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. 😈 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?) πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ Ha, check that? I say, cool people. 😎

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. πŸ™‚ 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.) πŸ™‚

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,

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.


About Poet Dressed In Black

Poet. Artist. Grammy of one, a granddaughter. Mom of three, son and two daughters, all grown. Individualist. Care-taker of Isabel, an agoraphobic, fear-aggressive, very nervous, delicate flower, Chihuahua mix.
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