Friday, November 07, 2008


This morning Raven is chomping down bolillos from our mercado dipped in fried eggs covered with salsa de guajillo, sour cream and chopped onion.

Suddenly he begins cackling raucously and spits a beakful of breakfast at the computer screen.

Rave, what's going on here?

"Hah! I was watching a video of Bush acting out through his little dog, Barney. A reporter stopped down to pet Barney, and Barney hauled off and bit his hand!"

Well, Bush was trained by his masters to snarl and bite--and that must be what he passed on to his dog.

"Oh boy. A whole new Axis of Evil: reporters."

If I say so myself, Rave, considering that those guys have been the ones to sell Bush's lies and spin to the gullible gringo public (I am not going to call them citizens as they believe that all a citizen does is vote every once in a while when he or she finds himself or herself with empty pockets), I'd say that Barney is a fair amount smarter than his master at spotting the Axes of Evil.

"I guess so. It used to be that the Dylan line, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows", was a truism. Now only the non-human species knows."

Rave, the Vogel uber Alles....
(In memory of my grandfather Clovis)


Your grandfather Louis,
deprived of a native name,
then of his French name
when he crossed his family
into the United States,

deprived your mother
of the warmth of the long house
of community,
married her off at 13
to bear 11 children,

bury her husband.
A widow at 41,
she moved you all 2
thousand miles to Snoqualmie
Pass, way on the outskirts of

built a big log house and called
it The Donut Inn,
frying mountains of beignets
for ravenous travelers

who couldn’t care less
if French or English mumbled
from her raven’s beak.
There you tumbled in the snow,
wild with being a child, high

above your brother’s
dedication to building
his tourist cabins.
There you chose the better part:
learning to be Hawk, learning

to read the deer tracks
and bear droppings, then turning
your eyes to Pancho
Villa’s revolution far
to the south, in Mexico,

where his horses’ hooves
drummed your dreams to their flash point.
In adolescence
you discovered a way to
be Indian AND cowboy,

and cover your heart
with the dust of Mexico;
that lead to rodeos, where
brother Indians became

other cowboys, and
where the Nez Perce were
the top riders. But
the purses were pretty small
because the winners weren’t white.


When you married Ruth,
both of you were just 18.
Your mother suffered
scorn from your mother-in-law,
child of an aristocrat

born out of wedlock,
despite their both being French
speakers in Anglo-
land; the price hypocrisy
imposes on loneliness

is the steep learning
curve of assimilation.
But you had the sense
to create your own nation—
putting fire to metal

and producing sculptures
of long-forgotten flowers,
horses like arrows
and your wonderful kettles
of hammered copper and brass.

You made what pleased you,
and did what you pleased:
trading old rifles,
catching snakes in the sagebrush,
hunting arrowheads along

the Columbia,
mining a mountain top for
gold, shooting winter’s
supply of elk, deer and bear,
and always, your fast horses

bursting from the barn
to battle down the muddy
track at Longacres,
while you tipped your expensive
Stetson at the bets window.

When the snow backed off
in spring we would ride your jeep
up the canyon road
until it got stuck up to
the axles, then winch it out;

liberating it
from the mud called for a few
candy bars: Baby Ruth
or maybe Butterfingers
that you bought by the carton—

before heading back
to the ranch and grandmother’s
lemon meringue pie.
Sugar and coffee were your
fuels, and they served you well.


When I was edging
toward adolescence, you gave
me some good advice:
“It isn’t necessary
for your grandmother to know

what you are doing”,
which surely saved me a lot
of aggravation.
Teenage boys copied your spray-
painted jeep—a precursor

in the 50s to
the psychedelic buses
screaming The 60s—
and college guys got credits
for watching you drink coffee

and carrying your
equipment at the World’s Fairs:
the Smithsonian
had you demonstrate metal-
working, and strange women gave

you their phone numbers
while the college guys looked on,
wishing they were you.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch my
grandmother put her foot down,

said “no more horses”—
so you bought a pair of mules
and scattered horses
around the valley, giving
me a map of where they were

in case of your death.
When I got married we lived
on Magnolia
Beach with no central heating,
so you came with your chain saw

to cut up driftwood
for our fireplace, let women
chase you around in
the Red Robin Tavern while
my new husband coveted

your magnetism,
feeling young and foolish in
his tie-dyed tee shirt.
You drank a few beers, went to
some galleries, predicted

our difficult life
as a couple, then left us
some firewood, loaded
your saw back in the Bronco
and headed back home to the ranch.


You completed 50 years
of marriage to Ruth,
refined your artist’s vision
with cataract surgery

that allowed you to
spot dimes along the roadside;
you kept the silver ones
in the small trunk I gave you
both for your golden wedding.

And because Ruth had
backed out on your plan to spend
those golden years in
Mexico, you expanded
your academic antics,

devoted more hours
to searching for blue agates
in dry river beds,
hammered out more bracelets
and pieced onyx mosaics.

My daughter spent school
vacations watching Grandpa
create war bonnets
and swap his jewelry for
Navajo bracelets of

Blue Gem and Kingman
turquoise. An Easter
studio portrait
of you two shows a blank space
between Renate’s teeth, two

grins gleaming below
your big Stetson, and that last
summer in the tall teepee
you made, Renate sat guard
while you dreamed, and the cancer

metastasized from
your colon to your liver.
“Grandpa promised me
he’d tell me the old stories”,
she said, “But mostly he sleeps”.

The photo I made
2 weeks before your last dream
shows you transparent,
but with all your teeth and hair.
We buried you in zero

degrees of bright snow,
so like a Quebec landscape,
the day before my
35th birthday; I said:
“Time to become an adult”.


A few weeks after
your funeral, Grandma Ruth
rang me up to say
your chickens had come home to
roost: the ranchers who had hid

your horses from her
wanted to know what to do
with them. “I told them
to keep them—and realized
that was the first family

decision I’d made,
after almost 60 years
of marriage: he let
me believe I was calling
the shots, while he always moved

all of the pieces”.
You must have had a good laugh
imagining Ruth
learning how to trade horses
and sell your gun collection—

not to mention barns
stuffed to the rafters: snowshoe
prototypes (one for
each year), toboggans, skis, sleds,
deer and elk antlers—the stuff

by a man from the mountains
who made the valley
his playground. It fell to Ruth
to fall and shatter her hip,

unload all of your things
on other mountain men and
sell the property.
She vacillated: “I don’t
think he’s want me to sell it”.

“It’s your decision”,
I said. “You can try taking
care of 5 acres
pushing a walker, and live
6 months—or buy a small place

and live another
several years in comfort”.
She got rid of it,
moved into a mobile home
and neighbors helped plant her prize-

winning dahlias.
We had a long phone talk
3 days before she died—
I was in Boston Common,
buried in October leaves.


Ruth outlived you by
9 years, and 5 years later
I followed your dream
to Mexico to find my
home writing and producing

theater here in
the birthplace of Zapata,
dreaming in Spanish
of revolution: a day
when Native people will not

be tempted to “pass”
because the land will belong
to he who works it,
and no one will have to choose
between living on his knees,

dying on his feet.
When snow covers your gravestone,
here it is 80
degrees, and you, who slept in
winter on an electric

mattress pad, under
an electric blanket and
down comforter--while
wearing socks—would finally
feel warm. Here in our valley

sometimes I smell snow
falling on the high pass to
Mexico City;
deer come down and steal fodder
from the cows in the ranchos

up in the near hills,
like they did in Ellensburg.
Here hawks and owls swoop
down out of the guaje trees
to hunt on the riverbank

for rats and field mice,
and ravens are forced to bathe in
polluted water.
Young men leave the villages
to pick crops where I grew up,

far in El Norte,
while here their fields and their wives
lie fallow, waiting.
Washington made treaties
with Mexico, stole its land,

destroyed its culture,
builds its reservation wall.
The turquoise stones in
your bracelet that I wear
are the skies of our planet.
Don’t Do It
For Carl T (9/2/1944—4/1/2007), with thanks to
The Band and Dylan Thomas

I was black magic
woman, dancing in thirties
velvet when we met,
my dress from an antiques shop
cut down to fit my body:

110 pounds
of rocking silk in DeKalb’s
simmering cornfields.
You drank the long, hot summer
from a bottle of Jim Beam,

introduced yourself,
and we talked all night in your
apartment above
an insurance agency.
Fact: We never stopped talking,

even when that meant
late night long distance calls from
places like Texas,
my husband rolling over
in bed, passing me the phone:

“It’s Oh Hi, again.”
Then, when we were divorcing,
a rough patch when you
tried living in my upstairs
in Seattle—which didn’t

work, and your father
drove you back to Illinois
for the tough struggle
to get sober: Brush with death,
hospitals, the halfway house,

coffee, cigarettes.
When your father died you sent
me the soundtrack to
The Big Chill”, and that told me
we had become middle-aged.


A few years after
I decamped to Mexico
we started taking
vacations together, in
Zihuatanejo mostly,

still staying up half
the night talking, watching lights
dance across the bay,
tuning your guitar to waves:
the optimal spot to write

songs. Those songs
reproduced, began to form
a critical mass:
a poetic, musical
X-ray of the times we’ve lived.

The surgical steps
to bring it all back home, safe,
on a c.d. took
so much energy, and time,
that suddenly we were old.


One night your phone call:
“They told me I’ve got cancer.”
Then the treatment starts;
6 month’s after my former
husband’s death, I am hopeful—

and even more so
when your e-mail comes telling
me that you need sun,
have bought your Zihua tickets.
I decide to fly there, too,

feeling too old for
all night bus rides without sleep;
but once I arrive
at the bungalow and see
you are now a shadow, so

transparent that palm
trees and the beach pass through you,
hope becomes anger
at your refusal to live,
at your holding on to shame.

Saying “Don’t do it,
don’t break my heart” in silence
is really a drag;
watching you spitting your life
into a wastebasket, and

smoking your death, two
packs a day of it, pacing,
refusing to eat
or bathe, is seeing you go
gentle into that good night,

when rage is the spark
absent from your tobacco.
On April Fool’s Day
the sun rose on your last waltz:
You did it, you broke my heart.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


I soaked guajillo chiles overnight so that Raven and I could breakfast on picadas this morning while reading La Jornada.

Great stuff is salsa de guajillo, but the news about candidates for Obama's cabinet is NOT:

1. William Daley, brother of Chicago's mayor and best known here in Mexico for his promotion of NAFTA as Clinton's Secretary of Commerce;

2. Michael Froman, from the failed Citigroup and college buddy of Obama's from Harvard days;

3. Susan Rice, another Clinton cadre whose spoils for helping in the campaign may include becoming National Security Officer (shades of Condolences Rice, best known for her derisive comment, "Let 'em eat my Ferragamos", to the victims of Katrina;

4, 5. Two other Clinton retreads are being considered for Secretary of the Treasury--a position both Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers have had before;

6, 7, 8. John Kerry, Christopher Dodd and Bill Richardson (all failed candidates or pre-candidates for the presidency) are being mentioned for Secretary of State. Richardson is another Clinton cadre, but does have international experience as UN ambassador;

9. Arizona's governor, Janet Napolitano, on whose watch so many Mexicans have been killed, is up for Attorney Gerneral.

Not good news at all. Just the usual suspects. Where's the CHANGE, Rave?

"Don't ask me. I am still stuck on that little old lady who said, Where's the beef?"

Raven thinks with his stomach, as always, and it appears he is feeling a little nauseated at what he sees.

It appears that although Hillary lost, Bill will be back in his old job as president.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Raven and I have been flapping around on a bunch of sites today to see how folks are responding to the election of Obama in Gringolandia.

Rave is now eating the last of the dill biscuits we made to eat with Texas-style chili.

"I can't believe your species. The gringos chose the lesser of the apparent evils--a man black like I am, instead of a professional geezer whose claim to fame was being an uncredited extra in the 70s film, The Deer Hunter. Big deal. To read their comments, they brought down the Berlin Wall again, singlehandedly. It's crap!"

You betcha it's crap. Especially since they are still building the Mexican Wall.

"Well, at least that's providing work for undocumented immigrants."

True, Rave. Folks are being paid 10 to 15 bucks an hour, maybe, to build a wall to keep them out.

"I felt compelled to post a cry for a little reserve and common sense. Want to hear it?"

Sure, fire away.

Raven pings the remaining biscuit crumbs off his print out:

"Wow: Could you possibly be a little more self-righteous?

Just because you gave a few bucks to somebody who promised change? What did you actually DO to make that change possible?

Eight years ago here in Mexico, the same kind of foolish born-again euphoria percolated after the July election of the PAN president, Vicente Fox. The PRI had been in power for 71 years and people were tired of the same old perfect dictatorship, so they created the concept of the USEFUL vote--voting against the PRI.

Folks asked me, the day after the election, what I thought Fox's presidency would be like. My answer was, "He will be the worst president in the history of Mexico".

Months after the election the father of one of my bright students told me that Mexico was a new country since July 2nd. I told him that new countries were not born because folks voted in a different party, and I asked him what HE was doing to make it new. He had no answer.

Time has passed since July 2, 2000. Last year Fox was voted the Worst President in the History of Mexico by the majority of the folks in a national newspaper poll. Take it from me, he had some stiff competition--for example, Santa Ana, who gave away more than half of Mexico's territory to the gringos for a plate of lentils. But Fox did it--left the country in ruins, where the monument to his presidency is a huge white elephant library that cost about 4 billion dollars, is unusable because of water entering from all sides and destroying the few books purchased for it. It can't be entered as it is falling down--but all of Fox's cronies and family members who looted the country were paid handsomely.

I suggest that you gringos be a little more cautious before shouting from the rooftops that Gringolandia is great again--simply because you had to choose between the fear of being homeless and clinging to the racism upon which the country was founded.

There is a lesson for all of you in the Fox presidency."

I hope they get it, Rave, but I am not betting any of my devalued pesos on it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


For Maryanne


Twenty years ago
we took your big GMC
pickup up this road:
first, a stop in El Rito
to greet the French plaster saints,

then through the canyon
painted gold with aspen leaves—
the black and white trunks
echo end of the season sheep
as the truck bucks over ruts,

points its nose cloudward
into the turquoise stone sky.
Road Closed the sign says;
to hell with that, we open
the wire gate and go on up

to fish in the top
lake, where the first October
snow falls on our hair
before we head back down to
Echo Ampitheater.

There swallows toughen
their nests, trying to prolong
summer forever,
and we try to grab our youth
as it dances into fall.


It’s been 14 years
since I left New Mexico
for old Mexico,
and I only went back once—
now almost 8 years ago—

so when you meet me
at the airport I’m lost in
a foreign country—
and you are back from the dead,
the land of leukaemia.

My friend Lorenzo,
who had to leave his daughter
in that place, tells me:
Maryanne will die, they all
die—that’s just the way it is.

We have a Spanish
saying , I remind him: No
one has bought his life—
I could be run over by
a bus tomorrow morning.

But I take a plane,
instead, to go once more to
the Canjilon Lakes—
as one of two survivors
of this disease that is life.


Your husband worries
that we’ll do something foolish:
go up a closed road,
get stuck in mud overnight—
but we have made it through the

worst that can happen.
Savoring our breakfast of
chiles rellenos
in EspaƱola, we are
chomping at the challenge that

is repetition.
As afternoon opens in
El Rito Canyon,
our old friends the sheep welcome
us back, and an off-road shrine

is visible now—
because this year’s leaves are down;
the Sacred Heart beats
inside the stones and under
oak leaves painted with honey.

The aspens dance bare,
their silver, like our more than
middle age, ready
to be inlaid with turquoise
for a bracelet around

our survivors’ lives.
The road has been recently
graded, and the last
segment—just below the lakes—
is asphalt. A few patches

of snow like old skin
waiting to be shed linger
in sunless shadows
around the top lake, where two
fishermen unload their gear.

We won’t fish this year—
just unloading our old lives
is sufficient sport.
The sky falls into the lake,
where we are like silver fish

ripe with reflection,
lighter than swallows, flying
down to Abiquiu
and beyond, lining our nests
for the new life of winter.

November 17. 2007

I am going to put some poems I have been writing over the past year on this blog during the next week or so.

They all bear some kind of Raven imprimatur, although he says poetry is not his bag.

For the spirit of Leo Kenney; Oct. 10, 2007

After my classes
in the university:
the real world of art
is watching Leo painting,
smoking many cigarettes,

drinking way too much
red wine, mixing pop music,
I Ching and sunset
on Elliott Bay—Sophie
a tangerine lioness

on the windowsill.
We’ve lost that lovin’ feeling?
Yes, it’s gone, gone, gone—
and with it underpinnings
of mystical expression,

the swinging sixties:
Tavola and bubble gum
openings, Leo
in his patent leather cap
from Carnaby Street

dancing with me on
a houseboat’s deck, and Sophie
dreaming of mice
like diamonds. As the sun sets
on the day’s painting drying

on the tabletop,
on the pale flowers fading
in a Chinese vase—
dropping their seeds for the birth
of a new painting, a new

make art, not war, while jungles
of jungles of Vietnam
and Bolivia are blooming
with hope and revolution.

And it all goes wrong.
Yesterday makes 40 years
since the death of Che.
Leo and Sophie are gone.
But paintings remain: the seeds.