Sunday Poetry Double Feature: Sylvia Ramos and Rich Vargas

A Double Feature:  Because the Fix is moving over to Facebook at the end of this month, last I heard, and I have three poets in the chute, I am giving readers a two-fer today.

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Having been a surgeon in her workaday world, I believe Sylvia carries a scalpel to the editing table. Her clean images, lines, and content belie the fact that she hasn't been writing her entire life.  I appreciate her crafted and effective poems;she's loaned us two for this special, end of the Fix, goodbye.

After Sylvia's work, we are fortunate to have a few from our wandering compadre who left Burque a couple of years ago in order to find adequate employment. Let's hope he returns to us upon his retirement.

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I first met Rich Vargas at a Sumner & Dean reading, upstairs in their art gallery downtown, a place Jessica Dalzell had secured for her women's writing group, quickly appropriated by a couple of eager male poets hungry for attention. Jessica left town shortly thereafter. However it went, whatever your version of that story is, the venue brought Rich Vargas to the mic. Burque was never quite the same; political poems anathema to the slam scene at the time, now had a shining star. Thank you, Rich Vargas, and how I loved the reading you gave that night of your version of "Howl."

Memorial Day 2016

            -Montefiore Jewish Cemetery, Las Vegas NM

 

No flags, no saints, no visitors

save five crows in black vestments

hunkered down on a wind-whirled tree

near weary adobe fence.

 

Rows of ancient headstones,

a scattering from recent times,

struggle to remain upright,

fight burial under endless

swirls of red-dust devils

and time.

 

Names I saw engraved in buildings

downtown around the Plaza call me—

Ilfelds, Rosenthals,Taicherts, Sterns—

East European merchants

who traded Old World conflicts

for new lives in an alien place.

 

The dead lie undisturbed,

perhaps unremembered, covered

by sparse blanket of tiny, yellow-eyed

white and purple wildflowers wavering

under a painfully brilliant cloud-heavy sky.

 

Across the rusted wire gate,

closer to the main entrance,

Masons and Woodsmen repose

and, just beyond a graying stone virgin,

an old woman sits shrouded in memories,

unmindful of the souls around her.

Sylvia Ramos Cruz

06/08/16

* * * *

Murciélago

            (Sp. blind mouse, bat)

 

No me conoces.

You don’t know me.

This name you gave me is misnomer.

I am neither blind nor mouse.

 

When I slammed into you at dusk

            it was not to tango in your hair nor taste

                        the provocation of your neck

                                    shimmering in the flick of fireflies.

 

Nor was it curiosity.

I know you,

            spied you many times

                        from far-off perch beneath

                                    a plumed papaya

                                                climbing the jagged back

                                                            of El Yunque rainforest.

 

Fué accidente.

You startled me as I startled you,

            yet I did not call you names.

            I could have— despoiler, destroyer,

                        self-centered adolescente.

                    

Before you were

            I echoed darkness,

                    pierced Earth’s marrow

                                     in the succulence of mangó

                                                        aguacate, guayaba,

                    assumed no name,

               traversed translucent skies

                                     and pristine forests for eons,

               left no trace save my residue

                                       decaying under the canopy,

                     anticipated you

                          in emerging primate faces and howls—

                                    a new order rising

                                                    from the steam-bath

                                                                        of mud and stars.

            Busqué santuario from which

                           to watch you roam

                                             and hear you roar.

 

  

Glossary:

No me conoces – You don’t know me

tango – tango dance

papaya – melon-like tropical fruit

El Yunque – rainforest in Puerto Rico

Fué accidente – It was accident

adolescente – adolescent

mangó – tropical fruit

aguacate – avocado

guayaba – guava fruit

Busqué santuario – I searched for sanctuary  

* * * *

Murcielago was published in the Malpais Summer 2016 Anthology.

Memorial Day 2016 won 2nd prize in a 2017 National Federation of State Poetry Societies contest and was just published in their anthology, Encore: Prize Poems 2017.

 

Short Bio:

Sylvia Ramos Cruz is a mother, grandmother, surgeon, women’s rights activist, gardener, world traveler, friend and lover. Her poems are eclectic in form and content. Many are inspired by works of art in all its forms, women’s lives, and every-day injustices. A project in progress is writing Haibun about her journeys to find Historic NM Women road markers and the women they honor. Her poem, Memorial Day 2016, won 2nd place in the Donald Stodghill Memorial Award contest and is published in Encore: Prize Poems 2017.

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Poems by Rich Vargas   

 

doing laundry the saturday after the election

 

wondering if the numbing sensation

i wear these days like a second skin

will ever slough off

will i ever feel again

 

when on cue

as if she could read my thoughts

a stout and voluptuous black woman

standing at the table behind me

breaks out into song while folding

garments of all sizes from the several

piles of clothes rising up before her

 

her sultry voice honed from a people’s

hanging from the wrong end of a rope

sings of being a motherless child

needing guidance from heaven

and a strong shoulder to lean on

during the dark days ahead

 

so it happens here

in the most unexpected of places

gospel and blues wrapping around

the cold dead space in my chest

transforming it into a warm shelter

for my anger to lie down and sleep

 

this is the part of the poem

where i’m supposed to praise

our ability to take a hard sucker punch

and carry on the good fight

but the reality is this pool

of sewage and shit we made

for ourselves is sucking me down 

i’m choking on tears

yet to be formed

 

the words on the page of the book

i hold in my hands begin to blur

and slide off the paper

 

my cheeks are hot and wet

i pretend to continue reading

* * * *

a note to the young artists living in these dark days

 

go paint a picture in the rain

and watch the colors run or

write a poem while getting drunk

and listen to the random noise

of empty bottles breaking in the street

pick up a drum and beat it mad

as you dance naked in the backyard

under a suburban moon or drive

to the beach and sing jazz

to the stars hanging in a black

ink sky while wearing discarded

rags found in the trash bins

of local thrift stores or get

arrested for carving your visions

into the walls of public restrooms

 

know that the difference

between a dollar bill and

a sheet of toilet paper

is the green ink

 

close your eyes and

jump off the cliff

art will catch you

 

it always does

* * * *

minnows

i awaken in the early hours to thoughts of you swimming through

the cool depths of my sleep, each one a silvery minnow reflecting

the moon’s light dancing on its scaled skin. they sparkle like streaking

meteors, criss-crossing to the sound of a whispered splash. i gather

spider webs, weave a net, cast it with the hope of catching a poem,

then releasing it back to my ocean of longing.

 

lovers burn apart

dream alone with visions of

a flame’s kiss dying

* * * *

bio:

 

Bio: Richard Vargas was born in Compton, CA, attended schools in Compton, Lynwood, and Paramount. He earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin and Richard Lee. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980, and twelve issues of The Más Tequila Review, 2010-2015. His first book, McLife, was featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, in February, 2006. A second book, American Jesus, was published by Tia Chucha Press, 2007. His third book, Guernica, revisited, was published April 2014, by Press 53. (Once again, a poem from the book was featured on Writer’s Almanac to kick off National Poetry Month.) Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, and was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference. Currently, he resides in Rockford, IL, where he would give his left testicle for a green chile and bacon breakfast burrito.

 

  • (The poem, “doing laundry the saturday after the election” was included in the anthology Truth To Power: Writers Respond To The Rhetoric Of Hate And Fear, Publisher: Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts; Cutthroat Anthology ed. edition February 1, 2017)

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To all of you who have enjoyed The DitchRider, all the various poets and writers who edited and submitted, Thank You.  I will be attempting my own weekly blog currently  merimeemoffitt.wordpress.com, soon to be merimeemoffitt.com, and I will be inviting guest poets and writers to publish on my page eventually. Stay in touch, check out my relaxed prose about the 60s that I'm blogging currently.  Contact me at merimeemoffitt1@mac.com or on the blog site. Keep writing. We all need each others' voices now.                          

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