Category: Mexico

Dancing in Llano Park

IMG_4605.JPG
The Zumba class in Llano infatuates the whole park. Who can resist the joyful music and movement? The way they sway those hips!
Even this construction worker joins in. He’s  on an eight-foot ladder, readying a structure for a canopy, when he suddenly, rapt by the music, breaks into dancing.  How gracefully he maneuvers the ladder, as if he’s on stilts, as if this is just something one does.
That’s the secret to this city. I know better than to question the magic. I just need to let myself be swept up in the music.
  • Umberto Ak’Abal writes, in “The Dance,”

    All of us dance/ on a cent’s edge

    (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/dance)

    Upon what edge are you or your characters dancing? And, what happens? And, what do those watching fear will happen?

Back in Oaxaca

IMG_4371
The officer at passport control in Mexico City asks where I am coming from. I offer Sacramento; he counters with Atlanta. But I am so tired I don’t recognize the word Atlanta. I start to nod no. He repeats, slowly, A T L A N T A. I agree that’s where I have been most recently.

He asks me why I am in Mexico, and I want to tell him that I long for music in the streets, tacos in the park on Fridays, children roaming freely into twilight, a ride in the back of a truck, Indigo skies over Santo Domingo church. Instead, I sneeze the word: tourism, and he sends me off for two rounds of suitcase inspections and impromptu Spanish tests.

I’m usually up for trying out my comprehension, but I left Sacramento at 11:05PM and arrived in A T L A N T A at about 3AM my time, to take a train and find a gate in the vast terminal and then tried to sleep while a little old man loudly read the newspaper and slurped steaming coffee.

The officer has caught me at 10AM his time, 8AM mine, 11AM Atlanta’s.

Before meeting him, I have mostly fruitlessly tried to sleep in three time zones: pacific, eastern, central. I will have experienced a handful of solid minutes of sleep without disruption.

I will, at last, nap deeply in the small plane over Oaxaca and then briefly in a taxi-van full of seven men in the bustling streets leading to my stop (second-to-last) and my room, my comfortable room, at the posada.

IMG_4386

  • April Bernard, in “Roy Orbison and John Milton Are Still Dreaming” (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/roy-orbison-and-john-milton-are-still-dreaming) delivers us the joy of waking from a satisfying nap:
    You know what I mean: In the instant
    of waking in bliss, the whole body smiles—
    Then, she shows how though the mind may want to wake “in bliss” (as in the joy of landing on Oaxaca and being delivered to the posada), reality is often not as generous. In her poem, Bernard offers a list of “happy facts.” What are the “happy facts” that fill one of your characters?

2016 Watershed Changes

Definition of watershed – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/watershed

1a:  divide

b:  a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water

2:  a crucial dividing point, line, or factor: Turning Point

No matter where I travel, from the classroom to the Home Depot language exchange to family in Northern Ireland for Christmas, people ask what a Trump presidency will mean for our nation and the rest of the world. I have no answers, no hypotheses. I just know, as the rest of us, this feels like a watershed moment.

The following exquisite lines from Simon Armitage’s frightening 1963 poem “Gooseberry Season” capture an alarming sense of landmark change.

Where does the hand become the wrist?
Where does the neck become the shoulder? The watershed
and then the weight, whatever turns up and tips us over that
razor’s edge
between something and nothing, between
one and the other.

(Read more of the poem at: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/gooseberry-season)

Speaking of watersheds, I have three poems appearing in the Fall 2016 issue of Watershed Review http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed: “Recipe for Peach Salsa,” Dancing a Little, and “Jesús Wants to learn to use the internet.” (http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2016-fall/poetry/hutcheson-heather.shtml)

Many thanks to the editors for including my work in this knockout publication.

  • Armitage’s poem is a mini horror story. Confide an equally sinister confession.

“That Honey You Carry in Your Mouth”

tunas

I am delighted to see the Tuna, a male musical group, much like mariachis, whose members play musical instruments and sing Spanish folk songs. The group members are typically university students and are dressed in short pants that are both wide and tight at the knee, tights/long socks (green for apprentices), a blouse, a jacket, and a cloak decorated with colorful ribbons and patches. They perform to keep the tradition alive. However, the groups originated as a way for university students to perform in exchange for small amounts of money or food.

The tambourine and guitar are key to the joyful and playful serenades that engage this audience enjoying nightfall on the plaza outside of Santo Domingo church. As they sing the traditional “Clavelitos,” I realize that I learned the word carnation (the title of the song) this summer, and I smile at the part that refers to a carnation a woman wears in her hair.

In the dark this evening and caught up in the crowd clapping and singing along, I realize the connection between playing music and playfulness–the pure pleasure of these merry singers as well as what they stir in us.

Clavelitos

Mocita, dame el clavel, dame el clavel de tu boca
Para eso no hay que tener mucha vergüenza ni poca
Yo te daré un cascabel, te lo prometo, mocita
Si tu me das esa miel que llevas en la boquita

Clavelitos, clavelitos, clavelitos de mi corazón
Yo te traigo clavelitos colorados igual que un tizón
Si algún día clavelitos no lograra poderte traer
No te creas que ya no te quiero, es que no te los pude coger

La otra tarde a media luz vi tu boquita de guinda
Yo no he visto en Santa Cruz una boquita más linda
Y luego, al ver el clavel que llevabas en el pelo
Mirándolo creí ver un pedacito de cielo.

http://www.e-spanyol.hu/en/lyrics.php

Little Carnations

Girl, give me the carnation, give me the carnation from your mouth

For that, don’t be ashamed

I will give you a little bell, I promise you, girl

if you give me that honey you carry in your mouth

Little carnations, little carnations, little carnations of my heart
I bring you little carnations colored like a firebrand
If someday I am unable to bring you little carnations
Do not think I do not love you, it is that I could not pick them for you

The other evening in the half-light I saw your cherry mouth

I have not seen in Santa Cruz such a pretty mouth
And then, seeing the carnation you wore in your hair,
Looking at it, I thought I saw a bit of heaven.

  • Listen to Tuna perform “Clavelitos;” let yourself get carried away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6TRYfSyYwQ.

 

Art

painter.jpg

Though my first instinct is to label the artist in the park a con artist, I admit there are far worse ways to trick or swindle the public. And, I wonder, what’s the real harm?

I am not a naturally cynical creature, but I spied him affably permitting a young boy to add strokes to this same portrait.

Maybe I just don’t understand his art.  Maybe what he is doing is more like collage. Or sampling. Perhaps it is teaching. Or sales.

In the poem below, Elizabeth Bishop uses her art, poetry, to address the art of losing. Still trying to figure out what his art form is exactly, I try to imagine what he might be thinking: When they ask whether I painted her, if she’s my greatest muse, if I still love her, I whisper yes, yes. (This is largely true.) She is mine—for now, but she might be yours, could deliver you the radiant joy I discovered as I encountered her (at a yard sale).

When you first inquire how much I might want for her, I listen for how desperate your voice becomes as I confess fear of being without her, of giving her up—without a fight.

His art is embellishment.

One Art

–Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

  • Bishop’s poem is a villanelle. Whether you enjoy using form, the advantages to experimenting with form are worth the effort, particularly in the invention stages of the writing process. Form is not only for poets. You can set limits: word, syllable, etc. Make up some rules and make something from them. Here’s more about the villanelle: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/villanelle-poetic-form

Taco Friday

You finally resign yourself to the evidence that Fridays are irretrievably (and, don’t deny it, splendidly) dedicated to the ritual of eating carne asada tacos in the park, of huddling with the locals under crowded canopies at folding tables covered in bright stretches of oilcloth.

You now distinctly expect the aromatherapy of the meat barbecuing and the bustle of the surrounding market to ambush you into abandoning any other prospects for the rest of the day. You surrender and bask in the warmth of the grill and the showy noise of dilettante entertainers that busk and hustle around you.

You think about how the word busk is related to buscar (to look for), and you realize you, too, are searching for something to fill you. But what manifests as hunger is the urgency of a panacea for the loneliness broiling inside you.

from A Physics of Desire
–Annah Sobelman
at  first  she  thinks  the  attraction  does not
fill  her  with  enough  blood ,  but
with  a  thing  like  the  dove —    White and coloured
feathers   —   Bones  unlike  her  own
bones  that  gravity  can’t  pull  down  ,  a milky  thing
unlike   the  seas .           Fills
           her  with    a                      wind —    Starch  rustle  of the quick
passing  of    things  ,  then    silence   afterwards
  • Develop an extended metaphor of hunger. What is your or a character’s literal hunger a metaphor for? How can you/she be satisfied?

 

 

Four calling birds, three French hens, a clutch of fairies, a swarm of mimes, a wreck of penguins, and one lost deer

It is not Halloween. No, Llano Park has not been overrun by fairies and deer. Mini Marcel Marceau here would speak Spanish should he need to speak.

Every stretch of the park is brimming with fantastic Lilliputian beasts. Perhaps it is the season, but I am certain I have interacted with the majority of the cast of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” but the pear tree is more mango.

I cannot help singing the whole inventory of presents for the five circles I complete. It is as if I am stuck on repeat. My whole life I have unabashedly belted out Christmas songs from my seat in the back of the pickup truck, to the horses as I waited for their troughs to fill, to an audience of cats and chickens, in my own little car, in the grocery store for an entire season. I would only karaoke Christmas tunes or Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.” I do a mean “Private Dancer.”

Twelve Days of Christmas

–Frederic Austen

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten lords a leaping,
Nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.

https://play.google.com/music/preview/T4xcsoiy7wqyrlvghtebxleixq4?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics

See the Muppets and John Denver sing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDBMzGq1vhs

  • What “Private Dancer” (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tinaturner/privatedancer.html) and “Twelve Days of Christmas” have in common is of course the dancing )as the children were preparing to do); they also have fantastic lists. Consider the various “forms” of the list: the listicle; the list or sequential poem; the shopping, to-do, check, and wish lists; there are opportunities for (another list): brainstorming as well as character, conflict, and point of view development.