Oaring – Sam Roderick Roxas-Chua

In a shallow bay, my father is slumped
inside a black raft, arms flung over each side,
fingers flicking the water. I touch the ripple
of sunset and I want to be his fingerprints
and index his lolled years—carry his melody
of back and forth, unlearn the sway
of push and pushing.

Today I wrap the oars in silk,
leave the telephone receiver pendulous
over the oak table where he taught me
to write my name in English—
that round eddy where forgotten things
appear and disappear like those beetles
I tied to strings during a storm.

I remember that table carved from a bend
in my father’s house, how it listened
to the chorus of wings outside our window—
oaring the sky for forgiveness, oaring the sky
for another way home.

* new anthology *

* new anthology *

The poem above is just one of many fine poems in the newly released Inflectionist Review Anthology of Poetry. The way in which the word “oar” is used throughout the poem is a great example of what the editors had in mind by “inflectionism.” As defined on their site, “Inflecting suggests grasping what has come before and redefining it, refocusing it, placing it upon a different point in the arc thereby changing its trajectory.” The last two lines “oaring the sky for/another way home” become for me not just a metaphor for the experience of the speaker but also for the experience of writing, which can be seen via the poem as another kind of “oaring.”

The Inflectionist Review Anthology of Poetry features all the poems from issues 1-4 as well as an interview and feature of Distinguished Poet, Courtney Druz along with artwork from Anna Daedalus and Kerry Davis.

I’m delighted to have nine of my own poems in the anthology, including some newer work in the Naos persona. Here is “Naos Explains Memory,” which the editors of the Inflectionist Review were generous enough to nominate for a Pushcart Prize:

Naos Explains Memory – José Angel Araguz

Like gradual blindness: each day, more and more, a mix of less and less.
What you do see, you say remember. What filters through: a voice, car lights,
the ends of a dress. Singular and graphic. A strong whiskey.
A root you cannot shake from your body. The color of the last moon.
In a city you do not remember leaving.

The Inflectionist Review Anthology of Poetry can be purchased here (and make sure to check out the review’s submission guidelines here).

Congratulations to editors John Sibley Williams and  A. Molotkov for putting together such a fine anthology!


The countdown to the December 1st release of my full-length collection, Everything We Think We Hear, continues. Since I shared the IR Anthology cover I thought I would share the artwork that will be featured on the cover:

This piece by artist Andrea Schreiber features the kind of dress my mother wore to work at Rosita’s on Baldwin back when I was a kid. As we get closer to the date I plan on sharing the full cover. I did, however, want to share the artwork alone as it is its own special creation. Here are links to the mom-related “Raro” recently published in Compose Journal as well as to The Story Behind “Raro” feature on the piece.

Happy inflectioning!


One of the most moving things about being a poet and sharing the work I do has been hearing feedback from people. I remember years ago after performing at a poetry slam, I had a woman come up to me and quote a line from one of the poems I’d read: “Why are men only honest during the slow songs?” Then she hugged me and said, That’s it, that’s exactly it.

Another time I was working at a coffee shop and had posted some poems (my own and by others) on the community board in celebration of National Poetry Month. It was a lovely surprise to hand off a latte to a young man as he smiled and said: “Solitude feels like fire sometimes.” Did you write that? That’s a good line.

My reaction in both situations was a mix of smiling and mumbling, eventually landing on a thank you.

In the three years of running this blog, I have been moved to similar moments of smiling and mumbling gratitude by comments made here, Facebook, Twitter, and email by those of you kind enough to read and reach out. While writing and reading may be solitary acts, there is a special kind of communion that happens in those moments of sharing lines and insights. Thank you for making me feel heard!

This week’s poem – “The Bluet” by James Schuyler – connects this type of communion via poetry with that available in the natural world. In those moments of reading a line and considering it, we read with the kind of attention and listening that “breaks/[us] up.”

* quaking *

* quaking *

The Bluet – James Schuyler

 And is it stamina
that unseasonably freaks
forth a bluet, a
Quaker lady, by
the lake? So small,
a drop of sky that
splashed and held,
four-petaled, creamy
in its throat. The woods
around were brown,
the air crisp as a
Carr’s table water
biscuit and smelt of
cider. There were frost
apples on the trees in
the field below the house.
The pond was still, then
broke into a ripple.
The hills, the leaves that
have not yet fallen
are deep and oriental
rug colors. Brown leaves
in the woods set off
gray trunks of trees.
But that bluet was
the focus of it all: last
spring, next spring, what
does it matter? Unexpected
as a tear when someone
reads a poem you wrote
for him: “It’s this line
here.” That bluet breaks
me up, tiny spring flower
late, late in dour October.
The countdown to the December 1st release of my full-length collection, Everything We Think We Hear, continues. Here is a link to my poem “Letter to Rainer Maria Rilke from NYC” published in The Acentos Review in 2010. It’s the piece where the “solitude” line quoted above appears.
Happy solituding!

Just a quick post to announce the release of Puerto del Sol’s latest issue which includes my poem “Meditation on White Hair.” Read my poem here.

This issue features fine work by, among others, Grace Shuyi Liew and Yaccaira Salvatierra, whose poem “Longing” won the 2015 Puerto del Sol Poetry contest. Check out the issue here.

Special thanks to Carmen Giménez Smith, Savannah Johnston, and everyone else on the Puerto staff for including my work in such a great issue!

See you Friday!


The Truth the Dead Know – Anne Sexton

For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.


Dia de los Muertos – or Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday focused on praying for and celebrating the dead – occurred this past Sunday and Monday, and I found myself moved for the first time to build an altar in honor of my father. Here’s what it looked like:

* dia de los muertos altar *

* dia de los muertos altar *

Included on the altar are a copy of my first chapbook, The Wall, and a pencil sketch of my father done by Andrea Schreiber. Also, I have my stones in a J formation to symbolize my being his namesake. I am unclear even now, days after, how to articulate what this meant for me. All I know is that the conversation that began with my poem “Gloves”, included i the chapbook, continues to this day, on the page and, now, in ritual and observance.

In the Sexton poem above, what moves me is how the speaker states she is “tired of being brave” as she moves from human action to human action, all the while emphasizing what it means to her to feel human. That being human means feeling “touch entirely.” This concept is contrasted with the stone-like state of the dead. The poems is called “The Truth the Dead Know,” and the speaker’s words come from an awareness, fascination, and even fear of not being able to share in that truth. And the dead, as represented in that stone-like description, are seemingly everywhere, even in the wind.

This meditation on Sexton’s poem and my own experience this week makes me think of something Norma Elia Cantu introduced me to at CantoMundo as she spoke before a reading. As she asked us to think of and express gratitude for those Latin@ writers and artists that came before us, she began to name them. Each name spoken was then followed by the exclamation of ¡Presente! As Norma went on calling names, others joined her, shouting out ¡Presente! I marveled at the act: this simple word, which is what one answers with during roll call, suddenly felt charged each time it was repeated. The very air became heated by the summoned presences everyone in the room was the conduit of.

Names, and words in general, have a power in recitation and reading. A poem can be where other voices and other truths cross over each other and mingle. As Norma and Sexton show us, whether it’s on a stage or on the page, words can be a place where we can “touch entirely.”


As I mentioned last week, the countdown to the December 1st release of my full-length collection, Everything We Think We Hear, has begun! Along with prose poems and flash fictions, the collection includes two haibuns, the Japanese poetic form that combines poetry and prose. As a kind of preview, here are links for “Birthdays” and “Walks” as published in Contemporary Haibun Online.

Happy presente-ing!


Just a quick note to share my latest post for my Cincinnati Review blog column “What’s Poetry Got to Do with It?” Read the new post here.

This time around I discuss astrology, focusing on Pisces and Sei Shonagon. Along with expanding on ideas on astrology I’ve shared here on the Influence, this post can be seen as a kind of part 2 to my earlier Sei Shonagon post.

See you tomorrow!



Aware – Denise Levertov

When I found the door
I found the vine leaves
speaking among themselves in abundant
My presence made them
hush their green breath,
embarrassed, the way
humans stand up, buttoning their jackets,
acting as if they were leaving anyway, as if
the conversation had ended
just before you arrived.
I liked
the glimpse I had, though,
of their obscure
gestures. I liked the sound
of such private voices. Next time
I’ll move like cautious sunlight, open
the door by fractions, eavesdrop

* uninvineted *

* uninvineted *

This week’s poem is by Denise Levertov, someone whose work I feel inspires the same kind of “cautious sunlight” approach to life and writing as is described above. Throughout the years, I’ve come back to her poems to learn again how to more inhabit my lines and line breaks. Note above the “abundance” of the third line, and how it scraps down to the one word “whispers.”

I have a friend who says that if you’re going to have one word stand alone on a line it better be the most important word in the poem. For me, “whispers” is a strong candidate for most important word, specifically because of what it means after I’ve read the poem and look at the words again. Structurally, my eye is drawn back to “whispers” and its two-syllable one line buddy “I liked.” The brevity of these two lines, how they are tucked into themselves much like the vine leaves of the poem, moves me to contemplate the whole poem further.


As I mentioned earlier this week, the release date for my upcoming collection, Everything We Think We Hear, is officially December 1st. I’ve got a couple of things in mind to share as we get closer to the date. Mas soon!

I’m also happy to announce that my chapbook The Divorce Suite will be published by Red Bird Chapbooks in 2016. More news on this project as it develops!

Happy vining!


* raro, in red and orange *

* raro, in red and orange *

Just a quick note to announce the release of Compose Journal’s Fall 2015 issue which includes my piece “Raro.” Read it here.

Compose Journal was also kind enough to let me contribute to their “The Story Behind (the Story)” feature. Find out about the origins of “Raro” – with specific insights into growing up in South Texas – here.

Special thanks to Suzannah Windsor for including my work in this issue! Check out the rest of the stellar issue – including work from Julie Brooks Barbour and Elizabeth Tannen – here. 


As for the news this week, I am excited to announce that my full length collection of prose poems and flash fictions, Everything We Think We Hear, is officially set to be released on December 1st from Floricanto Press. Stay tuned for updates (including a sneak peak at the cover soon)! “Raro” is a good example of the kind personal focus dipped into in this upcoming collection.

See you Friday!



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