Friday, June 27, 2008

The Heat in my Hands

I gave myself over last night to Chris Abni's Dog Woman. It is one of my favorite collections of poetry. Provocative and achingly precise. The mastery of language and form always divorce me from whoever I am at the moment and take me to old holy places. In the author's note, Abani mentions he was reading Rilke's Duino Elegies, among other things. The Duino Elegies are one of my favorite collections of poetry, ever. Rilke finished writing them one winter in Switzerland. My one winter in Switzerland, I carried my copy around and felt somehow connected.

This week has been exhausting. Work is wringing me out. Yesterday after a three hour nap I convinced myself to sit with a pad of legal paper and to move the pen across the page, for the first time in seven months. Most of what came out was throw-away but a couple of brief lines or phrases glimmered with potential. I hope the heat in my hands is creativity, welling up and ready to burst. I'm tired of not writing, I'm tired of giving myself up to the malaise of winter in my bones. I want my old sanguine self back, sparking at the corners , fingertips stained in ink.

This weekend looms full of baseball and a wedding. The wedding with be an interesting study of family and things unspoken. One cousin was to be married tomorrow but the engagement was called off last week. Everything was already paid for, the hall, flowers, happy details of ritual dedication. So as not to lose the money, another cousin will be married tomorrow instead; the sibling of the jilted lover. The family has been instructed to not speak of things that should not be spoken of. I'm particularly interested in sitting with my grandmother and her sisters, the most vicious tongues to ever cross of a border. If I don't have anything to write about after this weekend, I may as well never consider myself a storyteller ever again.

Speaking of story tellers. I think The Decemberists are fantastic storytellers.

Engine Driver
The Decemberists
"I am a writer, writer of fictions. I am the heart you call home. I've written pages upon pages, trying to rid you from my bones."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Somebody get me out of here.

Shaking the lazy out of a Monday morning is never easy. A week of long hours in the sun isn't at all appealing. I have to paint huge gates this week and several exterior sconces. My father is in Mexico so I know my sister and I will be fielding many more phone calls than usual. As much as I love summer, it is one of the only times I wish I had an indoor job with air conditioning. But, I heart working with my hands. I heart working with my people. I heart dirty overalls and secret naps on the lawns of excess privilege. It could always be worse. I could be wearing pantyhose. And the heat wave that had the Southwest dressed up like Texas is finally over.

Love to La Bloga for linking to me and posting my poem "Musings with Stella."

Congratulations to my friend Linsey. Yesterday she left San Diego to travel and volunteer around the world for a year. I look forward to reading about her adventures and hope they kick-start some of my own.

This song gets me dancing anytime I hear it:

El Baile y El Salon
Cafe Tacuba

Friday, June 20, 2008

Read This Book. Watch This Film.

A few weeks ago I went to a panel on immigrations at Ink Spot here in San Diego. The panel was to discuss and promote the McSweeney's new book from the Voice of Witness series called Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. This book, the stories told in it are so incredibly wrenching and moving that I have had a hard time reading it daily. After each narrative I find myself outraged, or crying over the cruel injustices suffered by the hard-working men and women sacrificing their lives in attempts to improve their economic situations. The stories are individuals who are victims of human rights atrocities at the hands of people who are employing them. Stories of systematic abuse and depravation. These stories are are absolutely necessary. Too often immigration debates center around faceless numbers and statistics. This collection of stories humanizes the often invisible struggle playing out around us. I bought several copies of the book and have given them all away.

On the panel was Laura Castañeda, speaking on her documentary The Devil's Breath, on the October 2007 wildfires and the untold stories of a group of migrants caught in the middle. Please please please, as difficult as it is, please watch this when you have a chance.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


South Central Rain

Last night in my dreams my eyeballs were peeling. It made things hard to see, almost like looking at the world through smoked glass or tears.

My creative limbo is still whirling around me; a bad spell, this one. Even reading my favorite writers hasn't kick-started me.

I have been re-reading a lot of fantasy. I reread The Naming BY Alison Croggon. Croggon is a poet with an expansive body of work. Her fiction is also pretty brilliant. I love when poets write fiction.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Slow morning

I'm having a slow morning. I think I am having a slow year.

Carry Me Ohio
Sun Kil Moon

Today my heart is a wet paper towel. Don't know why, but it is. Today I want to dissect things from myself like a biology class frog. Take out this part of my psyche and flick it out the window so it can be swallowed by some carrion eating bird; maybe then I would be able to settle back into normal. But normal was never really satisfying either, was it?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

a few miles away

Last night a friend called with desperation in his voice. He lives in a rural area and he found a young, exhausted man sleeping on his property. The man was from El Salvador and had been wandering the mountains near the border all day long, without food or water. It was almost 100 degrees yesterday. The young man had been traveling for a long time and paid a coyote to cross him over. The group he was traveling with was caught by the migra and he had hidden in the bushes, hoping someone else would find him and help him across. No one did. He walked over the mountains alone all day until he came to my friend's land and decided to rest. My friend put the man on the phone for me to translate. The kid wasn't even twenty years old. He was from a small village in El Salvador. He told me he just wanted to go back, that it was too much for him. He asked me to call his mom and tell her that he wanted to come home. I called his mom for him. The poor woman must have been scared to death. Her baby alone trying to make across a quarter of the planet. Then a strange woman calling her in the middle of the night to tell her that her son had been abandoned by the men he paid to take care of him. I managed to get the number of a relative in Los Angeles. I called the relative who was also incredibly surprised and a bit wary to hear from me. I gave her my friend's phone number. I don't what else happened. They didn't call me back. I hope it worked out.

All of this pulls at the heart of me. This goes on every day minutes from where I sleep, eat, love, and roll around blindly in my privileged life. I see immigrants every day; they are the backbone of the construction industry. But I don't often think about the risk they take to come here, just for the opportunity to feed their families. I wonder if I would have the fortitude to leave everything I know and love; risk my life to go to a land where I don't know the language or culture; where I know I would be discriminated against for my lack of language. I can't even imagine.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Poetry and Basketball

I was watching the basketball finals last night and during half-time there was a profile on Phil Jackson, the head coach of the Lakers. I was surprised that at the end of his interview he quoted a Kipling poem "The Law of the Jungle. I was thrilled to hear a poem on mainstream television, during a major sporting event. I hope that it somehow tuned a few more people in to poesia.

Eydie Gorme and Trio Lo Panchos Historia de un Amor

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Poem Moving Me

I found this in the Harvard Divinty Bulletin

Seawater, and Ours a Bed Above It
by Katie Ford

We wished that if we raked
the sea-carved skeletons from beneath
the house the true soft back of earth
would show a constant bone.
But those same shells trawled from the gulf
held back malarial waters
confused by houses raised above them.

We said this house is breaking
when one end sank and one beam cracked—
(in my honest sleep I said
our house is dead)—
as our hound clicked over the floors,
scratching the same raw second
we did not learn the law of,

that we live and die and live again
into dawns we feel it is right
to wash only our feet in the basin,
letting the water pass over us
into the ground.

And we do know, don't we:
we will be overcome by waters
where I stand with my lanterns and cans,
with my useless preparations and provisions,
with the God I loved, I hated, and you.

I might not know you, nor you,
me, even though we've washed each other
with salt. But we know how we will end:

Waters will sweep the shells over our eyes,
and we will recognize
where we are
from what we saw
in museums and papers, from what we heard
in the agate voice of the scientist
who spoke in the quiet
only the truth need not rise above,

who, somewhere inland, takes tourists
through a glass garden
where tropicals and ferns
are rained on periodically
by a false mist
to show how spores used to shine
from even the underside of the world.


Some poems, like this one, take the air right out of me.

And some songs do too. Ray LaMontagne singing Jolene.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I keep losing track of the days. LIttle lapses in my memory. I was astounded yesterday to see that it was already the tenth of June. I thought it was the sixth for some reason. Time vortex. Woo-oo-oo.

Hope Sandoval, great voice. Here she is still in Mazzy Star, singing Halah

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where we are honored

I found this essay and enjoyed it. "Can a Poet Be More Accurate Than a Journalist?" It was linked from the. Poetry Foundation page. I have a stack of poetry books from Cuba that I have slowly been thrilling my way through. It is true, as stated in the article, that in Latin America poets are still honored.

Sometimes I am almost embarrassed to say I am a poet because if the stigma attached. When a person hears the word "poet" it seems that automatically bad , emotionally over-wrought dribble comes to mind; or they snap their fingers at me as if I was some beat remnant they happened across at the zoo. I've met a lot of people who call themselves poets. When I ask them who they read they will scoff and say something along the lines of "I don't read other people's work, I don't want it to stain my mind." Right. Since generals going into battle don't ever study battle tactics of previous wars to see what worked and what failed. They don't want to stain their minds either. I took a ballet class when I was a kid. I don't go around calling myself a ballerina. Poetry is work. It is hard work, studying, creating, deconstructing, constructing, tapping into that part of yourself that you are taught to ignore from childhood. The ineffable grace that lives within us all; bringing it into fruition. Yeah, you may be an investment banker with a Maserati and 2-floor elevator in your shack, but I am working towards immortality. Beat that.

Sufjan Stevens
To Be Alone With You
I happen to think Sufjan Stevens is a poet. A great storyteller, ethereal, haunting. He music for me is for the Winter. But it is chilly this morning and I am wrapped up in my thick black robe so that is winter enough. This song is from Seven Swans, my favorite of his albums.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ain't it good to know?

The family is in L.A. for a cousin's wedding so I get to spend a Sunday morning at my own pace for once. Weird but nice. Congrats to my cousin Adanice on her wedding yesterday. She used to live with us as a small child when her mother first came over from Mexico. I distinctly remember coming home from 7-11 with a slurpee for Adanice one afternoon. She was about four years old. Her mother thought the slurpee was too cold for her so she micro-waved it until it was just sticky sugar water and then Adanice was allowed to drink it. Odd, the things we remember best.

The sun is arising, most definitely. Therefore:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday not as morose as you would be led to believe by my music

Elliott Smith
Between the Bars

I've had a personal comment that my music is kind of morose and sad. Whatever. Elliott Smith in the morning is a good thing. I sit in my blue and silver nook with coffee and thoughts. I'm attempting to become a morning person again. People you've been before that you don't want around anymore. . .

Been going through my notes and there are some poems that have been waiting to be born. Cavemen poems, forthcoming. No, not "men are cavemen" but a little bit of evolutionary psychology about throw-back reactions that we, as mostly-evolved humans, have. Our old myth-creating tendencies. And here we are, millennia later, still telling ourselves stories to explain the world.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

On poems making my spirit leap

I've had a poem on my refrigerator for the last couple of months. It is from the February 25 New Yorker. Chinese Poem by J.D. McClatchy. I never cut poems out of magazines but this poem I had to. I read it over and over every day. I am floored by how each time I read it I am still entranced and undone by the language.

Whatever change you were considering,
Do not plant another tree in the garden.
One tree means four seasons of sadness:
What is going,
What is coming,
What will not come,
What cannot go.

When I read poetry that moves inside of me, then I realize that maybe it is something inside of me knowing. I don't know if that is the right description, I am a little bit out of practice. But when I read a good line or even if in conversation the person I am talking with says something a little bit beautiful I get a jolt.

Not that I am religious but it reminds me of when in the Book of Luke in the Christian bible Elizabeth sees her cousin Mary. They were both pregnant; Elizabeth with John and Mary with Baby J. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting her baby did a happy dance inside. (Luke 1:39-45) She said "For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. . . And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

Yes, things spoken to me or things I read can bring me not only great fulfillment but this tremendous sense of longing that pervades every molecule around me until "real life" shakes me out of it. I pull certain books down off of the shelf almost instinctively sometimes because I know what will happen when I read a certain part. Rilke does it for me often as does Lorna Dee Cervantes. I have been listening to Neruda read his poems on an audio book I bought last year. There are times when I have to stop what I am doing just to let the words take me over. I love how Neruda reads his own work. It reminds of my great-great uncle, "Bingolete" who was old-school and read his poems the same way. Here is Neruda reading his work:

Me Gustas Cuando Callas
Pablo Neruda

and in English, read by Glenn Close:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Body slam the blues and get your sleep on

Attempting to body slam the blues and get back into the groove of writing. So much so that I have signed up for a class this Saturday called "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Writing Life." Its sounds a little woo-woo but I am going to check it out. The instructor is a hypnotherapist so maybe she can zap me into trance and suggest firmly that I need to get off my lazy Lizz and start churning out the work more. The class is at SD Writers, Ink..

Speaking of trance, I need to dip into the best book I've read all year again, The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness by Jeff Warren. I actually listened to this book on my ipod while working. It was so good that I went out and bought it, read it, emailed the author (a horrible habit I have to break) and have been gushing about the book ever since. I am a brainiac and this book feeds my need to know all about random things that I could have gone through life without knowing. But now that I know, I am completely enthralled. The book is about the author's fascination with consciousness. Not the woo-woo dolphin worshipping type of consciousness but actual states that we humans go through either daily or at different points in our lives. The chapter on hypnagogia, the quasi-dreamlike state right before we fall asleep is my favorite. Apparently the hypnagogic state allows us to reassess our day and to solve problems while not fully awake. We enter sleep paralysis. According to the author " The hypnagogic, it turns out, is the ultimate paradigm-busting too. As your brain slips into an associative, impressionistic state, it is no longer bound by conventional wisdom. Saucy ideas -- impossible within a certain rational framework -- clamor for attention. Images become metaphors for concepts and suddenly everyone is a poet." The author has a cool website for his book. His writing is at times laugh out loud witty. The subject matter could have easily been driven into the ground and dry but Warren managed to keep my interest the entire time I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. Though, I am bummed for him (or maybe it is a good thing) that his name is Jeff Warren. When I googled him I ended up getting a lot of hits for Warren Jeffs. I wonder if anyone contacts Warren Jeffs to gush about his projects.

I have no idea what Caetano Veloso is really saying but I get it. I do, I do.

Curiosity got a hold of me and I found the lyrics online and pasted them into a free translating site:

"I, you, the two of us Already have a past, my love A double bass guarded That flower AND other mumunhas more
I, you, João Rotating in the jukebox without stop AND the dissonant world that the two of us are going to
invent we are going to invent we are going to invent we try

The happiness the happiness THE happiness the happiness I, you, afterwards Wednesday of ash in the country AND
the dissonant notes were integrated To The sound of the imbeciles Yes, you, the two of us Already we have a
past, my love THE bump, the grave, to ours big pain As two quadradões

Wolf, Wolf fool wolf, wolf fool I, you, João Rotating in the jukebox without stop AND I stayed impassioned of
remember THE time and the sound Oh! As it was good But arrives of nostalgia THE reality is that we Learn how
with João for the always IT to be put out of tune to be put out of tune to be put out of tune Be

Arrives of nostalgia Arrives of nostalgia Arrives of nostalgia Arrives of nostalgia."

Poesia. Yes.

Monday, June 2, 2008

to groove to morning on a monday

Sam Cooke with Lou Rawls singing"Bring It On Home To Me." (yeah, yeah)

dang, who sings like these guys anymore? I lerve it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Busy is sometimes too much and often not enough

Sunday morning at the Huerta family house in Chula Vista. 29 years old and I still dig Sunday mornings with my family. My dad inevitably calls me early Sunday morning to ask me if I am coming over for breakfast, which is silly since I am over for breakfast almost every week. My ex-cat Icarus rules the Huerta house these days. Sadly, he attacks me every time I come over for a visit. Maybe he thinks I'm going to take him back. No such luck Icky kitty. This week I'm bearing three long scratches on my back ribcage from a cat v. poet altercation on Wednesday. The cat won.

Last week I flew happily to my old stomping grounds, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. Fanstasy camp for failed bohemians but I dig it anyway. I hadn't visited SMA in three years and was mostly thrilled to be back. The first night I clung to the back of my old painting instructor, Jeffrey Brown, as he drove me town around on his scooter. Scooter on cobblestones streets is exhilarating and a bit scary. We drank too much. Hangovers at 7000 feet are cruel. I remedied mine with a visit to the hot springs just outside of town. A good soak in the steamy minerals and I was un-pounded and mentally fertile again. Jeffrey is one of my favorite artists. I don't know why he doesn't show his work or sell it. His paintings entrance me. I can stare at them and get lost for hours.

Jeffrey and I have the best dialogue and arguments. It is Jeffrey's voice I often hear in my head in moments of uncertainty, commanding me to stop being a coward and to live courageously.

My main reason for visting SMA was to spend quality time with my favoritist La Creepy and her darling baby El Scrappy. La Creep's brother, Chef Donnie Masterton opened up a new restaurant called The Restaurant. The Restaurant was gorgeous, set up on an enclosed patio.

The food was incredible. Donnie is one hell of an amazing chef. Most of the food on the menu is organic and locally grown. I developed a palate crush on the ravioli, squash blossom one night and prune and goat cheese the next. Oh heart in my mouth! I could eat at The Restaurant every day.

Mexico was slight salve to my recent months of mental unrest. Moving to a new apartment, dealing with various physical injuries and a few non-physical ones too. I was going through my writing files the other day. I was devastated to realize that I haven't written a single poem since November. I've been dabbling in and out of my novel but not seriously. I haven't even been reading as much as usual. I went to a used bookstore yesterday and picked up eleven books. Last night I lined them up in bed next to me, trying to decide which one to get lost in first. But my heart wasn't in it, my heart hasn't been in anything lately. I turned off the light and went to bed. To quote Sam Cooke (though I am most certainly not the first) Change is gonna come.