Thursday, July 1, 2010

excerpts from the latest submission

from “hip: a sickle moon injunction

that’s all night time watching is
something you just picked up
at 25th St. just past Juri Commons
what between the giggling
and flat out singing
heard them carrying our songs away
not smiling
but still singing
loud and bellicose

so we can close the window now
the smoke is all up in here

we saw you
blowing smoke rings
shaped like sickle moons
the size of new mission entitlement

a lease note like an old man all verbose
and heavy
and never quiet
when he’s asked to be
and if already talking he'll shut up now
(like he never even said nothing)

no the silence never really came
(and still ain’t coming)
just like it found a spot to post up
on a swing set
where our kids should swing

don’t think we didn’t see that too
we saw you coming

24th and mission
(excerpt from “cuando ganamos”)
drip from traffic lights
grown weary
in the haze of grey saturdays
and pulsing cars
line up
to start the plucking
at the intersection

those on foot survey
so many rows of luggage racks
lining sidewalks
for a population bent
on traveling home

always departing
as they arrive
in ten dollar duffel bags
with pockets lined
with telegiros
and lotto tickets
at the chances
for return

a una isla encantada
a una montaña en centroamerica
a un rancho lindo y lejos
de este pueblo congelado

on mission street at noon
(from “mission redux”)

between the traffic cones
and overdue construction
beyond the solace of a bus bench
girl goes pushing
pushing into sweaty days
jalando tres generaciones
wearing faded chivas jersey
the markers
more the milestones
have moved so far from making sense
because she cannot speak the language
she just
looks with rage

imbedded within the inability to look
to sing the song and psalms of looking
at ourselves
in equal measure
we see buddha
and ritchie valens

call them scars
as we been tongue lashed
through the ages
the first word become an epilogue
forbidden from the dialogue
we marinate on tax breaks
watching weary arms
tow children toward september
when school begins
and language becomes pretense
disaggregate delusion
a satchel we keep tugging
through television windows
like linguistic thieves at night
ready to pocket the silver
and render english
unto Caesar

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TSP and the U2 Moment

In 1996, my taquero status was pretty low on the totem pole. The organization of readings was left to the better connected folks in the crew, and their networks sustained 40 readings the first year, so who was I to complain? As a newbie with some ambition though I had a specific intent to bring TSP to untapped audiences that the OG organizers hadn't reached out to previously.

That said, it was a potential reading at SDSU that triggered the whole joint. I having done my time as a San Diego State Mechista and a member of the Associated Students governing council for the College of Arts and Letters certainly felt like this was my terrain. So I turned to the loosely organized social service "brotherhood" of La Sociedad de Joaquín (named for Joaquín Murrieta) for some support. They held campus honors for hand-to-hand flyer distribution titles on a level that had gotten a grip of student leaders (myself included) elected. The reading put their skills to the test.

As chief graphic designer for the TSP (which was never given to me as a title. I just had the best Mac, Macromedia Freehand software, and the bent to make graphic products as my contribution to the group) I hooked up the group's first 11"x17" poster and entrusted the propaganda to the LSJ who, as expected, had the pieces up in every classroom, hallway, campus cafe and restroom all over Montezuma Mesa. On my part I had put the call out to every Chicana/Chicano Studies, English and Comparative Lit. professor in a personal email inviting them to an imaginary reception with the artists at the campus meeting center Scripps Cottage. Who knew how many would show? The strategy was "over-invite better than under-attend".

On the day of, the LSJ did their part to hook up the 200 seat Experimental Theater, the campus black box. The TSP crew quietly lost our collective minds as we contemplated performing inside an actual performance space as opposed to a taco shop, and we struggled to maintain composure during our usual sound checking. Around this time one of the LSJ dudes ( I think it was either Memo Mayer or Miguel Contreras) came in to say under his breath to me, "Hey...Tomás, uh...when can we open the doors?"

I told him it was at least 30 minutes until doors (this according to the flyer I had personally designed), and he said something along the lines of, "Then we got a problem bro... Can somebody talk to these people outside?"

I wasn't prepared to speak, but went outside nonetheless. Mind you I had been a Taquero for about a year, and 25 people was a crowd to me. I slid out the theater door, made my way around the building toward the entrance, and was absolutely floored by what I saw. A crowd some 15' wide by 300' long had formed at the entrance. More students were walking up as I made mental count until there were more college kids than concrete, as far as I could see.

I scaled a railing to stand upon a 4' divider wall along the entry path. With help I shimmied a light post just to get a few feet higher (there were now HUNDREDS of people in line). Hanging some 12 feet off the ground I shouted that the doors would open in about 15 minutes. The show's capacity had obviously been exceeded. Actually, as I recall, I said, "YO! WE WILL OPEN THESE DOORS IN ABOUT 15 MINUTES! YOU KNOW IT"S A 200 SEAT SPACE! SOME OF YOU WON"T GET IN, AND WE'RE VERY SORRY ABOUT THAT! WE'LL SEE YOU IN 15 MINUTES!"

Immediately kids started asking me to stamp their syllabi, essays, notebooks, etc. as some professor had offered them the performance as extra credit. But for a second prior, climbing the light post I saw the U2 video...more people than we expected, more than we'd ever imagined. It was phenomenally validating as we encountered, for the first time, a sold-out audience for a TSP event.

Relatively speaking, (I think I actually made the joke that night) this was our U2 moment, and it was beautiful to see. Imagine the masses lining up for poetry...on that night...that's what we saw.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

sb1070 poem - (draft)

i. town

we watched from below
and kept it borderline
that’s all watchers do
and talked and talked
a neon hole in the side
of bigger promise night

went and put them damned
stars out again

motherfuckers losing count
and angry

that’s all night time watching is
a phone call voice activated
what between the giggling
and the flat out singing
heard ‘em carrying our tunes away
not smiling

so we can close the window now
the smoke is all up in here

we saw ‘em
blowing smoke rings
shaped like sickle moons
the size of new mission entitlement
a lease note all verbose
and heavy
and never quiet
when he’s asked to be
and if already talking he'll shut up now
like he never even said shit

no the silence never really came
and still ain’t coming
just like it fuond a spot to post up
on a swing set
where our kids should swing

don’t think we didn’t see that too
we saw y’all comin…

even the niños
clocked them at the door
somehow their youth still flowing
with the contractors at 14th st
cutting everything off

and all the growth that
got stunted

water and trash
that’s all these places come with
and there’s really no protection clause
not even the architect
next door
all in a row

their children dancing through
st. vitus toe point
with no child a missing headline
a scourge on a colossal scale
like titan judgements
huge and gold-domed in the distance

these were not our folks
so well spoken
yet poorly dressed
and we could count on
their offenses
sure and clear as the coins
in their hipster pockets
with the pants so tight

we knew exactly how much was there
and there was reason for our outrage
as we lost our language
like a preious stone
got sold off
but still spoken better than we could

sing it rightly

and rightly

we lost the gift
of witness

though we still see things
we’re just not tripping

ii. city

we’re tired really
tired of what will hang above the street
all fecund and reflect the daily insolence

no motives,
tweeker’s vacuuming again
sirens and a car alarm
brute’s thud on a hardwood ceiling
lay waste for no quiet nights
for what a soul in hand
may whisper
whatever music from our vicious mirrors
panic kneed into the groin of
tired movements
souls splintered in each silence bloomed
to march upon a desert
and a world

i suppose
and duck
and sway
and punch
and move
the way they do

so much reflected in the whispers
and the looming cacti silence
like those students
getting handcuffed
tall and ancient
like they straight been here before
as though they
went and remembered us ourselves
dragged into the brush

we scream
the way a screamer would
when dragged the color off of his flesh
his lips still parting
against the whipping of hot air

deplorable non-cause
a motive so perverse
podium acceptance speeches

amplified the stars erupt
whole continents abide


how the sea erupts
how simple he got next
how can it be it was all so simple then

now we have grown
to hold loss in our hands
to map the reading at the sextant
eyes have grown
in silence

dodging the customary back slaps
and high fives
of the builder set
for maladies that spring
again from pathogens
found in the crevices
the news erects

disease in there
a maddened cow regurgitating: “hope”
my god and: “change”

for all the sullen homies
still laid out
to rest under the tables
of oakland’s 4am curfew
or the crew that waits outside
under the sheen of civic divestment
laid out cold
under the stench
of their oughtta been’s

and how the people wonder
watch and marvel
at the peacock stink
the diastrophy of guns at church
and sing the noncombatant songs
of garden and brick
of life in lieu
and “hope”

“my god,” they say, after they nod.
“we wanted

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Monday, March 29, 2010

One of my all-time favorite moments in Taco Shop history. We're at Mama's Tamales across the street from MacArthur Park in LA circa 2003. I'm doing my poem which I haven't really ever rehearsed with the band since my move to San Francisco a year prior, so this is essentially "wingin' it" already. Then just as I'm winding it up a lady jumps on one of the open mics and starts going off! To this day I have no idea what she was saying, but as she walked away she said "I love you!". I'm hoping that means she was blessing us somehow...the encounter was a blessing regardless. That's what TSP was all about...nothing more and nothing less.

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Friday, January 1, 2010