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Alfred Arteaga

We could talk about how his heart was taught
the secrets of the serpent’s tail.
We could confer hours
upon the small chamber that holds
the ultimately unknowable blue bed
embodied within his very core
and how our own beetle and bug infested
poor mats and cots
and bags of straw
of incommunicable colors
instead let us talk about his eyes
and how they see
the things they see,
and let us talk about them
for one minute and 50 seconds.

He sees
as did Plato and his gadfly mouthpiece…
a breath, a flux,
a fiery pneuma shoots forth
from the black-centered rainbows
of his eyes…
this jet of flame
meets in mid-sun
the streaming eidola issuing
from the contours of the apple,
the naked woman,
the far off mountain,
the morning and the evening star…
and this visual current,
this tes opsis rheuma,
flows back through the all-devouring
void of his eyes
to touch and impinge
upon the wax of his soul.

He sees,
he IS,
as is every man and woman,
the quincunx
of red and black
and white and yellow
and green,
los colores del maiz,
the five directions
of our flower-loving fathers.

And he understands the world
juste comme Stendhal a compris le monde
—le rouge et le noir,
day and night, hot and cold,
rich and poor, sweet and bitter
the thing in and of itself and the thing perceived,
day and night,
the living and the dead.
And though he loves the Red Venus,
he does not fear the Black,
for he knows that backward-footed Xolotl
will guide him to his peace
across the river of nine waters,
through Mictlan itself
and on to the misty green eden
of Tlalocan.
And here and there
he will write
in the inks of East and West
sus poemas de felices opuestos,
with cochineal fingertips,
the blooms ecstatic and open,
withered and sere,
petal and stem,
pistil and stamen,
for the flower songs
that will ever perfume
sus aires crisóstomos.
Alfred Arteaga


José Antonio

Pero ¿qué más podrías querer?
It was a life full
of marvelous inquietudes
Una jornada espiritual
pricked by the spurs
of a ceaseless, spasmodic,
golden curiosity.
Son muchos los
que escogen su via,
but few are really
called by it.
Few are the true
vocations and provocations
in the halting careers
through this blind valley,
and José Antonio Burciaga
was called to examine,
to muse upon,
to shape, form and relate
the ancient, new,
legitimate, illegitimate,
castiza, mestiza
glossolalia of his Raza.

José Antonio knew that words
were at the root of all
and that at the root of words
were more words
more profoundly rooted
en el lodo negro
de nuestra existencia
porque en el principio
was the word,
y si conocemos las palabras,
we know who we are
and where we came from
and what we said
along the way
and if we could know
we could be made whole
and stronger than Wachuseh.

Juegos de palabras,
palabras de juegos,
argot, cant, caló,
pachuquismos thronged
his etymological uneasiness.

José Antonio turned the rocky ore
of our language de todos los días
in his jeweler’s hand
searching for the streaks
of the noble metals
of our history.
He scanned the casings
of the spent rounds
of fired speech
for the clues,
las llaves,
la placa
de las explicaciones
that might satisfy,
if only for a moment,
his yearnings
for the definition.
And now,
our loss, his gain,
these yearnings are over.
José Antonio Burciaga
is one with the logos.
He is the word.
…él es la palabra.
Y Èl es protegido
para siempre
por el con safos diamantino
de la eternidad.


Francisco X. Alarcón

has always been
ruled by Ollin.

Thrumming fingers
hands and feet
nodding head
rapid words
unceasing movement
from the pain-filled
awakening to life
to the dog-led
journey to the underworld.

y respiración
de los cuatro vientos
that exhale
the gasping,
ecstatic awe
of his voiced,
softly shouted
to the cardinal
of the
spinning ball
in double-mirrored
entre el quinto
y el sexto
Nuestro poeta
ha canturreado
remedios and cures,
has spelled hechizos
for the continued flow
of the blood
of Mayahuel.

He has cast
white magic
for the corn,
has made treaties
with the serpent
y ha declarado
guerra contra la
bilis verde y negra
del odio y prejuicio
con palabras cortas
–en breves líneas–
que van directamente
a las cuartro cámaras
of the four-winged
Ollin monarch
that throbs within us,
that pulses
within him,
that he will ride
some day
with flower song
toward the North.



Hoy enterraron al jefe
–el comandante general–
and the earth will enfold
ese vato, a vate who sang
in baritone, vernacular
bardic strophes
of the lowly and despised
those who labored, thieved, loved
drank, smoked, spat profanities
and worshiped
beneath an indifferent sun.

Hoy enterraron al jefe,
and these streets and avenues
de Sacra
that shade under dark wooden bones
will no more feel his tread.
Los callejones y las cantinas de oro
will ever be haunted
por un fantasma
con disembodied horn-rimmed,
tinted lentes y stingy brim.
¡Águila! Que ahí va el espíritu
de nuestro poeta
en busca de suaves licores,
amables pláticas y un tazón dominguero
de tripitas y pata
homeopathic pancita for belly remedy
for the hanging miseries
of late Saturday revels.
¡Dale paso al jefe! Dale paso,
for here he comes singing,
a derelict upright dog
with his hunchback vihuela
chiming in tenor accord
with that unforgettable vozarrón
que tenía when he was young.
When he was young…
Nothing but pity for you
if you only saw the man of four score.
Como gato and ligero on his athlete’s legs
he was.
Era un galán con élan.
He strode through the world
confident but wary just the same.
The stage was his world,
and every stage was his
the instant he took it.
He was a Greek creature for panic,
a companion of nymphs,
a bucking capricious, goateed
fulano de tal.
Quick era su salero.
He punned like a chuked-out
Gertrude Stein,
arroz es arroz es arroz.
Too much folkloric irony
Too much self mockery,
the weaponry of the assailed,
of the put upon,
of those put on guard
from the age of reason…
But the mouthed beauty
of the phrase,
the words so liquid
as to not be dammed upon the page,
the words that were meant to be heard,
palabras líricas that were as nothing,
without that voice…
It did not matter what he said!
But what he said mattered
with a switching of codes
with the lightning
of the syntactical synapses
between castellano, inglés y caló,
the three-cornered wit of our fathers,
the incomparable beauty
of the plenty of our language,
the mercury of our words.

Hoy enterraron al jefe.
Hoy enterraron al jefe.



Upon Reading an Entry in a Journal
Kept by the Poet Victor Martinez

He had a groping understanding,
–amounting to a realization
that he did not yet understand–
of where he wanted to be,
where he wanted to stand,
standing on his two feet
on that surmised point of departure
from where he could fix his two eyes
and stretch his hollow bones
to let the sky take him in
Sin estar completamente
consciente del hecho,
era un arquitecto
de edificios contradictorios:
iglesias, nunneries, abbatoirs, and burdeles,
dwellings self-negating and self-affirming
in a throbbing singularity of space.

He was one of those few poets,
since the murder of the old gods,
who actually seek to dwell
within the houses of their own words
and though he could see
the great gaps
in its four stammering walls
of earth and mortals
and rumors of divinity,
he seemed to grasp
that the bird within and the bird without
would be able to penetrate his poetry,
to find liberation within and without
the infinite aviary
of his clattering nouns.
There is a fear,
amounting to a welcoming joy,
of the annunciating bird.
A dark omen, a bringer of joy,
the house-entering bird?
We do not know.
Our poet did not know.
He only knew
that neither he nor the bird
dwelt in a world with empty spaces,
that whatever the bird did
propelled him,
that whatever he did
moved the bird across here and there,
across yesterday and tomorrow.

On a day in February,
the cleansing,
chastening month
of a pagan world,
the bird flew into his house,
and our poet,
our onyx bird,
el ave de voz ronca,
flew into that everywhere house
of limitless sky and infinite gods.



There are certain living, breathing
places in this world,
certain quartiers,
vicinati and barrios en este mundo
–ciertos lugares con almas abrumadoras–
whose concrete, dirt and iron souls push
through their trees and buildings,
spread through their sidewalks
and red-bloom in their very fire hydrants.
There are certain places in this world
that have presiding spirits
–the Mission la Misión
misión de dolores exquisitas–
spirits that wander
spirits that turn a corner
and disappear
spirits that reappear
cuadras y cuadras away
poised over un cafecito,
spirits that are reported
in disparate places
at the same time,
spirits like Alfonso Texidor.
I did not know him
and was quite content
not to know him,
for whenever I ventured down
la mentada Veinticuatro,
I was sure to see him
sooner if not later,
and when I did see him
la Misión was set aright
and all people and things
became as correct
as the angles of a square.
For twenty years
I knew not his name
but sharpened one
as keen-edged as he
“Pero ¿donde está
el knife blade?”
I would wonder to myself
if I failed to see him
in La Bohème,
and in so wondering
I would conjure him,
and he would razor
through the door
through the thick distractions
of this world
como filo de machete
cortando caña,
cortando caña
and he would sit a sus anchas
and nod monalisando a smile,
charlando con tipos revolucionarios
y hombres ávidos por ajedrez,
and I then would be at ease
for all was well,
all was whole,
and all was sustained
for yet another day.
He was essence of place,
vibration of movements
of limbs and wheels,
iris of color and light,
and yes he is gone,
gone save for the sanctifying
fictions of memory,
and there will be
the fear of a lack,
of a mis-balance,
de una vaga alegría perdida.
Yet the Mission,
your Mission and mine
will persist
because Alfonso Texidor
was the Lamed Wufnik
of the place while amongst us,
and when one Lamed Wufnik
breathes out
for the last time
another immediately
takes their place.
We will know the new one
We may not.
Our tempted eyes will vary
our contrary minds deny,
but the soul of this place
will be maintained.

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