As suggested by this week's title, this is the 500
th issue of Here and Now
, published weekly almost without interruption, since the first post in May, 2006. Lately, page views are down and I'm beginning to wonder if I've worn out my welcome. I'm going to think about it before I quit, mainly because I have fun with the weekly post and don't know what I would do with the time if I didn't do this every week.
Probably hang out on street corners smoking Parliament cigarettes or something.
And now, as to new business,I haven't done any of my old stuff here in several weeks so this week I decided to skip my poems and do a few bits from my last book, Peace in Our Time (a flash fiction fable)
This is the book promo at Amazon:
The world is under attack by an unknown and ruthless enemy whose purpose seems to be extermination of the human race. Using flash-fiction pieces presented as dispatches from a soldier, the book creates an extended narrative about the soldier and his eventual destiny.
The quote is from Amazon, but the book is available just about everywhere eBooks are sold. (Just in case your wondered.)
I usually more briefly describe it as a science fiction, environmental, apocalyptic novel in 47 very short pieces. The trick here will be to use a several of those pieces to give a taste of the book without giving away its essential mysteries of "who" and "why."
My other feature this week is Reversible Monuments - Contemporary Mexican Poetry
, a huge anthology published in 2002 by Copper Canyon Press. It is a bilingual book, Spanish and English on facing pages. The book also includes a large closing section of Spanish versions of indigenous-language poems. No English translation is provided for these translations.
1. In the early days of the war... (from "Peace in Our Time")
Theory of Fractals
3. In the place of my city... (from "Peace in Our Time")
5. I fought at the First Battle of Balanced Rock... (from "Peace in Our Time")
7. Monday was wash day... (from "Peace in Our Time")
Juan Martinez, Juan Nobody, Juan All
9. There were roads... (from "Peace in Our Time")
11. I was sixteen when the Floaters came... (from "Peace in Our Time")
Intermezzo with Five Crocodiles
13. Naked by the sweat rock... (from "Peace in Our Time")
A Stone in the Water of Sanity
15. They have come upon us... (from "Peace in Our Time")
23. A woman in the snow... (from "Peace in Our Time")
Tedi Lopez Mills
My Voice Faithful as a Shadow
29. I am a straggler... (from "Peace in Our Time")
34. We are climbing the steep rock face... (from "Peace in Our Time")
35. We were on the last downward leg... (from "Peace in Our Time")
The Shadows That Draws the Light
39. I am the path I walk... (from "Peace in Our Time")
40. I am following a river through a seemingly endless prairie... (from "Peace in Our Time")
1. In the early days of the war...
In the early days of the war, back when most had shoes and my baby
sister was a virgin and I was in love and we did not yet know the taste
of horse or pigeon...
We had so much to learn.
First from this week's anthology, Reversible Monuments
, is a poem by Alberto Blanco
. Born in 1951 in Mexico City, he is considered the most important of contemporary Mexican poets.
Blanco's poems in the anthology were translated by Joan Lindgren
, Gustavo V. Segade
, and Michael Wiegers.
Theory of Fractals
In nature there are only two kinds of beings:
the large and the small.
The large ones always are what they are.
The small ones are symbols.
Of course, one must know
in relation to what...
in relation to what...
All beings are large in relation to something
and all are small in relation to something else.
In other words:
all beings are large and small at the same time.
They are what they are
- we are what we are -
and always and ever will be, symbols.
. In the place of my city...
In the place of my city there are gaping holes, like rotted teeth in
the earth; in the place of grand boulevards, muddy cow paths unvisited
by cows long slaughtered; in the place of orchards there are gallows;
and hanging from their limbs, not the crisp promise of winter apples but
the foul stench of strange fruit, rotting.
Next from the anthology, this poem is by Elsa Cross
. Born in Mexico city in 1946, Cross has a Ph.D. in philosophy and has been consistently publishing her poems since the early sixties.
Her poem was translated byMargaret Sayers Peden.
The rain brought a new life.
Summer opened the sky
and we were consumed with its
from Mandagni to the lesser codillera,
from the shore of the river
to the temple high above,
O Lady of the Lightning
her hidden path ruling over us.
The earth changed around us.
The rain brings its gifts
to her dark skin:
mantles of moss like velvet,
fresh newness of clover,
And in the stable yards
a moment's inattention
and vegetation bursts
from cracks in the ground,
from moist crannies in the wall.
Tiny little grasses appear
on the trunk of the banyan,
on the stone stairway to Tapovan,
among voices that become as soft
as the eyes of the cows
watching it rain.
All the earth
dark like your skin
in a green mantle.
In rice paddies
behind the plow
boys shield the selves from the rain
beneath yellow burlap bags.
As the days go by trhe valley recedes:
covers the green mantles.
From the temple high above
a field of mirrors.
Rain inundates us.
It captures the heavens in its reflection,
5. I fought at the First Battle of Balanced Rock...
I fought at the First Battle of Balanced Rock.
Floaters had taken the rock. Command staff wanted it back.
I remember the roar of the mechanized units and the Floaters overhead and the crash of falling rock.
My captain and two cousins from the West Hatchee Hills were crushed
and sent home killed. I survived to fight here again tomorrow. Quiet now
Birds, rabbits in the brush, a doe and her fawn
search for grass in the torn and bitter ground - they don't remember,
The raccoons raiding the bloody knapsacks know but keep the secret.
is the next poet from this week's anthology. Born in Mexico City in 1947, he studied economics and is a widely published and honored Mexican poet. His poem was translated by Christian Viveros-Faune
Way down there, in the doll's house, the unborn suddenly came of age,
the one with the scars, a few others, the twin girls,
a tube pregnant with nature's elements, shut out from false landscapes,
simulacra of air, seaborn apocrypha.
My body wears the scars of needle and thread, of scapel and anesthesia.
Yesterday I displayed them with fake pride to one lacerated by living scars.
Unequal exchange? False currency? I wear them anyway.
I was born the product of a battle against asphyxia; closing one's eyes
proved useless; the scapel cut deep.
Walls surrounded me, artificial warmth, grass cages.
Now when I dream, I dream enveloping walls, I dream asphyxia,
hallways, I dream death.
Yeserday I dreamt that I descende3d between two walls:
desire to retrace my steps to find an exit.
7. Monday was wash day...
Monday was wash day at my mother's house. I remember the clothes hanging on a wash line, whites, starched, bleached, blinding white in the sun, and the colored clothes like a queen's flower garden waving in the sky, the wind blowing, folding and unfolding the clothes as it came across the fields.
It was right over there where she hung the clothes, by that broken tree and the crumbling stones that were our house - and by the hanging vine on the leaning fence, the place where first I kissed Maggie Bray.
Blood Hill we call it now, graveyard of stolen kisses.
It was right there, all of it that I remember.
Next, I have a longer poem from the anthology by Heriberto Yepez
Born in Tijuana in 1974, Yepez is a poet, essayist, sort-story writer and translator. He graduated with a degree in philosophy from the Autonomous University of Baja California and currently teaches there.
The poet's poems were translated by Harry Polkinhorn
, Monica de la Torre
, and Mark Weiss
. The book does not specify which of three translated this poem.
Juan Martinez, Juan Nobody, Juan All
for Juan Vicente Anaya
Bard and vato
in a steep cave
in the beaches of Tijuana
bathing at 5 AM
in the aphoristic iciness of water
a spilled seed
the beloved grapevine and its seed
a wine that destroys the illusions
of city and intellect
is an over-chewed piece of gum
to eat a rancid torta
with beard long enough
to reach the tree's roots
to hear the gods
while the wide-hipped waitress
of a scuzzy diner
tunes in a beat-up radio
to utter a direct truth
to the liar's face
that is Juan Martinez
an agreed-upon renowned poet
at the beginning of is anonymity
a poet of the streets and the hiding places
of common sayings and the dodging of cars
the world of Above
the world of Below
a first and last name
as Juan Nobody
Juan All he could be called Milarepa
Rumi or Lao-tzu
white about generating
he prefers souls
rather than footnotes
a wise man who explains
what Mexican literature is
Macrocosm is Above
Microcosm is Below
we are in the Center
a vulgar designation
that would seem the pseudonym
of he who wishes to nullify
he called Juan like All
Martinez like the rest
something like that
as simple as Juan Martinez
of the agreeable sameness
is the Cosmos
in the center of Tijuana
a car washer
one of the ten thousand poets
that exist in the universe
in its adjoining
like street boys
ruined petty criminals,junkies
receiving insults and abject coins
against the windshield
selling bubble gum, wiping windshields, addicts
I'm inclined to think
that he doesn't exist
and that his story
is a heteronym
fashioned by those who edited
a sack of words
in the wind
riddled by billboards
those who know him
spread out his anecdotes
his abrupt illuminations
in the downtown streets
of the city of windshields
when they see a car washer
the raids begin, open
the handcuffs and jail
the clean the windshields of cars
lined up before a light
wiping them with a rag
and a bucket of water
a brush with a plastic handle
cleaning the mind
of the city when it stops
the poet perched on the hood
has 30 seconds to leave the windshield
what a poem last
what it takes Juan Martinez
to clean the windshield
the spotless glass
what a millennium lasts
is beside the point
only 30 seconds
to wipe a windshield
Macrocosm is Above
Microcosm is Below
9. There were roads...
There were roads where I could run with my dog, Misty, fields crisscrossed by irrigation canals where we could swim naked under a benevolent sun, trees
below the canal banks where we could laze in cool shadows, trees we could climb, so close and intertwining their branches, we could scamper like squirrels from tree to tree.
There were snakes that swam with us in the canals, long and sinuous as the undulated across the top of the water, and ferocious-looking alligator gar, some as big or bigger than those of us who swam.
But they were natural things and we had been taught not to fear natural things.
Innocent as we were, we could not imagine such unnatural things as there were in places we also could not imagine.
This piece from the anthology of contemporary Mexican poets is by Maria Baranda
. Born in Mexico City in 1962, Baranda is author of six books of poetry.
The poem was translated by Monica e la Torre
Snakes. Creased with the cipher of certainty they had crossed over the
yellow plants in the garden to drink the light.
We looked at them, excited, as one sees the drunkenness of a flower.
Exuberances. There's someone in the fullness of the woods.
I keep the sharp scent of vanilla like something that restores itself inside
I sense the shadowless burning of the forests.
They trimmed the trees at mid-afternoon. In their fatigue, green light-
ning flashes left us their breath.
A slight bewilderment glimmered in the hint of the rose and the gardenia.
We knew that misery is beautiful if forgotten.
They said that there was always light on her forehead and that a spring
flowed in the boredom of her nights.
We longed for reality in t5he vertigo of her chamber.
Something resembling a tremor took place next to the machines of the
Silently we knew boldness under the eyelids of abandonment.
She smiles and her mouth forms a small universe.
She speaks of domestic issues, but there's something eternal that flour-
ishes in her respiration.
Clarity overcomes her like an ancient pain.
Dry grass grew amidst the waste. You rubbed your hands over the
flayer's table. ducks showed their impurity in the skulls hanging from
Oh, clarity at the edge of decomposition.
A restlessness awoke us in our childhood dreams: the cry of the wolf
was lost in the depth day.
Kiss all that destroys you: indeterminacy vainglory, incandescence.
Your pureness is the eagle's flight rising in search of its gods.
At dawn she made a furrow next to the library.
Her hope: to sow a row of white lilies.
She had arrived at the deepest serenity.
The unchanging is only happiness for your heart. Remember: you are
on one under the air, quiet and still.
Blood clots explode in the dream. Above buzzards palpitate. The flowers
of a fountain brandish the bellies of children at night.
Orders to the heart: lick the dew of the blessing of the absent.
I see her, dead like a minute particle over the dry grass. on the fishing
boat I see her seeing the flight of infinite clouds. Her body, a bottle
empty many a month before.
11. I was sixteen when the Floaters came...
I was sixteen when the floaters came.
My sister's husband Mica was the first into the fight, then my brother Seth. My turn came the day of the great collapse, the End of Delusion Day.
I don't know what has happened to my mother and father, or Mica or Seth, or my little sister, Beth. If they are not alive today, I hope they died quickly.
My world now is this mud, this blood, this stink.
When my time comes, I hope it comes quickly.
This poem is by Mexican poet Efrain Bartolome
. The poet was born in Ocosingo , Chiapas, in 1950, is author of more than 15 collections of poetry and has received numerous honors for his work.
The poem was translated by Asa Zatz
Intermezzo with Five Crocodiles
I say alligator
and a slab breaks off the boulder
I say caiman
and it changes in a flash fro stone to old tree trunk, to young green
And in a flash of lightning before I can say crocodile
grotesque short legs slither over the stone and bear him away
to plunge into the murkiness of these terrible waters.
The eye of the great crocodile is quite small.
It is a minimal crevice in the vast crevice of his implacable maw.
He emerges in te afternoons on the bank of the Canon that
receives the setting sun to watch the twilight's bloody fiesta
beyond the topmost outlines of the rocky crests.
And there he stays, hypnotized, immobile,
his enormous body ore of a rock each time,
his mesmerized eye an even stonier crevice.
He doesn't sun himself:
He drinks the sunset with his minimal eye.
The old crocodile submerges himself in death's slow gullet:
his image in the water swallows him.
All the river is a wounded alligator.
13. Naked by the sweat rock...
Naked by the sweat rock,we struggle,clinched tight together, slippery with sweat, arms, chests, cocks, knees pushing, bumping together, desperately we try to disadvantage the other while avoiding damage to ourselves.
He found an old can of tuna, tried to hide it, won't share.
We struggle, and in the end, I kill the son-of-a-bitch.
The son-of-a-bitch wouldn't share his tuna.
Next from the anthology, Coral Bracho
. Born in Mexico City in 1951, Bracho is author of six books of poetry.
Her poem was translated by Suzanne Jill Levin
and Monica del la Torre
A Stone in the Water of Sanity
A stone n the water of sanity
plummets into the latitudes holding us
between perfect circles
At the bottom
the thread of sanity hangs in the shadows
at that point
between this point
over its rhombi
you will see space multiply
beneath the brief arch of sanity, you will see
dead even clear-cut gestures
if then you
get off and sit still
and see yourself swaying.
15. They have come upon us...
They have come upon us from beyond the high sands and we are moving back as quickly as we can.
But not fast enough.
Blood paints a seeping pattern on white sand; how quickly it fades away. I leave my new friend, Willis, in pieces behind me, blowing sand already crusting over all his parts.
I run and run, and somehow find a hidey-hole, wrapping myself as tight as I can, head and arms a bundle as small as I can make it in the sand, frantically scrabbling into the sand like a crab on a beach, sand on my tongue, caked around my mouth.
They pass over me and I am unseen.
Next from the anthology, poet, essayist, fiction writer and editor, Malva Flores
Born in Mexico City in 1961, Flores is author of numerous books of poetry and winner of many poetry awards. Her poem was translated by Jan Hofer
Whenever something dies
already being born.
It takes its wreath of fire from the dead,
the fragile substance of its evocations;
what still remains of its body.
What is left of its body is an aura flying
in the red dunes of memory.
There the clothing of images transformed:
tar or flower
bandage or burn.
What is born takes possession of what volatile aura
to give its body spiny consistency
- it'll be a trunk, perhaps and oak -
will inhabit the eyes that love augments
when two people kissing
reinitiate each other's foundation.
23. A woman in the snow...
A woman in the snow, back against a tree, the tree protecting her from the butcher's wind.
Dirty wrapped in multiple layers of cloth, like a heavy theater curtain, dirty too, stolen, pulled down from a theater somewhere. I don't know where; don't know where there could be a theater. I don't even know where I am.
A woman, filthy, in rags, like me, freezing to death in this dark winter, like me, a survivor, like me, she fights against the cold and will fight against me if I get close.
Though I haven't seen a woman in six months, haven't talked to a woman in ever more time than that, haven't fucked a woman since the camp whore in the first year, this one, this one doesn't entice me to try.
I think we have all gone insane.
29. I am a straggler...
I am a straggler, not part of the few remaining groups that continue to fight. They are easier targets for the Floaters, any congregation of my kind are easier targets.
So I avoid my kind, remain a passing,solitary shadow, hard to see, hard to find.
I am a cockroach, living in the dark corners of this Earth I used to call home, skittering away under the light.
34. We are climbing the steep rock face...
We are climbing the steep rock face of a bald dome mountain, rising alone,some kind of geologic aberration in the middle of a very thick, snake infested brush for miles around, cactus and thorn trees making passage difficult and bloody.
It is my decision to go over the dome, rather than through the brush.
Boy doesn't like it and I have come to agree with him.
The climb is harder than I thought it would be and the two of us on this bare rocky surface are like flies waiting to be swatted. After years hiding in deep forest, beneath trees and anything else that could shield us from patrolling Floaters overhead, it is gut-twisting to be so exposed. But once started I don't want to go back, no matter how bad the idea to begin.
It is the snakes overrunning the brush I most don't want to face.
But halfway up the dome, we have seen no evidence of Floaters on the horizon - it could be they consider the clearing of this region complete and no longer think there is a need to patrol.
We are beginning to feel safe.
35. We are on the last downward leg...
We are on the last downward leg of the granite dome when we hear the familiar keening. As a Floater begins to edge over the dome's crest, Boy and I jump into a nearby crevice in the rock.
With our heads down, we stand on a narrow ledge beneath the surface, barely wide enough for our feet to catch hold.
Boy's grip is secure, but the part of the ledge I am on crumbles and I slip the rest of the way down the crevice into a cave, a winter den for snakes of all kinds, draped around the cave on small outcroppings, snakes entangled like twisted rope in piles on the floor. The edge of my foot touches one, and I hear the quiet button whisper of a somnolent rattlesnake. I stand, still as stone, afraid to move, with no place to move without stepping on a snake in the dark.
Boy sees me from his hold at the top and sees the snakes all around me. Slowly he begins to descend
into the cave, carefully and gently picking snakes off the outcroppings where they lie and placing them out of the way. Slowly, as I sweat, he clears a path for me to climb again to the top. The Floater is gone but it makes no difference tome, ready in a heartbeat to take a Floater over a cave of sleeping snakes.
Into the fresh , cool air I dance and scream, cheeks puffed, blowing all the air in my lungs, trying to purge forever the smell of a hundred snakes sleeping.
Even blowing as hard as I can, I don't think I'll ever be clear of that smell.
Tedi Lopez Mills
, born in Mexico City in 1959, is a poet, essayist, translator and editor. Among other honors, she was the first poetry grant awarded by the Octavio Paz Foundation.
My Voice Faithful as a Shadow
Where does tthe note fall among racing boughs
Where does the wing drop its white feather
Where does time lose
And who dies when the final bell
Who tolls if if they're all gone
All plated flags in a patch of ground
All gone off with the war
Say there's no return
Only this trench halfway across a decade
the jungle of blood without return
The daughter of your head
the wounded daughter of some fatherland
Minerva set down in the landscape of obuses
Though the country of your footsteps was mud
Mud and desiccated skin on prongs
Polished iron the mirage in your forehead
Alibi like light between plate and skull
Life did not have that shine
did not have the resplendence of new things
the garden after the battle
The balm of myrtle
The solace of a new language
Towers cables a train's last car
Beyond clouds of smoke
Shouts of victory
Other consonants other riturals
And from behind every shutter a different eye
Another vowel on the lips
And your voice faithful as a shadow
Like the days and nights
Faithful to its own successon
Your voice from here, from there
Sings it does not know where
It does not sing
Last from this week's anthology of contemporary Mexican poets are three poems by Natalia Toledo
An interesting poet, born in Juchitan, Oaxaca, in 1967, Toledo writes in both Zapotec and Spanish. Her work has appeared in several anthologies of indigenous-language poetry and she appears often at international conferences of indigenous poets. In addition to her poetry, she has become a gourmet chef specializing in Oaxacan cuisine, particularly that of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Her poems were translated by Albert Rios
at the edges of the river.
Men who swing their balls
over the head of fear.
(poet and cook)
There are days in which I wake up beautiful
and it is not possible to me
to be that lit up face,
so I have to get drunk
because I've never been able to stand being beautiful.
The Shadow That Draws the Light
The pictures old up the walls
they fade time
they are gestures
that believed they would stay in the acid moment.
I only have images of the equinox
fantastic shadows shot by the light
figures where my father's birthmark
and mine are a single face.
39. I am the path I walk...
I am the path I walk and path is me.
It is hard to remember when we were anything else.
40. I am following a river through a seemingly endless prairie...
I am following a river through a seemingly endless prairie and have not seen a Floater in weeks.
I come across a hut, built against a bluff beside a creek. It is made of grass, covered with river mud so as to be hidden from above.
I find a rude grass mat on the floor inside and, in the center of the room, a circle of fire rocks, embers still glowing - the first human sign since Boy.
I don't know if I should run or stay. It is hard to know what you might find in someone new. Driven mad by isolation, murderously protective of what little they have, or welcoming another of their kind, it is dangerous to assume anything.
As I consider this, an old man walks up from the creek, barefoot, naked, stoop-backed, white hair down his back to his ass, white beard covering his chest and belly. He holds a rough wooden spear and writhing on its tip, a fish, still wet and gleaming from the creek.
We both stand frozen in the moment, waiting to react to whatever the other does.
"Hungry?" he asks.
I have included in this post only 14 of the 47 short chapters that tell the book's story. To read the 33 chapters not posted here, including the concluding chapters wherein the main mysteries of the story are revealed, "Peace in our Time" can be purchased just about anywhere eBooks are sold, priced under $3.00.
As usual, everything belongs to who made it. You're welcome to use my
stuff, just, if you do, give appropriate credit to "Here and Now" and
Also as usual, I am Allen Itz owner and producer of
this blog, and diligent seller of books, specifically these and
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, Sony eBookstore, Copia, Garner's,
Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, Oyster, Flipkart, Ciando and Kobo (and, through
Kobo, brick and mortar retail booksellers all across America and abroad)
New Days & New Ways
Places and Spaces
Always to the Light
Goes Around Comes Around
Pushing Clouds Against the Wind
And, for those print-bent, available at Amazon and select
coffeehouses in San Antonio
Seven Beats a Second
Sonyador - The Dreamer
Peace in Our Time