Paz and Graffiti

A man paints Oaxaca wants peace (Oaxaca quiere paz) in the streets as traffic persists. It appears to be futile endeavor as the paint smears into the intersection, but he is determined even in the face of fast taxis and bus barreling up Reforma.

I try to imagine working in spray paint, writing in a much larger font…

Even the hottest nights, I mask my face with a bandana, shroud myself in a dark hoodie, put on my fastest tennies, arm myself with my favorite colors of paint: red or those who they tried to eliminate, black for the lost ones they want to quietly efface.

For them, the oppressed, the unjustly imprisoned, the dead, I paint reminders of their names, these veterans of this millennium’s wars, sketched on the city’s vacant canvases, on the walls of banks and businesses that will try to whitewash my missives, but I will return the next dusk, for I refuse to be erased.


From Beyond Words

Mudd Club 4th floor gallery
Manhattan, April 1981

If you bomb
the IND
or tag the 2
dousing it in tribal
shrapnel, you’re it
—the shit—
If you can lie
between the rails
—Please Stand
Clear the Closing—
or press yourselves
betw. train
& the wall
spray can rattling
like a tooth—The roof
the roof
the roof is on
the 6 will whistle
* Read Poet Dennis Schmitz’s collection, The Truth Squad, Copper Canyon Press: What is the truth? And, how will you spread/spray/shepherd it?

Arrazola’s Quiet


In the shadow of Monte Alban rests this peaceful pueblo where the roosters and infrequent church bells are the only sounds for wide stretches, where time ambles as slowly as the burros with their burdens and where cordiality is as ubiquitous as the wandering, wide-eyed dogs.

My whole life I’ve dreamed of afternoons as this, of allowing myself to become heavy and succumb to a lazy siesta on the porch and this yellow breeze that punctuates the near-silence. I could live an entire lifetime in this impossible sweetness.

Each kilometer of distance away from the city, the decibels lower until you can hear the aerial antics of a single fly.  With silence and with sound, as Pomeroy’s piece below, air is an essential ingredient.

From Row

–Ralph Pomeroy


Slap. Clap.

The lake’s back

laps the flat

boat. Croak,

goes a frog,

croak. Flo-

tillas of vanilla

water lilies

float. Moats

of air flare…

  • Take a turn playing with sound; see how it affects sense. Avoid end rhyme; amplify the internal rhyme.

Dancing in the Kitchen: Cooking Class

I made this. Though my fingers at first resisted, I made squash blossoms stuffed with raisins and tomatoes and chicken and goodness. I made: avocado soup with a little too much salt;  a mole with green olives, almonds, tomatoes, pineapple, plantain, cinnamon, chiles, and raisins; tortillas (including plantain tortillas). I also made a cucumber water with jalapeno, lime, and just enough sugar, and to top off the feast: orange juice and mezcal sorbet.

Nervous as a chihuahua; I am practically a wreck in the kitchen. At one point, I dropped an apple on the floor. I splashed (a lot of) mole on the stove. I had to scrape my raw tortilla from the stove and press it again–and one more time–to, at last, make a single tortilla. But I returned to the cooking class at Casa Crespo again this summer to practice. And, it certainly was delicious practice under the precise instruction of the artist Oscar Carrizosa:

From Good Times

–Lucile Clifton


…My Mama has made bread

and Grampaw has come

and everybody is drunk

and dancing in the kitchen

oh these is good times

good times

good times…

  • Paint a picture of prevailing good times despite allusions to life’s challenges. Consider simple joys, spontaneous happiness for small things.

“The only weapon that we have in our hands…is the weapon of protest,” Martin Luther King Jr.

I have returned to Oaxaca and have spent time documenting the strife here as well as trying to decipher the best way to present the protests, marches, blockades, vigils, and other actions happening here. Here, I must be a tourist, not an activist. Thus, I will start with the words of the protestors and their signs and art.

One of the pieces of graffiti offers Che Guevara’s: “Hasta la victoria [siempre]” but the problem is that no one I have asked can explain what victory might mean. In an intercambio on Saturday, a seventeen-year-old explained that, for her, victory is about achieving the common good, but she swiftly conceded that it is nearly impossible to agree on what the common good is because it depends on so many factors.

Here is a little bit about what has transpired: