#200 I Breathe the Cottonwood by New Mexico Centennial Poet, Levi Romero

I take the sage brush scent in
The folding hills
The heat of the asphalt
Twenty-seven minutes past noon

Past the historic marker
And the twisted metal road sign
The yellow apple dotted orchards
The alfalfa

I take it all in

For you my brothers
And sisters
Lying on rubber mattresses
In your jail pods
Finger-nailing the names
Of your loved ones
On styrofoam cups

The cactus flower puckers
Its sweet magnolia lips
For you today
Its prickly arms stretching
Up toward the clouds and the sky

Las mesas, los arroyitos,
Los barrancos, el Río Grande
La urraca, el cuervo
The cigarette butt pinched
And yellowed, the crunched
Beer cans on the roadside

I take it all in

Past the presa and the remanse
The swimming hole
Where you frolicked in the water
With your first crush
Her hair wet and pasted
Against the slant of her forehead
Her bare shoulders glistening
con l’agua bendita

Throughout the genizaro valle
Las milpas de maíz
Are lined in processions
Their powdery tassels
Swaying back and forth
Like pueblo feast day dancers
Atrás, adelante, atrás, adelante
Heya, heya, heya, ha

Past the ancient flat roofed houses
Like loaves of bread and their
Backyard hornos with their black
Toothless mouths yawning
The acequias’ lazy gurgle
The tortolita’s mid-afternoon murmur
The cleansing cota flower
Los chapulines, las chicharras
El garambullo, el capulín

For you, my brothers and sisters
The willow, the mud puddles
Reflecting brown the earth’s skin

I take it all in

#199 Memoria Desmemoriada/Forgetful Memory by Juan Estevan Arellano

La memoria se me está acabando
No sólo a mi, sino también a la tierra,
El caballo alazán tostado ya no sabe como trabajar
Ni conoce el arado, menos la jaida o la escardina

Hace un siglo que’l caballo era el mejor amigo del hombre
Le ayudaba a traer leña de la Cejita, siguiendo todo el arroyo de la plaza
Con el caballo se divertía el hombre corriendo en la pareja,
Al chueco y al gallo por las fiestas

Los hombres eran furnidos, fuertes y trabajaban de sol a sol
Y las mujeres no solo criaban las familias pero atendían las milpas y huertas de chile
Por el invierno vivían de los tasajos de calabazas y melones mexicanas
Las perchas se veían desde lejos colmadas de cecinas de vaca y borrega

Las acequias surtían a la comunidad de agua para regar los sembrados
De ahí también bebía agua la gente tanto como los animales,
Y las mujers usaban su agua para la lavar la ropa,
Sus bordos eran los caminos de la comunidad, un complejo de redes
Que hoy en día ya desaparecieron, la memoria ya se borró,
Igual que se borraron los surcos y las besanas

Los montes mejor se queman que dejar a la gente cosecharlos
Ya no sabemos cuales hierbas nos sanan y cuales nos enferman
Nos podemos morir de hambre rodeados de hierbas que se comen
Y morirnos de sed parados arriba del agua

Qué triste cuando una persona pierde su memoria,
Pero más triste es cuando la sociedad se le olvida de donde vino,
Y peor tristeza cuando la tierra pierde su habilidad de producir
Y las semillas ya no saben cuando reventar, ya se les olvidó
Por no ser nativas de esta tierra.

Que tristeza me da que en un siglo se fue la memoria
La tierra ya no produce, se volvió rala
Las acequias ya no corren, sucia está el agua en lugar de cristalina
Nuestra lengua ya no se escucha, nuestros hijos della se averguenzan.

Forgetful Memory

My memory is starting to fade
Not only mine, but also the earth’s
The sorrel roasted colored horse no longer knows how to work
He doesn’t recognize the plow, neither the sod-buster, much less the tiller

A century ago the horse was man’s best friend
He helped bring firewood from the brow of the mountain, following the Plaza arroyo
With the horse, man used him to recreate on the horse race site
Playing horse hockey and pulling the rooster

Men were robust, strong and worked from sun up to sun down
And women not only tended to their families, they also took care of the corn and chile plots
During the winter they lived off the dried squash and Mexican melons
The clothes line could be seen from a distance full of beef and lamb jerky

The acequias fed the communities with water to irrigate their fields
From there they also drank water both people and animals
Women used its water to wash their clothes
Their banks were the community roads, a complex of mazes
Today they have disappeared, the memory has faded
The same as the farrows and rows have disappeared

The mountains burn instead of allowing people to harvest them
We no longer know which plants heal us and which make us sick
We can die of hunger surrounded by edible plants
And die of thirst while standing on top of water

How sad when a person loses their memory
But it’s worse when society forgets its origins
And worse when the earth loses its ability to produce
And the seeds don’t know when to sprout, they already forgot
Since they are not native to this land

I feel sad that within a century our memory disappeared
The land no longer produces, it became very thin
The acequias no longer run, the water is dirty instead of crystalline
Our language is no longer spoken, our sons are ashamed

Juan Estevan Arellano – Journalist, writer, researcher; a graduate of New Mexico State University and a Fellow of the Washington Journalism Center. He was a Visiting Research Scholar at the University of New Mexico’s School of Architecture.

#198 Taos Summer of Love [excerpt] by Cathy Arellano

josie g.,
whose name you could find on any wall in the mission
in front of, behind, beneath, or on top of my sister’s,
lisa a.
and always with a big fat
Con/Safos
told us of her daddy’s homeland:
24th and Mission is cool
san jo’s got it going on with Story and King
and there ain’t nothing wrong with East Los
but Española, New Mexico
that’s The Lowrider Capital of the WORLD!

The world?

The world!

Fer realz?

she maddogged us.
we raised our underage hands
with overage drinks
to those chicanos
who gave lowriding
a capital!

after my first and last party
with my sister and her homegirls
cops killed mission street cruising
no left turns 9 pm to 4 am
you got a broken tail light
expired registration
pull over

our dreams
if we had any
crashed into jail and drugs,
we got pregnant
we dropped out

Cathy Arellano writes about growing up brown, coming out queer, and living as true as she can which is kinda crooked. Her poetry and prose collection Salvation on 24th Street will be published in 2013. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. Contact her at carellanopoet@yahoo.com.

#197 Solstice Communion by Bonnie Buckley Maldonado

Voices bless a winter flower
of red and gold,
of chile and corn;
worn hands pass the first tamales
from the dented roaster.

Communion wine is New Mexican,
red as sangre.
Masa is the bread of life.

Days of solstice preparation,
corn hand-ground,
red chile simmering,
and pork roasting.

Grandmothers’ memories
soften hojas and whip masa,
soft as sugar.

Masa on a fan of hoja,
red chile and meat in center.
Tamales carefully folded.
Organic origami.

They rest on chips of juniper,
an offering to Our Lady,
to the coming of the light.

Bonnie Buckley Maldonado has resided in Silver City, New Mexico since 1959.  Her work appears in the Willa Award Winning Anthology, Montana Women Writers: Geography of the Heart. She was named Willa Finalist in Poetry by Women Writing the West for It’s Only Raven Laughing, Fifty Years in the Southwest, 2010, her fourth book of poetry. She is Silver City’s poet laureate.

#196 Prayers on the Train [excerpt] by Carlos Contreras

Sunset and Feathers
Breathing in the wind.
Swallowed by the sky.

Nuevo.
SIEMPRE.

Something always is –
New!

A challenge
A story
A lesson…

Teachers in more ways than one,
Beads on the proverbial Rosary

Thumbed at by abuelitas in the
Glow of a candle.

I always ask her,
“Grandma, did you pray for me today?”

“Of course, I always do.” She’d say… as she always does.

You see,
That’s the beauty of us,
New Mexicans.

Men and women
Cracked from a different rib,
A place where pain
translates to attention just the same and we
Survive!

Through prayers and stories
We live on.

Carlos Contreras is a two-time national champion performance poet and local educator.  Co-founder of JustWrite, Contreras leads writing workshops at an adult correctional facility. He also hosts the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s Voces program. As part of Albuquerque’s Urban Verbs, Contreras creates alongside Colin Hazelbaker and Hakim Bellamy.

#195 Admirable by Amanda Saiz

There stood the image of my grandparents when they were blossoming in the black and white
portrait binded by a gold frame.
I was mesmerized by my grandmother’s admirable appearance.
The hand painted portrait was cherished by all.
Oh how I loved to stare at it while it hung on their wall.
I asked my grandmother if one day it could be mine.
This day never came because my grandparents are no longer here.
The portrait was taken as I had feared.
Now it’s just a memory of me as a young girl staring at the black and white
portrait binded by a gold frame.

Amanda Saiz, a student at CNM, is studying to become a radiology tech. she is a mother of three children. She was born and raised in Albuquerque New Mexico. She has always has a passion for poetry. This is her first publication. She will continue writing poetry in the future.

#194 A Time Traveler Sends a Postcard by Isreael Wasserstein

I found this card in ruins
of a tourist trap, above a volcano.
The air reeks of sulfur, but the view–
storm-gray rocks and lava trails
to violent sea–magnificent desolation.
What year this is, I cannot say,
those readouts have burned out long ago.
Once I charted the eons
by light pollution or the ice caps
but now I am content to leap
like a child trusting his father will catch him.
When will this find you? The day of your birth?
Double feature at the drive in? The night we watched
bombs shed the night’s skin? The fall
day when rain finally stopped and you said
this is no way to live? You were right,
or will be. The water’s edge tints red.
An algal bloom or some chemical
morass. Rocks melt in the silence.
I will investigate. Yours.


Israel Wasserstein received his MFA from the University of New Mexico and currently teaches at Washburn University. His first collection of poetry, This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, is forthcoming from Woodley Press.

#193 A Day at White Sands by Roy Beckemeyer

As the brash sun
lifts the edge of night,
dunes stretch and yawn,
their contours blushing
as they awaken…

the morning sun climbs
overhead like
a rocket, its hot exhaust glazing
the sky into porcelain
as white as these sands…

the dunes become
crouching chameleons,
hiding their round fullness
in the noon sun…

a single scarab
scratches her way
across a smooth, sloping
dune, embossing
intricate calligraphy
into the sifted sand:
a message to be read
by the slanting sun
of evening…

dune islands rise,
their shores lapped
by moon-shadow seas.

Roy Beckemeyer, of Wichita, Kansas, has traveled over much of New Mexico.  A retired engineer, he launched rockets at White Sands Missile Range in the 1980’s.  He has recently had poems published in Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, Coal City Review, and the Kansas Renga: To the Stars Through Difficulty.

#192 The Memory Jar by Benjamin Garcia

Sister, you will ask yourself, twelve years from now, the rest
of your life, why, as you slept, your little brother poured
a whole jar of June beetles into the tangled nest of your hair.

Remember the time you sat me pantless on an anthill,
or when you locked me overnight in the chicken coop,
how you tricked me into picking prickly pear barehanded.
Remember it, remember.

The more you pull, the tighter the grip.
Each beetle cleaving six fishhook legs.
Each blessed, shit-eating scarab
hissing and spitting at you like the harlot
you are in a book I’ve not yet read but will.

It won’t be for three days
the last bug leg falls out.
I have ruined your birthday forever.

And you ungrateful shrew, you don’t even bother
to think of the trouble your brother went through for you.
Dark hours in the yard the night before, waiting
by the one porch light, offering my body freely
to the mosquitoes as I hand-selected the choice beetles—
only those whole and larger than a quarter. I treated

each and every scarab with utmost care,
and just before I would place them in the jar,
brought each hissing bug an inch from my lips
and whispered:
she hates you, she hates you.
I must have done that thirty times,
not that I counted, before sealing the jar.

First published in Poet Lore.

Benjamin Garcia, originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico,  recently completed his MFA at Cornell University, where he currently  teaches as a Freund Fellow.  He has received scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, CantoMundo, and the Taos Summer Writer’s  Conference.  His work has appeared in Poet Lore and torhouse.org.

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