POETRY: MARLENA CHERTOCK – CEMETARIO GENERAL

Cemetario General

Cemetario General is one of the largest cemeteries in Santiago, Chile. Patio 29 is a plot used to bury the disappeared, the homeless, the unidentified, and victims of the Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship.

 

What’s left of them is arranged in boxes,
fifty or so line a wall.
He turns off the leaf blower,
passes a woman kneeling, her head lowered.

Even in death there are mansions.
Glass criptas encasing tías.
He coaxes leaves away
from the marble structures.

In a narrower section
ice cream and chip vendors push their carts.
Crowded together are plots of dirt, maybe some hierba,
a Nescafé bottle filled with wilted hydrangea.

He asks families to give more.
Sometimes there’s no response. So he digs up the land
and transfers what endured to a mass plot, Patio 29.
He’s so close to the body then, touching its bones.

At home he holds his esposa’s hips
as she cooks dinner, the smell of her sweat and the humitas
mixing in the kitchen air,
holds her as she undresses and they lie down together.

Find her at marlenachertock.com or @mchertock.

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poetry: Joseph Somoza – Hasta La Vista

Hasta La Vista

Here I find myself again,
in the company of
trees and sunshine,
a quiet workday morning.
It’s like emerging from a tunnel
where my mind was cloyed
with mundane matters such as
providing food, doing dishes,
and having to
respond to others—

who are my family,
who have gone back now
to being themselves
in the far distance where I can
make out the details better,
hear their words more clearly
in the sparse air between
here and there, as if minds can’t
co-exist in close proximity
and must always be
sent on their way.

Order Joseph Somoza’s new volume of poems As Far as I know (Cinco Puntos Press, 2015).

 

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NONFICTION: BEATLICK JOE SPEER – TREK 55

This story originally appeared in Backpack Trekker: A 60’s Flashback (Beatlick Press, 2011).

TREK 55

In 1969 four-hundred students at Harvard University seize buildings as part of a campus-wide strike.

I enjoy long flights while looking out the window at rivers and empty ball parks. When the clouds blocked the view at 30,000 feet I read “Uncle Tom’s Children” by Richard Wright. It is right to say he left a rich mark on literature. He introduced a new element into American fiction. He created a tension from the possibility of random violence. H.L. Mencken taught him how to use words as weapons.

In the story “Big Boy Leaves Home” three Negro men go skinny dipping in a lake. There are no signs of trouble until a white man appears with a rifle. He kills two of the men but Big Boy manages to kill the white man. Later, while trying to secure a hiding place, he beats a snake to death with a stick. From a hide-out he watches a friend get burned with hot tar and gas. He strangles a barking dog that sniffs him out and threatens to dis-close his presence. Big Boy is pursued by the vigilante commit-tee but he escapes to the north.

Richard Wright escaped to Paris in 1946. In 1953 with the publication of his novel “The Outsider”, he culminated the work of the Harlem Renaissance and joined forces with French existentialism. Wright died in Paris in 1960 and his ashes are interred at Père Lachaise. He shares the cemetery with other exiles such as Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.

The stewardess asked if I wanted a drink. Her skin was the color of a cooked pinto bean so I assumed she was a Latina. I replied in Spanish that I wanted a beer. She popped the cap on a Corona and we bantered back and forth in Spanish. She complimented me on my accent and asked where I learned to speak Español. I explained that I read Antonio Machado. My father served in Spain during their civil war. He accompanied Machado into southern France and was at his bedside when the poet died in exile in 1939.

She asked if I was familiar with Federico García Lorca. I told her my mother was a student at Columbia University in 1929. My mom provided the lonely poet with a conversation partner. He gave her a hand-written poem called “La Aurora” which he signed “Federico.” She kept it until 1936 when she showed it to a neighbor who inadvertently spilled a blotch of ketchup on it. Lorca’s name was smeared blood red.

We landed and like Dean Moriarity, I crossed the street into Mexico “on soft feet.”

 

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