The Sunday Poem: Nathan Brown and Cathy Arellano... two poems, The Sign & Riverside Drive

Sit down for coffee with Nathan Brown and watch the people around you.  Ride along the Rio Grande with Cathy Arellano and wonder about your life as the sheriff comes into view.  Ah...Sundays.

These two wonderful poems can be heard this afternoon!  Yes, today in Placitas, Cathy Arellano and Nathan Brown open the Duende Poetry Series' ninth season.  Cathy Arellano lives in Albuquerque's south valley and teaches at Central New Mexico Community College.  Nathan Brown is the new Poet Laureate of Oklahoma.  The reading starts at 3:00 at the Anasazi Winery in Placitas.  Here is a map to the winery.

The Sign

She comes in—tanned, tight jeans,
bleach-blond hair down the back,
blue eyes and too much makeup—

with a baby on her hip. And I’d
decided already what this poem
was going to be about, when she

sits down across from what looks
to be her father and begins to sign
with her one free hand. He smiles

and signs back—hands rolling effusively,
lips moving in a soundless poetry.
Their gazes trade loves back and forth.

The baby’s eyes glow in the wave
and trickle of mom’s fingers that must
look like birds close enough to touch.

And the trusses of my preconceptions
begin to buckle. The edges of prejudice
begin to crumble like dry toast…


I want to go over and apologize,
but I don’t know the sign for that.

I have made a mistake.

          --Nathan Brown

Riverside Drive

not that city in southern cal
where auntie diz, fran, teddy, and lucha live

where this side’s the road
that side’s the river

right there
past the ditch
beyond the cottonwoods

río grande beach
closer than tingley
río grande gentler than the pacific
that i grew up visiting on field trips

it’s 8 am on a thursday
i drive to work
take the 25 MPH sign seriously
and go 20
cars zoom ‘round me
and speed over each road hump

i join the chase
scare the chickens
at the corner of hardy

i pass the church
that was St. Luke Baptist
the new banner with its new name
flaps like the chicken wings flutter

faded buildings sprinkle plots of land
walls at half-staff
salute each driver

an oncoming car approaches
flashes lights in morning sun

i press pedal harder

car flips brights again

dude passes and nods cholo-style
the way my college friends teased me

Cathy doesn’t say hi with her mouth
She says hi with her head

i check the rearview
and wonder if trouble is coming
sure enough

sheriff rounds the corner
then i understand
and continue my ride

i want to pick up one of the beer bottles
from the side of the road
fill it
chill it
hand it to my savior
and return the nod

i turn right on la vega
right on cesar chavez
crawl up the bridge

fallen branches stick out
sand swallows the mighty Río Grande
that sat in my imagination
through geography and history
in west coast classrooms

during occasional calls
my family always asks
what’s it like out there?
i tell ‘em

good people
beautiful land

when i return home in a few years
i’ll go to my bay or ocean
probably just dolores park
with its rows of flat, porcelain troughs
and sputtering sprinklers

i’ll sit at the top of the hill
with the best view of my city
gaze at the bridge in the distance
and remember this river on the side of this road
this road by the side of this river
these people who made me feel
even if for just a little while
i could call another place home

          --Cathy Arellano

Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 199

Comment by Margaret Randall on March 10, 2013 at 8:49am

Two wonderful poems, one from Cathy whose work I know and love, the other from Nathan Brown whose work I will now seek out and read. Duende is fortunate to have this duo this afternoon--and they are fortunate to be reading in one of our best poetry venues. An interesting pairing of poems, this, in which double-takes of perception lead the reader in unexpected directions. Ditchrider has done it again!

Comment by Izquierdo on March 10, 2013 at 9:19am

I don't know when I've enjoyed back-to-back poems so much for a variety of reasons. First, it seems an inordinate number are set on my own stomping grounds, as is Cathy Arellano's today. I grew up on Bonita Rd. (an unlikely name for it),just off La Vega, off Riverside, and exchanged the same cholo head nod greetings accompanied often with a two-note lip whistle, although the term "cholo" was not much in fashion then. But it wasn't merely, the setting -- it was the perfect description of it.including the interplay between vehicle drivers and the sheriff' on the prowl. Just a great poem as is Nathan Brown's. transformational piece with its eye-catching, bawdy opening that runs the emotional gamut in seven short stanzas. Thanks to both and Ditch Rider. 

Comment by larry goodell on March 10, 2013 at 9:27am

"the edges of prejudice/ begin to crumble like dry toast" . . . thanks for the hopeful lines, nathan, and look forward to hearing you . . . cathy thanks: "even if for just a little while/ i could call another place home" . . . oh dear friends and acquaintances, welcome to all and remember, time change today!

Comment by Dee Cohen on March 10, 2013 at 4:46pm

Great stuff. Thanks, D

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on March 13, 2013 at 7:03pm

Cathy, I always love seeing through your eyes, hearing through your ears, getting a flash of a thought or two in your thoughtful head.  hanks--I love San Francisco--my gramps was born there, my ma, and me in San Mateo--we from there

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on March 13, 2013 at 7:05pm

Nathan, lovely, down home real poem.     xcellent--hope yr traveling well these days.


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