Ah, Smiles emerge when I think of you standing there: tall, kind, soft-spoken - the first gentleman I've known. We waited for car rides and balanced books that bright afternoon. Your wit and insight shone through and broke your shyness. 13 at the time, little did we realize a final goodbye would come not even ten years later. 13 at the time, our dreams were all possible. Our world was still hopeful, open to all we'd do, ready for our shaping hands and youthful souls. You studied at Cornell, you were changing the world already. A car accident off a bridge ended your contributions. We had seen each other only briefly at a college party. You remained among the finest gentlemen I'd know. You still are, crystallized in my mind's eye these decades past. We've all grown older: wrinkles, addictions, children who gave us grandchildren. You should be with us. Fatigue is here, yes, but life is still worth the struggles. Others from our class died, too. I imagine you there on a bright afternoon, welcoming them A haunting, silent summer has closed in; we look to our past. I think of you and your promise. Our tired world grow brighter in those moments. I remember you.
I prepared for the school dance the dress pressed a boudinair for his lapel dancing to songs in advance all the dreams of youth bursting forward and coming soon. Twirling and swirling, over and again. Yet Dad grew sick early that morning. A fever first caught our attention. His quiet mornings had been clues as he cradled his aching head in folded arms. These were the days before the actual tumor was first detected, the pain present but the malady silent and lurking. To the hospital we went and waited. Twirling and swirling, over and again. We sat next to him, playing the television, laughing nervously, and watching for doctors. A rerun of Lawrence Welk began, and so did memories. My sisters and I danced to long-forgotten songs floating like flowers in lapels at school dances Dad our handsome beau, slowly smiling then gently singing. Twirling and swirling, over and again.
Take one morning, sift lightly
and walk past silent houses, glistening dew, and twittering birds.
Add one glass of orange juice, accompanied by a dandelion
Gulp and think of next hours.
Open the windows and doors while the sun fills the sky.
Add the chores of childhood, refreshing and earnest.
Mix in one salad or sandwich or soup at midday,
the same ingredients contributing to each all week.
Add an hour of reading encyclopedias, cookbooks, long-kept magazines
and lower to a simmer, leading to a nap.
Gently check after 45 minutes, and slowly remove to a windowsill.
Check the breezes, watch the passing clouds, listen for dogs.
Finish the salad or sandwich or soup from earlier.
Let the evening sun quietly set.
Summer Vacation: 2020
A new vision of self within her,
she claimed her place among men.
Examinations, boards, clinics,
always serving women and children.
Ongoing ailments and illnesses with
roots in misinformation and ignorance
spurred her to find new solutions.
Education for a world of those underserved.
Traveling the world to help others.
Her vision for self led to possibilities for others
a new way of thinking, learning, and living.
connoisseur, listen to it all
rare Latinx writers
drug war or violence
the rejection felt
Do I have a moral obligation to do anything as a writer?
clickbait-y talking point
stereotypical drug lords, maids, gangbangers,
pushback against this new Trump administration
built on stereotypes about Latinx people
informing very real US policy today
Have we boxed ourselves into stories only about good brown people and better brown people?
by looking away from those
stereoptypes does that make us complicit
weaponizing stereotypes against us?
James Baldwin taught us
respectability politics will not save us
look it in the eye
explore the complexity
of that stereotype
we feel cheated by portrayals
as told through the white gaze
It is significant
Look these impolite realities in the eye
Demand complex stories
You don’t know the lives you’re deporting
You don’t want to know
If we ignore the complexities of our world
we make literature dumber not smarter
we should tell those stories.
Dear Jan, You're on the plane to Madrid right now. It's the best decision you've made so far, and you've tended towards good decisions. But, well, you've been cautious and safe. Just know: Take more chances. Stroll those magnificent streets and alleys. Learn old people's names and all their stories. Master the cooking. Imitate the regional dances. Make Madrid your playground. Remember: parks every day. Sleep under the stars more on your tiny little balcony. Flirt with the men when you dance, and walk home with your best girfriends, one at each house in those streets you'll grow to love. Spend more time with families who embrace you as one of their own. You'll do these, I assure you, but do more. Dive in and keep taking those chances. You'll look back on this with great love. So beautiful and strong and independent already, be so - just more.
Rolling over on her pillow as the moonbeam floated in the hushed morning, she smiled her not so usual smile. A new day, she realized and felt strangely free of all the worry of late. No fog greeted her, no wretching stomach, no worries Stretching up and out of bed, she reached for her clothes.”Funny,” she thought, “I don’t recall this dress. It’s perfect vintage, though. Note to self: Call Gran and thank her for this incredible find.” Which grandmother, though, sent this to her? Juana or Stella? Or was it Isadora and Agneta? She always just called them Gran anyway.
Twisting her hair “just so” to match the retro flair, she caught a glimpse of herself in the vintage mirror. “Damn fine, if I say so myself! Looking good . . . .” Funny, her name didn’t quite fit this look, so why not just pretend for the day?
Pretend is certainly what she had to do, for she discovered a perfectly tidy kitchenette, waiting just for her (or so it seemed). “Coffee,” she said aloud while searching each shelf in the cupboard.”The perfect latte or cappuc –,” she was surprised at what she didn’t find as her typical morning perk. “Hmm, just regular coffee. Already ground. Plain old flavor. Well, it’s part of a joke, I suppose. I can play with it; it may just be fun.”
To her surprise, in came a man who walked right up to her and kissed her long and hard. “The regular breakfast for me, Sweetheart,” he called out, and she immediately knew it was scrapple and eggs over medium with dark coffee, which she had somehow brewed in this percolating old-fashioned coffee pot. Oddly, she instinctively reached for his lunch pail and canteen, discovering that they were already filled with lunch and iced tea for the day. He laughed when she looked at him a bit puzzled. “Ready for a full day at the dock! Today we’re pouring concrete all day,” and finished eating the meal she had placed before him sometime earlier. She kissed him back and assured him, “The children and I will be trimming the little fir for the holiday party”
It was while she was saying this that she realized that now she had children. Children upstairs sleeping in beds down the hall from her bedroom, with lunches she now needed to make and homework bundles to prepare for school. When did she go back in time? Where did the husband and children and fir tree come from? Who was she anymore? What games had her friends been playing? Who were they anyway? If only, if only, if only. . . . Who was she anyway? She could no longer remember.
Till We Have Faces Till we have faces which others recognize, we'll struggle for the genuine compliment of competence not a measure about how we make others feel, for promotions and invitations without expectations of contributing our best, for our voices to be heard without our need to call out louder ever lounder. Till we have faces we recognize in each other, we'll struggle to accept each other whether or not we have children an education, a stable home, a successful health care plan, a clean record, a proper background, a promising future, the right husband or children or pantsuit or political platform. Till we have faces for ourselves we'll struggle to wake in the morning and sleep throughout the night. Till we have faces for ourselves we'll look in mirrors with doubtful eyes and pounding hearts. Till we have faces for ourselves we'll teach our daughters and nieces and students this similar fear. Till we have faces we must rise to see, value, and affirm our being. Our uprising starts now and continues until we all know our worth because they'll finally see our faces.
Dreams were easy to achieve: travel to foreign lands, falling in love, changing the world in my career. My brain exploded: safety within four walls, humbled love for my Steve, grateful to just return to work. At 49 I became old.
She'll return to Spain's mountains along the sacred path to Santiago yet transform a half a world away to guard her childhood crib now rocking, gently rocking, rocking rocking a new little one. Pilgrams and infants alike will hear soft chimes and glance, looking for the music maker, the one who hints of the good to come. She'll rustle the fallen leaves on autumn nights when the very last of the warm winds blow, and families will take walks -- long walks to faraway lands in search of warm homes, food, safe sleep for their gray-haired ones, education for the youngest, and the chance to dream yet again for what they want and love. She'll walk beside and whisper, "I'll protect you with all I am. Keep on." She'll enter schoolrooms and playgrounds and again teach, trading ponderous lessons for life skills to keep best friends, new loves, and honored guides. Students will look back on saved notebooks but remember the days so glorious with deep meaning and new dreaming. She'll sigh as she journeys with them, growing older but -- so she'll hope -- not old. Never old. She'll return to Spain's mountains along the sacred path to Santiago, to Syria to Sudan to Guatemala and reservations, to your home and mine and walk beside those Pilgrams seeking a meaning for life, their yearning for wholeness and worth. She'll watch them grow and whisper in the evening winds, "Laugh for Life will fly. Protect each other. Have strength. Keep on."