* leticia hernández-linares & the mission

mucha-muchacha-too-much-girlThis week’s poem comes from CantoMundista Leticia Hernández-Linares’ collection Mucha Muchacha/Too Much Girl (Tía Chucha Press) which I reviewed earlier this week. While my review focused on collection’s confluence of musical traditions and sensibilities, the poem “Bringing Up the Sun” represents another facet, that of establishing the presence of a neighborhood on the page.

In this poem, Hernández-Linares brings the Mission District alive for the reader, focusing on the political undertones that pervade these streets, from the flags to local businesses. For example, the image in the lines

Mortuaries abound,
doors wide open like the defeated mouth of a mother
who has lost her son —

establishes a sense of what is at stake in this particular poem as well as sets up the narrative of assessing what it means to raise sons in this neighborhood. This narrative, homieimplied in the title’s wordplay, is developed here into one of my favorite moments in the collection when the speaker pushes against the “storylines” of the neighborhood through the imagery of “homie dolls.” By juxtaposing the implied social “translations” of these novelty toys against the lessons of redemption and vulnerability of the schoolyard, the poem evokes the tension surrounding young boys without trying to solve it. Thus, the celebration of culture inherent in the toys exists side by side the hope “salvaged” in the schoolyard.

*

Bringing Up the Sun – Leticia Hernández-Linares

The changing of the flag waves Central American
today. Church bells sit still over a tombstoned dawning.
Heading towards the sun beyond la Dolores, calle
named after pained bricks that hold Mission monuments
together, businesses that help you bury your dead, raise
your stripes, dominate the strip. Mortuaries abound,
doors wide open like the defeated mouth of a mother
who has lost her son.

No news breaks. Three quick facts on a back page,
devoid of desperate looks, gasps stopped
short — nobody of note. Nervous bravado
commands prodigal descendants of volcanic piedra,
once sacrificial daggers reduced to nonchalant weapon.
Brother competes against brother to bring the next day up.
Morning greets wringing hands, shaking heads gathering
for another entierro. Each new day
carrying heavier bags under its eyes.

Flattened metal versions of obsidian scratching out
our sons’ storylines. So many translations of a boy
in the making, made like tiny rubber homie dolls
we spin out for fifty cents.
We salvage hope in the school yard,
where little brothers you can’t get for two quarters
shake hands after getting mad, can’t wait to go ice skating,
tell stories about 500-year-old grandfathers.

On the other side of bright blue school walls that give guise
to us, mortuaries fly flags for good business. Boys start asking
which set of colors belong to them. Stripes block
the light so false emblems sneak in, peddling allegiance,
sacrifice, in the form of our sons.

When I ask after the sun, the old man shrugs.
Es que no sé hija, the flag, the flag was in the way.

*

Happy homie-ing!

José

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Everything We Think We Hear by Jose Angel Araguz

Everything We Think We Hear

by Jose Angel Araguz

Giveaway ends December 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

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3 thoughts on “* leticia hernández-linares & the mission

  1. Someone once quoted to me “the way to another world is never easy”.This always somes to mind when I read poetry like this because the poet opens a door, smooths the path a little and helps you into their world.. Your reviws was wonderful by the way, I want more from this author. Thanks

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