Yesterday, I had the pleasure of featuring Tongo Eisen-Martin in my English 97 class and to the larger Harold Washington community. When you are in the presence of a master, and I am blessed to know a few, you can't help but grow along with others as you listen to their work and words of advice. My students and I learned a lot about writing--and humility. We learned that honing your pen is more important than any accolades or awards. (I dare add, more important than publishing.)
I learned that meditation and self-reflection are key to fine tuning and improving your voice. But really, that deep thinking and internal work can be applied to anything we do in life. Who we are as activists. Who we are as mothers. Who we are as community members.
Listen to Tongo as he describes not only his writing process but his philosophy as a community educator and future goals. We need more cultural workers like these that are trying to make the world better.
Stay tuned, podcast lovers, because I will be streaming the show in my new channel "Fighting Forward for Our Future."
Sally and Sal sit in the back seat of
A Cherry red Camaro
“I promise this won’t hurt”
He breathes in undulating rhythms
Searching her face, poking every slippery place
Like an erratic bee, unable to find the flowery center
Sally’s too busy texting
Blows a thick gum bubble
The screen outlines her smirking face and red “Passion” lips
Swipe He’s a hunk
Swipe Cute cat
Heart that pic of grandma farting
Tweet: “His breath smells like onions and dirty panties”
Sal fumbles with his penis, a penis he calls Rocky
A penis he has bragged has pleasured hundreds of women!
Rocky isn’t really so hard right now
Quickly, he closes his eyes, flipping through images
Images of street races
Epic gaming battles
Doritos with hot sauce
Rocky is up for a challenge again
Sally, chin down
Swipes for an environmental cause
She taps on a tampon ad
TikToks: “The moon is full,” pointing with an erect finger and slurs a booze jingle
Dina Jones posts on YouTube: “Sex for a Penny”
Sally chuckles, takes a selfie
She sways to Dina’s tune, captures every letter every digital reaction
Sal breathes in exasperation, accidentally inserting into her anemic ass
Rocky is hard and the entry is harder
Sally knees up
Unbalances Sal, as she smacks Sal with her jewel encased phone
She’s too busy posting to curse
Pulls her Victoria Secret panties with one swipe
Rocky is soft as a dirty sock
Sal rubs his head, quietly sucking un-macho tears
She grins, holding the phone, and posts a floppy image
In the moonlight the evidence is clear
Rocky isn’t a champ, not even a contender
by Monday, it will go viral, and Sally will be flittering her fingers loving each Like and caressing the phone like an endless promise all the comments will get physical attention fluttering her fingers with a soft moan
fluttering as Sal should have
with her clit--
—had he bothered to learn how
What’s up? In recent months, I’ve been fighting against Covid Racist Apartheid. This activism has kept me energized and motivated to do good for others. My kids have also been home for 10 weeks to keep them safe. To date, their school has had six classes quarantined. All of this is to say that writing and editing have been tough.
But, I am finding my balance again.
This week, I have been meditating on my poetry craft. Journaling about it. Been thinking a lot about the poetry advice from Matt Sedillo about honing your own craft. I have been fascinated by Tongo Eisen-Martin’s meditating about poetry. In short, I’ve been thinking about my writing strengths. I feel and think I am coming into my voice in a way that’s legit.
In fact, all of this work pushed me to revise “Sex Camaro,” now titled “Digital Sex.” I submitted it and two other poems “Jesucristo Santifianos” and “Red Wine, Roque” and was glad to find they had been published by Somos en Escrito Magazine.
The journey continues.
How vulnerable are you, when you need a shoulder to cry on? Do you cry when the rage is so palpable that you could scream? I have a problem, or at least I had a problem. I used to think that I had to be this tough woman and never show weakness. Crying? For-fucking-get it. You were more than likely to find a unicorn in your closet.
But, life, oh life can be a motherfucker. I had a shitty end to my teaching semester because of unfair admin policies or reinforcement of made-up policies. I got dumped by someone, I thought was a writer friend. Did they say why we were no longer friends? Nope. The list goes on.
All of this drama led to a lot of crying for days. I mean days. (Thank you friends who helped me grieve.) I am not a crier.
I was once, as a child. To make us strong and not be oppressed and exploited, my father made us tough. We were not allowed to cry, and if we did, it was followed by a slap or a smack.
Nowadays, I don't like watching people cry. Often I think those people are acting or manipulating, only to quickly banish that dehumanizing thought. The ideology runs deep: crying = weakness.
What I have found through this healing process of letting go in some instances and fighting back in others is that crying is healing. It is rejuvenating. It makes you young. This entrenched script of crying=weakness is difficult to flip, but I am learning to embrace a new understanding: strong people cry. The other day I had a good, merited cry, but I stopped. It wasn't the uncontrollable crying of the past. I was able to vent and not feel ashamed.
It was one of those moments, that later in life, I will see as a turning point, and I am grateful for it. Because now, I don't feel like a fucking clenched fist.
What about you? Do you let yourself cry? Or are you trying to front with a tough exterior that needs to be broken down? Think about it. We all deserve to be human, even if our parents or others taught us otherwise.
Safe and Return: two words that are "heavily" debated by the news, pundits, parents, activists, students, and many others. I was thinking about safe returns lately. Some of the definitions were on point and others loosely related. So, let's start with the least related, but most important one.
Return to Normal, Whatever That Means
For the last four months, I have been sleeping and working and living through the thickness of depression. During these times, I struggled to get out of bed and got into many bloody-knife battles with myself—or the self that gave a shit about smelling good and fitting in—about showering. Depression won most of those battles.
Today, I am returning to a level of normalcy that I have missed, but just couldn't get back to it, no matter how much I prayed or tried. That was then.
Now, since classes ended, I have been waking up early, taking a shower daily, walking every day, and being present to my family. This is a lovely safe return, from a long semester of shit and foggy ghost-existence brought on by my mental illness. Yes, I know many of you have suffered from this too. I wish you all a return to life.
Return to School
The concern for the safety of my children and other children is palpable. Not a day goes by where I don't dread their return to school. My children, fortunately, go to an outstanding, community-based school, a public school we struggled to find for both kids.
After talking to a colleague, I realized the educators, staff, and administration would go above and beyond to keep my miracles left. You see, I wasn't supposed to have children, but I have been blessed with two wonderful human beings. And it's my job to keep them safe. However, I am sure they will be fine; now, I may be crying in a couple of months, but I believe they will be well-cared for. Besides, my kids need to be with other kids. My daughter who is six was so excited, when I told her the news, she listed all the rules of conduct about COVID.
Return to Blogging and Writing
I'm back bitches! I am writing a lot and editing a great deal because my energy is back. I am more disciplined now, although I am "nap-flexible." I am on vacation after all, so why not take some time off? Some real time for myself? (Though, I am not sure what that latter answer is, not yet.)
But, this blog, it and I have been strangers for many a month. Well, I am tired of discussing writing advice. I don't want it to be a blog about stupid happenings. Or to sound cool. Honestly.
I decided this time, my blog would focus on shit that matters, and not write it for an audience. That may sound contradictory, but in the past, I was writing my blog posts, trying to be cool, because I knew you were reading them. Well, you know what? That's bullshit. Patent, so I return to this blog with a fully human heart.
If there are kernels of truth for others, fine. Maybe we can learn together.
I'm so excited! I got the cover proof for Nightmare with a Twist (May 2021)! and Unity, Volume 2! (2021) They are drafts, but so gorgeous!
Yo! That moment when the first author you signed up with Barrio Blues Press crafts a beautiful gift for you. Thank you, mi sobrino, Misael Juarez!
Join the Livestream with the co-hosts of The Pen Clique Poetry Podcast
Where? On YouTube, Radical Books and Politics or Facebooks' Penned in the City: A Creative Writing Group for All.
The co-hosts of the Pen Clique will be talking about their revolutionary work in uplifting poetry in the U.S. and their successful poetry podcast. Come ask questions during the Livestream on Radical Books and Politics.