On The Writer Who Never Writes; Or, When Good Things Come In the Mail (Why I Blog)

Sorry, I’m late on the first post, (the second, for tomorrow, is about 10 pages long and ready: “Towards the Mater of Chicano Poetry—Towards What Matters” and I thought I’d have time this morning to finish the first blog entry: “The Writer Who Never Writes; Or, When Good Things Come In the Mail” before the deadline, but I fell asleep. So, accept this poem to save the place—if that’s alright.) It’s the work in progress that was going to close the first entry. Since I’m not home (http://lornadice.blogspot.com but here, out and about in public, so to speak, I figured that most readers wouldn’t know my work from Jewel. So as a sort of welcoming gift, I offer this poem in progress (love that phrase). My entry ends with a suggestion that po’bloggers form snail mail rings as was started by Vercila (see, that’s why I’m late, there’s lots of links on this first post, tedious for some of us who are still typing them out)—and send a nice letter to a complete stranger, something to lift the spirits, which we can all use, no? Include a poem or postcard art, or something else you made, like my treasure: Nick Carbo sent me a hand-painted silkscreened t-shirt with the poem/letter written out in colored glitter glue—one of a kind—it’s on a prominent place in my living room, above the tv. Thanks, Nick!). It’s like writing a poem. Just a poem. You might get something back—something greater than the sum of its parts. Or, don’t send one to a stranger, send one to a friend you haven’t met yet, which is what most folk are out in Blogville (as I like to call it). For po’bloggers, it’s the equivalent of a round-the-clock open studio for poets, where they’re always serving. You never know what people will be talking about there, who will be reading a poem, who will be selling a book, who will drop in for a visit, who’s getting close to fisticuffs, who’s crying in the kitchen, who will need to be expelled for inappropriate behavior, what book or new magazine will be on the coffee table, who’s in the kitchen where the heart of the party always seems to congregate, where the talk is always hot and spicy and the cárcajadas, the peals of laughter provide drum roll. (My links are almost six months old now, I hope to update them by the end of the week—in case you don’t find yourself there. They’re coming. I read about 50 blogs a day, mostly po’blogs. If you’re serious, tell me about yours.) The important thing to remember about blogs is that you are in someone’s home—all the rules of etiquette, and more, apply. In my house, I take off my spelling shoes. I take off the cap of punctuation. Everyone’s welcome. ‘Welcome Home!’ Everything’s served buffet style—you never know what you’ll find on the plates. Sometimes it’s fermented duck embryos—yum! (I once told the story about being The World’s Worst Waitress for once serving a customer fermented pig’s blood in the place of wine. What do I know? I don’t drink. Usually.) Laughter is assumed. So is irony. But, as Milan Kundera defines it, it’s the laughter of the angels—when, as in Shakespeare’s best, you find yourself the brunt of the joke, but it’s okay, it’s what pushes you off the path of the Mack truck, the tragicomic reversal: the wise man is uncovered to be the fool/ the fool is discovered to be the wise. Don’t expect regular grammar all the time. Count on grammatology. Ease into macaronic phrases and passages. (Don’t worry if you don’t understand something on my home blog. I trip out. For example, just now, I longed to type: “Ease into macaronic lanes and shift into hypertext, exit off the heterotextual dilemma and drones and visit the house of the dead, where the living and living poems meet, where there’s always a place set for your loved ones who have passed us on the freeway.” See? Like that. But here, I’ll try to be on my holiday best.) I never revise anything except a name or when my mother scolds me to correct my grammar: “People are going to judge you by how you speak!” And, so I do.

I write my blog for the dead. I never revise because the dead don’t need—they are revised, damned to a constant state of revision in the telling of them. My blog entries are like long letters to the dead: my personal dead—my mother who always called me “The Writer Who Never Writes” for never sending her another letter, for my father, Luis Cervantes, a visual artist and visionary who always told me, “Now’s the time,” and for my grandmother whom I taught to read and write in daily lessons from my first day in kindergarten to my senior year when we’d sit around the table and debate the virtues of the Transcendentalists (her) over the Romantics (me)—she always believed Emerson would make a good Indian (“On Nature”); me, I was madly in love with Lord Byron while at the same time, I was Lord Byron, and partial to Thoreau who didn’t write poetry: He saw it. A native Californian woman, my grandmother was sold as a child as a slave off the Montecito land her mother owned until her death—a common fate in fin de siecle Santa Barbara. All that remains are the words spoken to me as a baby, her little “dondee dondee.” I write for the dead friends, on behalf of the dead poets you will never know like Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado and my old buddy, poet-artist, José Antonio Burciaga, and for too many others. I write for the dead of the world and for the public dead, maybe for your own son. It’s not a maudlin practice. Poetry, on this continent, goes back to before Chaucer, back before the Song of Roland and the tattered tapestries of class, to before the invention of the word genetics which was first used to apply to the practice of wiping out Indians and the progeny of slaves in this country and beyond; poetry goes back and extends through the tradition of “Flor y Canto”—Flower and Song: Those sole things we, humans, leave behind us when we die: our cultivated flowers and our poems and our talkstory in all its glories, all its many patterns of practice. Let’s celebrate the flame, the beautiful light that each of us is, those matrices of belief we weave with our love and doing, that rainbow of connections and deeds we leave behind in the wake of our loving and laughter. “We are the poem waiting to be sung.”

“Now’s the time. Time is Art,” my father tells me.

And so, I write. And so, I do. For what are we, after all, but the culmination point of all who have loved us in the generations past? We might as well make it a good one.

Lorna Dee

Shelling the Pecans

I knew what a woman’s hand could do:
shred the husk into threads, weave lips
together at the seam. Rock to hard body,
empire to thrust into knave—the native
touch tocando música up the spine
of the violin, some song of silk and gut.
I knew race was a matter of degree,
that inch in the face, that notice
of dismissal. How to work all day
at a posture, at a stance, at attention
paying attention to none but the awl.

I put my hole into you, this notch
between the breasts, this discovery
and treason. Hembra a macho. Fixed.
O defined in the still shell of history,
a destiny written in the charts and lost. Lost
in the unnoticed memories of you, a flicker
of change, some small scrimp
of light. Tu luz. Ahí allá—a la ala
and the scoop. Your aguila eyes sweeping
up the dawn’s desire. This night. I remember

shelling the pecans. Nothing but a bucket.
No ride exceptional. Nothing but a dream
to entertain us. I dreamed this moment—
all the sweet meats in a risen weight going
higher to the rim. The price and the pricing.
I could eat what I missed or messed. Outside,
the birds bending to it on a summer day.
The great age of my grandmother’s banded
hand weighing me down. The paper
of tutelage blasting me away

at that age. Now, I still remember
how to shuck, how to fetch it, how to
step it. Stepping up to you, I ask.
The point enters the ventricle without
shattering the meat. How a woman
on a good day can rip out the heart

Lorna Dee Cervantes

Originally Published: August 28th, 2006

One of the major voices in Chicana literature, poet Lorna Dee Cervantes’s writing evokes and explores cultural difference—between Mexican, Anglo, Native American, and African American lives—as well as the divides of gender and economics. Born in San Francisco in 1954 to Mexican and Native American ancestry, Cervantes was discouraged from...