Sunday, February 16, 2020

Loose End from El Paso: Tumblewords Project: Erasure


Returning to El Paso from Juarez. November 2016.




One year ago today, February 2019, I attended the Tumblewords Project led by Gustavo Enriquez. I remembered him from a previous workshop, on corporeal poetry, I believe, in which his poem about a part of his body blew me away with its fresh creativity.

So on this day, Gustavo walked us through erasure poetry, which was new to me. It also goes by blackout poetry.

Gustavo distributed several stacks of magazines and old books around the horseshoe of workshop writers, inviting each of us to select a few pages from this or that, and then to black out what we didn't want from a text, leaving visible a poem. 

I mined two pieces from the ore.


It's Not Personal

The birds,
They see the wind.
That wind means no harm.

The earth turns.

Life intends to not cause pain.

The storm come and it pass.

The sun shines.


After the Storm

Up early.

The sun, drink.

Ready for

Recovering

Recovering

From failure.

We,

We,

We,

In the rainbow, sat quiet in the brightness

Purring to

Sleep.





P.S. Talking about erasure reminds me of a witty, biting, sometimes hilarious book by the same name, written by Percival Everett.














Monday, February 10, 2020

Arizona: Phoenix: We take our bathroom security very seriously



I stayed at a modest motel in Phoenix over the weekend.


I had occasion to use the restroom in the lobby building. It's kept locked. The door has a doorknob set higher than the norm, such that one must actually raise one's arm a bit to turn it. That was a surprising touch.

When I went to the reception desk to get a key, the woman reached into a drawer under her counter, then hefted a heavy-ass chain onto the tall counter between us. It was a chain that you'd find attached to a damp stone wall down in a dungeon.

Somehow, I didn't say anything, but I know my pupils must have dilated in surprise, and inside I was chortling. Holy geeeeeeee, are you kidding me?! And here I didn't have my camera with me.  Which I later rectified, as you can see from the fact that I did get some pics from a visit upon check out.

Motel restroom key chain. Phoenix, Arizona. February 2020.

Motel restroom key chain. Phoenix, Arizona. February 2020.



I wondered to myself if the weighty chain is also considered a potential weapon in case the lobby should be stormed by somebody with bad intentions. Because I could see that maybe happening at that motel. It has an Anything-Could-Happen-at-Any-Moment (and has already done) kinda vibe, in addition to a We-Don't-Put-Up-With-Any-Kinda-Your-Shit vibe.



Sunday, February 2, 2020

Flashback to 2012: Caucasus Georgia: Georgians Are Not Afraid of Electricity

Sometimes it amazes me how completely clueless I can be about the most obvious things. Like un-shelled eggs inside a chicken. What did I think before? I think I thought nothing about it at all, thus was startled to see something so unexpected. Read on for the details.



Monday, February 20, 2012 

Georgia: Georgians Are Not Afraid of Electricity 



Georgians are not afraid of electricity like we Americans are.

Men and women regularly fix electrical things with pliers, tape, and I don't know what else.

My host, Irakli, opened up a power strip, fiddled with its guts, applied some tape on its cord, put it all back together again, and plugged in a radio.

Rustavi: Irakli fixes a powerstrip

Rustavi: Irakli fixes a powerstrip


Speaking of guts, my hostess, Neli, cleaned up a dead chicken while Irakli worked above. Did I know unlaid eggs were in a hen when it was butchered? I guess if I'd thought about it, I'd have maybe said yes. But I didn't, so I was morbidly scientifically interested in seeing this.

It's the damndest thing.

Rustavi: Eggs in hen


Rustavi: Eggs in hen


Rustavi: Eggs in hen


I didn't know this, but Neli uses these unlaid eggs in a special soup she makes of chicken broth, flour, milk and herbs. The soup I ate earlier today, from a different chicken.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Word of the Year 2020: Build 2: Fronterista


Clark Bridge over Mississippi River, between W. Alton, Missouri, and Alton, Illinois. May 2011.



Thus far

Word of the Year: Build 1


At a Tumblewords Project workshop I attended during my early-2019 revisit to El Paso, I wrote the poem, Family Fronterista, at the bottom of this page.

Dr. Yolanda Chávez Leyva (who writes the blog FierceFronteriza) led this February workshop.

She introduced the workshop by noting the anniversary of the February 2, 1848, signing of the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo.

Mexicans who lived in the territory lost by Mexico to the United States in the Mexican-American War had one year to choose whether or not to be US citizens (and stay or move) or Mexican citizens (and move).

With a writing prompt linked to the possession/loss of a national identity, or at least a cultural identity, and on the rigidity or fluidity of borders, the family story of one of my El Paso friends came to mind. In both cases, it was necessary to build a new family, to lay a new hearth.

My friend's story inspired my poem below.

 Family Fronterista

Six sisters
Drew a line
And said to Seventh Sister:
"You are not of us anymore.
"You are on the other side of this line - -
"Go."

Seventh Sister
She closed her eyes
She turned around
To survey her new land
A desert it seemed.

She squared her shoulders
She made a life
A husband for awhile
Children forever
School
A business.

She climbed mountains, forded rivers
Crossed borders, except
That one -
Her visa revoked.

One day, a phone call.
A woman, unknown.
"My family name is Abrán .
"I am told yours is the same."
"Yes," said Seventh Sister.
"It is the name I was born into."
"Are we family"? the woman asked.

The women walked
Up and down and over the
Lines of grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles.
No connections.

Finally, the woman named Abrán said:
"No matter.
"Come to us. We lack a Seventh Sister."

And Seventh Sister smiled.
She said,
"Yes, I've been looking for you.
"I am coming home."