Tuesday, November 6, 2012

writing, mostly

I've started work on book 2 of my fantasy trilogy for NaNoWriMo. Kind of. My boyfriend was in town the last 6 days so I didn't get that much writing done but now I have all month to catch up. So much writing, so much story. This book has some crazy characters showing up, good characters, characters I've been wanting to see in literature before but they haven't shown up so I had to write them into existence.

I've been reading The Plot Whisperer. I dig it.

I submitted my short story "The Half Wife" to a competition for a scholarship. I wrote it last Spring for the Las Dos Brujas Writing Workshop. It may be one of my favorite pieces of writing ever. Three little pages, tons of heart. I did a bit of editing on it but I really do think it was one of those miraculous little gems that come out almost fully formed. Most of my short stories are set in a strange half-mythical world, the borderland between magical realism and a secretly violent place.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

a lifetime

(disclaimer: I wasn't being creepy taking this picture. My uncle asked me to take pictures to send to his relatives on the East Coast.)

This photograph is of George and Florence. Last night we had a service for Florence, later this morning we will bury her. She passed away last week at 98 years old. This is her husband of 72 years, George, saying goodbye to her. George is 102 years old. They were married in 1940 but started dating in 1937. Their only son, Ken, is married to my mom's sister.

I've known George and Florence most of my life. They would come out to visit their son every once in a while when I growing up and he was dating my aunt. They were the sweetest, loveliest people. Florence was a seamstress and used to mail me clothing she sewed for my dolls.

They came out here earlier this year to stay with my aunt and uncle. Florence had broken her hip and recovering at home in New Jersey was hard on her and on my uncle.

Last night at the service I sat and watched the slide show of her life. She was born in 1914. She was a great storyteller. Her stories aren't mine to tell, they belong to her son and close family right now, as they grieve and mourn.

What a lifetime. I can't imagine. Beautiful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

the still-young years

Monday night I ended up listening to music I used to listen to when I was a teenager; Mazzy Star, The Cranberries, Tori Amos, Dead Can Dance. Crazy how music can be an emotional time machine. I was back at 14, in the drama room, the musky funk of old velvet curtains, writing poems in my journal. I was the only brown girl in drama, somehow cast as Helena in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." For the first time in a long time I had a tiny sense of belonging. I had left the cult I was raised in, the supreme and devastating hell that was junior high was over and I was starting to make friends who were as "weird" as I was. But the belonging was a fragile tread, circumstantial. I was a the fringe group of a fringe group. It would take years and years before I accepted my solitary-ness, the lone wolf tendencies that make me happy.

Last night I taught my creative writing class for teens at the shelter. It was the most challenging class I've ever taught. I have a new group of students, a small group. The group I was working with before was a unit, they all knew each other, hung out, were kind of tough and ruled by one loud voice. These new kids broke me open and reminded me of me at 14, how hard it is. They are brilliant, vulnerable, open to the point where I had to really control myself to not cry in front of them.  I think as adults we forget that being a teen is a fucking rollercoaster. We have new bodies and emotions but are still learning how to cope, how to manage the ride without getting sick. I'm grateful to have these students reminding me of that ride. I'm grateful they open up to me.

Their stories stayed with me last night. I carried all of them on my heart and body and was exhausted early. I allowed myself some tears before bed, spoke with someone on the phone who was, as always, soothing, balm to whatever is hurting me. He works with teens too and offered insights and ways to reach back to them without alienating them. I had a hard time falling asleep. The music from my teenage years was stuck in my head. I reminded myself over and over that I'm writing for her, the girl who needed to see herself as someone beautiful, relevant.

I've hit something of a wall in the writing this week. I am so close to the end. Of course, this is where all the doubts come up, raging, screaming, throwing themselves in front of me. I had a white night the other night, convinced myself I am a failure, that no one will ever care about what I write, that I'm deluding myself. I was vaudevillian in my personal drama, draped across the sofa with my head hanging off the edge. Beloved called, heard my weepiness and got me straight. He reminded me ego is showing up, crazy because ego likes status quo. Ego would rather I stay in place, not grow because growth is opportunity for growth, opening. If When I do this, finish this book, I'm then opening myself up for possible success, as well as failure. He told me that it gets harder the closer I get. Labor pains. I was mollified.

So yeah. I'm in labor. Dilating. Pushing this book baby out. I think of the moms I know who while in labor have said they never want to go through it again but as soon as the baby comes, they forget the pain. Hmm. I really hope the same things happens with this book because this crap hurts.

Speaking of dramatic, when I was 13 I listened to this album on cassette over and over again until I destroyed the cassette. I loved this song and hated we lived where there was no snow. I really wanted to listen to this song while walking through the snow. Ha! I love teenage me, the dramatic little shit. But listening to it now, I see why it appealed to me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

this for that

I really am a creature of habit, solitude. Last night I struggled in my falling asleep for the first time in months. Something was eating away at me, a dissatisfaction. I realized it was that I had writing goals this weekend and I didn't meet them.

My weekend was beautiful. Friday night I took a group of nine of my students to see Saul Williams perform spoken word. I saw him before the show, hanging out outside and went up to introduced myself and told him I was bringing my students. My students showed up while we were talking and he was gracious and kind, he took a picture with them. The show was wonderful. He is a dynamic and passionate performer; he commands attention of the room without arrogance, presence. I wish I had taken pictures of my students watching him. They were transfixed. I could practically feel them opening up to the possibilities of what their writing could do. It'll be interesting to see if any of their writing is inspired by the show when I teach later this week.

Saturday was my baby sister's 25th birthday party, and my aunt's 60th surprise birthday party. I went over to help early and got sucked into errands galore. It was fine, I enjoy helping out my family. But all day I had the little voice in my head Get away, you have writing to do! I ignored it, family is important. The party was fun, a mix of age ranges and people. Again, I saw how solitary I am, or how solitary I have chosen to be, keep myself. Everyone was there with someone, or connected to someone. I was alone, wandering from group to group, mingling and listening. I left while the party was in full swing, I wanted to write. But when I got home I ended up on the phone with my beloved for an hour and didn't write. Yesterday was the same. Family and no writing. So it goes.

I've been thinking a lot about fairy tales. The stories that spark fantastical imaginings, dreams of other-worldness. So much to put into my book. Friday afternoon I managed to get a good amount of writing done. I had one of those a-ha! moments. Weeks ago I put in a character and a scene that I didn't quite understand, the new character gave my protagonist something, I was a little confused about it but decided to trust myself, leave it in. Apparently my subconscious is way more of a plotter than I am because I wrote a scene on Friday that was entirely dependent on the given gift, and it will weave in nicely with the mythology of creation.

I also am weaving in some crazy sadness. One of my favorite characters is mostly part of the back story, the history. But he's going to show up in the second book, heavily wounded in  way I haven't seen in a lot of stories. I love how close I am to finishing this book. The second book is jumping up and down, waving me! me! me! Soon enough. Maybe I'll get out a first draft during NaNoWriMo. So much, so much, so much. I love all of it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

cycling back

This morning I feel the initial chill of the changing season. I woke up in the middle of the night with my blanket wrapped tighter than usual and got up to turn off my fan. When I got up this morning to make coffee, the kitchen window was open and the early morning breeze gave me goosebumps for the first time in months. There's a particular scent as well. Fresh, oceanic. It reminds me of the school year beginning. Rituals of wrapping text books in brown paper bags and sitting for a long while with my colored pencils, figuring out the best way to decorate the book covers. The first week of school, heading into the school library to greet the librarian, see what new books were available.

I started teaching again last night. We took a break over the summer, though I did work with the kids for their showcase in early August and co-ran a workshop later that month. The place where I teach is a transitional shelter so I have students who will show up for months, then their family will find housing and I never see them again. I get attached to the students, build relationships and trust with them, so when they leave it always pulls at my heart a little. Last night I found out three students I've been working with for almost a year will be moving out. I'm pretty sad to lose them but happy that they'll be living in their own homes. I also have new students who are excited to write, create.

As I was leaving the shelter last night I ran into a former student on the street. He and his family moved out of the shelter month ago but he is still attached to his friends and community who live in the shelter. In his new neighborhood, he and his brother were jumped because they were walking down the street, and their skin color made them targets. That shit kills me. The former student has an insouciance about the situation that both scares and impresses me. Those kind of dramas are so far removed from my life, but the reality is that they're happening not too far from where I live. I hugged him, told him to stay safe, remember he is strong. I didn't know what else to say or do.

One of the things I love most about working with teens is watching them go through the teen things. (Not the getting jumped, that isn't something anyone should go through.) My class is optional, every student who attends is there because they want to be. There is always an initial resistance when I give out an assignment, grumbling. But they eventually get into it and grumble again when I call time. They also talk to me. I get to witness their emotional lives, the first loves, the first betrayals, the insecurities, sometimes the rage. I love all of it. It keeps me close to the flesh, that truth of emotional adolescence, how intense it is. And when I sit down to write I can carry it for my character.

The writing is intense these days. Flowing. Last night I didn't to sleep until midnight because plot points kept popping into my head, fixes for concerns I had. Oh beloved hypnopompic state. You do me good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Who ARE you people?

I was looking at my blog statistics and wondering who you are, dear readers. I've been getting a lot more traffic lately and wonder why. And who you are. Say hello in a comment! Feel free to comment as much as you like.

I've chosen to be extraordinarily solitary lately. Not that that is much different from my normal life. But I haven't gone out to the bar, I haven't reached out to friends. I realize that one of the gifts my lifestyle offers me is time. Lots and lots of time. And I'm finally appreciating it and using it for my writing. I've started a writing ritual that works for me. It involves meditation and a little self-hypnosis. I've had conversations with two hypnotists I respect and the advice they gave me is working.

Work is slowing down, as it always does at the then of Summer. I feel Summer ending, wringing itself out. The sun sets a little earlier. This morning at 6 when I woke up the sky was still rather dark. Heading into Fall. I have to get shirts with sleeves and buy socks. I'll have to pull blankets out of my closet soon and wash them, put them on my bed and drape one over my sofa so I can snuggle into it.

One of the more interesting things that has been happening in my morning meditation is plot. Plot ideas, fixes and twists bubble up constantly. I have to tell my mind Shhh, not now, I'm meditating. But I inevitably forget a few when I come out of my meditation. They appear like dreams, something I think I'll remember but when I'm fully awake they turn into vapor and float away. I've decided not to fight it, or chase after it. They're there. They come up because my mind is quiet. They don't go anywhere, they're still inside but my mind chatter drowns them out. I trust myself, my subconscious, to hold on to what matters.

I'm reading this saturday night at The Spot in Barrio Logan for an event honoring local women of the Chicano movement. I'm reading a poem I wrote for one of the honorees and something else, I haven't decided what yet.

I've been listening to a lot of Carla Morrison lately. Digging her much.

Monday, September 10, 2012

writing for this young adult

I posted this picture of myself over my desk, the horrible seventh grade school picture. When I'm stuck I remind myself I'm writing my books for her.

She didn't know until two years after this picture was taken that it was even possible to see herself in literature; the closest she'd come were the Indians in the Little House on the Prairie books. She used to be sad that her family didn't come to the USA via Ellis Island. She was sad that there was no history in her family of covered wagons, or pioneer days, or trees growing in Brooklyn. There was no babysitter's club possible in her life because there were always tons of relatives around willing to babysit.

She was a lonely kid with a big imagination and she had no literary role models who looked like her or came from places her ancestors or relatives came from.  Books for Latina young adults? Not back then, barely even now.


I remember the day in ninth grade when my teacher handed out copies of The House on Mango Street. I was a bored student. I liked English classes but I was sneaking The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and reading the Ayla/Jondalar sex scenes over and over again from the Clan of the Cave Bear series. Ms. Lopez handed out the book, I popped it open started reading and felt mind blown.

Really. I took that book and read it as soon as I got home. Then I read it again. And again. I went back to school the next day and asked my English teacher if there were other writers like Cisneros. She gave me a reading list. I started checked books out and was a little angry I had never heard of any of the writers I was reading.

I look at this picture, pinned above my desk and when I'm struggling I think of her, all the shit she could have avoided if she felt relevant, that she belonged. I think of this awesome girl no one told was awesome, no one said ever said to her Your history matters. You matter.

Anyway. Writing a lot these days. Happily productive. I'm nearing a place in the story where I have to (or should) end the first book. I thought it was over at an earlier place but I kept reading over the manuscript while editing and I felt I could add on. I introduced a character today, someone I had no idea was going to show up and I like her. She's kind of creepy and dark, but has a good heart.

No more this song, I'm writing!!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

overripe and the muse

The end of Summer here in San Diego isn't so much an ending as it is a swelling, a building up. It gets hot, sticky, still. We're an irrigated desert and we forget it. Between the sea and the mountains, we get trapped in the heat. Ay.

I've been feeling a little strange the last few days. Full in my body and my mind but extraordinarily lazy too. Not morose or melancholic but like a dog in heat, panting, trying to find a cool spot for my body and breathing. I feel like overripe fruit, too heavy to bear the weight of myself but if I drop, I'll burst.

This morning in my meditation I came to the truth that I am overripe. I have been doing way too much research and planning when it comes to the fantasy novel. I've been so caught up in the how of things that I've forgotten the why. I'm stuffed full of Joseph Campbell, Mexican and Central American Pre-Colombian mythology, plot ideas, themes around  masculine v. feminine power. Ugh. I need to release the valve and just finish telling my story. My character doesn't care about patriarchy, she has people to find. My antagonists aren't concerned about the symbolism of fire, they want to take someone down. My beautiful beast has a mission and isn't at all interested in his role as the stranger on the road. I need to get over it and get under it, into it.

My friends recommended a couple of Steven Pressfield books to me and I am really enjoying Do the Work. A no bullshit look at writing and the creative process.

I have a writing playlist. I have songs in my head as I work on the book. I looked at it and realized it is mostly Aterciopelados. Andrea Echeverri is pretty much my favorite singer of all time. Her lyrics slay me, her music thrills me.  It embodies the kind of woman I want to be. She gets to a truth in her music that drives my writing, living. She pretty much has a song for every chapter in the book.

Monday, September 3, 2012

every ritual was once a whim

Today is the symbolic end of Summer, for me, and tons of others. This Labor Day. Bbqs, beaches, last struts in the sun, beer guzzle, the chemically sweet stink of sunscreen. I too see Summer as the stretch between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend. Those three-ish months of heat, late nights, exposed skin. 

My start to Summer this year was intense, my sister's wedding was Memorial Day Weekend. I was sick, sick-sick with aches in my lungs and body, a virus took me down and I had to stagger through, smile plastered because you can't be sick on your sister's wedding day. You have to be joyous. I was, but I was also tired and sad because I was sick. Regardless, it was a good day, a good weekend full of family and laughter. The months planning up to the wedding were chaotic and busy so I planned to get the hell out of town right after and I did. I got in my truck and drove to New Mexico.

I love the road. I love driving longs hours, listening to music, audiobooks, my own thoughts. I love the solitude of the road, passing cars and trucks, moving into my own. I was ready to get away. 

I'd spent a lot of the last year working on myself. I was a mess a year ago, angry, betrayed, and mostly pissed off at myself for not listening to my instincts. After the mess I had a few months of chaos, distraction; I bumbled through somewhat rudely until I couldn't anymore. Enter a more consistent meditation practice, contemplation, the clearing out of years and years of crap.

Fast forward to the beginning of Summer. I was ready ready ready for change, for joy. 

I put a lot of myself into my writing, a lot of my vulnerabilities show up, the sharp or rough edges, especially in my poetry. I'm okay with that, the best writing is open and emotional. I wrote a short story before Summer. I wrote it for Las Dos Brujas Workshop, but I also wrote it to exorcise some demons. I remember working on it, crying so hard into my keyboard I couldn't even type. I chucked all sorts of wounds into that story, The Half Wife, so I could be rid of them. After I finished it I lay down on the floor and cried. I had so much to get rid of. I felt exposed and raw after writing it.

I'm so grateful I wrote that story, that it tore me open. I'm so glad I bled all over those pages. I needed it.  I was still open when I got to the desert. Everything changed there. I reconnected with old friends, I reconnected with the best part of myself, I made new friends, I fell in love.

The last couple of months I keep looking at myself and wondering why I feel so strange, then I realize this"strange" feeling is happiness. I didn't realize how much of the last few years I've spent in a kind of holding pattern while I worked through things, while I struggled with my writing and my relationship to being a writer. No more, no more. I am happy. I am comfortable in my creative skin and joyous in the work. I know it'll ebb and flow, such is the nature of creativity but I've been in the flow and fuck, I like it.

I've decided to go ahead and work on the second book of the trilogy even though I still am working on editing the first book. I need to get into that place, where my lovely character is growing and moving on, transforming. I've been frustrated with a lot of the female protagonists I've been reading. I want to yell at them Rescue yourself!!! So much plot. So much history. Last weekend my new Love was visiting me and I talked with him at length about the world my books inhabit and I was really surprised at how much I know. I really have worked my ass off to think about the mythology and culture of the place; I have so many interweaving plots and nuanced characters. I have to trust myself more, trust that my subconscious knows the deal and keep moving forward. I love it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

step step stepping

Less blogging, more living.

Hot hot heatwave here in San Diego. I've spent much of the weekend curled up in front of the air conditioner in my bedroom with books, beers and Buddy, the most dramatic poodle I've ever known. My good friend David Thomas Martinez has been staying with me since Thursday. He's getting his PhD in poetry from the University of Houston. He's been living there for a couple of years but we try to get together when he's visiting home. Great conversations the last few days about writing, writing and writing. And a lot of shit-talking to each other, a lot of beer drinking, eating Mexican food and singing along to lowrider oldies. I imagine if I had a slightly older brother he would be just like David and our friendship would be as solid. His collection of poetry is coming out in 2014, through Sarabande Books. I'm super proud of him and truly excited for his book.

I was in Vancouver last week for six days and it was perfect.

I started notes on a new novel the other day then just dove right into it and wrote a couple thousand words. I was thinking about the middle grade books I read when I was that age and I remembered how much I loved ghost stories and mysteries. I started outlining one while sitting in my truck, waiting for a client and boom. I was so excited about the idea I had to write when I got home. Great feeling. I still have a ton of work to do on the fantasy novel but I needed a little break, a little writing away from myth, away from my beloved characters. Sometimes you need a break so when you come back there is renewed vigor. Or I'm just making excuses about distracting myself.

Travel and guests have kept me a little staccato in my meditation practice. What a difference twenty minutes of silence in the morning makes on my day, my whole perspective. I really do need to be more consistent with my morning silence. I've been really good about it in general but even a couple of weeks off and I start feeling old tensions creep up into my body and mind.

Heading up to Oakland in a couple of days for a wedding then back down to San Diego. I'm taking some steps toward a future and I'm not taking them alone.

I'm thinking big thoughts. Big, gorgeous, enormous thoughts. And I like what I'm thinking.

Monday, July 23, 2012

as a bee

My life is super busy, in a good way. I have little time for blogging or internet in general.

I taught a workshop last called "Why We Write." It was through So Say We All. I LOVED it! I had no idea how to approach the subject so I came up with a list of questions about the stories that affected us as children, the writers we turn to, and a few other questions. I didn't know if the process would work but at the end it was pretty interesting to see how the questions answered the "Why We Write" question without actually having to answer the question outright. At the end of the workshop I did another exercise, writing from a place of "as if." This is an exercise I've done in my own life, in meditation and other practice. Act as if what you want has already happened. I had the participants write themselves letters as if they were their own biggest fan, in the future, writing to tell the author why their work was so meaningful to them. (For example: Dear Lizz, thank you for writing the **** trilogy. Your main character reminded me so much of myself; seeing her on her journey changed. . . ) I almost cried several times when people read their letters aloud. I love teaching workshops, I forget I've been writing a very long time and that I have a lot to share about the process.

I've been starting my mornings every day with poetry. I make a pot of coffee in the French press, sit in my office in the morning light and read. I've been reading Rilke, Rumi, Harjo, Cernuda, Whitman, Cervantes, writers who uplift me and remind me to live my day with a certain type of grace. I recommend starting the day with poetry.

Heading out to Vancouver in a couple of weeks and I'm pretty damn excited. 

Monday, July 9, 2012


A couple of nights ago I dreamt I was waiting for a man I love in the desert, there was an arroyo. I began weaving a bridge made of my own hair. I kept cutting my hair to braid it into cables to span the divide and my hair kept growing. It was one of the most beautiful dreams I've ever had.

I'm an in love with the Rumi poem, The Sunrise Ruby. Submit to a daily practice. Yes and more yes.

I haven't blogged in a while. My computer died. I've been busy contemplating, growing, taking care of details. Summer is also my busy season for work, I've been putting in 12 hour days and sometimes working six days a week. I have to hustle this time of year because after the feast there is often famine.

While cleaning out a desk drawer I found a journal from January and February of this year. Every morning I wrote down my dreams then just journaled. Pretty impressive to see what I wrote, what I was dreaming. I was definitely struggling.  No more, no more.

In joyous news, I have writing in a new anthology, Ban This!; The BSP Anthology of Xican@ Literature. Some pretty great writers in the collection, I'm proud to have my work published with theirs.

A few things coming up, I'll be teaching a one night workshop on "why we write." I'll post more details as soon as I have them. And I have a next month reading in. . . . CANADA!!! More details on that soon as well.

I spent the afternoon with my grandmother yesterday I am crazy blessed to have been born into this beautiful, strange family. My grandmother has 16 grandchildren but she somehow manages to connect with all of us in our own unique way. She and I have some interesting things in common that are sometimes a little scary. We also consider each other crazy but love each other dearly. I'm grateful for her long life and how much I can learn from her.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Las Dos Brujas Workshop 2012

I've been trying to write a bog post for a week, trying to describe what happened at Las Dos Brujas Workshops. I can't. It would be like trying to describe falling in love, or a hallucination.

A few thoughts:

Ghost Ranch: stunningly beautiful, majestic, almost painful to be away from. The color of the earth changed every hour with the light, sun or moon. The air had a quality of listening and of taking breath away.

The writers. Holy Shit. Denise Chavez, Kimiko Hahn, Juan Felipe Herrera, Chris Abani, and the queen who brought it all together, Cristina Garcia. The readings each night made my scalp tingle, I was inspired and humbled. The craft talks made me dizzy. Everyone was approachable, everyone was a love. I've never attended a workshop where the instructors were available to everyone. We all sat together and lunch and drank wine (and bootleg beer, another story soon to be brought to you by Lizz) at the evening receptions.

My workshop with Chris Abani. We're not allowed to talk about it, like Fight Club. Know this: I am changed. The workshop changed me but also the conversations outside the workshop.

Friends: there were a ton of people I knew there, including my "workshop husband" V. I love him. We crack each other up and also take each other very seriously. He and I bicker like an old married couple but the love and affection between us is real, important. He was my base, I always came back to him to process. Grateful for his friendship.

My new friends changed everything. I met two people who flipped my world upside down and sliced it open. Nadia, Nadia, Nadia. Beautiful, complex, hilarious Nadia. My late onset Siamese twin, my lost sister. I rarely every connect with another woman like that. Our conversations went deep, personal, we let each other see parts ourselves we keep hidden from most. We are alike, crazy alike, even our dark sides resonate. And we loved each other. Sisters, truly. We supported each other through some changes and still are. I can't wait to see her again. We're happy for each other, in a way that changes everything.

The first morning at Ghost Ranch I jumped out of bed at 5am and felt compelled to go for a sunrise walk. On the road I met Hari, who came to LDB with Nadia, good friends. We shared a phenomenal sunrise walk and met the rest of the week each morning to do the same. We sang the same songs, played in mud, braided our hair, were swallowed up by absurdity. He brought me a bottle of wine the night my life changed; I was panicking, pacing back and forth on a dirt road at midnight while crying to the moon. He listened. I'm glad it was him.

Also, love to David for the midnight full moon poetry reading. It was kind of ridiculous. And for being watcher, keeper, observer and muse. That poem was, is in my blood

Everyone who was there felt something shift within themselves. I don't know if it was the land, or the people, or the moon, or the ghosts, but we all changed. I don't feel like the same person anymore. Love does that, changes the landscape; but this was more. I had to face a few things about myself that I had been neglecting. I had to face some very real fears. I'm still working through them. But I made the decision, I can't go back.

The conversations I had there with my loves are some of the most sacred conversations I have every had. I wasn't ready for those talks before, I wasn't ready for the truth. But being split open and being okay with the discomfort is new, welcome. I realize now how I was giving myself before to smallness; small hearted love, small minded company, small views on an endless world. I'm not that small, I can't squeeze myself down, I break. No more. That isn't me. I am grateful beyond words for the change, in awe.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I've been trying to think about my experience at Las Dos Brujas, but I'm still working it out, letting it absorb, surrendering. I will write about it, maybe later today, maybe next week. I'll say this: I've never been happier or more at peace with myself and my writing. As I tweeted earlier this week: I'm so fucking happy you don't even know who I am anymore.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

road joy

I am writing this from a hotel room in Flagstaff. In a few minutes I'll drive the rest of way to Santa Fe. I admit, I was a little worried about being on the road alone for so many hours yesterday. As much as I drive, long solo stretches are rare. Yesterday morning my dad told me, very seriously, "Do not pick up hitchhikers or men outside of prisons."  HA!

The road from San Diego to Phoenix is flat, boring lame. But the drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff! Oh my heart was glad, I was glad, singing, happy. It was ridiculously beautiful. I had  my music on full blast, singing at the top of my lugs and I was happy. I felt myself for the first time in a long time. My adventurous self, my wild self, free, nothing but possibility in front of me.

I have no idea what I'll do in Santa Fe. I'm not worried. I'm sure I'll be fine. I am SO looking forward to getting back on the road. The road loves me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


It was beautiful.


Getting ready with my sisters and various other bridesmaids and family members. It occurred to me as we dressed and primped and rank champagne that we were were engaging in an ancient ritual. The bride was surrounded by women as we helped her prepare for her new life. We fed her, drank champagne, sang, told her she was the most beautiful woman in the world. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

The ceremony. It was short and completely personal. It was funny, emotional and honest, just like my sister and Matt. We cracked up, cried and were overjoyed. They wrote their own vows, which were sweet without being cheesy. I had a hard time keeping my eyes dry, but then again, I was on the vicodin cough syrup.

The photo booth. We rented a photo booth so the guests could take pictures and have a personal memento to take home. It was riotous. People couldn't get enough. We had to close the photo booth just to get people inside to eat dinner. Pictures got crazier later in the night as the alcohol flowed more freely.

Family.  Fuck, I love my family. I love the extended bunch, the non-blood, the cousins and 8th cousins, the great-aunts, uncles, every single person. I am beyond blessed to come from such a crazy clan.

My dad's speech. He is hilarious. His first words were "One down, two to go." It was emotional but mostly funny. He embarrassed the crap out of my sister.

My speech. I welcomed Matt to the family and told him now that he is in, the only way out is "blood out."

So much more but I have to get on the road. I'm driving to New Mexico today. Road trip, alone. I am thrilled. I look forward to driving in the desert at night, this is my night driving desert music:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

this beautiful morning

I'm sitting in a hotel room in San Juan Capistrano with my sisters. Today is the day my sister Deanna gets married. Strange, wonderful. I can't believe today is the day, we've been waiting for it for months, for our entire lives. She is the first sister to get married. I'm living in a hyper-reality today, everything is super-defined, real.  Yesterday we were lazy, taking care of small wedding details. I had to go to the doctor as I still have a bad cough. He prescribed me a Vicodin cough syrup so I'm a little high, but at least I'm not coughing or in pain.  Last night we hung out, drinking margaritas, laughing and enjoying the calm before the storm.

I'm excited. I'm happy for my sister. We're relaxing, listening to Tupac, drinking coconut water. The hairstylist just arrived. The wedding isn't until 6 but we'll spend the entire day gutting ready, slowly, happily. I am so blessed to be a part of this wonderful family. I love my sisters so much, and my parents, and everyone in this new and expanding family. I dreamt about the wedding all night.  I'm so so so happy. Today is one of the best days ever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

extracting the story

I've been reading a ton of Fantasy and Paranormal Young Adult fiction; I actually always read YA but in my reading the last year or so I've been paying attention to the arc, narrative styles, themes, etc because of the book I'm writing. My protagonist is on the Hero's Journey, with appropriate deviations from the traditional path. I am struggling a little. But I didn't expect it to be easy. I've been reading books that are parts of trilogies, as in the fantasy camp of my mind, I'm writing a trilogy. I've noticed that in a lot of the trilogies I'm reading, the second book falls a little flat, most of the interesting character development has already occurred and the plot focus on situations leading toward whatever is the big reveal in the third book. I have my books mapped out. I have a plan. I think my character will end up in a very interesting place right before the first book ends so I can have that momentum to drive the second book. I'll figure it out.

Wedding wedding wedding. I'm very excited for my sister's wedding and I get more excited each day. I'm trying not to think about all the things I need to do before then and all the work I have to get done before I leave.

I head out to New Mexico next week for a couple of weeks. I know I have some work with an interior designer but she isn't in the country yet so I have a couple of days to hang out in New Mexico on my own. I'll probably do some solo camping, as much as the idea drives my parents crazy. But I love sleeping outdoors, I love sitting in front of a fire. Then a week at Las Dos Brujas Writing Workshop. Pretty excited to see a couple of good friends. My friend V and I only ever see each other every couple of years but when we get together we act like siblings. I'm excited to work with Chris Abani, I've known him for years, he was part of the VONA faculty so I hung out with him but I've never had the chance to work with him.

Coming home will be interesting. I've had the wedding and the workshop to look forward to. I don't have much to look forward to this summer. Work and distractions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

the body, sick

I'm finally getting over this crappy, crappy cold. I tried to be a noble sick person, keeping to myself, making myself soup and honeyed tea, sleeping wrapped in a heavy blanket, the humidifier turning my room into a sauna. I try to allow, let the virus work itself out, let my immune system bolster itself. But then I lose my shit and turn weepy. I hate being sick. I hate being sick alone.

When I was a kid, illness meant lots of love, homemade soup lovingly fed to me by my mom or one of my grandmothers or aunts. Illness meant foot rubs, cool towels on my head, the scent of Vicks VapoRub permeating my footie pajamas. My grandfather would go rent a bunch of old Disney movies and we'd watch them together, I LOVED The Gnome Mobile.

The first time I was sick alone I was living in Mexico. I caught a cold and was miserable. I remember walking down the the local mercado and finding a stand that sold homemade chicken soup. I bought a styrofoam container and sat at a plastic table, eating it alone. There was a family of women at a table near me and they noticed I was sick. They were mothers and concerned I was sick  and alone. They gave me advice about what kind of medicinal tea to buy, what cough syrup, how to wrap myself up and sweat it out. I thanked them and went home to my tiny apartment alone and wrapped myself up and cried. I was lonelier than I had never been. I was living alone in the middle of Mexico, I had no close friends or family to call upon and I had to take care of myself. I did it but I was miserable. I wanted my mom.

Getting sick as an adult I know what to do, I know what I need, I know how to take care of myself. A lot of times when I get sick my mom or one of my sisters will stop by with soup, or whatever I need and sit with me, give me some of the comfort that comes from feeling cared for by someone you love, feeling loved. This last weekend no one came. My sister's wedding is in a few days and no one wanted to risk catching what I have. I was miserable. But I survived, heating pad and Netflix.

I am better now. I went to the doctor and he gave me a couple of shots. He promised I'll be better by the wedding. I hope my nose isn't chapped by then.

Writing the speech I'm giving at my sister's wedding. I'm excited. I don't have a date for the wedding. I have two male best friends but couldn't ask one and not the other so I invited neither. I thought for a long time if there was anyone else I could take, but no. I'm sitting at a table with people I love and look forward to dancing, rejoicing, loving.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

putting in, taking out

Woke up with a burning and sore throat, dry nasal passages. Dosing myself heavily with honey and tea, salt water gargles, homeopathic remedies. I haven't been sick in a very ling time. I had been thinking about illness and the body. During my last relationship I was sick all of the time. I was dealing with a shit-load of negativity, angst and tension; my immune system faltered and viruses got their claws in. Since the end of that chaos last summer I've been taking very good care of myself, working out a lot, eating live food, meditating and my immune system bolstered up. The last week or so I haven't made it to the gym because of the bursitis and I have been admittedly eating crap. And now a cold. I have to get better, my sister's wedding is a week from today and I don't want sick face, swollen and chapped nostrils for the photographs.

This latest short story is a lot to write. Not so much in terms of how long it will be but how much of myself I'm putting into it.  The protagonist has aspects of myself that I don't really like, parts of my psyche that hinder me. But writing it down is interesting.

There is an eclipse tomorrow. If I'm feeling up to it I want to drive out somewhere East to watch. I'm fascinated by the orbits and trajectories of heavenly bodies. The character in my novel are somewhat ruled by the stars and planets, the moon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

no shoulder is colder

I am a pretty damn patient person. Patient to a fault but once the line is crossed, watch out. I have a someone I call my inner chola; you don't want to meet her. She scares people. As B has said to me, "When you're angry, no shoulder is colder than your cold shoulder."

Last night inner chola came out with a fury and I was somewhat remorseful. But then I had a conversation that made me feel better.

The creative writing class I'm teaching is getting bigger every week. The teens seem to really love it. But, get a room full of teenagers together and there is bound to be drama and/or tension. Last night things came to a head. I had a female student who was reading aloud a very personal piece about her mother abandoning her. Another student snickered in the middle of the piece. The student who was reading stopped and told her to shut the fuck up, that she was disrespecting her. The sister of the snickering student lost her shit and jumped up and started shouting at the girl whose piece had been interrupted. They screamed at each other for a few minutes then the girl to my right leapt up and said she was going to beat the crap out of the reader, she lunged over the table.

Oh hell no. Not on my watch.

I bellowed. And I can bellow. I don't exactly remember what I said but I know I used the language of drunken sailors on leave. I told them in no uncertain terms that I was sick of their bullshit. I told them I was sick of watching young women compete against each other, that when women compete against each other it blinds them to the shit going on around them that is truly important and allows them to be taken advantage of by men and society. I told them they were disrespecting me and every other student in the classroom and if they continued I would walk out and never come back.  I told them they had enough against them in the world and our classroom was a place of unity and family.

My yelling shut them up. By the time I finished they were both crying. A couple of my other students were crying too, I scared them. I didn't feel bad about yelling at the fighting girls but I felt horrible about letting the other students see me lose my shit. I apologized by the tension was thick. After class I apologized to the program director and called my executive director at the non-profit and apologized to him, explaining what had happened.

I was pacing in my bones after. I needed solitude and a drink. I went to the local restaurant I love to hang out at, ordered a glass of wine and was happy to see someone I knew at the bar, a Chicano muralist I've known for years. He teaches art and is a cool, cool man. He asked what was bugging me and I told him my story, feeling shameful. He laughed. And laughed then patted me on the back, telling me I did exactly what I needed. That the things I said would stick with them, maybe not immediately but down the line they would make sense to the kids.

Anyway. I feel okay about it this morning. Not great but okay.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I've been in contact with a good friend from San Diego who is going through the worst time in her life. She is in Florida, taking care of her mother as she transitions out of living. I can't imagine. My heart breaks and shudders for my sweet friend, knowing how close she is to her mother. I keep sending her messages, leaving voicemail. I give her permission to be pissed off, to be sad, since all of her friends keep telling her to to be brave. Sure, bravery has its place but anger and grief are very natural parts of our human existence. I say go with the scary emotions, the ones with teeth. Be brave later. My friend has grace, has faith, a community of people who love and support her. But still, grief is a river to be navigated alone.

Working on this latest short story is surprisingly emotional. I haven't broken down crying while writing a short story in a long time. There were parts of writing my novel that were very intense, I sobbed my eyes out after writing the scene where my protagonist is born. (Probably my favorite scene in the whole book, tears come to my eyes just thinking about it.) But this short story is a very different vein of writing than the novel. It is not exactly in a fantasy world but in a mythological world of story. I wonder if that makes sense to anyone but me. I know setting and place are important in storytelling but in this series of stories I'm trying to get the emotional home, the different places women love from and are loved; location is irrelevant. For guidance, I look to some of my favorite Latin American writers who create worlds that are gentle, that don't force the hands of those who live there. The world of story, of mythology isn't a physical place that can be scribbled into being. Or I'm a romantic, no, I am definitely a romantic.

Part of the process I'm learning is to let go of what I think I want to say, the meaning I wanted to attach to my stories. That will take care of itself. I'm a fan of the subconscious; subtext happens. I've also made the choice to just fucking write the shit, even if it mirrors back aspects of myself that are vulnerable or terrifying to consider. Just tell the damn story. Letting go of what I want isn't particularly easy, of course I want the story to go a certain way. But as in life, that isn't realistic. The story has its own heart to master.

Monday, May 14, 2012

serenades and time machines

I've been listening to Mexican music all day. These songs are in my blood and bones, they inhabit my language and emotions as my father has been singing them my entire life. My preferences change over the years and my favorites rotate. Yesterday I sat on the porch at my sister's house with my grandmother and dad and my dad and I sang "No Volvere." I won't return. We were clouds the wind blew apart, we were rocks crashing into each other, drops of water the sun dried out, inebriation that ever ended. The lyrics sound much better in Spanish. I'm leaving on the train of absence.

I'm listening to Mexican music to try to invigorate my brain as I work on a short story that takes place in Mexico. It is part of a series of stories I've been working on that are inspired by the songs my dad has been singing my entire life, and I borrow from the crazy mythology of my family, the paternal side.

There was, and is still, a tradition in Mexico of the serenata, the serenade. A man who was courting a woman would bring a guitar or friends with guitars to sing under the woman's window as a declaration of love. I love this idea and have always had a fantasy of it happening to me, thought I doubt it will ever happen. In the early 1970s my dad serenaded my mom under her window in Brooklyn. The neighbor's didn't appreciate it and yelled at him to shut the fuck up and the like. But he was in love and super-romantic.

Saturday morning I woke up with a terrible ache in my elbow that become worse as the day progressed. I woke up yesterday morning with a huge bump on my elbow. I have bursitis, probably from working out too hard. Ugly and painful. The doctor told me I can't work out my arm for at least two weeks. Of course. Less than two weeks until my sister's wedding and I can't work out my arms. I know there are worse things but damn, my arms were starting to look really good.

Yesterday for Mother's Day we watched old home movies with my mom, aunt and grandmother. So, so strange to see myself. I get so sad for my younger self, she was such a nerd. I watch the movies knowing what she's going through at school and in her many lonely moments. In the videos I always have a book in hand. I'm skinny skinny skinny with huge glasses and feet too big for my body. In the videos we watched I was about to enter junior high school. I cried when I came home yesterday for the kid I was. I was so strange and lonely, incredibly socially awkward. I wanted so badly to connect to others but didn't know how. Kids weren't particularly mean to me but they didn't know what to do with me, how to interact. When I look at the novel I'm working on I realize I'm writing it for that girl, the weird kid, the nerd; to make her less lonely, to plant seeds that one day she'll grow up and feel loved.

Friday, May 11, 2012

linear time

I'm waiting for summer 
to subsist or submit, resisting 
the change of the season's 

from 100 Words While I Wait 
Lorna Dee Cervantes

Last night I went to see an old friend do a presentation on his life's work. Mind. Blowing. I met him 11 year ago while living in Playa del Carmen. He is brilliant, always has been and I am in awe at how he followed his passion, to very successful fruition. Our friendship was a furious mix of laughter and arguing, swimming in the ocean, driving sandy roads. I can't believe 11 years has passed since we met, since those days and nights of salt, ocean. I remember one night a hurricane was approaching and the town was locking down. I convinced my friend we should walk on the beach to feel the storm on our skin. The winds were crazy; I think I was a little crazy. I climbed to the top of a bamboo lifeguard tower and leaned into the wind, I was wearing a long red skirt and it was whipping everywhere, painfully. I laughed and laughed while my friend looked up at me and laughed too. He shouted to me that I was crazy. That summer I sang Avientame by Cafe Tacuba every day.

Seeing my friend last night I was happy for my younger self, her love of wildness. I was drunk on life back then. Every day I woke up and went into the ocean and swam out, probably a kilometer, to the reef where I would let the currents carry me around while I floated, face down with a mask on, marveling at the world below. I'd see barracuda with their fucked up teeth; fish more colorful than American candy; sea turtles. The world felt enormous and I felt that I was an essential part of it, that my wonder would propel me.

I love that Lizz. I look at my life since then and it has been a gradual closing, battening down. I would never walk out into a hurricane these days to see what the storm feels like, I've known the storm and it was enough. I know there is still a part of me that welcomes risk because I know when it works out the reward is sweeter than anything any tongue could taste. 

After the presentation last night I had dinner with a college professor I knew back then. She inspired me more than she knows. She lived life freely, traveling and exploring. I would listen to her stories and I collected them in my head. Last night she was amazed when I recalled stories she told me over ten years ago.  She and I have a great connection and with her I can talk about things I'm not comfortable talking about with anyone else. She and I are of the same emotional tribe.

I've battled insomnia again this week. I'm tired at night but sleeping well is out of my grasp. I get into bed and wait and wait. When I do fall asleep I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I've slept long enough. I'm awake long enough for moments of existential panic, the awareness of my own mortality sharp, wondering what I'm doing with my life, meaning and other daggers of crisis. It will pass. 

Time is strange. Aging is strange. But interesting. I don't mind it so much, in daylight hours, with a cup of strong coffee in hand. I have friends who never got to age, I think of them often.

Last night I had drinks with my neighbor. We were talking about romantic love, relationships. We're both single and kind of looking (not at each other). He told me that I should tone myself down a bit, that I may come off as intimidating because I am strong in personality and spirit. I've wondered that about myself, if I'm too alpha for my own good. I don't think so. I am strong, no doubt, but I am also incredibly generous with my heart, to a fault. I don't mind being single, I enjoy my time and solitude. But cooking for one sucks. And there is no one to call when I have insomnia. But no, I'm not going to tone it down. That won't work for me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

jumping off

I spent a long weekend in the Bay Area, visiting friends and going to my sister's bachelorette party. It was good, but shadowed by something I witnessed.

Friday morning I woke up early. My cousin happened to be in San Francisco too so we met up for breakfast. The morning was beautiful, sunny. We decided to take a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. We were happy, watching dolphins, enjoying the wind. Then we saw a man kill himself by jumping off the bridge. I was appalled, shocked and cried for the stranger. It was surreal, unreal and I think I went into a kind of shock. Seeing his body floating in the water while dolphins and seals surfaced near him is an image I'll never get out of my head, as long as I live. I stood, looking over the side of the bridge while the Coast guard boats raced to pul his body out of the water. The man was wearing a black t-shirt, it rode up his back, exposing his skin. I kept wondering what had gone through his head when he put the shirt on. Did he know he would die wearing that shirt? I cried thinking about his family or friends who were unaware he was gone. I cried because life is short and sadness eats away After we left I wanted to go back to my hotel and stay in bed and be sad but I knew I couldn't dwell on it.

I spent the afternoon in Berkeley with my beautiful friend Sharline and her precious baby girl. We spent the whole afternoon together, catching up, laughing, playing with her baby, But the man who jumped was still on my mind, sadly. I kept thinking that he was someone's baby once; someone fed him and picked him up when he cried. I had a wonderful time with my friend, was and am grateful for her friendship and love. I was even more appreciative that day than I think I would have been. 

Friday night I met up with friends who were in town from Mexico, by then I was exhausted and left them to slept poorly; sad for the stranger, sad that life can sucker-punch you in the heart when you least expect it. 

Bachelorette day was a good, solid time. 13 women, wine-tasting. getting drunk, eating good food. Making my sister play dumb games that involved 13 pair of panties and a phallus veil. I love my sister and she has wonderful, wonderful friends. I wish I had more female friends in town. I do have female friends but they're all married, or have kids, or both. I miss quality female time. We ate and drank and danced. I danced so much I wore the skin off of a couple of toes and haven't been able to wear real shoes since the weekend. 

It was good to see my sister so happy. I am really, really happy for her. Marriage is something she has always wanted and the man she's going to spend the rest of her is a good man who treats her well and makes her happy. I look forward to the wedding in a couple of weeks.

Last month a friend got me a copy of the new Lorna Dee Cervantes poetry collection "Ciento" and he gave it to me Sunday right before I left town. Holy crap. I love Lorna Dee. I love her writing. I've been savoring the book, dipping into it slowly. I decided to start a new habit. When I fall in love with the poem I writ the name of the poem down and the date I fall in love with it in the back of the book so I can have an emotional timeline of my response. I've read so much poetry over the years and different poems mean different things to me depending on where I am in my life. I'm looking forward to looking back.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

this whole adult thing

This whole adult thing is overrated. My life is crazy busy and I live a relatively simple life, no partner, no kids, to debt. I don't know how anyone with real responsibilities handles the insanity. I suppose I'm not busy to a point where it bothers me but some down time would be nice. Rant over.

I spent the entire day yesterday in LA with my sister, shopping for her wedding We shopped for 8 hours. I know that is my record, usually I'm a monster when it comes to shopping. I put up with it like a champ because my sister is awesome and I've witnessed a couple of pre-wedding meltdowns and have had to calm her down. I love both my sisters but D and I have always been especially close since we are only a few years apart. I'm excited for her wedding and love how happy she is. I also know that when she stresses out I'm one of the only people on the planet who can keep her calm. But our shopping day was nice. We laughed a lot, talked a lot, spent a stupid amount of money. On the way home in traffic we went over seating arrangements for the tables and I made sure I'll be sitting at the "fun" table.

Today I head up for San Francisco for her bachelorette weekend. Wine tasting in Napa with 11 other women. Girl time. Girl talk. I really like my sister's friends so I'm sure we'll have a blast. I'm going to spend my day tomorrow with one of my favorite people on the planet, Sharline and can't wait. I have great friends but they're all so spread out. Adulthood, bah.

I feel non-stop and my next six weeks aren't any better. I haven't really had any time to write and I have to ready my piece for the writing workshop I'm heading up to in a month. I am over-the-moon excited for it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

as a bee

I'm the featured poet on Thursday night at Space Bar in La Mesa at 7pm. Come on down.

Last week was a week of 12+ hour work days. I was working for my favorite interior designer; she is a visionary but also very demanding. I love working for her because I'm always challenged but also well rewarded for my work.

I spent this last weekend in LA with La Creep and had a great time. La Creep and I laughed harder than we have in a very long time. We went to the Homeboy Industries Gala on Saturday night. What a beautiful, beautiful event. I was inspired. It made me want to volunteer even more with those who have  hard time finding their voice.

Writing, not so much. I've been so busy that all I want to do at the end of the day is sleep or read. I read three great YA books this last weekend. I think when I'm finished with the fantasy book I'll try my hand at a contemporary YA novel, possibly, probably paranormal. I LOVED the two books in the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand, despite cheesy as all fuck covers and crappy description. Well-written, nuanced, phenomenal characters. Happy making. Her gun over the mantle is wonderful, a dark character I can't help having hope for.

I have such a busy few months ahead of me but they are going to be punctuated by some joy that I can't even begin to describe.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I'm happy to announce my poetry manuscript has been selected as a finalist for the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. Pretty thrilled, and in good company with the other finalists.

Lots going on but much of it beneath the surface. These next couple of months are jammed packed, I think I have every weekend between now and the middle of June booked. Of course I'll still take plenty of time for myself, little moments or days tucked away into the insanity. April is always a strange month for me. Spring is my favorite season and this Spring is no different.

Monday, April 9, 2012


So much going on, crazy, scary, strange. I have been neglecting both this blog and my personal writing a bit. Upheaval, annoyance, change.

I had an argument with an aunt last night. She was giving me a world of shit, telling me no one will ever take me seriously because I don't have a degree. She says that to be respected by academia and intellectuals I need a degree. I told her over and over again that validation from my peers and/or alleged superiors has never been a priority. I love my life, I love my experiences and most of all I love who I am. As they say in Spanish Me vale madre, I don't give a fuck. Still, it was annoying at least to stand there and be told over and over again that what I have to say in my writing isn't relevant because I don't have a degree.

Shit. I live a great life. I have my own business. I travel. I have had adventures enough to fill a book. I have had great love and bullshit love. I work with my hands and body and am familiar with the physicality of work, most people have lost that physical awareness. I am connected to the culture and land where my ancestors were from and I visit regularly and collect stories. I hate sitting in classrooms. Perhaps I don't have a clear grasp of theory and all that other shit but I don't live my live in theory, I live it in practice, in experience, in fuck-ups and celebration. Do you know how many miserable academics I know? How many times people have told me they wish they hadn't gone to school? Rant rant rant. As much as I say I don't care it obviously rankled me a bit. To say I'm not worthy of respect because I chose to live my life in experiences rather than in classrooms is bullshit. The world is my library.

Monday, April 2, 2012


March was hard. I lost the thread of consistency in my writing practice, meditation and exercise. From the beginning old monsters reared up and demanded to be dealt with. I'm tired. In my body and my mind. I know this is a phase, part of the cycle but still, I'm tired. I've had little solitude the last couple of weeks, social obligations and house guests and I'm screaming inside for alone time.

I wrote my first poem for National Poetry Month last night ten minutes before midnight. I wrote a poem about beginnings, since it is the beginning of National Poetry Month. I look forward to having this daily goal of writing. Writing the poem felt good, a tiny bit of pressure released from the valve, an ease.

My sister's bridal shower was this weekend and it was lovely. I love seeing how happy she is, how much love she and her fiancee have for each other. That being said, I don't like bridal showers, or baby showers, or even weddings. I'm not a fan of traditional rites of passage. I wonder if it is because my primary belief system as a child was one which eschewed tradition for a sense of autonomy. All cults require a certain autonomy and that need for autonomy is the guiding hand in my life.

I think I wont go to work today, or just work for a couple of hours in the afternoon. My home is a disaster right now, from travel, house guests, laziness. I dislike living in a mess and will organize today, cull and clean. I have correspondences to consider, work to edit, more than this.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

mexico, again

I went to Mexico again last week for a very short trip to visit my grandmother at the ranch. Some pictures from my trip, a few thoughts.

The road on the way from Caimanero to La Pedgregosa.

Green lighting in a palm-thatched hut.

Fresh grilled fish at Caimanero.

Remnants of breakfast my first day at the ranch.

La Pedregosa in the morning.

The oldest man in town, 93. He gave me this love advice: Forgive your husband if he cheats on you because it is the nature of man. He and his wife live in seperate houses and don't speak to each other, but she still serves him every meal. He's blind. He has a sharp memory and sang to us a song my great-grandmother used to sing while hanging her laundry.

Snacks at the pig fry.

Breakfast in the pan.

Pig fry, the neighbors come to buy carnitas. My great-uncle kills a pig every Saturday and cooks it outside. People show up from other villages to buy his meat.

Fresh oysters at Caimanero. I'l never forget my cousin and I having an oyster eating competition 2 years ago. I love Sinaloa but don't like loud music and there is loud music everywhere. After eating these I went and sat on the beach alone for an hour.

The oyster stand.

Cat nap. Two kittens asleep in a chair. Superstition says if you take a cat's picture, that cat will die. Of course, my great-uncle didn't tell me that until after I'd taken a dozen pictures of the kitties.

Statue in honor of the mother, Rosario, Sinaloa.

Outdoor sink.

The cactus fell in love with the tree.

Fresh meat, outdoor fire.

Feeding the cows.

Getting the head to soften enough.

Cow feed, use every part of the plant.

Our Lady of the Roof Tiles.

Uncles planting a mango tree in my grandmother's yard.

Holy water.

Good fences.


My favorite picture. A man I know hasn't been home in ten years, he's undocumented. I went to visit his mother in a small town. She hung his hat over the front door and won't take it down until he comes home.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

the years they gnaw

I was having a conversation with B and the Easter earthquake from a couple of years ago came up. In my head I imagined the earthquake was much, much longer ago. Two years ago. Looking back two years at who I was then I felt kind of weird. I told B that I feel my soul has aged tremendously in the last two years. I don't feel like the same person I was. I gave away so much good, so much love, so much kindness; I feel drained of it and selfish with what I have left. I hope that all that shit, trust and the rest, grows back.

My days are filling up. I have a couple of readings in April, I'll post more info as they get closer. I have every weekend pretty much planned or visitors/events. May will be nuts before my sister's wedding. And then New Mexico. After that who knows? I feel like I don't get excited for very much anymore.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

the painters with strangely shaped feet

This last week or ten days, I feel as if I've been slogging through the dead marshes from Lord of the Rings. I was eagerly looking forward to getting out of town this weekend, going to the Sea of Cortez and opening up, letting go, but weather had a different plan for me. I had a dream last night that bulldozed me, sucker-punched my heart and this morning I want to kick in the teeth of my subconscious.

Today would have been my grandfather Herbie's 81st birthday. He passed way nine years ago. He was my mother's father.

My grandfather was an immigrant from Puerto Rico, he moved to New York in 1950, sending for my grandmother, his childhood sweetheart, shortly thereafter. They married and struggled through the shit that it was to be poor and Puerto Rican in the 1950s. My grandmother moved back to the island for a time then returned to the city. My grandfather was an alcoholic, albeit a functioning alcoholic. My mom moved to San Diego in 1975 with my father.

The day I was born my mother called my grandfather in NY to tell him he had a granddaughter who looked exactly like him. He went out and got shitfaced drunk. When he sobered up he realized that he didn't want to be the drunk grandfather, that he wanted to see me grow up. My birth prompted him to stop thirty years of drinking, cold turkey. He always said I saved his life. Maybe that's where my ridiculous and stupid savior complex comes from.

I was seven months old when we met. There are great pictures of this day. My parents took me to the airport and when he got off the plane, even though I had never seen him before in my life I put my arms out to him and he grabbed me and we hugged.

All through my childhood my grandfather, 'Ampa, as called him, was my best friend. We were so alike, solitary, contemplative. We used to sit together in the backyard for hours, looking at plants and not talking. He would drive me to the library every day after school and fall asleep in the children s section, snoring on the small orange sofas as I lost myself in the stacks. No one ever loved me the way he did. His advice to me was always the same: Don't give a shit about what people think about you. He painted wrought iron for a living and always told me how wonderful it was to work alone, for yourself. I have followed in his footsteps, though I've taken the work to a different level of artistic mastery.

Losing him was hard. The day he died I went to the hospital with my grandmother. He was not conscious, struggling in his sleep, shaking. I helped my grandmother take out his false teeth. I lay down beside him on the hospital bed and I sang to him. I barely remember what I sang but I remember touching his face, kissing him, telling him that he could go if he wanted to. When I was singing he calmed down. My mom and aunt arrived and I left. They tell me he died as soon as I left the room. My grandmother has always told me that my singing to him was the best gift I gave him. I've always had peace about his death, I gave him my permission. I knew he was suffering and that he hated having to depend on others. I would have wanted to go too.

We took his body to Puerto Rico to bury him. Comedic circumstances surrounded his funeral, a story I hope to publish one day. I remember sitting on the porch in the late September stink of heat, humidity and island decay; I was crocheting. My grief wasn't the hard grief of everyone else in my family, I was at peace with his passing. But I remember thinking no one will ever love me like that again. Even if he was family, he was a soul mate. No one ever knew me the way he did because we were so alike, from our ears and prominent noses to the strange shape of our feet. Our desire to self sufficiency.

I miss him. He taught me to drink coffee. I was a baby and he would fill a mug with milk and out in a splash of coffee. The older I got there was less milk and more coffee. The day after his funeral I left everything. I took a backpack and a one way ticket to Mexico City and began the great adventure that everything else in my life has stemmed from. When I got to the airport in my Mexico City I was terrified, worried I was making the wrong decision. Then a mariachi band in front of me began playing 'Ampa's favorite song and I went on with the adventure.

Happy birthday Viejito. Te quiero y extra├▒o every single day.

(stupid stupid video for a great song.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

my own horse

I've written very few poems over the last months. One of the poems has a line that has been running through my head: My horse was brave enough because I was my own horse. Yesterday a friend working through challenges, a friend I've been consoling, sent me a message telling me I was the light he turned to in his struggle. I was flattered, honored, glad that I can share any accumulated wisdom with people I care about. But it set my thinking wheels to spinning.

I've been wondering if in my way of living self-sufficiently I've sacrificed a certain vulnerability for strength, my desire to live a certain way and not compromise. I'm not interested in the ideas or things that are supposed to interest me; husband, kids, nice house, clothing, jewelry, status symbols and signifiers of a life allegedly well-lived. Blah blah blah. I don't know that in recent memory, more than a decade, I have had anyone I could turn to and say You are my light. I haven't even had anyone to come home to, to feel that very human desire of being taken care of. It has been my choice, mostly. I choose to be the strong one. I turn to self. I let myself be vulnerable only in my writing. I am my own horse. It is mostly satisfying but weeks like this week it is also exhausting. I wouldn't mind being the passenger occasionally.

I had a dream yesterday wherein the father of someone I used to respect was begging me to forgive his son, asking me to hold out hope for a future. I turned away from him; instead of answering I slaughtered pigs. I've had some rage lately. In one of my favorite books, Lirael, part of the Abhorsen Trilogy, the main character, Lirael can cast spells. One day she casts a spell that is too strong for her. The process knocks her out and her throat is burned from the words she spoke. I feel my own throat is burned.

Work is busy. So busy that I'm having a difficult time keeping up with my writing the way I want to except for my daily journaling. I love seeing journals fills up. My body is tired but I enjoy the appreciate the ache from physical labor. I enjoy coming home and standing at the sink for ten minutes, working the pumice through the webs of my fingers, digging the black paint out of my pores, scalding myself on the hot water. Not that the adage means anything to me, but these hands are way too busy to be the devil's playground.