The Sunday Poem: Margaret Randall... Between the Old Year and New

As the New Mexico legislature gets ready to debate and vote on the domestic partnership bill next week, this short but strong piece by Albuquerque icon Margaret Randall seems especially appropriate.

Margaret Randall grew up in Albuquerque and returned here to live after more than a quarter century in Latin America (Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua) during the sixties, seventies and first part of the eighties. Upon her return and because of the content of some of her books, she was ordered deported under the McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act. She and many friends fought in her defense, and she won her case in 1989. Most recent among her many books are NARRATIVE OF POWER, STONES WITNESS, INTO ANOTHER TIME and TO CHANGE THE WORLD: MY YEARS IN CUBA (just out from Rutgers University Press). Forthcoming from Wings Press in San Antonio is THEIR BACKS TO THE SEA.

Margaret is also a photographer. She is having a first show of color photography at Central Photographic, a small gallery located at 4312 Lomas NE (near Washington). The show will go up March 2nd and run through April 2nd. The reception will be on Saturday March 14th from 3 to 7 p.m.

Between the Old Year and New

—for Linda Gilky and Nancy Parker Wood,

murdered in their car, New Year’s Eve 2006.

Sometime between the old year and new

horror leaps to your eyes

and life stops

with a sound too loud, too harsh.

Did he watch you kiss? Was there a kiss

or look, some sign of unacceptable love

triggered his rage?

Perhaps he knocked on your car window,

perhaps you lowered it to ask

if he needed help. Snow fills the air

as he shoots you in the face, then fires

a second time at your lover’s chest,

the woman your obituary called good friend,

who shared your life

where dogs and cats

still wait for you to come home.

Submissions to The Sunday Poem are welcome. Send one or two poems with a short bio, any links, and a picture to Past posts are on The Ditchrider's blog page.

Views: 214

Comment by Barelas Babe on February 22, 2009 at 9:56am
Ditchrider - thank you for posting this poem and for making Sundays "poetry day" on DCF! The power of poetry cannot be underestimated. Margaret Randall's poem called to mind this quote from Jane Rule, noted Canadian writer whose work often focused on lesbian themes:

"Every artist seems to me to have the job of bearing witness to the world we live in. To some extent I think of all of us as artists, because we have voices and we are each of us unique."

Bearing witness through art - that what it is all about.
Comment by Richard V on February 22, 2009 at 11:49am
margaret, a beautiful poem. also heard you last week on KUNM talking about the new book. i'm looking forward to picking up a copy. you make me realize how much living i still have to do...
Comment by cathyray on February 22, 2009 at 6:22pm
this was just wonderful today.
Comment by David Cramer on February 23, 2009 at 6:44am
Margaret is indeed a treasure. Her poetry and photography are both unique and inspiring. Her show at Central Photographic will include both color and black & white images of people and places throughout her life and travels. I highly recommend it.

And Sunday poetry is a great idea for DCF. Thanks, DitchRider.
Comment by JMG on February 23, 2009 at 10:23pm
From what I recall, Margaret voluntarily rescinded her American citizenship when she was living in either Mexico or Cuba and became a citizen of one of those countries. In other words, it's not wholly accurate to say that the US stripped her of her citizenship because of her lefty writings. It's not easy to get (or regain) American citizenship. It wasn't easy when we brought our soon-to-be adopted infant son to the US from Jamaica (who hadn't done any leftist writing, that I know of) and I wouldn't guess it would be any easier for Margaret. Just saying...
Comment by Margaret Randall on March 8, 2009 at 9:19am
To JMG. Just saying... It's hard to read this sort of thing, twenty years after the fact, from someone who didn't bother to check his or her facts. It leaves me wondering what point you are wanting to make. But good luck with your soon to be adopted infant son. I hope he is able to reap all the genuine goodness in this country and will want to fight against the bad.
Comment by JMG on March 8, 2009 at 3:24pm
What "soon to be adopted infant son"? My adopted son is 18 years old. Get your facts straight, Margaret! ;)

I have always fought the bad in this country and am proud to say that my children also speak out against injustice when they see it. You would enjoy my daughter's slam poetry! We've also lived overseas for long periods of time.

Please correct us with the facts about how you lost your citizenship. My point is that there is a big difference between someone giving up their American citizenship voluntarily (in protest against the government or by accepting citizenship in another country) and someone being deported because of their leftist writing and beliefs. I like to think we have freedom of speech in the US, so please clarify this for us.
Comment by JMG on March 8, 2009 at 3:27pm
Ayax, what is left out of that bio exerpt is that Margaret gave up her American citizenship when she became a citizen of Mexico. She was deported from the US, at least in part, because she was a Mexican citizen. I'm not saying this was right or that her leftist writings had nothing to do with it. To me, this is an important point. Mexican citizens get deported all the time. If she had kept her American citizenship, she could have said and written everything she did without fear of being kicked out. Just sayin.'
Comment by The DitchRider on March 8, 2009 at 3:59pm
Her writings go far beyond mere dissent, disagreement with, or criticism of the United States or its policies . . .

Your pending application for adjustment of status is hereby DENIED.
-Decision on Application for Status as Permanent Resident, Immigration and Naturalization Service,
El Paso, Texas, October 2, 1985

. . .

The McCarran-Walter Immigration, Naturalization, and Nationality Act is less studied by most Americans than the Constitution or Bill of Rights (this latter judged "subversive" some years back by more than 80 percent in a street poll held in the nation's capital). The McCarran-Walter Act was passed by a McCarthy-inspired Congress over President Truman's veto in 1952. Truman, in his veto message, said the act would place constraints on citizens and aliens alike. Yet this law, with its vague clauses, clear First Amendment infringement, and the broad discretionary powers it gives INS employees, would still -- more than thirty years later -- keep out literary giants of the stature of Nobel Prize winners Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or an American-born writer like myself whose American family lives in this country.

. . .

In the mid-sixties, living in Mexico, married to a Mexican poet, and with three small children to support, I took out Mexican citizenship as a way of enlarging my job possibilities in a time of economic need. I was told by my lawyer that I must inform the American embassy of my acquisition of Mexican nationality. When I did so, and without adequate information as to other options, I allowed myself to be placed in a position where I simply signed my American citizenship away. Less than two years later, in 1969, I realized my error and attempted to regain my original status. Although taking out Mexican citizenship was an economic move, and not a political statement (as some have tried to claim), I now consider it a mistake -- not one, however, for which I believe I should be penalized forever.

. . .

It is within the context of this view of the relationship between the writer's imagination and the imagination of the State that a number of prominent American writers have joined me as plaintiffs in a civil action filed in Washington's federal district court in October of 1985. Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Grace Paley, Rose Styron, William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker, and PEN's American Center -- among others -- have joined in the filing of this complaint against the U.S. attorney general, the commissioner of immigration and the INS regional director who signed the denial, both to attempt to get a reversal of the decision in my case, and to legally challenge the constitutionality of the ideological exclusion clause of the McCarran-Walter Act. The National Writers Union, the Writers Guild, and other organizations are supporting our action in an amicus brief.

In part, the complaint reads: "Defendants denied Randall's application because of her political views, as reflected in the contents of her writings .... Defendants' activities have cast and will continue to cast a chill over Randall's First Amendment freedoms. These actions convey to her the message that she will be separated from her home, her family, her friends, her colleagues, and her job to the extent that her writings are subjectively viewed as `beyond mere dissent, disagreement with or criticism of the United States or its policies.'"

The above quotations are taken from Randall's essay, When the Imagination of the Writer Is Confronted by the Imagination....
Comment by JMG on March 8, 2009 at 6:10pm
Well, good thing she had well-connected, well-heeled friends in the right places when she changed her mind and decided to come back. Most Mexicans don't.

I enjoy Margaret's writing but was annoyed by the media coverage of her case. I'll leave it at that.


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