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Palms, Olives and Thorns

Holy Thursday made a pilgrimage back to L.A,

where the grains of mustard seeds 

grow as large as the kingdom of heaven,

orange poppies border the highway,

citrus blossoms and jasmine perfume the car,

palm trees line the streets the same 

as they do out here in the desert —

out here where everything seems so foreign

Jeff bought me one of those apps to identify 

plants so I might get more familiar —

more comfortable with my surroundings.

Out here, besides the palm trees, 

date, jelly and more, I’ve identified 

the Honey Mesquite, the Mexican Palo Verde, 

aka the Jerusalem Thorn, the olive 

trees and plants also conducive 

to the Middle East, to the Garden 

of Gethsemane where Judas betrayed Jesus 

who sweats blood today, Good Friday,

agonizing over his mortality, losing faith 

in the kingdom of heaven if only for a moment

I am familiar with these tales 

I’ve found a home in the desert.

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HOLY COVID19 SATURDAY!

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Rodrigo Rodriguez

I see the light through the long, dark antechamber.

Some believe Jesus has passed over to be with his Father in heaven.

This, what I remember from my teachings at Catholic school.

So now what am I to believe as the sun

shines brightly on this ‘dark’ Saturday.

I want to rejoice even if I was taught to

“believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever

shall be world without end, Amen.”

Oh but I’ve mixed up the Apostle’s Creed with the Gloria Patri.

And that’s just what the church did to me – mix me up.

But still, world without end is a comforting thought.

And just what is meant by the ‘world’?

The earth, the globe, the planet, the biosphere.

Mankind, humankind -we are the world

We are the world. We are the children

*  “There comes a time
When we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
Oh, and it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all.”

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be

World without end, so Sunday stay the fuck home. Amen.

* Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie

Dia de los Muertos in Sagrada Familia

Eduardo Dorantes – Unsplash

From an excerpt of my novel Agave Blues, TouchPointPress coming February 15, 2022.

I never understood – never took the time to understand – the concept of death, much less the whole Mexican custom of dealing con los muertos. And now with the thought of cancer weighing on me like the gran elefante taking up space in the center of our sala, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was some connection. Was it true the concept of la sangre atrae — the blood calls you back? During this visit from el norte, I’d try to pay attention, try to ask questions and look for answers. Perhaps I might learn something helpful from my familia — find some clues.

Antonio, tan guapo (too bad he was my cousin, too bad I was dying), pulled his Ford Bronco up as close as he could to the church without even being struck dead. My uncle — whom everyone called Don Pio — and I stepped out onto the perimeter of the plaza. Antonio, practiced at avoiding crowds, then drove off with the skill necessary to dodge the hundreds of people already gathered, some to erect makeshift ofrendas and gravesites and others just to observe.

By evening time, every inch of the plaza would also be blanketed with flowers, prevalently marigolds, whose scent and vibrant reds, oranges and golds would guide the spirits to the candle-burning altars where dolls, toys, candies and the favorite foods of the deceased would also be lovingly placed. And, of course, there’d be tequila — barrels of it!

Family members and friends knelt in prayer; some beat their chest. Beneath the arches, around the plaza, streamers swung in the breeze, underneath which vendors sold their wares. Blasting the area like an air freshener were the mouth-watering aromas of favorite staples: frijoles, cebolla, aroz con pollo, nopalitos and elote. Platforms were raised for people to make speeches and sing folksongs. All around the square hung pictures of relatives who’d passed, all sorts of paper mache creatures swayed in the puff of wind. Aztec dancers jumped and bounced up and down with offerings of incense as several peasant-costumed women and children carried crosses, re-enacting a death scene, all against the backdrop of sad ballads sung by guitar-strumming mariachis.

Children scampered around in colorful hand-sewn get-ups. I sucked in a bittersweet breath when I noticed one little girl dressed as a skeleton princess pirouetting around her mother. The scene pitched me back to the time I took Lily out trick-or-treating.  My saucy, stubborn six year old, dressed as Jasmine from the Disney movie, insisted I could only accompany her if I dressed as Aladdin. The next year, she wanted nothing to do with me. No more magic carpet rides around the neighborhood. She wanted to be with her friends. Was that when it started – ended?

Another group of children, on their knees, chalked colorful messages to their abuelitos muertos; others drew flamboyant calaveras with giant empty eye sockets. Families cradled flower arrangements: some, simple bouquets, others, ostentatious creations on easels. Morbidly, I wondered how Lily might react when my time came. As strained as our relationship had been and as angry as she’d reacted, would she visit my grave?

Just as all of this activity took place in the mall at the front of the church, behind the iglesia in the graveyard, the same event also unfolded — as it did at the local cemetery, in private homes around the pueblo, and even throughout the country.

I followed my weary uncle as he hobbled up to the entrance of the church where my cousins stood waiting for us, alive and well. “How are things going out at the farm, Papá?” Angela asked, reaching out to embrace her weathered father. Smiling, she let go and then stretched her arms toward me.

“You’re looking much better since your visit to the farm,” she said. “The color has returned to your cheeks.”

Seriously? I caressed my face.

Ofelia smiled. “I told you it was the agave.”

Hmm? I laughed.

All together, we stepped into the church, walked up the aisle and entered a pew where I genuflected, making the sign of the cross. In the name of the Father, touch your forehead—so far, no electrical sparks—the Son, touch your heart, the floor hadn’t opened up to swallow me—and the Holy Spirit, touch each shoulder—still breathing. All good. The smell of incense overwhelmed me – the whole scene so overpowering – it’s a good thing I was already kneeling. I bowed my head, remembering as a little girl how the village had turned out to pay their respects. But I couldn’t recall this day ever being so grand, like some sort of Hollywood production. I’d taken it all for granted. At night, there’d be singing and dancing. There’d be contests for the best costumes and the greatest decorations in the various categories – like a night at the Oscars. I followed my family out after mass.

“Let’s pick something up to eat,” Angela said, pointing to a stand advertising “Esquites” creamy corn in a cup of mayonnaise, cojita cheese, garlic, and chile. Like Lazarus, the glands at the back of my tongue sprang to life. “And then we can go back to the house for some coffee and dessert.”

“More flan?” I swallowed the juices squirting in my mouth. My appetite had returned. “Wild caballos couldn’t keep me away.” And nothing would take me away again from mi familia. My insides warmed as if I’d finally found my place beside life’s hearth.

 I smiled at the irony. To think the reason I’d returned to Sagrada Familia was to take care of the business of Papá’s death, down here where death wasn’t treated as a business. Death was a celebration.  

What They Leave Behind: A Latinx Anthology Reading Series

I’m honored to have been included in this anthology where I got to read last month with other wonderful poets. Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming reading 10/10/21. You can order your copy of What They Leave Behind today by pressing this link.

Quitter Athletes

Me on my head surrounded by little sisters and a neighbor. Permission granted.

All this news about the athletes quitting and I’m thinking “seriously, quitters?” What’s going on? And then a memory is triggered. 

I’m back at Troy High School on the gymnastic team. At seventeen, a perfectionist, almost 5’8”, 125 pounds [oh to be at least 135 pounds (and thinking this way remains a problem)], I am still quite limber and flexible, managing a sequence of handsprings and round-offs on the floor, but I suck at kips on the parallel bars and am quite unbalanced — on the balance beam. Nonetheless, with enough deductions, I do manage to win one competition.

It’s the afternoon after another loss to the Lowell High School team and our coach, a short fireplug of a woman, gathers us in the locker room to tell us the reason we keep losing is that we’re all fat. She shames us into losing weight to be more like Olga Korbut or Nadia Comaneci (like I can shrink to 4’11”?). Coach Newman even tapes a butcher block paper chart onto the gym wall to track our progress, or rather regression, for all to see. Game on! So after only a month, I take the gold in the weight loss competition having lost 30 pounds. 

Ninety-five pounds now but I can’t manage a single cartwheel, much less take any steps (I’ve stuck a landing) to my classes without having to stop and rest. I grow depressed, lose my period, my boobs, some friends and am released from the team. I quit school (I’d actually earned enough units to graduate early ahead of my class — Winning!) and have to figure out a new routine for the rest of my life.

Oh, where was Naomi Osaka or Simone Biles (or any dependable adult) to show me the way?

I Need a New Purse Like a Hole in The Head

https://successiblelife.com/tag/bags-series/
I don’t feel like writing today
I laze in bed thinking 
I want to go shopping 
I need to go shopping
For a new purse.

Christmas before Covid19 
I was gifted a card to Nordstrom.
Buy what you like, he said.
But I waited too long. 
We sheltered in place.
Now more than a year has ticked by. 
I don’t want to shop online. Not today.
I want to bring a Chanel to my nose and sniff the leather. 
I want to run my fingers across the skin soft as butter.
See the new styles for Coach or Fendi or Dooney & Burke.

Sure, I've gotten by with my dirty little Bohemian Sak,
Stained now with coffee, full of loose change,
An old tube of Mac lipstick, an old French fry,
My grandson’s plastic toy from McDonald’s  -- last year.
And not that I’ve been anywhere fancy enough for
A Gucci, a Kate Spade or a Luis Vutton
But it’s March. I’ve had my two shots of Pfizer
And things are opening up and I must be ready
For the Spring fashion show or a runway 
Off to someplace where I’d need a Burberry.

I get up, pour myself a cup of coffee and 
Here I am at my computer so near 
The finish line of a first draft – after a year, 
I can almost see those rejections lining up 
Like grounded airplanes on the tarmac
Like last year’s purses piled onto a clearance bin.
Ah! Procrastination and sweat pants 
Would look so much more stylish 
Carrying a new Salvatore Ferragamo.

A GOOD TABERNERO LISTENS

What a way to start out 2021, especially on the eve of transition! Ecstatic and honored to have “A Good Tabernero Listens” (an excerpt from my forthcoming novel “Agave Blues” Touchpoint Press) featured along with other wonderful writers in this month’s issue of SHARK REEF, A Literary Magazine. Please check us all out. Thank you to all the staff at SHARK REEF, and especially Stephanie Barbé Hammer.

Trick or Treat Bonanza. Enter to win a prize! #Curse of the Ninth#

Still time to get your treat on!

Based on real events and a haunted character whose birth occurred on Halloween, October 31, 1930. It’s got just enough sweetness and enough of a thrill to keep your heart pumping.Check out this spooktacular novel excerpt from “Curse of the Ninth” and enter to win a prize. https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/post/curse-of-the-ninth-totbb

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Trick or Treat Bonanza. Enter to win a prize! #Curse of the Ninth#

Based on real events and a haunted character whose birth occurred on Halloween, October 31, 1930. It’s got just enough sweetness and enough of a thrill to keep your heart pumping.Check out this spooktacular novel excerpt from “Curse of the Ninth” and enter to win a prize. https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/post/curse-of-the-ninth-totbb

“Curse of the Ninth” Part of Binge-Worthy Book Festival Enter to Win

What makes this featured book a binge-worthy read?

“Curse of the Ninth” with its beautiful description and engaging author writing style, is a supernatural mystery, unlike anything you’ve read before. A compelling read with a strange mixture of the occult, historical reference, and poetic prose, it’s a haunting read you won’t want to put down.” https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/post/curse-of-the-ninth-bwbf