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In this, the fifth major collection of poetry from the iconic Chicana–Native American poet Lorna Dee Cervantes, each poem is intellectually insightful, linguistically playful, politically intense, and sensually aflame. Sueño, which engages readers on half a dozen levels at once, lives up to the author’s reputation for deft word play.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609403102
Publisher: Wings Press
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Lorna Dee Cervantes is an award-winning poet and an influential figure in the Chicano literary movement. She is the author of several collections of poetry, including Drive, which was awarded the Latino Book Award; Emplumada, which received an American Book Award; and From the Cables of Genocide, which was awarded the Patterson Poetry Prize and the Latino Literature Award. She lives in San Francisco. Juan Felipe Herrera is an award-winning poet and author who was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry in 2008 and was appointed California poet laureate in 2012. He lives in Redlands, California.

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By Lorna Dee Cervantes

Wings Press

Copyright © 2013 Wings Press, for Lorna Dee Cervantes
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60940-310-2


    First Thought

    best thought, you had taught
    me — a river runs through it,
    the foot of the soul standing
    stubbornly in the freeze, all
    the shards of ice crumpling up
    the banks, what survives
    in the ignorance. Play it away.
    Be ceremony. Be a lit candle
    to what blows you. Outside,
    the sun gives a favorite present,
    mountain nests in ironic meadows,
    otter takes off her shoes, the small
    hands of her feet reaching, reaching; still,
    far away people are dying. Crisp
    one dollar bills fold another life.
    You taught me to care in the moment,
    carve day into light, or something,
    moving in the west that doesn't destroy
    us. Look again, in the coming summer,
    the cruelest month alive still eats up
    the hours. Regret is an uneven hand,
    a rough palm at the cheek — tender
    and calloused. I drink another glass
    of water, turn on the tap
    for what grows, for you,
    for what lasts, for the last
    and the first found thought of you.

    The End of the World As We Know It

    happens on the dot of an "I", in each
    patter of a millipede's feet, in every beat
    of a hummingbird's heart. I see the field
    frozen to steel, feel the frost split
    the single blade, favor the awakening
    of a fern frond, feel for the hungry tongue
    awaiting the forever ripening. I go out
    into the woods, mark my way with a yellow
    ribbon, scatter the crumbs of love longing
    to get back home. Remembering to close
    the door behind me, I breathe in the smell
    of my name in the wind, succumb to something
    smaller than myself. Feel my way back
    to the grinding — my metal
    to the pedal, that awful rowing towards God.

    How to Get A Car Wash

    Take a five dollar bill, fold it,
    throw it away. Take a penny,
    scold it, make it pay and then
    spend it. Take a chance, hold it
    to your heart, blow on it, send it
    to a friend. Take a moment, extol
    it, breathe fire into its face.
    Face it. Then forget it.

    All the ways the highways go,
    drive them in a silver sedan.
    Ride past the grandmother with the palsied
    gait, the old man shuffler by the wooden crate,
    the child holding a blue balloon waiting
    by the grate. Forget them. Remember
    passion. Remember where you put your keys.
    Recall registers ringing on Christmas eve.
    Record voices and shrill sounds
    still ringing in the leaden ear.

    Then pay the master, play the slave,
    fill up on tanks of rage and rest.
    Gun the engines of your folly. Flee
    towards the second best, the third eye,
    the favored relative, the sullen child
    cheered by snow. Feel your way
    back to the second crossing. And, there
    by the fresh grave in the mirror,
    open the hoses, shine the chromey cheeks,
    polish the head — and care.

    White Walls Are Great For Poetry

    Chuy came late or not at all.
    He pissed off the principal and pulled
    the hair of the pretty chola by the cholla.
    He dissed his homework, fed the chinchilla
    barbeque Doritos until it died after excreting
    a brilliant orange mound of dust. He jabbed
    the janitor in the face with his pencil
    then furrowed the brow of the brow-beaten
    teacher. All the classics passed
    him by. All the books with spines
    he let fly. He broke the headlights
    of the head cheerleader's car then
    sling-shot the lights in the parking lot.
    He stole all the hotdogs from the cafeteria
    then ate all the strawberry popsicles
    too. And afterwards, he picked up
    a pen, and followed his fate, he
    scrambled up to the scribble
    letting long vowels and longing
    go chomping at the gate, his open
    hand, his heart in a great O
    of wonder. Oh, white walls are great
    for poetry.

    Friendly Fire

    He was the friendliest fire
    you'll ever meet, the burning brow,
    hawk-like — eagle-eyed and splendid,
    black wings opening when he looked at you;
    you, stunning in the view. He had a vein
    constricted at the temple, a single throb
    pulse of rage before he hit you.

    The most beautiful man you'll ever meet,
    full of I love yous and honey, the stick
    and sweet spoil of summer sweating off
    that brow. He'll need you. He'll time you,
    ride you 'til it hurts. Be a word
    he doesn't speak, a turn of phrase
    in French, something foreign to this land,
    the red dirt that birthed him — first son
    of a lost civilized tribe. He was the most
    too good to be true you'd ever seen
    and then you vanished

    under a lump on your head the size
    of an apricot, plum-colored, plush.
    Just you, first. First Nation
    penalty. He was the friendliest
    fire you had ever smoked. He was
    the quickest burn in an underground forest
    of men. He was the timber, a tender fire,
    and going down in flames.

    Our Ways, Our Whys

    Why does the season fly off
    the handle? Why do the trees
    resist the birds, the passive
    passing of autumn, the migratory
    monarchs? Why does the single
    stand of oak still long
    for the acorn? Why does the milk
    sour and lie?

    Our ways wind across the valley
    of our lost loves, the beaten paths
    pour into rivers of rain. The ways
    of children hurt us, often. The why
    of willful folly, the why of sinful
    golly still hovering over pursed lips.

    Why does the winter hold us
    to the fire and then let go?
    You hold a hand, forgetting to let go
    of the heart. You see a flower
    still holding to the petal and
    blow it off. Your fingers, a ring
    of fate — then, take it off.

    The Milk That Does Not Lie

    Between fever and fewer
    she lay there, faceless
    and defaced, she lay there
    expressing less, needing more
    than a handle to hold her,
    wanting more than a crank to
    start her, a locked chest,
    a box of hope or sorrow's key:
    the latch that would unhook her.

    He held his own, the vanished skyline
    over the ridge of memory. Her hair
    brushing the softness from his face
    as he looked at her, unseeing.
    Defacing as she lay there. Heaven,
    a fatal flaw, a missed exit,
    a feeling.


    'Twas an ornery wind
    blew in that summer sadness,
    that twisted the trees and the lumps
    in the hearts — all those hearts thumping
    that day, that train-blasted winded
    day the levee didn't hold. Hold on!
    was the rains' echo, and its past,
    the summary of scattered pages,
    jackets sog-strewn and bogged down
    in the comprehension of it. Incomprehensible.
    All etched into history: the upside
    down non-survivors strung up on the crossing.

    You look out there, that sad somewhere
    cresting, that homesake sinking
    it in. I'm beginning again, and truth
    is all they have to say, the trailer
    bound, high-mark lifted souls in shatters,
    these shackles of survival hanging on
    a phone call, FEMA, the men in charge
    while memories mold and families hunger
    and the old just can't take any more.
    Will you take this loaf of bread?

    Would you trade this big screen
    for a loaf of time? Would you shoot it
    in the air for them to come to you, give water
    to the baby who does not cry again?
    Just to say — I'm here. Come out and save me.

    Sweet Sugar On Brown Dresses

    Memphis Minnie stole the show
    twangin' and wailing on her electric guitar,
    making the trains sing through the blood of the dancers,
    their sewing machines stitching brown uniforms into souls
    through their steps, the dance taking the hand of sorrow
    for a spin. She would plan the great escape, Sojourner
    searchin' for her truth — all gussied up and settling
    for a six-string happiness. Next train to Clarksville.
    It's a long walk home.
I been there: taxi ride crosstown
    with the Pakistani driver who was born there. "Sure,"
    he said, "Chicago paper just ran a big spread." Her stance,
    her grinning gold, the accents of her indigenous brows
    even near death, a face and the paralyzed hands folded
    on the porch in Memphis. Another photograph. Another
    of home, far from the stockyards, the killing pens, the
    Laws. It was not that "my man done left me," that pleading
    through the night, it was that "I hate to see that evening sun
    go down" when The Law had the right to arrest you,
    an "unaccompanied Negress," rape you, beat you, sterilize you,
    and abort your child when the sun go down....

    Night Travelers

    In the icy dawn, black fascism rides,
    the black boot to the dream, the handcuff
    to the groin, the indigenous gate
    locked shut to the immigrant fate.
    Every eyeway sees: the mirrored shades,
    the ominous way power's slender wire remains.
    This is my country, a country between us, a hard
    wired pride in history, in the way we were, and will
    be — ever free, the ability to stop this: the burning
    van, the raping man, an icy waiting child in Greeley.

    Blind Desert Snakes

    Across the immigrant road, wisps of ice
    knot and unknot sinews of light and water,
    water the parched mouths crave. The voiceless
    snakes of a voiceless race wage across the desert
    landscapes. An empty field waits for the wake.
    Blind desert snakes, the sinuous ghosts of the ones
    gone down unreel: the young man left behind, the wan
    girl taken and raped. The scratched out eyes of freedom
    shrivel at the weight. Dignity's dried arroyos
    wait for the spring of our change. Give it. ¡Justicia!

    Wet Feet

    You married a wetback,
    my mother would say. Remembering that
    startles the migrant starlings into battle
    against the annihilation of autumns past.

    In a hurricane season they come, hands
    that know how to pick up sticks, legs
    that remember the walk. Perhaps empathy
    has played out her part. Maybe the vast breadbasket
    of summer revved the tornado over Wichita's heart.

    What we remember remembers us, these threats
    of delay and departure, that stalling at the altar, that settling
    at the table of despair. Where is the medicine
    for the condition of injustice? What line
    do I sign the treaty that gets you off —

    the boot at the neck, the hand on the pistol,
    the wretched signature of discovery
    and compiling interest? I take this
    as I am: a country of error,
    a willing sacrifice, repair.

    Kitchen Grief

    See the buzzards over Boulder
    today. Dead hot. Earthquake weather
    if it'd been on the coast. Circling
    calculation. What station the next
    body lay? The birds bunch above the quad
    over the head of an upturned Dalton.
    Trumbo's all handed, all heart mission.
    The bay of sky opening to the merchant ships,
    the clouds, the few skiffs of passion
    still lingering around the campus. Jesse,
    dead but not yet buried, laid out today,
    his boyish laugh laid to rest — un sueño
    in a glass of remembrance. The promise
    of spring heavy as the odor of a hung-over
    senior. All the misconceptions loaded
    in a carafe of courage. These bold plans
    now a kitchen of grief, the feasting
    yet to come. And a single contract
    is signed with a pledge of loyalty
    and a drink to that. As the buzzards
    of Boulder move up for a closer inspection
    in this season of suicide and falling grades,
    a full-blown something laid to nest
    beside the roadside — a ring of caps,
    a circle of camps.

    Moonlight In Vermont

    lit up the fire of rebellion,
    you, in your woody wagon
    that hadn't been washed since 1972.
    "This car runs on alcohol, drugs and
    guns" a fingerprint in the grime declared at the border.

    Someone's published fate hung in the error
    and the going on — despite. In spite of the crime
    you hunkered down downtown, hungry and angry
    at the "Reich Likes Ike" button on the wall of your past,
    the latenight telephone calls to the dead dad
    who routinely tied you down to a red desk until you
    got the grammar right, the argument
    that came to blows between a son and his
    father — there in that paper stack room,
    that chamber of the heart's interrogation — the placement
    of the period, in or out of the brackets
    of a saying, telling, that multiple embrace of the notice.

    I notice this particular season, same light
    of a particular night in Vermont, passing through
    with you and your "illegal alien" bride
    going home to a place you'd never been,
    never seen, among the placid cows I dread;
    still inside a pen and the razor of the keys
    and truth on that old Olympia, the constant pecking
    order, the link and chain. The drive.

    Testimony, Trial

    So many damaged souls,
    the many souls of the Maya
    now reduced to one mumbling
    into eternity past. The simple
    street scene, the reek. No one
    to wash. No one to watch.
    The many, stupefied into spectacle
    on a San Francisco street — far from love.
    Alone, together, they gather on the corner,
    line the center: wild ivy on a sideways tower.
    Escaped from themselves, they lie
    against the hardened offices, guttered
    and guttural against the elements
    of an elemental losing. Touch them.
    Give them a cent. Re-center them
    with sleep. The stark reruns unwind
    indefinitely. Stalling. Stalling
    at the testimonial chalice — a witness,
    a leathered bound book, a trial:
    this person. Here.


Excerpted from Sueño by Lorna Dee Cervantes. Copyright © 2013 Wings Press, for Lorna Dee Cervantes. Excerpted by permission of Wings Press.
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.

Table of Contents


Thirty-Something of the Cruelest,
First Thought,
The End of The World As We Know It,
How to Get A Car Wash,
White Walls Are Great For Poetry,
Friendly Fire,
Our Ways, Our Whys,
The Milk That Does Not Lie,
Sweet Sugar On Brown Dresses,
Night Travelers,
Blind Desert Snakes,
Wet Feet,
Kitchen Grief,
Moonlight In Vermont,
Testimony, Trial,
Candy Bar,
The Best Seven Minutes of My Life,
The Oranges At The End of The Meal,
How Good Sleep Sounds,
Tension In The Body,
Heart-Shaped Scars,
In And Out,
Honoring Past, Present, Future,
Stenciled Memories,
Her Shallow Grave,
A Bit of Grace,
Burn Ward,
People Talking In Their Sleep,
Stress And Distress,
Up Here With The Ground Below,
Guitar Strings,
After Words,
Home To You,
Crystal Clear Or Gibberish,
Shelling The Pecans,
For ...,
Blood Moon, 7:45,
The Ephemera of The Durable,
California Gold Rush,
After Heraclitus,
Post-Impression: 1,
Wild Ginger,
Nothing Lasts,
Pfeiffer Beach,
Fear of Death,
A Chicano Poem,
False Eyelashes,
Sunshine Knife Blades,
First Impression: Gossip,
My Daddy's Car,
Quadruple Peach,
A Hard Drive,
The 4-Barrel Carburetor On a '72 Chevy Camaro,
Hips Hitting The Floor,
Child Prostitution,
Social Responsibility,
The End of Her Life,
Hologram Roses,
Fire Blackens the Broken Rib,
The City,
I Always Wanted To Be Neruda,
The Latin Girl Speaks of Rivers,
About the Author,

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