Monday, September 28, 2015

22 Poems, 22 Days. Day 17

My Mom Used To Be Something.

At the end of the dark hallway
where the dimly lit bulb barely cast
a glow over the sad doors of our rooms,
it hung in the closet on a wire hanger,
in the corner, the shape
of an indifferent woman,
that pink Kmart smock
mom got when she used to be
a stock girl.

I was too young to remember
when she worked there
but my older brother did,
and as he looked into the sky
he told about it,
like speaking of the dead.
I imagine each day
she buttoned up that smock,
walked up Blackstone to Kmart,
dirty blonde hair in a cute bob,
her green eyes sparkling maybe
with the taste of independence.
Maybe she got a glimpse
of what it could be like
just being a working girl, early 20s,
not having to go home to a man,
like That Girl!

Kmart paid in cash,
the manager counting
into her palm, two 20s,
a ten, four ones, for a full work week,
a few coins she dropped in the smock
pocket. When she came home
she hung the uniform on a chair
and cooked dinner for my father,
who came home throwing hard hat
and metal lunch box on the couch.
I imagine her stirring the pot, thinking
I hope he don’t remember
and ask, Did you get paid today?

I wish I would have known her then,
but all I remember is the uniform,
hanging in the closet, proof
she used to work there,
and anytime we walked into the giant
sliding glass doors of the store
following father, following mother,
begging for a blue Icee, sometimes
my brother, sometimes my sister
would say, Mom used to work here!

I pictured her behind the counter
serving those submarine sandwiches
with little strings of slimy onions,
flattened pickles and shredded iceberg
lettuce we loved to eat. I saw her
stocking the candy aisle,
and I wished she still worked there,
so she could grab a few Pay Days for us,
take them home in her smock pocket
and hand them out to us
like a man opening his wallet
at the county fair.

Some days when I was alone
in the house I would open
the closet, take down her smock,
and put it on, imagining I worked at Kmart,
and nothing could be better,
than getting paid in cold,
hard cash. I was proud of my mother,
but a version of her I didn’t know,
because she didn't work there anymore.
She used to really be something.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Hidalgo Valley, the Other Texas, the Other Border

I had never been to McAllen, Texas, Hiladgo County, or Starr County, but I knew about it from all the book and writers that come from there.

I was happy to have the opportunity to visit when I invited by South Texas College to read from my new book Hotel Juárez, Stories, Rooms, and Loops.
During my free time, my hosts showed me around, Juan Ochoa, Joseph Daniel Haske, Esther Garcia, and Maritza Taylor.

Mary seems to be missing her face.

This is in an old mission, empty, quiet. The door is kind of creepy.

This is Juan Ochoa, in front of a church hundreds of years old. His new book has just come out, Mariguano, about a family in the drug trade. Good stuff.

A Mexican. presumably Pepe, sleeping against a cactus. Is this how Maggie and Jeff see Mexicans?

Police everywhere, even overlooking the Walgreen's parking lot with their fancy machines.

Under the bloody feel of Jesus someone left a note for his love.

On one street, most of the shops were Yerbarías

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Demon in the Tree

One day at the Grand Canyon, when I snapped this picture of Benjamin Alire Sáenz, I imagined we were being visited by aliens from another planet.

Who knows why, but that's why the image struck me. I saw their space ships coming over the canyon and imagined Ben was contemplating his last days on earth.
Were they really there?
Well, they are now.

Photography for me is not representing an image that exists, but the digital means to share what I see. In this sense, I am not a photographer, at least not in the documentary sense. 

Often, I’ll see a face in something, even if it’s not really there, and I want to share what I see, not a material representation of matter interacting with light filtered through our retinas.

If I feel the presence of spirits when I look at something, I want to represent that image as I feel it.

Years ago, when I lived in Sunset Heights on El Paso Street, I looked out the window of my second story apartment and saw a basketball next to a brick wall. The image struck me, but to represent what I felt, I had to alter the image.  Here’s what I did.

In other words, what I saw was not the THING, the material object.

What I saw was a NO-THING, a spirit evoked.

Splitting the image like a mirror helped me represent what I felt.

I will not, nor will I ever be a photojournalist.

Evelyn Underhill writes, “Reality is sharing the illusions of our neighborhoods.”

What is true is not material and cannot accurately be represented in two dimensions, no matter how HD it may be.

When you're walking alone in a strange landscape and a tree looks like a demon reaching out to grab you, there might very well be a demon in that tree. 

At the very least, your imagination, which has a power to appear in substance, has helped create the demon in the tree.

But you can also create an angel.
It's up to you.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why I Love Sawtelle.

I can't help but sing that Randy Newman song every time I get to Sawtelle Avenue in West LA.

 Only I change  the words to, "I Love Sawtelle!"
And as I pass the Thought Convergence building, which  kind of describes  the neighborhood  pretty well, a  convergence of culture, time, and values....

 ....I imagine my backup  singers in the backseat, singing,
"We love Sawtelle!"

 (Spam rice and Kobe beef in the same neighborhood store.)
 And people on the streets sing as I pass, "We love it!"

 I love Sawtelle!

Perhaps there are a lot of them in your part of town, but this is the only Korean Sausage Co. I've ever been to. Simple menu, too.

I'm grateful its West of the 405, otherwise, my friend Augie, who's lived in West LA for many years and rarely goes east of the 405 may not have ever told me about it :))

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cats Space People Cup d-oeil Bangkok 2012

Part One

They came right up to me, no matter how street worn or how much experience, they came up to me, some of them got on their bellies, while others, fresh from flesh-demanding fights just looked at me, not afraid. They let me scratch their necks, they closed their eyes and purred.

I thought of stray cats in Fresno, how they ran way from me, afraid for their lives, and I remembered when I was 13 years old, my friend Walter, how one night we were walking behind the grocery store and a cat came up to us. 

Walter cooed it, and the cat cautiously came to him, but then he picked it up and threw it against the back wall of the grocery store, almost killing it, the cat wobbling away to Walter’s laughter. 

“How could you??" I cried, in tears.

"What’s wrong with you?" he said.

These cats in Bangkok made me think of love.