for Tomás Mendoza-Harrell & Lauro Flores
I cut / / / / /
I multiply everyday images. I apply an aluminum point.
To the landscape.
To the sentence.
To the photo.
To the figure.
To the word.
And suddenly, with a slight tremor of eyes, vertebrae and fingers, I
destroy everything that exists.
Through the years, I’ve rebuilt the cells, uncovered the signs of the cold,
immaculate, academic vestibules and of the dead lips and histories in the
My surgery is criminal.
No one has been able to identify the skeletons, the remains, the thousand
scattered nerves of personages I’ve gathered in order to bring this figure
back to life. The scars are numberless and invisible.
Who would suspect a grafik artist?
Who would suspect this gray table as a chamber of murders?
—The pencil sleeping with its yellow blanket and rubber crown.
—A magazine of memories, smiling women, men’s suits and watches like
drops, like science.
—Tubes of smothered ink sounding like small seas pounding a universe of
—A photo of a Chamula woman looking through these windows toward
—Watercolors: French Ultramarine, Emerald Green and Windsor Violet.
—Matches thin friends identical soldiers with their red helmets thinking.
—Dictionaries in Portuguese, Spanish and German, white pages beasts
nobody hears moaning.
—The priest lantern praying with its head pointing toward the floor in
front of a fierce wall.
—Solemn archives organized by syllables, breaths, laughs and love with X.
—A book about an artist: The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera, printed in New
York where they listen to the wind falling from the tallest building.
And the X-acto knives. Triangular. The beautiful blades / / / / /
Every night cars cruise the streets of 24th and Mission. A woman from San
José drives a blue Chevy with smoked windows. Estela. She has reddish
hair. Tight brows and dark eyes desiring everything but this street that
ends in eight blocks: Potrero Avenue. She’ll have to turn. But she won’t.
She won’t go back to the home of twenty years and her father who pretends
to play Santa by Agustín Lara on his old guitar and the mother organizing a
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ meeting. Estela will leave the car parked between
Harrison Street and Alabama in San Francisco. She’ll walk aimlessly in the
warmth of the produce stores, into St. Peter’s church, by the Galería de la
Raza, China Books, the bakery at La Victoria. She’ll walk in the night with
her eyes burning, seeing him laughing, the young man in his black box
apartment, laughing, laughing, laughing like a little man.
The little man laughs. It’s an apartment of marriage and fists. The
wife-beater laughs in his easy chair. Next to his bed he sees the anxious
note. He focuses on the signature with the E broken in three places.
He looks at the stained and unmade sheets, the dull curtains, the crushed
cigarettes and the ashes. The black-and-white television announces a sale
of living room furniture. With his can of beer he observes. Smokes. Thinks.
Within a week or two they’ll take his cousin to San Quentin prison, again.
The last time he saw him he was a gardener at a college.
He imagines Estela coming home. He imagines and drinks calmly. Makes the
bed. Turns off the television and turns on the fm. He amuses himself in
that space or cube floating above the city.
Estela walks north on the Avenue.
P / O / T / R / E / R / O
Grafiks require precise knives.
On that day
When you came to bathe me
I sweated that stink
That only the anesthetized
You sponged my skin
Cleaned my hair and
Seeming to ignore
My stunned and shriveled genitals
You nonetheless bathed them . . .
Randi finds himself in a hospital in Los Angeles or maybe further south, in
San Diego. I think his parents are from Arizona. He’s very ill. He’s in a room
with a red sign hanging from the doorknob.
I / S / O / L / A / T / I / O / N
His liver is bloated, skin yellowed, hair long and greasy. Weakness
consumes him night after night. He can’t speak, tires easily. But he can
hear. He hears the white heels of the doctors and nurses running to the
rooms of the dying. He hears footsteps fluttering like doves over the floor
or like the leaves of fever falling from the roof of hell.
It’s eleven o’clock at night. He hears the abandoned man in room 200 fall
out of bed attempting to drink a glass of water. He hears the IV tubes
bursting, the sweet plasma spinning between the walls, the bag slipping to
the floor and splattering through the night’s open screens.
The man screams. Vomits blood and ulcers. Gets tangled up in sheets and
transparent plastic veins. After half an hour doves fly in. The leaves fall.
After a few days a black man enters room 199. An orderly. He cleans his
body with a warm sponge. His hands run slowly down the yellowed back,
the belly and fragile shoulders of Randi. Dark birds fly over a forgotten
landscape. Randi looks at his mother rubbing his chest with alcohol to
quiet the cough before he sleeps. He turns his face. Imagines his one-room
house, a trailer his father made out of an old car. They’re on a little ranch
at the outskirts of an unknown town. The mountains reflect the afternoon’s
coppery heat. From afar you can see birds crossing above the saguaros and
The last time I saw Randi was at San Francisco City College. He had just
turned in all his papers so he could drop out at midterm. He didn’t want to
go on with it. It was a farce.
Like when he was invited to read poetry near the Galería de La Raza in the
Mission District. He never showed up. Took 18th instead of 24th Street.
Some Latinos beat him up. They noticed a homosexual air about him.
Lies do not exist, only the grafik.
This figure has no scars / / / / /
When I had you they didn’t give
me anything. I grabbed onto the
washbasin until I thought I’d die
they did that then. They strapped . . .
—alma luz villanueva
Eva (circa 1946), the doctor says they have to operate. Your pelvis is too
narrow. The child can’t be born. It will come out in pieces. Eva. They’ll have
He says he’ll give you morphine for the stitches afterwards. Even if you
scream, Eva, it’ll be alright. Even if the nurses ignore you, laugh at you as
they see your bluish mouth open, your sleepwalker’s eyes, your hands
scratching against the metal bed or the air or memories. For one long
second they’ll study your womb in bandages stains clouds raindrops suns
and rouge shadows and rage over the coffin hidden by 10 centimeters of
vertical stitching. Eva. You’ll hemorrhage 29 days later while washing
clothes over a tin basin.
Eva. The doctor is smiling. Have faith in him. He says everything is fine.
I’ve signed the papers. Everything is arranged, girl.
—The pencil wakes
—The sheet tightens, the rubber vibrates
—The magazine fades
—The watch is speechless
Someone has erased all the E’s from all the pages; small empty rectangles
remain. The ink runs searching for asylum.
—Emerald green is the color of jagged grass
diluted in great bottles of tears, spit and
alcohol. It’s rain for a hell of cells. They burn
and burn and burn.
S / I / E / B / R / E / N / N / E / N
Diego, you touch up a colossal worker with too-sad eyes, wearing a faded
blue cotton shirt. His eyes are swollen. The worker wants to see, but his
eyes don’t count anymore, just his hands.
They untangle above new machines toward the future. Touching the
atmosphere. The fingers touch the 17th of February, 1981.
The National Guard enters the province of Las Cabañas in El Salvador. They
trap the area, cutting off all the roads out for the campesinos. Bombs fall.
The mountains explode rocks, roots and water. An iron shell splinter rips
into the throats of grandfathers and little girls. The initials U S A sweat.
They sweat through the paint of the Guardia helicopters swooping down
over the huts and fields of corn.
Seven thousand begin to run toward the Río Lempa. 15km and then the wide
river. 15km and then maybe refuge in the jungles of Honduras. Only
6kms a pregnant young woman disappears
5kms the Guardia captured her along with the others
4kms they rip off her clothes
4kms soldiers in masculine green stained uniforms circle her
4kms they tie her arms and legs
3kms the bayonet penetrates
2kms it etches an x of red tears over the furious womb
6kms the proud soldier throws down his weapon
12kms sinks his right hand
9kms rips out the fetus with the fingernails of his hot fingers
13kms lifts it up like a torch
1km opening his mouth the soldier screams
15kms One less communist in El Salvador!
They reach the river. They jump in the water. Suddenly, from the Honduran
side other helicopters and machine guns appear. The wind surrenders. The
The giant worker’s machinery shrieks on the tiny corner of the page: Plate
number 113. It’s your self-portrait that you painted on the wall of the
San Francisco Art Institute.
Few blades have been needed / / / / /
This time. I used a few blades to fill the canvas with its dramatis
personae, landscapes and scenes that have been held back and kept secret;
a figure dealt out in different boxes toward different destinies. No one
has been able to figure out what happened on this table. But it’s time to
turn off the black lamp.
If the ask me, I’ll do the only thing I can. I’ll show them everything
I have; the only thing that counts:
potrero///// ////// ///// ///// ////// /// //// /// //potrero
uuuuuuuuuuuuuuXuuuuuuu uuuuuuuuuuuu uuuu uuuu uuuuuuuu
gre – ngre – ngre – ngre – ngre – ngre – ngre – ngre – ngre – ng
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