Word Cloud: REQUIEM

Word Cloud Resized

by NONA BLYTH CLOUD

When you write 60 to 70 profiles of poets a year, you read a lot of poetry.

Searching for poems that make you want to read more is both joy and drudgery.

Joy when you find something that ‘clicks.’
Drudgery while you wade hip-deep through all the words that don’t sing for you.

I recently found a voice that arrowed straight toward me, strong and sure, right through the babble, only to discover that the poet died half a year ago – so before we even met, I’d lost another friend.

Francisco X. Alarcón (1954–2016) was born in California and grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. Alarcón returned to the United States to attend California State University at Long Beach, and he earned his MA from Stanford University.

Francisco-Alarcon_07

Our lives couldn’t have been more different. The connection is a love of words, and a respect for their power.

And a singular time of nightmare in the City of the Angels.


L.A. Prayer

April 1992

something
was wrong
when buses
didn’t come

streets
were
no longer
streets

how easy
hands
became
weapons

blows
gunfire
rupturing
the night

the more
we run
the more
we burn

o god

show us
the wayL A riot 1992
lead us

spare us
from ever
turning into
walking

matches
amidst
so much
gasoline


The L.A. Riots. They began April 29, 1992, when four white L.A.P.D. officers were acquitted of all charges in the beating of black motorist Rodney King, a beating that was shown over and over again in police videocam footage on television. The verdict would have been incomprehensible, but we had seen this before.

In November, 1991, a Korean-born grocer awaited sentencing for shooting a 15-year-old black girl in the head as she turned away to leave the store after a dispute over a bottle of orange juice. The entire city saw the whole thing on the store’s security video played repeatedly on the nightly news. The grocer was found guilty of manslaughter, which could have sent her to prison for up to 16 years. Instead, the judge sentenced her to five years probation, 400 hours community service, and a $500 fine.

Five months later, my neighborhood was close to the riot’s path. For four days, we were surrounded by a ring of daylight smoke and dark-of-the-moon fires. Worried the scattered gunfire might come our way, at night we lay down on the living room floor, below the level of the windows, trying to sleep.

Mexican Tile blue diamonds


Words create images and feelings that connect us to lives we’ve never lived. When that happens, we never see the world quite the same way again.

“Mexican” Is Not a Noun

to forty-six UC Santa Cruz students and
seven faculty arrested in Watsonville for
showing solidarity with two thousand
striking cannery workers who were mostly
Mexican women, October 27, 1985

“Mexican”
is nothuichol-art-300x300
a noun
or an
adjective

“Mexican”
is a life
long
low-paying
job

a check
mark on
a welfare
police
form

more than
a wordhuicholes_7
a nail in
the soul
but

it hurts
it points
it dreams
it offends
it cries

it moves
it strikes
it burns
just like
a verb


To Those Who Have Lost Everything

crossed
in despair
many deserts
full of hope

carrying
their empty
fists of sorrow
everywhere

mouthing
a bitter night
of shovels
and nails

“you’re nothing
you’re shit
your home’s
nowhere” —

mountains
will speak
for you

rain
will flesh
your bones

green again
among ashesnogalitos border wall
after a long fire

started in
a fantasy island
some time ago

turning
Natives
into aliens


Prayer

(translated by Francisco Aragón)

I want a god
as my accomplice
who spends nights
in houses
of ill repute
and gets up late
on Saturdays

a god
who whistles
through the streets
and trembles
before the lips
of his lover

a god
who waits in line
at the entrance
of movie houses
and likes to drink
café au lait

a god
who spits
blood from
tuberculosis and
doesn’t even have
enough for bus fare

a god
knocked
unconscious
by the billy club
of a policeman
at a demonstration

a god
who pisses
out of fear
before the flaring
electrodes
of torture

a god
who hurts
to the last
bone and
bites the air
in pain

a jobless god
a striking god
a hungry god
a fugitive god
an exiled god
an enraged god

a godCHILDREN FOR HIRE TEXAS
who longs
from jail
for a change
in the order
of things

I want a
more godlike
god



Mexican Tile blue diamondsFrancisco X. Alarcón wrote about his Latino identity, about being gay – about mythology, the Nahuatl language, Mesoamerican history – and about the culture of the United States. He wrote poetry and prose, and books for children, in two languages. He was honored with the Chicano Literary Prize (1984), the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award (1993), and a Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association (2002). He was director of the Spanish for Native Speakers Program at the University of California at Davis, and taught for the Art of the Wild workshop and the California Poets in the Schools program.

On Sunday, January 10, 2016, there was a gathering of family, friends, musicians, Aztec dancers and even the poet himself, despite his illness, to read his poetry, and celebrate his life. The event, ¡Viva la Vida! (Long Live Life), was held at the Cafe La Boheme in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Francisco X. Alarcón died of cancer, on Friday morning, January 15, 2016. He was 61.

once again I look out your window
and the world looks oddly different,
maybe the fields have blossomed,
or perhaps more stars have been born

Fransisco_X._Alcaron_


Mexican Tile blue diamonds

Sources

The Poems

Biography

Selected Bibiliography

  • Canto hondo/Deep Song (University of Arizona Press, 2015)
  • Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems/Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas (Poetic Matrix Press, 2014)
  • Ce Uno One: Poemas para el Nuevo Sol/Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press, 2010)
  • From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2002)
  • Sonetos a la locura y otras penas/Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company, 2001)
  • No Golden Gate for Us (Pennywhistle Press, 1993)
  • Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books, 1992)
  • De amor oscuro/Of Dark Love (Moving Parts Press, 1991)
  • Body in Flames/Cuerpo en llamas (Chronicle Books, l990)
  • Loma Prieta (We Press, 1990)
  • Quake Poems (We Press, 1989)
  • Ya Vas, Carnal, with Rodrigo Reyes and Juan Pablo Gutiérrez (Humanizarte Publications, 1985)

Visuals

  • ¡Viva la Vida! at Cafe La Boheme
  • Blue Jalisco tile
  • Bonfire of a city
  • Two examples of Huichol art – the Huichol people live in the Jalisco, Durango, and Nayarit states of Mexico
  • Memorials for the dead on a border wall
  • Underage migrant worker in Texas
  • Photo of Francisco X. Alarcón

Word Cloud photo by Larry Cloud

Mexican Tile blue diamonds

 

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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