Confused Old Bag

Pink forget-me-not flower.Damn, my recall is crap. In my last post I said Violeta Parra was Peruvian. But she wasn’t. She was Chilean. I’m sitting here listening to her singing her remarkable songs, and then like a slap upside my head, BAM! it occurs to me that I made that mistake. I’m like, Oh, man, no I didn’t! How embarrassing!

Violeta Parra was born in Chile, according to Wiki: “San Fabián de Alico… a small town in southern Chile.” It also says she was born “on 4 October 1917″. I went back to my post and changed “Peruvian” to “Chilean”. I wonder if anyone caught the error? Maybe one one cares, anyway. But I do. I care. If I’m going to talk about something, I should know what I’m talking about.

Geezus, what a dork. What I goon I am. Damnit. What a…

Depiction of cute donkey with two thumbs up.

Yup, that’s right!

Wait. There I go. No, I can’t do that. I don’t like to make mistakes, but I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. It makes me feel so stupid when I make mistakes. I wish I was perfect, and I’m so far from it. :(

I want to refrain from self-flagellation. It was an absentminded moment. Damn, but it makes me feel like a jackass.

My recall is bad. I’m getting to be such a confused old bag. I used to have an amazing memory. But, now, I have to work really hard to remember things, and that includes my address, my phone number, where the heck I’m headed when I’m on BART, or walking up the street. It unnerves me. :(

I don’t mind getting old(er). I’m glad to be alive. The life experience amazes me. It sometimes unnerves me. There are things I can’t change that I wish I could. And maybe I’m thinking and fearing what been thought and feared forever, but I think humans will destroy the planet. I wonder: is this a scenario that keeps repeating?

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The Beat Goes On (and a poem)

SkeletonSummer is on its last legs. I hate to see it end. It’s been a long summer. It’s been a short summer. It was great. It was horrible. It started out good, really good. Then I ran into disappointment, then anger, and finally grief. But, hell, I guess that’s the story of life. Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not.

At the beginning of summer, I went to a party, a “Hamfest”. Not ham as in “to eat”. In fact, it was a vegetarian spread. (I, myself, am not a vegetarian. I agree that the meat industry is vile, but some people are starting to get a clue, and there are farmers raising free-range and organic fed livestock and poultry. I can’t afford that meat, but I  purchase organic fruits, veggies, and eggs from free-range chickens, at least. If I had my own home, I’d grow some veggies, like I used to. At any rate, I’m not going to stop eating meat. These incisors are not for tearing into my salads, my veggies and fruit. Or even my bread. Mmm, I love bread. I am sorry for the brutality of the psychopathic corp meat industry. The old Native way was always “in a good way”, a sacred way, with ceremony, with respect, reverence, and gratitude. I’ll bet this is taught still, outside the Mainstream.) The “Hamfest” referred to performance, an opportunity to “ham it up”.  Anyone, who wanted to, could get on the list to perform. There was a list for 8:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m., and 12:00 a.m. Initially, I thought, Oh, man, I’ll be long gone before midnight. But I not only enjoyed reading my work, I also enjoyed hearing other people’s poetry, singing, and/or playing an instrument (piano, violin, guitars, and even an accordion). 12:00 a.m. came up fast, I was wide awake, and I wanted to hear people perform, so I was still there at midnight. It was great. Maybe I’m nerdy, but it’s the best party I’ve ever been to. Generally, I’m not the party type, but this was different.

A lovely, Argentinean woman told me of a famous Chilean singer/songwriter by the name of Violeta Parra.  Her most famous song is called Gracias a la Vida. There is a movie about her. She told me my poetry reminded her of Violeta. After I read the first time, this woman burst into tears. She was up next to perform, to play her accordion, but she couldn’t. I’m glad she did play later on in the evening. I loved it. She told me my poetry “stunned”.

I’ve been researching this Chilean artist, who committed suicide in 1967.  The movie is called Violeta Went to Heaven, and was a Sundance winner in 2012. I found it on Netflix. The movie tells her story, more or less. I’ve found some information about her online, and I can see how the movie wasn’t quite accurate, but it was an approximation. I still think it’s a wonderful movie. I had to read the subtitles, because I hardly speak Spanish anymore, barely understand it, sometimes not at all.

In my research, I discovered that Joan Baez recorded this song. Joan Baez fans, I suppose, already know this. I found a YouTube vid of her singing Gracias a la Vida, but it’s inaccurate. I guess she forgot the lyrics, since it wasn’t a young Baez. She seems to have it right on another vid, her 1974 recording. Apparently, in 1974, she recorded an  album called Gracias a la Vida; all the songs are in Spanish. But I don’t like her rendition of this beautiful song. I know people love Joan Baez, but I never could take her voice: there’s too much vibrato, too high-pitched; it hurts my ears, makes me cringe; it feels like fingernails scratching a slate blackboard. Ugh! :/ Linda Ronstadt she ain’t. And, most certainly, she’s no Violeta Parra. I have fallen in love with this artist.

I found some translations online of Gracias a la Vida, but they are terrible. Some downright wrong.  Most say, “Thanks to life”, which is a literal translation. “Here’s to life” is close, but I prefer “I’m grateful to life.” That’s more the meaning–grateful to experience life, to live, be alive, grateful for the Earth walk. I translated the song, my way. I had to look up some of the words, of course. But as I looked them up, some began to return to my memory. The more I listen to Parra, the more I understand what I hear. I can feel the beauty, as well as the meaning of her songs, even if I don’t catch all the words right off. The more I understand the Spanish words, the more beautiful the experience of listening to them.

The song says, “…me dio dos luceros…” Luceros are bright stars, but it’s also a poetic way of referring to eyes. One really bad translation said, “it’s given me two stars”. That’s just silly. The song says “life gave me two eyes”, but it says it beautifully, poetically, using “luceros” instead of “ojos”. Initially, I translated that as “bright eyes”, but changed it to “brilliant eyes”. Translations have to convey meaning, not the literal words. Sometimes the words have to be changed to arrive at the intended meaning, so translating poetry is no easy task. It takes Ezra Pound capacity to achieve the accuracy of beauty. I don’t know how I did, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the horrible ones I’ve seen online. Some fool translated ladridos into “bricks”, which are ladrillos. Ladrido is a bark, a scream, or howl. The song expresses gratitude for being able to hear. We don’t hear bricks, for Pete’s sake. Well, yeah, if they’re tapped, flung and land on a hard surface, dropped, but, come on, when you think of hearing, you don’t think “bricks”.  :D

I was on a roll, doing this research, listening to the songs, working on translations, when stuff began to happen, and it broke my concentration, and I got into a funk. I couldn’t write. I wanted to write, and I couldn’t, except in my personal journal. But grief, once it goes deep, which it finally did, stirs my creativity. Writing this poem has released me from the funk, and I can now return to my Violeta Parra project.

I have other projects I want to get to also. I promised myself on my birthday that I’d get

Painting in progress of a garden in a park.

Acrylic painting in progress of a garden in a park.

back to painting. I want to start by finishing this one, which I started before moving to San Francisco. Damnit, it’s been too many years. What, like seven? Geezus. Painting makes me happy. Not finding time for it, makes me very unhappy.

I’m happy to end summer with a new poem.

Blue Moon

A big blue moon
hung low
the night I was born.

A million stars
in the raven sky
blinked yellow,
white, red, blue.

Tonight,
I think of you,
I think of death.

Game card number fourteen called La Muete.

Card from Mexican game called Loteria.I think of you.

You’re not worth it.

Humans are insane.
No one is immune.

You and I,
no less the same.

If I keep you near,
you make me mad.

You’re my death.

I have to leave.
I want to live
another day.

You need,
you take,
don’t give back,
like a sociopath.

You laugh
at my pain,
like a sadist.

My love
can’t cure you;

you’re too far gone.
I leave you to God.

I see the full moon
hang high, hang low.
It is white, yellow,

orange, red, blue.

The stars blink
different hues.
The sky has colors too:
black, grey,
blue, violet, pink, red.

The sun hangs there
every day,
like a cyclops eye.

I think of you and weep.
You make my heart hurt.

There is Beauty in life.
It’s healing.
I’m sorry
you can’t see it.
♥  ♠  ♠  ♥

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“Childhoods Are a Blast Out of Hell”

Close up of cherry tree in bloom.When I was around three, I had a fever that caused me to hallucinate. I saw snakes. I screamed, “Vívoras, vívoras,” and tried to push away the (invisible) snakes. (Spanish was the first language I learned, though I can barely speak it anymore.)  I have the vaguest memory of this hallucination, though I think it’s a combination of vague memory plus imagination, since my mother often told me the story. In this vague memory, I see a huge, dark grey snake slithering over me, headed toward my face, its head significantly larger than my hand. Other snakes are crawling up the sides of my bed. Maybe it’s two, maybe three, that part isn’t as clear.

As a little kid, I often had a sore throat and fever, and I couldn’t talk because my tonsils would swell. When I was five, I had my tonsils taken out. In fact, I turned five the day of my surgery. All tonsillectomy patients got ice cream afterwards. I didn’t know it was standard procedure, so when they brought me a dish of vanilla ice cream, I thought it was in honor of my birthday. I felt so special, as I sat there in my hospital crib, merrily eating my ice cream, distracted for the moment from my fear and confusion.

After I finished my ice cream, a nurse came in and asked me, “Do you have to go potty?” I had no idea what she said. I didn’t understand much English. But I heard the word “potty”, and I thought she said “party”, because that’s pretty much how my mom pronounced “party”. My mom spoke to us kids in Spanish, but she threw in an English word here and there, which she pronounced with an accent. I had never heard the word “potty”, meaning “go to the bathroom”. My mom would ask, “Tienes que hacer?“.  That translates into, “Do you have to go,” with the implication of “to the bathroom”. My mom sometimes asked us in English, but she translated in literal terms, so she would say, “Do you have to make?” When I heard the nurse say “potty”, I assumed she was talking about my birthday and was asking me if I was going to have a party. I nodded. When I  nodded, what I really meant was, “Yes, there will be a party for my birthday. There will be cake and ice cream.” She brought me a bedpan. I thought it was a present. A kidney-shaped metal bowl? What was I supposed to do with this? I sat there and looked at it. She said, “Don’t you have to go potty?” I looked up at her, shook my head. “No, I don’t want a party, if this thing is my present. Just bring me ice cream, please.” These were more or less my thoughts, anyway. I was a timid child. I didn’t talk much, and if I did, it was barely above a whisper.

Bamboo plant and red wooden chair.When I was in sixth grade, my teacher asked me a question. He was tall, a six footer, with a loud, deep voice. In retrospect, I realize he was really a nice guy; he wasn’t mean. But he didn’t take any crap or nonsense, and he’d let you know in his big, booming voice. I was afraid of him. One time he asked me a question (about whatever subject we were focused on at the moment). The answer was “yes,” so I nodded. He wanted to make me talk, so he asked me another question. The answer was “no,” so I shook my head. He sat there a minute, looking at me. I sat there, looking back at him, cringing, terrified. Then he goes, “What if you couldn’t do this (he shakes his head), or this (he nods his head)?” I shrugged my shoulders. He burst out laughing, in his giant, booming voice, a guffaw. The class laughed. I drew my body in tighter, tried to shrink myself invisible. But I liked the feeling, actually, of making people laugh.

I’m reading Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowski. It’s the only novel of his I never got around to reading. (I heard that Pulp, his final novel, didn’t do well. I don’t why. I love it.) I find this novel a little uncomfortable. It still has Bukowski’s dark humor, and I get the feeling he’s being a bit “hammy”, so I like it all right. But his difficult childhood was no joke. I suppose that’s why he developed a dark sense of humor. I knew a woman once who told me, “I think all childhoods are a blast out of hell.” I laughed when she said this. Most people used to look at her like she was nuts. She was just honest and unsentimental, and she had dark sense of humor. I liked her. She cracked me up. She was a bit eccentric. I lost track of her when a job relocated me. Another of my jobs from hell. Most the jobs I ever had in my life were hell. Sometimes life is hell. But it can be fascinating too, and sometimes a nice surprise comes your way when you least expect it.

I’m going to a party tonight. I’m not much of a party person. But the guy who invited me is a poet I met recently. He and his roommate are having a poetry party. A poet’s party. A poetry party for poets. I think only a poet would find that interesting. Sure, let’s see what the night holds.

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Brief Candle

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day; to Close-up of pink gladiolas.the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

(Note: I ignored line breaks, of course. It’s the words I’m focused on, not the form.)

If you know literature, you, Shirley, know the above quote. It’s from Macbeth.

I think about these lines a lot, rather often. I’ve read Macbeth at least four times. At least.

(Oh hell. I accidentally hit “Publish”. I wasn’t done yet. Let me continue:)

Photo of a field.A couple months ago, at a poetry reading, I heard a woman (won’t name her) read a poem about having a PhD, but because she is Mexican-American/Chicana/Latina, she complained in her poetry that people see her as a maid, or a nanny, that in academia, she was treated disrespectfully, brushed off by her colleagues, but that she was all that, she had it going on, she had her fucking PhD. Yesterday, I attended a poetry reading, and another PhD read his poem about being black, and that people looked at him with fear in their eyes, as they stereotyped him, fearing he might be a thief or some dangerous person riding the subway, even though he dressed in a suit and carried a briefcase.

I had no desire to bring out my fucking violin for them. These same two PhDs ignored me. But I don’t feel compelled to write a fucking poem about it. I have never felt compelled to write a poem about being stereotyped. Sure, it pisses me off, and sometimes it’s scary, because I don’t know what that other person is thinking, but it isn’t worth a poem. If anything, it’s time for me to pray, meditate, connect with a Higher Power, because being stereotyped sometimes frightens me and that makes me sad.

The truth is, we all stereotype each other in this world. We live in a world where paranoia runs rampant, and arrogance, and needy egos, and ignorance (no matter how educated you might be), and stupidity.

You can vote and elect any politician you want, it isn’t going change. Maybe a little bit, here and there, but in general it won’t. Politics isn’t going to save us. Religion isn’t going to save us. Governments and their armies, education, science and technology, nothing is ever going to “save us” from our own selves. We will always fret and strut, babble, and jabber, need, want, and then we will croak, bite the big one, lights out. Large planter with plant spliiling over, cascading down over the side..

I’ve heard it said they want to put chips into us, like they do our pets. Personally, I don’t like the idea of putting a chip in my pet, let alone in me. (Well, at the moment I don’t have a pet. Wish I did, but can’t here where I live, damnit.) They are wanting to make machines to take over our lives. I hear talk of wanting to eradicate diseases, even death. But life is supposed to be cyclical, not static. And I’d rather live with less machinery, less technology, as convenient as it makes our lives. And, sure, this is hypocritical of me, as here I am on this machine. I need this machine.

Is that what Frankenstein is getting at? Did Mary Shelley see potential dangers in science, with man attempting to play God?

I hope I live a long time, but I can’t fathom a “forever”. Who knows what this life is anyway? Maybe this experience is a process the spirit, the life force, goes through, and after it’s done here, it moves on to something else. I don’t mean like Heaven or Hell, or Limbo, for that matter. I mean something a human being is too limited to imagine, let alone know.

I’m not too sure what I am trying to get at. Sometimes I just can’t there. It’s too deep.

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New Love Poem (by Poet Dressed in Black)

Photoshopped image of Estela.

Estela

I sold a few chapbooks at my readings. Made a few ducats. It felt a little odd selling my art. But I can get used to it. Initially, reading in public felt odd. Now, I enjoy it.

Baruch described my poetry as “unique and on fire”, and described me as a “badass” poet. Ah, I like that. :D I’m positively appreciative. <3

Last Saturday, I read at a place called Magnet.

Audience at poetry reading at Magnet in San Francisco on April 12, 2014.

Audience at poetry reading at Magnet in San Francisco. (Photo credit to whomever took this. It wasn’t me.)

It was a good crowd. They kept coming, and eventually the place was packed. Magnet is a non-profit in the Castro that provides health services for gay men, but they also offer their space for artistic events.

Marquee at Magnet in the Castro in San Francisco.

Magnet in the Castro in San Francisco. (Credit to whomever took this photo.)

There was art on the back wall, some excellent charcoal sketches, beautiful portraits. (But behind us readers at the mic, there were flyers. I get a kick out of that, to have my picture taken with these flyers behind me. )

Art is subjective. I thought the portraits were beautifully done, though, for my taste, they were too technically precise. But they were amazing in the their technical precision. Charcoal sketches that looked like a photographs. Amazing. I, myself, prefer an element of avant-garde, something new and special. But avant-garde is also subjective, no?

Estela reading poem at Magnet in San Francisco.

Reading at Magnet in San Francisco. Photo by Carrie Gocker.

A poetry reading last Saturday, and another one Monday, and both left me feeling really good. Darn, I don’t have any pics of my Monday reading. I dressed in black, but wore a red scarf and red earrings, in honor of the eclipsed full moon, a Red Moon. There’s a poetry reading on Saturday, but I’m not scheduled to read. It’s going to be great, though. I’m really looking forward to it.

I wrote a love poem. Someone gave me a warm hug and said something lovely in my ear. Nothing flirtatious or anything, just a really awesome thing to say to me. I got to thinking about a story of ill-fated cosmic lovers, and wrote this poem.

When You Hold Me

When you hold me,
the moment is perfect,
as death,

your firm arms
cozy as a coffin.

I love your lies.
I close my eyes
and dream I drowned.

When you hold me,
my heart stops.

You croon bluesy jazz
in my ear,
and I hear worms
hum a tune.

When you hold me,
I’m home ,
as a corpse in in a box.

Maybe you’re a reflection
of a cosmic connection,

maybe you’re a hallucination.
My sweet love,
each time we meet,
you kill me.

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New Bag for an Old Bag

Poster for Donde Esta Mi Genter Poetry reading event

Poster for April Poetry Reading Event

I’m an old bag now. Ain’t no spring chicken. Chronologically speaking. But as far as I’m concerned, my life is just starting. I feel great. I’m excited. I’m happy.

I’ve sacrificed. I’ve suffered. I’ve struggled. I’ve worried. I’ve panicked. I sometimes still worry a little, and I’m still sacrificing, and on occasion I panic, and, well, sure, I’m still struggling. But I no longer suffer. I am acquiescent. I know fate has the final word. All I can do is do what I can do. Then just chill. Que será será, what will be will be. Dream my dreams, and be careful not to confuse them with fantasies. Although sometimes fantasies turn out to be dreams, and sometimes dreams turn out to be fantasies. What’s the difference between a dream and a fantasy? Well, realistic and unrealistic. Possible and impossible. But sometimes what seems unrealistic, becomes a reality. And sometimes what seemed an impossibility comes to pass, it happens. “Oh, she’ll never… Oh, shit, she did.” “Come on, it’ll never… Oh, shit, it did. “

On Saturday I am going to be a featured reader at a poetry festival called Donde Esta Mi Gente. There’s a website www.dondeestamigente.com that describes this event. Baruch Porras-Hernandez dreamed up this artistic project. He’s a writer and performance artist who lives here in San Francisco. He says about this event:

“¿Dónde Esta Mi Gente?  (Where are my people?) is a Festival of Latino Poetry and Spoken Word! For three days writers of all Latino backgrounds are going to get together and recite poetry to the people of San Francisco as part of National Poetry Month. ¿Dónde Esta Mi Gente? -Is a celebration of the voice of the latino writer, a multigenerational, multicultural exchange between writers from all walks of life that seeks to answer that question, by gathering some of the top writers in the bay area.” Close up of fallen cherry blossoms.

I started this blog because I love to write. And because I have reclusive tendencies, I thought it good practice for being (in) public. But I don’t advertise it. I don’t tell anyone about it. Because it’s an experiment. It’s a public blog. Anyone who wants to can read it. I have already said, this is not a professional blog, it’s a personal blog.

Emily Dickinson didn’t have the opportunity to blog, or I’m sure she would have. But would anyone have read her? I don’t know.

I don’t want to be a poet of shadows anymore. I want light. This year seems to be off to a good start. I featured last month, I’m a featured reader twice this month, and I have three other possibilities lined up for future readings. Two are in Berkeley. So, momma’s got a brand new bag. Well, grammy, actually. The old bag. Moi. The old bag got herself a new bag. I’ve immersed myself in poetry this month. April is Poetry Month, after all.

Baruch Porras-Hernanez holding poster of Donde Esta Mi Gente poetry festival.

Baruch holding poster of poetry event.

Dream: I want a nice camera to continue taking photographs. This little camera I use is a simple non-pro camera, and I can’t always get the shots I want.

Dream: Make it as an artist. (Writing, performing, painting.)

Dream: Readers reading my blog.

If you are in San Francisco tomorrow, do come to the reading. It’s in the Castro.

 

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Up to the Mic, and into the Light

Poet reading at the mic.

A poetry reading around 2010. (Credit to whomever took this, it wasn’t me.)

I’m listening to Must Be the Season of the Witch, by Donovan. A song that came out in 1966, a few months before I was buried, I mean, married. I was sixteen.

April, the month I was born, there will be a full-moon lunar eclipse. Monday, April 14, I will be a featured reader promoting my self-published chapbook, For the Hell of it, at the Lunada, the full-moon poetry reading series at Galeria de la Raza, in the Mission District, in San Francisco. If you are in the area, come check it out.

Poster for Galeria de la Raza Lunada, full-moon spoken word, music, and open mic.

Poster for Spring 2014 Lunada (full-moon) Readings, Music, and open mic on 24th Street, Mission District, San Francisco. Graphics by Rio Yanez.

I feel strongly that this “is the season of the witch”: my season. This belated beatnik “is out to make it rich”. I am stepping out of the shadows, stepping up to the mic, and into the light. By “rich” I mean “enriched”, immersing myself in poetry, writing, writing, writing, and doing readings, open mic and/or featured, and retuning to painting.

List of readers and performers for at Lunada Spring 2014.

 

 

 

 

I’m on Youtube now. I haven’t watched it, I can’t tolerate watching myself, but I do love to perform. I hope it turned out all right. It felt all right that night. I am not going to post the vid here, but if anyone is curious, search for Voz Sin Tinta – Poetry Reading at Alley Cat Bookstore on YouTube. I checked to make sure that search would work. (Geeze, when I checked, it had only 73 hits.) So, it’s up to you. If you wanna check it out, check it out. If not, well, then don’t. (I’m 6 min and 30 seconds into the vid just fyi, if you check it out. But hell, you might wanna watch the whole thing. It got edited down to nine or so minutes. Prob a little bit o’ everything that night.)

The vid starts with an intro of 24th Street Mission District. I have no idea who the woman narrating is. I didn’t grow up in this neighborhood. I’ve mainly lived in predominantly white neighborhoods, though always working class, with a little bit o’ welfare class, and even some no class. :twisted: This is the first time since early childhood that I have lived in an “ethnic” neighborhood. (But it’s changing, being gentrified, and it’s turning hipster. I like diversity, myself. What I don’t like is “the haves” taking from the “have-not’s”. But that is a world-wide problem, and I can’t do anything to stop it, or I would.)

I was born in projects in El Paso, and lived in projects till almost five years old. I don’t have the experience of living “in the hood” or “the projects”. I was only born in one, not raised in it. I grew up poor, yeah, but not in an urban area. I grew up in a small, innocuous town, in a diverse neighborhood, but it was predominantly white. I did live in a tiny mining town, when I was two, though, in New Mexico. There were a lot of Mexican-Americans (and some Native Americans). Miners. I would’ve grown up there, most likely, but my dad had a drunken blackout and woke up at Camarillo State Hospital, a mental hospital near Los Angeles. (I think he was trying to get the hell away from my mom. In the seventies, a few years after they remarried, he woke from a drunken blackout in Hawaii. Twice. They lived in Northern Calif, near Sacramento.) I have always felt rootless, displaced, but living in the Bay Area is the place I have liked best. Half my life has been in the Bay Area, the last eight years in San Francisco.

My dad told me he met Charlie Parker in Camarillo. But when I researched it, Parker was

photo of Charlie Parker.

Charlie “Bird” Parker. Pic from AllStar Pics website.

there earlier, and would’ve been in New York in 1952/53, when my dad was in the hospital. BUT, the movie about Parker, if I remember right, has him checking out of Camarillo in 1953. So, beats me. I know my dad went to New York after he left my mom, in ’54. I figured it was because Parker was there. My dad always talked about him, like he knew him. “The Bird”, he would say, “I met him.” It’s possible my dad met Parker, even if it wasn’t in Camarillo. He also had a story of meeting Elvis Presley in a bar, but I can’t remember where. A Southern state, I think. He said a security guard tried to stop him from approaching Elvis, but that Elvis said, “Let him go. That’s my buddy.” Something to that effect. They sat at the bar and drank. Maybe Presley bought him his drink. Or maybe my dad bought Presley’s. My dad was that sort of guy. Cool, hip, charming. Plus, there are stories of Elvis being a very personable guy. I see no reason to not believe these stories. They sound plausible to me, knowing what kind of guy my dad was. When he cut out on my mom for twelve years, he traveled around the country, hopping box cars. He loved New York, New Orleans, Denver, Austin, St. Louis, Kansas City. I liked hearing him tell his stories. (My mom just glared when I’d ask him questions about his “travels” and “adventures”. Naturally.) All these cities were the places cool cats would be in the fifties. My dad wasn’t a musician, but he liked drinking, women, gambling, and good times. (Or, rather, bad times, know what I mean?) :) Too bad my dad wasn’t a writer, like Kerouac. He told good stories. His art was cooking, actually. He worked as a cook in those years he was “on the road”, when he wasn’t drinking, gambling and kicking it up. My dad was a great cook, and always had that rep. Geeze, he should’ve stayed away from my mother. But he always did have self-destructive tendencies. (I, myself, haven’t seen the old bat in years. She’s 90, but her mind is still strong. I know she’s a damaged woman, and I feel sorry for the old crone, but I can’t heal her. And she sure as hell can harm me, with her passive-aggressive shit, her game playing. Sorry, but fuck that shit. I’ve learned to keep my self-destructive tendencies in check.)

On my last post I said that Professor Murguia hadn’t invited me to feature, that the curators of his reading event did. My bad. I misspoke. My reading night, I went up to him,

Reading poetry at Voz Sin Tinta, Alley Cat Book Store, San Francisco, Calif..

Reading at Voz Sin Tinta, Alley Cat Book Store, San Francisco, CA.

shook his hand, and said, “We’ve run into each other, but we’ve never been introduced.” I introduced myself. He introduced himself. I said, “Well, yeah, I know who you are.” I am getting to learn more about him, too. He’s actually a pretty cool cat.

He said it was his idea that I be invited to feature. I was surprised, and pleased, actually. I’m grateful. I need endorsements, if I am to succeed in my endeavor. BUT, first and foremost, I want my art to breathe, to live. That is to say, my primary objective is to create art, not feed my ego. And I want to share my art. Hopefully, cool people will dig it. :) Ha, check that? I say, cool people. 8-)

I was told that the reading would be filmed, and I could opt-out, if I wanted. Well,

Featured and open mic readers at Voz Sin Tinta at Alley Cat Book store in San Francisco.

Featured and open mic readers at Voz Sin Tinta, Alley Cat Bookstore, SF.

obviously, if I want to promote my work, and myself as artist, I have to allow pics and film of events. I decided not to dress in my usual blacks. The poems in For the Hell of it are generally macabre, dark humor. I thought it best if I toned down the darkness by not wearing all black. This time.

I used to dress exclusively in black, and I mostly dress in black still, but goddamnit, some people are so fucking stupid, that for my own safety, I need to tone it down. I’ve been asked if I am a Devil worshiper, if I am a witch (well, I might be), am I a widow, and there was some indirect comment recently about my being an anarchist. (Uh, actually, philosophically, I am, but not in the negative sense. I don’t believe in chaos, and I sure as hell am not a political anarchist activist.) For my own protection, I need to be careful with dressing exclusively in black. I’m nobody. If I were somebody, it’d be safer. There would still be idiots making assumptions, but at least it’d be like, Oh, that’s Estela, the poet and painter. Of course, people who already know me, there’s no prob, but I do get some grief over it. Even family have asked me, “Why you always gotta dress in black?” I just say, “Cuz I like it.” Geezus, what is the fucking problem anyway? What is their issue with black? I never wear bright clothes. Don’t like ‘em on me. On someone else, cool, but not on me. Can’t really explain it. It’s just a thing. If my blouse is color, my skirt or pants will be black, and vice versa.

Johnny Cash photo.

Johnny Cash, “the man in black”. (Image from some fanpix website.)

I always liked this line in the movie Walk the Line (about Johnny Cash, for anyone who may not know). Cash, of course, was known as “the man in black”. He even wrote a song about it, cuz people used to ask him about it. (By the way, I don’t wear black because Johnny Cash wore black. I always have been a fan, but that is not why I wear black.) So, in the movie, people would go, “Why you wearin’ black? You goin’ to a funeral?” And Johnny (played by Joaquin Phoenix) would answer, “Maybe I am.” Ha, that’s a great response. :) Ishmael once asked me why I dress in black. That was way back in the late eighties. I said, “I’m in mourning. I mourn the sins of men.” He laughed, “Yeah, yeah,” he said, “I know, I know.” He walks off chuckling, shaking his head, like he’s thinking, “Crazy broad.” (Well, I might be that too.) :)

Here is a poem from my chapbook. I wrote it after my daughter bugged me about dressing in black, years ago. I told her, “Black is the color of mourning.” And I go, “Oh, shit, that’s a good line.” So, I wrote this poem. But I changed it to “morning”.

November Morning

Since you left town,
the streets
seem longer,
lonelier.

I want
to put
a bullet
in my brain
to take
your place.

Black is the color
of morning.
Black is the color
you leave me.
Black is all
I adore.

I hold this heartache
like a bouquet
of withered roses.

I dreamed
death crawled
into my bed,
and locked me
in his arms.
I felt his breath
in my ear.

I dreamed
your beard
turned blue.
I dreamed
you lost an eye.

I dream and dream
of you.

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