Overview

Poems of the barrio and of the Americas beyond Spanish for “helter-skelter,” Trochemoche begins by conjuring life in the barrio, whether in a slum in a Texas border town or in L.A., the vast, hectic, desperate California metropolis where Luis J. Rodríguez grew up. For Rodríguez, only art offered deliverance from the despair of gang violence and poverty, and these poems stand as prayers for transcendence, recorded long after Rodríguez escaped his violent past and began to explore the wider world. Here ...
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Trochemoche: Poems

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Overview

Poems of the barrio and of the Americas beyond Spanish for “helter-skelter,” Trochemoche begins by conjuring life in the barrio, whether in a slum in a Texas border town or in L.A., the vast, hectic, desperate California metropolis where Luis J. Rodríguez grew up. For Rodríguez, only art offered deliverance from the despair of gang violence and poverty, and these poems stand as prayers for transcendence, recorded long after Rodríguez escaped his violent past and began to explore the wider world. Here Rodríguez offers not only songs of the American dream, but a dream of the Americas, a place that invites a pell-mell, sometimes violent, collision of cultures, human impulses, and natural forces. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Luis J. Rodríguez including rare images from the author’s personal collection.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781453259115
  • Publisher: Open Road Media
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 92
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Luis J. Rodríguez (b. 1954) is a poet, journalist, memoirist, and author of children’s books, short stories, and novels. His documentation of urban and Mexican immigrant life has made him one of the most prominent Chicano literary voices in the United States. Born in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican immigrant parents, Rodríguez grew up in Los Angeles, where in his teen yearshe joined a gang, lived on the streets, and became addicted to heroin. In his twenties, after turning his back on gang violence and drugs, Rodríguez began his career as a journalist and then award-winning poet, writing such books as the memoir Always Running (1993), and the poetry collections The Concrete River (1991), Poems Across the Pavement (1989), and Trochemoche (1998). He has also written the short story collection The Republic of East L.A. (2002). Rodríguez maintains an arts center, bookstore, and poetry press in L.A., where he continues writing and working to mediate gang violence.
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Read an Excerpt

Trochemoche

Poems


By Luis J. Rodríguez

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1998 Luis J. Rodríguez
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-5911-5



CHAPTER 1

    My Beautiful Whisper


    Meeting the Animal in Washington Square Park


    The acrobats were out in Washington Square Park,
    flaying arms and colors: the jokers and break
    dancers, the singers and mimes. I pulled out
    of a reading at New York City College
    and watched a crowd gather around a young man
    jumping over 10 garbage cans from a skateboard.
    Then out of the side of my eye I saw someone
    who didn't seem to belong here, like I didn't
    belong. He was a big man, six feet and more,
    with tattoos on his arms, back, stomach and neck.
    On his abdomen were the words in huge old English
    lettering: Hazard. I knew this guy, I knew that place.
    I looked closer. It had to be him. It was—Animal!
    From East L.A. World heavyweight contender,
    the only Chicano from L.A. ever ranked
    in the top ten of the division. The one who
    went toe-to-toe with Leon Spinks and even
    made Muhammad Ali look the other way.
    Animal! I yelled. "Who the fuck are you?" he asked,
    a quart of beer in his grasp, eyes squinting.
    My name's Louie—from East L.A. He brightened. "East L.A.!
    Here in Washington Square Park? Man, we everywhere!"
    The proverbial "what part of East L.A.?" came next.
    But I gave him a shock. From La Gerahty, I said.
    That's the mortal enemy of the Big Hazard
    gang of the Ramona Gardens Housing Projects.
    "I should kill you," Animal replied. If we were in
    L.A., I suppose you would—but we in New York City, man.
    "I should kill you anyway."
    Instead he thrust out his hand with the beer and offered
    me a drink. We talked—about what happened since he stopped
    boxing. About the time I saw him at the Cleland House
    arena looking over some up-and-coming fighters.
    How he had been to prison, and later ended up homeless
    in New York City, with a couple of kids somewhere.
    And there he was, with a mortal enemy from East L.A.,
    talking away. I told him how I was now a poet,
    doing a reading at City College, and he didn't wince
    or looked surprised. Seemed natural. Sure. A poet
    from East L.A. That's the way it should be. Poet
    and boxer. Drinking beer. Among the homeless,
    the tourists and acrobats. Mortal enemies.
    When I told him I had to leave, he said "go then,"
    but soon shook my hand, East L.A. style, and walked off.
    "Maybe, someday, you'll do a poem about me, eh?"
    Sure, Animal, that sounds great.
    Someday, I'll do a poem about you.


    Victory, Victoria, My Beautiful Whisper

    (for Andrea Victoria)

    You are the daughter who is sleep's beauty.
    You are the woman who birthed my face.
    You are a cloud creeping across the shadows,
    drenching sorrows into heart-sea's terrain.
    Victory, Victoria, my beautiful whisper:
    how as a baby you laughed into my neck
    when I cried at your leaving
    after your mother and I broke up;
    how at age three you woke me up from stupid
    so I would stop peeing into your toy box
    in a stupor of resentment and beer;
    and how later, at age five, when I moved in
    with another woman who had a daughter about your age,
    you asked: "how come she gets to live with Daddy?"

    Muñeca, these words cannot traverse the stone
    path of our distance; they cannot take back the thorns
    of falling roses that greet your awakenings.
    These words are from places too wild for hearts to gallop,
    too cruel for illusions, too dead for your eternal
    gathering of flowers. But here they are, weary offerings
    from your appointed father, your anointed man-guide;
    make of them your heart's bed.


    Street Talk

    (Overheard among street people in Berkeley, October         1990)

    The rag-faced woman sneered at the shriveled man:
    "What do you know about pain,
    about unwashed nights and the color-knife
    tearing up your flesh.
    You ain't black?
    You ain't been through nothing."

    The man replied in poison tones:
    "I've been through 'nam, sister;
    I've seen dudes sliced in half,
    heads on bamboo poles.
    You ain't been to 'nam,
    man, you ain't seen shit."

    The woman waved her arms, walked up
    to the man in soil-striped pants:
    "Get out my face, whitey, I'm a descendent
    of slaves; I've seen lynchings; I've
    seen castrated dicks dangle from bodies.
    Don't talk to me about no 'nam!"

    The man stepped toward her, ears

    bursting with red indignation:
    "Yeah, you think you've felt the knife-twist!
    Walk in my shoes, lady; see what I've seen.
    Bombs tearing up your feet.
    Make you wish you could be black."

    The woman shrieked: "Fuck you then!"

    "Shit, what do you know?" replied the man.


    Catacombs
    The concave view over desert groves
    is maligned, dense with sacrifices
    not to be believed.
    A native face peers backward to time
    and woman, gathering memory like
    flowers on healing cactus.
    Your eye is froth & formation, it is
    rain of protocol you can't relinquish as water is wasted on sacred sand.

    Across the turquoise rug, hexagon shapes.

    I discover you, the howl of eternal mornings
    while beckoning the blue from this sky,
    while gesturing an infant from sleeping tree.
    Sip the maguey juice from these mountains,
    shear chaos from the catacombs:
    forget and ferment the pain.

    On the back of your hand, circles of flame.


    A Tale of Los Lobos

    One summer, to watch Los Lobos play,
    I drove several hundred miles
    from Chicago to Charleston,
    West Virginia with three
    Chicano buddies: Geronimo,
    Mitch, and Dario.
    We got there in time to catch
    a great concert. Afterwards, we went backstage and talked
    to the band members.
    We told the band we'd see them
    later at the honky tonk club
    where they were expected to perform.
    But they had to leave right away
    and couldn't make it.
    We arrived at the club, sans Lobos,
    and the place was packed.
    I didn't think there'd be a seat,
    but soon someone directed us to a table
    where three pitchers of beer stood
    at attention on the varnished table top.
    Great service, I thought. We sat down,
    poured beers into frosty glasses,
    and took in the down-home blues
    emanating from the small, smoke-filled stage.
    Before we finished the pitchers,
    three more were brought over
    (although nobody had asked for our money!)
    So we drank away, enjoying ourselves,
    the only Mexicans in the place.
    What gives? I asked. Geronimo, Mitch and Dario
    shrugged their shoulders.
    Soon many eyes turned our way.
    Something's up, I whispered,
    look at the way everybody's looking at us.
    Sure enough, the band stopped and someone
    at the mike asked us to come up to the stage.
    "¡Que cábula!" Mitch exclaimed, "they think
    we're Los Lobos!"
    Damn, man, I said, we don't even look like them!
    Geronimo stood up, said he was sorry
    but we weren't Los Lobos, and sat down.
    Everything stopped. Incredulous stares
    surrounded us. After an embarrassing
    silence, the house band began
    a slow number, than upped the tempo,
    finally rocking the place
    with harmonica-laden fervor.
    Hijo de su, they believe us, I said.
    "I don't know," Dario replied,
    "I think they think we're lying."
    One dude approached us:
    "I know you're Los Lobos;
    you just don't want to play, right?"
    No, for reals, we ain't them, I responded.
    He winked and kept on walking.
    When I went to the restroom,
    a woman by the phone stopped me:
    "I liked the way you played guitar
    at the gig earlier."
    That wasn't me, I explained.
    "What I want to know," the girl then asked,
    "is how you got rid of the goatee so fast."
    I took my piss and rushed back to my seat.
    Rumors that we were Los Lobos abounded.
    Some shouted for us to get off it and perform.
    "If we did," Geronimo quipped, "Los Lobos
    would never play this town again."
    I then noticed a bevy of West Virginia beauties,
    local groupies, who followed the out-of-town
    bands that landed here. They wouldn't leave
    even after we gave them expressions that said:
    you're nice, but we ain't them!
    One girl who sat directly behind me
    had on a prom dress! She kept
    ordering gin-and-tonics, waiting for a signal
    from one of us, I presumed, for her
    to join us at the table. We decided not to go this route. Mitch figured we may have to scram
    if people here concluded we had
    insulted their fair city, club, and women.
    All our denials seemed pointless,
    resulting in more knowing winks
    as if they were all in on our little joke.
    The pitchers kept coming,
    the house band coaxed us up
    once or twice,
    and the groupies held on
    like real troopers.
    Finally, people began to depart.
    The band packed up its instruments
    and most of the girls had split.
    Then just before our last beer,
    a loud thump exploded behind me.
    I turned. The girl in the party dress
    had fallen over in her chair,
    drunker than shit! We helped her back
    on the stool. My partners and I
    promptly left the club as quietly as we could
    on the night Los Lobos didn't play
    in Charleston, West Virginia.


    Cinco de Mayo

    Cinco De Mayo celebrates a burning people,
    those whose land is starved of blood,
    civilizations which are no longer
    holders of the night. We reconquer with our feet,
    with our tongues, that dangerous language,
    saying more of this world than the volumes
    of textured and controlled words on a page.
    We are the gentle rage; our hands hold
    the steam of the earth, the flowers
    of dead cities, the green of butterfly wings.
    Cinco de Mayo is about the barefoot, the untooled,
    the warriors of want who took on the greatest army
    Europe ever mustered—and won.
    I once saw a Mexican man stretched across
    an upturned sidewalk
    near Chicago's 18th and Bishop one fifth of May day.
    He brought up a near-empty bottle
    to the withering sky and yelled out a grito
    with the words: ¡Que viva Cinco de Mayo!
    And I knew then what it meant—
    what it meant for barefoot Zapoteca indígenas
    in the Battle of Puebla and what it meant for me
    there on 18th Street among los ancianos,
    the moon-faced children and futureless youth
    dodging gunfire and careening battered cars,
    and it brought me to that war
    that never ends, the war Cinco de Mayo
    was a battle of, that I keep fighting,
    that we keep bleeding for, that war
    against our servitude that a compa
    on 18th Street knew all about
    as he crawled inside a bottle of the meanest
    Mexican spirits.


    Careful Skeptic

    A close friend once called me
    a careful skeptic. Miracles don't come
    from eggs, I might say, chickens do.
    One morning I talked to a young man
    who had broken up with the mother of his child;
    He cried about not seeing the baby
    and the loss of equilibrium
    forced by his confusion.
    More than forty years of life
    have given me some place in this space.
    So we talked about dignity, of the values that
    keep one strong when everything else falls apart;
    He listened, began to smile, said he would try,
    and left, paying for breakfast.
    I'm sure he wished an angel
    would stride with him through the windswept road.
    I don't know about angels; I do know
    the miracle germinating at any crossroads
    is what's learned.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Trochemoche by Luis J. Rodríguez. Copyright © 1998 Luis J. Rodríguez. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface: "Poetry by the Laws of Nature",
I. My Beautiful Whisper,
Meeting the Animal in Washington Square Park,
Victory, Victoria, My Beautiful Whisper,
Street Talk,
Catacombs,
A Tale of Los Lobos,
Cinco de Mayo,
Careful Skeptic,
Woman on the First Street Bridge,
Echo Park,
Red Screams,
The Facts of Life,
To the Hills of Dirt & Granite,
Hungry,
A Fence of Lights,
"Eva sitting on the curb with pen and pencil before the torturers came to get her",
The Old Woman of Mérida,
The Rabbi & the Cholo,
¡Yo Voy Ami!,
Fire,
To the police officer who refused to sit in the same room as my son because he's a "gang banger",
The Quiet Woman,
Markets, Alleys & the Hounds of Hell,
The Feathered Warrior,
Cloth of Muscle and Hair,
The Boy of All Boys,
Poem for Shakespeare & Company,
Rant, Rave & Ricochet,
¡Seguro Que Hell Yes!,
Women the Color of Newspaper,
Night Shift at St. Regis,
Reflection on El Train Glass,
Rocks,
Freeway Flyin' Burrito Man,
Questions for Which You Are Always the Answer,
Rainfall Piano,
Civilization,
II. Poems Too Short to Braid,
Next Generation,
Afterbirth,
At Quenchers Bar When You Said Good-bye,
The Face on the Radio,
Toss-turned Bodies,
The Object of Intent Is to Get There,
Messages,
Untouched,
A Father's Lesson,
Francisca,
This Could Have Happened,
Getting Over,
Suburbia,
Believe Me When I Say,
III. Notes of a Bald Cricket,
Notes of a Bald Cricket,

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