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the only thing that
upset Mr. Jain more than
the death of his dear wife
a day before, was, when he
returned home from the
funeral, to find her shadow
lingering near a cupboard
in the living room
startled, out of his mind
at first, two days past, he
grew to adjust to watching
the wraith move around the
place, get lost in dark rooms,
and against the pitch black
wall of the study, disappear

There was the loneliness I kept in the cupboard
next to the sugar & the pile of dead ants
I told you in confidence I was done with sex
You didn’t laugh but
I could tell you were laughing
Have you looked in my sock drawer lately?
I lie/I don’t have
a drawer for my socks
My room’s a mess
There’re newspapers guarding
the hardwood from black paint
In another life this is all very interesting
to you/to me
In another life my mother is a falcon
The apartment smells like eggs
Sometimes I dream I wake up
covered in blood & I’m not sure
if it’s mine

Honey hones
its honesty

right off the comb,
no distillation

needed.
What is sweet

in Athens is
sweet in Oakland,

in Ames. At the party
last night I drank

until I drowned. This morning
my body language spoke

only in spasms and whispers,
the twelve months

of my face
clouded with rain.

Puerta del Sol:

In Puerta del Sol there are living statues. An ocean away from home, she watches them and pretends she is someone else. Their eyes are eerie, barely-blinking, hovering like moons in their cracked metallic facades. They maintain impossible poses; minds are still moving, but the act itself transforms them. They don’t look her in the eye. She is drying her wounds with the saltiness of Iberian ham, chewing the fat like gum.

IMG_0369

 

Have you ever done a self interview?

No, and I don’t like it. I am the last person in the world I would want to interview, live with or have to deal with on cleaning day. Nothing is ever clean enough. There is not enough bleach in the world and Swiffers are the devil’s contraption.

 

Why Pittsburgh?

I am a lifer. I love this town like people love the Outer Banks or Disney (people do, you know). I love the rivers like arteries, the bridges like bracelets and the industrial skyline that shuns gentrification — the mills, the steel, the labor, the blessed tunnels. I love its compartmentalized neighborhoods and how we are proud of never crossing to the other side. We are self-sufficient. I love the hills and the grey weather — how I never crave anything flat.

One blue hour simmers on the stove, steam rising
like a slow train up and over the mill line —
still-life burnt in coal, black heat, skin cold-split
in the third shift. The radiator hisses.

Flurries dance on the wind in spun madness. She
presses her hands to the hot pipes, looks out across
the Pittsburgh grey, soaking it in, spreading it like a blanket
across her memory — thick like miner’s dust, an iron door.

She wears gloves to bed, wakes to the itch of wool,
startled by how her fingers feel like someone else’s,
how rough they’ve grown — like a man’s — inside
her winter skin. She pictures the man, bright within

her childhood dream-head like the light at the end
of a shaft. He is twice her size and she can’t see
around him. Warm bourbon breath that melts the snow
before it lands. The game will be played in the big wooden house,

Luis Rodriguez 2013 - credit CGP

Questions as if Anne Coulter or Bill O’Reilly were asking them—assuming, of course, they’d let me get a word in edgewise.

 

How does a Mexican get to be a poet, let alone “poet laureate”?

Nobody becomes a poet or poet laureate just because they’re Mexican. Still Mexico has contributed world-renowned poets like Octavio Paz, Jose Emilio Pacheco, Juana Ines de la Cruz, Nezahualcoyotl… I can go on and on. In the United States, poets of Mexican descent have won National Book Awards and are now poet laureates of the United States (Juan Felipe Herrera), Arizona (Alberto Rios), San Antonio (Laurie Ann Guerrero), San Francisco (Alejandro Murguia), and yours truly in Los Angeles. Other Chicano writers of note include Sandra Cisneros, Victor Villasenor, Ruben Martinez, Ana Castillo, Lorna Dee Cervantes, and Luis Alberto Urrea. Our literary peers have recognized our value to U.S. letters, even though we are still highly marginalized in publishing and academic circles. But we persist with powerful work (mostly in English, but many are also writing in Spanish).

“Oppression makes even God smell foul.”—Felipe Luciano

Reading the newspaper I feel like an accomplice;
a voyeur is also guilty of something.
So the murders, the corruptions
and calculated larcenies against the spirit
reside in me too.
It’s easy, I suppose, to pretend
I don’t pay rent to the conspiracies.
And that the church is immune
because it’s tax exempt.
But from a landfill or cemetery
grow multi-colored flowers.
Who can say then
from what polluted soils
my blossoms will spring?

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Why do you hate interviews so much?

Because I don’t know how to answer these questions without feeling like I’m lying in one way or another. Which isn’t to say that I am lying, but how could I ever possibly tell you the whole truth of me when you are there and I am here? It makes me sad that we are not dancing right now or laughing over drinks on a rooftop in a city. I want to be small in the world with you. Interviews are a tangible reminder of the space between us and I would like whatever is the opposite of that space.

Cat Lady

By Sarah Xerta

Poem

And it wouldn’t be the strangest thing
if I never had sex again, but that’s because I’m having
sex all the time, my eyes like two clits, my ears
like two clits, my mouth. . . Today I’m drinking
coconut tea and looking at photos
of women I’ve never met, their spines like hybrids
between xylophones and violins, throats like galaxies, all the moons
sleeping in their bellies, and I wonder
why I’m not a lesbian, why
I don’t want to reach out and touch them.

  Sleep’s tentacles loose and tickling
should not be the enemy
nor the medicine. And when Day
stands in its way, it collapses under the demand.
  Parables, too, reach beyond night,
never stay taped with snapshots
on wood paneled walls and turn history
even in the present.
  Dreaming to understand them only means
understanding will never happen.
Sleep can never be the enemy; not the medicine
unless it’s supposed to last forever.

One

By Rich Ferguson

Poem

Be one with the world. One with yourself. One with the tranquility gallery behind your eyes, its humble paintings of peace & prosperity. One with how that gallery is so often under reconstruction, deconstruction. One with how everything is so impermanent, so fleeting. How your every thought breeds Frankensteins & angels. Be one with all your Frankensteins & angels.

Will we humans ever be able to read and predict the progression of seasons again, like the faces made by loved ones when their feelings change like wind-borne clouds?

I sincerely hope so, but I also equally sincerely doubt it. Come on, Ice Age, come on.

 

When, if not now? And why (or why not) and who with?

Now, always now. If not now, then when indeed?! Now, now, and now, and that other now too. And with good people who need no explanations for what you’re doing and/or why you’re doing it. I think it is crucial to learn how to recognize the various and varied members of your tribe before you die.

You are the pleasing smell of Chinese grease
I am the invisible motivation to frolic in the fountain

You are a stranger’s giggle &
an invitation to dance

I am a Cabaret Voltaire 12″
& half a clove cigarette

You are the diaphanous nature
of auburn clouds at twilight

I am the woman who raised you
but never dared speak your name

You are that familiar left shoe
abandoned on the roadway
never finding its twin

I am an expectant evening
after an expectant morning
spent talking on the phone


Wildlings

By Sanchari Sur

Poem

Your feline eyes reflect the sun, heaving
as the hair on your forearms, a reminder of
sweaty backed evenings, leaning into each other,
scaffolding.

You call me a lynx, even as I claim to be
a leopard, or a panther. No,
a lynx, you insist, explaining the nuances between
my extremes, my savagery and
clemency, danger and
dalliance blended into a
molotov cocktail.