we suffer the results of ignorance and fear, that we war and kill one another — and above all, it is here that we love, enjoy the sun and the waters, and the taste of bread and of wine, and the ecstasy of the dance and of music and of art. It is here that we live and if suffering there is, so is it only here that we know what there is to know of joy and happiness.

No, we were never exiled from paradise. We have only mucked it up our carelessness and greed for wealth and lust for power, and war. Iesous speaks of the kingdom of his Father-God, but the justice and mercy and love he prescribes are of the Earth and no where else.

How long will we tolerate to be ruled by thieves and liars, hypocrites and warmongers? The Hellene, the Athenian in me asks this, impatient with the acquiescence of us, the people. The meek must speak, for our silence is a great betrayal. I worry for us. Will we listen and create his peaceable kingdom of the just and the kind? If enough of us want it, who can stop us? It is up to us.

I do not think Iesous will live long. The rich and the powerful, they do not love him much.

© Rafael Jesús González 2011

(from a sermon given by the author, Palm Sunday 2002,
at The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples founded by Dr. Howard Thurman,
San Francisco, California, at the invitation of its Pastor Dr. Dorsey Blake;
Author’s copyrights.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Poetry Month

Poesía, del griego 'hacer'. Es el sonido jugando con el significado, sabiendo que el absoluto, eterno silencio del cual viene no tiene significado alguno mas que el juego que intenta cuando crea voces. La poesía es tautología. La poesía es un espejo que pretende reflejar una flor, un paisaje, un rostro, cuando en realidad sólo se refleja a si misma. La poesía es como qualquier otro objeto — un plato, un fruto, una bota — pero sean cuales sean los usos que pretenda, sólo uno está a sus raíces: nuestra justificación.

Rafael Jesús González

(El hacedor de juegos/The Maker of Games;
Casa Editorial, San Francisco, California 1977)

Poetry, from the Greek 'to make', it is sound playing with meaning, knowing that the absolute, eternal silence from which it comes has no meaning except the game it undertakes when it creates voices. Poetry is a tautology. Poetry is a mirror pretending it reflects a flower, a landscape, a face when in reality it reflects only itself. Poetry is like any other object — a plate, a piece of fruit, a boot — except that whatever uses it pretends, only one is at its roots: our vindication.

Rafael Jesús González

(Peace & Pieces: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry;
Custodio Maurice et al, eds., Peace & Pieces Press, San Francisco, California 1973, p. x)


--------------poeta eres tú que lees

-------------------------(grafitti en una pared
--------------------------de La Habana)

El poeta dice sus versos
al deslizarse el lápiz
sobre el blanco —
enigmas de quimeras y dragones
de lirios y de jaras
de nubes pesadas como plomo
peñascos livianos como suspiros.
-----Allí quedan
ni más ni menos encantados
que una mosca prisionera
en una gota de ámbar.
Allí esperan que los rescate
otro poeta —
-----tú, lector
-----que descifras
-----estas letras.

-------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

(10 años de aBrace, Editora aBrace,
Montevideo, Uruguay 2009;
derechos reservados del autor)

----------------- Poet

-------------- poeta eres tú que lees

---------------------------(graffiti on a wall
----------------------------in Havana)

The poet says his verses
as the pencil glides
over the blank —
enigmas of chimeras & dragons
of lilies & of darts
of clouds heavy as lead
boulders light as sighs.
----There they remain
no more no less enchanted
than a fly imprisoned
in a drop of amber.
There they wait to be rescued
by another poet —
----you, reader
----who deciphers
----these letters.

------© Rafael Jesús González 2011


April Fool


-------------El loco

Permíteme enseñarte la locura —
----ver la calavera en la rosa blanca,
----su mollera un espejo
----en que los laberintos del pensar
----se pierden.
El perro fiel ladra a tus talones
pero el precipicio llama:

Allí están los ángeles precisos,
no para impedir tu caída,
sino para presenciarla;

con eso basta.

-----© Rafael Jesús González 2011

-------------The Fool

Let me teach you madness —
----to see the skull in the white rose,
----its pate a mirror
----in which the labyrinths of thought
----are lost.
The loyal dog barks at your heels
but the precipice beckons:

The necessary angels are there,
not to break your fall,
but to witness it;

it is enough.

------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

(El hacedor de juegos/The Maker of Games;
Casa Editorial, San Francisco 1977;
Author's © copyrights)