The Sunday Poem: Andrea J. Serrano...Rio Grande Blvd.

Good morning, Albuquerque! Rich Boucher here, weary and happy and tired from life and loving this thing that we're doing here! Right now I'm padding around the house in my bunny slippers and kimono and trying to find out where the English Muffins are in this house. Did anyone put on the coffee yet? I'm not sure I'm gonna be able to make it without at least two cups this morning! It's soooo early! I really must commend you early risers; how do you do it? How do all of you and the roosters and the chickens and all the other birds of prey in Albuquerque manage to rise from your beds at this insane hour? Even the angels all have a case of bedhead right now. But, it's a wonderful thing and life is too short to sleep too late, I suppose. Listen here, it's time for a poem...

 

...I love this poem by Andrea Serrano. There's so much going on in this poem, almost deceptively so, within all of Andrea's beautiful and plain-spoken real-real lyricism here: a combination, a poetic merging of the personal with the cultural and the spiritual, a poem as a narrative, a personal memory artfully illustrating the startling intersection of personal concerns and cultural iconography and spiritual resonances. It is compelling, what she does here with her words, how she speaks the plain truth about the bonafide, real, hidden costs of what many people are only too happy to refer to these days as “progress" (and by the way, you've really got to catch Andrea live some time, to see how Andrea just lays all of this beauty out for you on the mic; you're missing out if you have not seen her perform). This poem can see the way that things never change even as change is, as they say, the one constant in our lives. It’s impossible to ignore what it is that she asks the reader to countenance when she talks about people just driving by, how often we all just "drive on by". Do we stop and take a moment, ever, and really think about what we have seen? Do we? And if we do stop to think about it, can we learn? I asked Andrea recently what her favourite things are about Albuquerque, and this is what she said: "My favorite things about Burque are the endless sky, summer evenings, sunsets and people who love this city and see her for who she is; not what they can make her be." Andrea, you got this. 

Rio Grande Blvd. 

 

 

A yucca plant

Is all that remains

Planted at the feet

Of the Guadalupana painted

On a crumbling adobe wall on Rio Grande Blvd.

Thousands of cars pass her by each day but no one ever stops

to pray or pay homage or even just say hello

The wall shared a parking lot with Ned’s Lounge

Where $2 Tuesdays 

Meant cheap vodka tonics and even cheaper tacos

The Virgencita on the wall faced the door

I never thought to stop and ask her

“What’s a nice girl like you

Doing in a place like this?”

Never mind what I was doing there

Anyway, most nights I went home alone

Most nights

 

I didn't think much of it

When Ned’s closed its doors

No regrets that I didn’t get to have one last drink

Those days have long passed me by

The comfort of home is where I spend most Tuesdays

A friend said Ned’s was going to be knocked down along with a few other buildings

To make way for condos and offices and a way of life

Not meant for me

I didn’t believe him

until the other day

when the first building was reduced to a pile of rubble

I was gripped with fear and sadness when I saw it

But thankful when I saw the wall was still up

I gave thanks for one more day

Until I drove by

And she was gone

 

Work men with purple brown skin and hard hats

Threw bricks in a garbage bin

I imagine the one who knocked the wall down

Closed his eyes and prayed before his bulldozer

Made contact with her image

 

Fake adobe buildings will soon be built on top

Of sacred neighborhood space

Like cathedrals on the tops of temples in Tenochtitlan

And mission churches on the tops of kivas

Throughout the Pueblos

 

We continue

To just drive on by 

--

Albuquerque native Andrea J. Serrano has been writing and performing poetry since 1994, and is published in Malpais Review; the Mas Tequila Review; ¡Ban This! and the BSP Anthology of Xican@ Literature.  She has performed at numerous venues including the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in NYC,  Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco and was part of the Librotraficante Caravan Reading in Albuquerque. Andrea is the youngest of seven daughters and credits her family, her ties to land, language and culture and the experience of growing up Chicana in Albuquerque with influencing her writing. Andrea is a member of the band Cultura Fuerte, and is the creator and host of Speak, Poet: Voz, Palabra y Sonido, a monthly poetry venue. Photograph of Andrea Serrano by Senaida Garcia, 2013.

Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email theditchrider@gmail.com.

Local Poetry Event News: In addition to Jules' Sestina class and the Second Saturday Slam in Rio Rancho, I'd like to mention an event scheduled to happen on Friday, July 5th. 2013 at 7 PM. The "Rally in the Desert 2" will take place in historic Madrid, New Mexico. This show will be a fundraiser to help send the 2013 Albuquerque Poetry Slam Team to the National Poetry Slam Competition later this Summer. There will be, as promoter Zachary Kluckman informs us, "a short open mic for the poets, followed by a showcase of collaborative pieces, and then - in honor of Independence Day - a no rules, no holds barred mini - slam pitting the poets from the ABQ slam team against each other!" After the event, guests are invited to spend some time schmoozing and loving up on the poets at the Mineshaft Tavern. Attendance for this event is $10; this money will go to support the Albuquerque Slam Team in their efforts to get to Boston for the National Poetry Slam. Interesting fact about this theater: it's the only theater in the world with a full sized steam train on stage. The Engine House Theater (behind the Mine Shaft Tavern) is located at 2846 Hwy. 14, Madrid, New Mexico (on the Turquoise Trail. For details and more information, please call 505-473-0743.

Views: 462

Comment by Barelas Babe on June 30, 2013 at 9:29am

This is a powerful poem, Andrea! I like poignant image of the worker praying before he bulldozes the image, and the transience running through the entire poem. Thanks for giving my Sunday a thoughtful start.

Comment by Poet Oishi on June 30, 2013 at 9:34am

Thanks for the beautiful grieving. You are such a keeper of this place.

Comment by Adelita on June 30, 2013 at 11:03am

Being a valley girl and spending many Tuesday nights at Ned's, I feel the grief of seeing yet another icon of the valley gone.  Like the day I drove past the old cottonwood the day they were cutting her down to pave the bridge to the west side, I feel the loss.  Great poem. Thank you.

Comment by john franklin crawford on June 30, 2013 at 11:35am

Andrea is the best thing that's happened to Albuquerque poetry in years. A quiet leader, she's opened up a new way of seeing, praising, and performing that never abandons an underlying realism about who we are and how we live our lives. This poem is beautiful. Andrea, I loved Ned's when it was the old Rio Grande Cantina (twenty-five years ago) through all its changes. Sometimes I wish we built monuments to things as they are before they stopped being those things. At best, we can carry our lives forward in a related direction.

Comment by Zuzu Petals on June 30, 2013 at 12:38pm

An unearthed time capsule for those of us that spent some of our beautiful youth there and other locales around Albuquerque, primarily up and down 4th and Rio Grande and the shady bits of Central. We left something behind, as Mr. Crawford has so ably described above. Love your voice, Ms. Serrano. Thank you.

Comment by Rich Boucher on June 30, 2013 at 2:37pm

Thank you all for the comments on this!

Comment by Dee Cohen on June 30, 2013 at 6:41pm

Lovely poem, Andrea. Your words keep the place alive. Dee

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on June 30, 2013 at 7:29pm

sad and lovely and a life lesson .    the walls we can touch are the ones that turn to dust---  I can see her--I hope Dee got her picture too. Your poem has immortalized that piece of art, just like Shakespeare's Sonnet to His Aging Mistress--which ever one that was--it's the poem that gave his love  eternal life on earth.  WE are such stuff as dreams are made on . . .  I love the language "virgencita"

Comment by Georgia Santa-Maria on July 1, 2013 at 9:43am
Beautiful, Andrea. The sad part of belonging to a place, the grief of change. But, you know, she is still there.
Comment by Margaret Randall on July 4, 2013 at 7:21am

Great poem. I heard Andrea read this a few weeks ago at the Duende reading in Placitas. And Rich is right: you have to HEAR Andrea to appreciate the fullness of her gift. As for the real Albuquerque, there's an amazing article by V.B. Price in the current New Mexico Mercury (newmexicomercury.com) with a lot of important truths about our city.

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