Chicano Poet

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

La Iglesia

I lay in bed with Antonia
both of us naked from the waist down

half a block away
the church bell had a pierced tongue

the pews hid tattoos
around teenage ankles

nuns ached
for the body of Christ

I paid no attention to mass
each rosary bead fingered was lust

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Other Side Of Abuela

abuela was the matriarch of the family
she had her unifying side

and softened the hard lessons
but she had her sarcastic side too

once calling my brother Val “mosca muerta”
(I’m laughing my ass off here)

when my brother Val
would outdo himself with cleverness

the cunning that would one day
make him a great artist

painting flies with his face on them
his own hands for wings

his convex brown eyes
looking every which way

painting everything at once
and pinpointing the very spot where nothing lies

Monday, December 28, 2009

La Mosca

When Lorenzo was seven years old, he tore the wings off a fly.
Soon afterward he felt bad about it . So he picked up the fly and put
it in a matchbox. Each day he gave the fly dew to drink and cut up
tortillas into tiny pieces to feed it. He decided to call the fly
Epifanio. Each and every day for the next seventeen years Lorenzo
looked after that wingless fly. And though little boys live forever,
not so worthless little flies. At twenty four, Lorenzo learned to mourn.
It is a lesson we should all pay attention to. Accept your responsibilities.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Among some of the writers, artists and cultural activists that will be there are Carmen Tafolla, Vangie Vigil, Antonia Castaneda, Norma Cantu, Rosemary Catacalos, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, Reyes Cardenas, Rosie Castro, Josie Casarez, Bryce Milligan, Juan Rodriguez, Enedina Casarez-Vasquez, Pedro Rodriguez, Patty Ortiz, Ramon Vasquez y Sanchez, Rebecca Flores,Quetzalcoatl Sandoval y muchos mas. there will be a ceremonia de la danza Azteca, musica, an exhibit and display of photos and Angela's work, tamales, chocolate y pan dulce and it's free. See you there.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chicken Shack

my aunt worked at the chicken plant
for twenty years

until her fingers and knuckles
made up their own minds to quit

and Steve the white boy
who worked on the ammonia compressors

when one blew up
the ammonia destroyed his lungs

andy the security guard
would trade the industrial ice they made

to keep the chicken chilled
for a six pack of beer

mike whose sexy wife caught him screwing
that little psychotic slut from Chili Town

she worked in the front office
and had been colonized like you and me

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Artificial Turf

nothing funnier than seeing a bunch
of Mexicans playing basketball

joked the Crips as they drove by
their guns out the car window

without firing a single bullet
those little bastards can’t get air under their shoes

laughed Stringy as he put his gun away
two days later Stringy would be shot dead

by the Royal Mexicans at the apartments
he knew he had no right to be at

Monday, December 21, 2009

(Turn up the volume to listen)

Friday, December 18, 2009


she came back from Iraq
with no legs

blown off by a roadside bomb
her best friend Celestino

lying in pieces
in and around the Humvee

Gloria had great thighs
in those volleyball shorts back in high school

her buttocks undulating so beautifully
as she jumped to block at the net

today in that same high school gym she smiles
sitting in her wheelchair in Army fatigues

while from a corner of her sweet mouth
a little sadness escapes onto the shiny floor

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


after Baudelaire

two punks rush each other
their weapons flash and unflash in the night

the tumult of steel and blood
so important to the young

words and swords fly in the air
nobody’s air

these two punks
really think they are so very important

lions wolves tigers jaguars
leopards leap for real reasons

these two punks leap off the cliffs
in a battle for cliffs


Two warriors rushed at one another; their weapons
Splashed the air with streaks of light and blood.
These plays, this clinking of steel are the tumult
Of youth prey to bleating love.

The swords were broken! like our youth,
Beloved! But the teeth, the sharp nails,
Soon avenge the saber and the treacherous dagger
---O fury of the matured hearts exasperated by love!

Into the ravine haunted by lynxes and leopards
Our heroes, wickedly wrestling, rolled,
And their skin will cover the arid briars with flowers.

---This abyss is hell, peopled with our friends!
Let us roll there without remorse, inhuman Amazon,
In order to make eternal the ardor of our hate!

by Charles Baudelaire
translated by Wallace Fowlie

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

so much depends

my 386DX
windows 3.1


one point

by RC


(in memoriam W.C.W.)

There are plums
in the fridge:

will be
a night

for writing

by Jim Murdoch

Monday, December 14, 2009

Desert-like Portrait Of Agapito Cardenas

my father’s loneliness accumulates
by the Salton Sea

between mountains and desert
yet they do not stand a chance

my father overpowers them
in his black long sleeve shirt

the two top buttons open
he looks like a brown Cool Hand Luke

he grits his teeth on desert sand
having lost two wives

his son to the sky
loneliness surrounds him

the valley has become a funnel
and everything pours down upon his head

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

WCW’s Washing Machine: The Story Behind “To Elsie”
by William Carlos Williams

The story goes that William Carlos Williams was sitting at his kitchen
table one day when he glanced through the doorway at his cleaning
lady standing at the washing machine doing her chores. His response
to that scene was the poem “To Elsie”*

So I decided to google “washing machines of the 1950’s”. Sure enough
I was bestowed with brand after brand. So I googled images, ah, washing
machines of the 50’s. Next I got an airplane ticket and headed to Paterson.
to research the papers of WCW. After a few weeks I found the receipt for
the particular machine which Elsie was using to wash WCW’s dirty laundry.
Finally, after many dead ends I had to hire a private detective to see what
landfill the machine had ended up at. Several thousand dollars later the
unkempt Jersey detective told me, to my surprise of course, that the
washing machine still existed (almost sixty years later) and was located
at a West Texas junk. I traveled to Roscoe, Texas pulling a trailer behind
my Dodge Ram hoping I could buy the relic. After much negotiation I
acquired the piece of literary history for thirty-five bucks. It sits proudly
in my home office, next to my cpu and printer.

*italicized paragraph is from American Poetry Review 2009
by Christian C. Thompson

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Driving On Flames To Visit Dad

we picnic at the foot of Picacho Peak
sized like ants

we’ve crossed the desert buzzing like bees
meanwhile dad’s chasing women in lacy Indio

lipstick on the floor
he laughs about his latest conquest

dad dad
we’re still in Arizona

I yell into the cell phone
ok boy see you when you get here

later inside the mud canyon
of the Coachella Valley

the highway
boldly pierces toward town

stones bubble up
and bust open

the mountains yawn
a thousand years

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Chaguito Beltran

after paying the money
to the coyote

he was back in the States
for the fourth time in his career

after having sex
with a fifteen year old gringuita

he spent eight months in jail
and was deported

he was going to do things different
this time around he swore

working at the car wash
drying cars

he stole spare change from the consoles
until he was busted

got fired
luckily the customer did not want to press charges


Tuesday, December 08, 2009


in Ashbery’s new poems
he sounds like my abuela

with no teeth
yet with a memory so vivid

the past comes to life
my abuela made

the same patchwork quilt over & over
endowing each one with the same beauty

I wish I could say the same thing
about Ashbery

after reading the latest Asbery poems
in the November/December 2009 issue
of The American Poetry Review

Monday, December 07, 2009

Pizza Comes To Papalote

I curse my cousin Joe Tovar
for introducing me to pizza

back in the Sixties
at that pub on West Kingsbury Street

operated by a gringo
and his fine oriental wife

next to those fucking Shanafelts’

you could see Ida Nieto’s house
from there

I had a crush on her
but I was too damn ugly to tell her

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Prose Poem Polquita

two black gangbangers
stole my rhyme

beige Hispanic punk took my parking spot
at a Paul Martinez Pompas reading

on the way there
a white racist shot my haiku

butch lesbian ripped off the poem
I wrote for my girl

fucking cops planted a poem
from the evidence room in my hand

amigos, the poetry business is best left to those
who write prose

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Judging by a handful of short stories from Dalkey Archive’s “Best European Fiction 2010,” it would seem Europeans have mostly forgotten how to write them. Or have simply lost interest. Instead, they’ve taken up animated essays in which the characters, if there are any, tend to be mere ciphers, and there’s not so much a short story as a lengthy observation. The editor of the collection, Aleksandar Hemon, asserts that, as a genre, the short story “has the flavor of a report from the front lines of history and existence.” Well, maybe, but there should be more to it than reportage.

(click to read complete article)

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Letter To Cecilio Garcia-Camarillo

Dear Cecilio,

In the years since you left us, there are so many things
I wish I could share with you, ask you opinions of this
or that poem, apologize to you for forgetting about
La Raza, for neglecting the hopes of carnalismo, for dis-
respecting las hermanas, for taking poetry in so many
wrong directions, for becoming an asshole, for being
a quitter sometimes. I don’t know how you did it, always
so selfless, almost as if you yourself were the Other. I
I don’t mean to cry on your shoulder, but I miss you so
much, carnal, brother, mentor, hero, friend. I am trying
to get back on the right road, and asking your help.

Your faithful servant,
Reyes Cardenas