* going with rodney gomez

From the first words on, a poem begins to perform itself, establishing a logic and vision as you read. Like someone you bump into on the street, a poem wants you to go with whatever kind of interaction is happening at that moment. Sometimes it’s small talk; sometimes it’s carrying furniture out to a car and could you get that end, thanks! However it plays out, a poem wants a reader to go with it, the payoff being that you end up somewhere different than you were.

This week’s poem, “The Hand” by fellow CantoMundo poet Rodney Gomez, asks the reader to go with a story about a severed hand and its fabulistic travels. Each turn in the hand’s narrative charges the overall meaning further. From sugar cane fields to a highway of hands, the hand builds as a symbol of work and want.

This poem also made me think of the Yasunari Kawabata story “One Arm” from House of Sleeping Beauties. In that story, a young woman removes an arm and gives it to her lover to take care of for the night. This removing of self only to return to the self stranger is an act undergone repeatedly in daily life as we live in varying roles at work, at home, with others in general. Art has a way of slowing down the process of living, so that it’s understood for the life it consists of.

 

hand-898016_960_720

The Hand – Rodney Gomez

Midnight some time ago, I severed my hand & let it loose in the sugar cane fields outside my home. The next morning, being so drenched with want, I remembered how much a good hand is worth & went to find it. It was panting at a nearby well, next to a neat row of baskets filled with cane. Thinking it would easily reattach, I pressed it against my wrist – but strangely the hand didn’t fit. It scuttled away & I followed, arriving at a city of cardboard in the brush where a highway of hands flowed, swollen & tired. My true hand was there, struggling to pull a time clock into a tattered shoebox. Under the lid was a bleeding pinpoint – glowing hot, too bright for my eyes – accepting into itself all our loveless works.

from Mouth Filled with Night, winner of the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize

***

I also want to share news of some upcoming readings next month in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. At each of these, I will be reading from Everything We Think We Hear as well as Reasons (not) to Dance and other chapbooks:
*)Wednesday, March 9th 2016 Del Mar College, White Library, Room 514: Reading & Book Signing 11am
*)Wednesday, March 9th 2016 Del Mar College, White Library, Room 514: Open Mic feature
*)Thursday, March 10th 2016 Texas A&M University Corpus Christi: Opening Reader for Laurie Ann Guerrero 7pm
I’ll also be spending the afternoon doing a talk/reading at Foy H. Moody High School the Friday of that week.
Happy handing!
José

 

Advertisements

* new work at tinderbox poetry journal & new audio!

Just a quick note announcing the release of the latest issue of Tinderbox Poetry Journal which includes my poem “Todo for Nada.”

Along with being a subverted villanelle, this poem is from a sequence entitled “The Nada Poems” in which two characters, Todo y Nada, play out a relationship (check out another Nada poem: “Zero Flirts With Nada”).

This issue of Tinderbox also features an array of stellar writing including work by Nancy Bevilaqua, William Fargason, and two stunning pieces by Sun Yung Shin, one that incorporates elements of tarot.

Thanks to Jenn, Molly, and everyone at Tinderbox for their support!

*

Also, I wanted to share the news that the good people of RHINO Poetry have released the audio of my reading “Joe” on their site. Thanks to Valerie Wallace for the update!

*

See you Friday!

José

* wide awake with svetlana cârstean

Eugene_Delacroix_-_Horse_Frightened_by_Lightning_-_Google_Art_ProjectThis week’s poem, “Insomnia” by Svetlana Cârstean, goes out to all of  you who suffer the title’s malady. I know several people who are afflicted at various levels, from occasional nights of sleeplessness to chronic sufferers, all of whom have my sympathies. Cârstean’s poem uses a horse metaphor to take the reader into what it feels like. While there are several poems about insomnia (Billy Collins has three, I believe), what moves me about this one is how it plays off expectations of usual sleep/dream metaphors. The voice of the speaker also carries the poem into the peculiar sense of reality of sleeplessness, where the  world appears to be simultaneously blurred and crystal clear.

*

Insomnia – Svetlana Cârstean

Between yesterday and tomorrow
I ride
this mare that doesn’t belong
to me, a mare I don’t comb
or feed.
She’s a stranger to me,
from somewhere other than this city,
and we share no common memories,
but she’s kept me on her back by force
all the night that’s gone by
and the day not quite ready to come.
The dream spat me out
with vigor
with venom
the way you’d spit out a fruit pit
or an unwanted child.
And I arrived here on this horse’s glossy back
where I slide
as if on mud
but don’t fall.
The night clings to me,
it’s a breeze with little teeth
that sink into my skin and remain there.
The pain’s mild, but it continues on and on.
My heels don’t yet stick in the asphalt,
the trams don’t slice the cold air,
tomorrow’s facts still are ripening,
they’re draped beneath big bed sheets,
exhibits that have never opened.

At night, salamis are removed from the shop window
and stored in a secret location.
At night, the world and its salami slices
are moved elsewhere.
The same with the pastries that are my soul.
I too have to be in another place —my body—an empty carcass
a shop window emptied every evening,
a container no one
absolutely no one
wants to steal.

But the dream spat me out.
I’m here
between the day that was and the one still to come.
The dream spat me out
like a hard, bitter pit.
Let it be.
It was an ugly dream.
Or I was the ugly one.
Between yesterday and tomorrow is a narrow space
as between the dresser and the wall.
I stand with my back
to yesterday’s sun,
to yesterday’s fear,
face to face with something that doesn’t yet want to open.
On this horse’s slick back until
the trams, the heels, the workers get a green light
and start going.

translation from Romanian by Claudia Serea

Happy maring!

José

p.s. For more poems by this poet check out this issue of Apple Valley Review!

* new work up at salamander magazine!

runes-947831_960_720Just a quick post to share my poem “Odin and the Runes” recently published and made available by Salamander Magazine!

I have several “unofficial” sonnets throughout my manuscripts, but this one is one of my favorites due to how I came to write it. I was reading heavily into Norse mythology at the time and came across the story of Odin who willingly hung himself from a tree for nine days only to come back with the rune alphabet. I spent hours afterwards on the running trails of Eugene, Oregon standing under large trees and looking up, trying to imagine what nine days of only branches and sky must have felt like.

See you Friday!

José

* refreshing via lisel mueller

Train_stuck_in_snow The Wikipedia page for Snow, under the heading “Effects on human society,” features the image here of a snow blockade in southern Minnesota in 1881. While awe is something I’ve always associated with snow – at least for the first ten minutes of a downfall, then I just get cranky – there’s something altogether new and refreshing experienced with this image. And here, I mean refreshing as in the “refresh” button on your computer screen that makes everything *new.*

There’s the sheer daunting presence of the snow in the image, how there’s essentially more snow than train. There’s the fact the train continues to push forward, it’s engine stubborn and pushed. Then there’s the human figure standing on the train who maybe doesn’t believe what they see, as I don’t; or maybe does, as the above circumstance may have been an everyday occurence for trains.

I look at the lone figure and think: Well, there’s a poet. Not in the sense that I would impose any romantic notion upon them, but rather there’s a situation a poet seeks. Everyday snow and everyday train, but how often from this perspective?

This week’s poem by Lisel Mueller takes into a similar, refreshing perspective. The intimacy of the lyric charges the snow imagery with a tone that evokes both the lightness and light of snow. Snow becomes a way to see and feel ourselves anew.

Snow – Lisel Mueller*

Telephone poles relax their spines;
sidewalks go under. The nightly groans
of aging porches are put to sleep.
Mercy sponges the lips of stairs.

While we talk in the old concepts –
time that was, and things that are –
snow has leveled the stumps of the past
and the earth has a new language.

It is like the scene in which the girl
moves toward the hero
who has not yet said, “Come here.”

Come here, then. Every ditch
has been exalted. We are covered with stars.
Feel how light they are, our lives.

*

Happy lighting!

José

*from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems

* new review up at the volta blog

pink box

Just a quick note to share my latest review for The Volta Blog. This time around, I had the honor of reviewing fellow CantoMundo poet, Yesenia Montilla. It’s an inspiring book, one that adds to the conversation of the aesthetics and cultural understanding that come from engaging with one’s family history and traditions as well as one’s poetic traditions.

Also, two of Montilla’s poems – “Ode to a Dominican Breakfast” & “The Day I Realized We Were Black” – can be read at The Wide Shore.

See you Friday!

José

* sequencing with galway kinnell

As I work out of the echo of last week’s exams, I continue to have thoughts along the lines of fragmented narratives and ways of making use of what’s called in media res, which translates roughly as “into the middle of things.” It’s a phrase I picked up while reading Shakespeare: we first meet Romeo as he is in between relationships (I always forget that some serious moping opens up that famous play about love: kind of foreshadowing, no?).

I also see the term in media res as summing up how we understand ourselves. We are born into the middle of our parents’ lives; we read poems in the middle of different stages of our life; we eat, uhm, sandwiches in the middle of the day – and from these moments begin to cobble together the narrative pieces that make up who we are.

One of the ways this concept is worked with in lyric poetry is the sequence, and one of the great practitioners of which was Galway Kinnell, whose lines do the careful and exacting work of establishing moments and threading them together towards a greater whole.

Coming back to this week’s poem, there’s some sonic repetition (flop; feathers; flames) throughout the piece I hadn’t noticed before, and it’s telling how those sounds are absent from section 5. The difference, while subtle, does much to make the feeling of that section stand out against the rest. Each stanza, ultimately, plays image and moment against each other powerfully through such distinctions.

flames_of_faces_2nd_version_by_serge1965-d3i7xer

Another Night in the Ruins – Galway Kinnell

1
In the evening
haze darkening on the hills,
purple of the eternal,
a last bird crosses over,
‘flop flop,’ adoring
only the instant.

2
Nine years ago,
in a plane that rumbled all night
above the Atlantic,
I could see, lit up
by lightning bolts jumping out of it,
a thunderhead formed like the face
of my brother, looking down
on blue,
lightning-flashed moments of the Atlantic.

3
He used to tell me,
“What good is the day?
On some hill of despair
the bonfire
you kindle can light the great sky—
though it’s true, of course, to make it burn
you have to throw yourself in …”

4
Wind tears itself hollow
in the eaves of these ruins, ghost-flute
of snowdrifts
that build out there in the dark:
upside-down ravines
into which night sweeps
our cast wings, our ink-spattered feathers.

5
I listen.
I hear nothing. Only
the cow, the cow of such
hollowness, mooing
down the bones.

6
Is that a
rooster? He
thrashes in the snow
for a grain. Finds
it. Rips
it into
flames. Flaps. Crows.
Flames
bursting out of his brow.

7
How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren’t, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,
that for us
as we go up in flames, our one work
is
to open ourselves, to be
the flames?

***

Happy flames!

José