Adriana Gonzalez

I am ten years old and I am pacing around the bathroom with every faucet running water.

The shirt I am wearing hangs over my right shoulder because I have just cut out the collar with the pair of scissors my mother uses to curl Christmas ribbon. My toes bend and grab the bathroom mat with each step. If my throat would just stop closing and my stomach would just stop boiling, I would lay my face on the green, soft mat because I am tired and I have not slept.

There are two sinks with four handles running hard water. I am in front of the mirror and I can see a small face, a grey shirt, a pink, braided friendship bracelet on my left wrist and yet, I am swimming.

I am in my bathroom trying to touch down, to use those same scissors to cut out this charcoaled hole in my chest but I leave the water that’s running and the reflection I see to swim in a world where these things that I am feeling, and these moments that are happening, become quiet.

I swim in phthalo blue. I swim like a small frog through shaded foliage. I kick out and spin around pink coral, turquoise plankton illuminates me, and I consider if these various waves and trenches could be what heaven is like. But I am not a frog and this is not heaven.  My lungs will fill with forgotten blue water if I ever swim around pink coral. Bacteria and gas will mix around my hardening organs before I float. No one will know of me until it is too late. I will puddle.

I am ten years old and the United States Government has just indicted my father. I am ten years old and my father asks me to pray for him. I pray for air every night so he might stop sweating, and so that my mother will stop crying, and because my grandmother needs to wake up, now. I pray every night and I think about how my mother cries when she says my father will go away, and when she tells me my grandmother suffered an aneurism and how my father’s bus company is being charged for smuggling illegal aliens within the United States Border.

These are space words, space phrases that suspend and spark as they continue to push the boundaries of my imaginary page. I have no control over them, no understanding and so I pace around the bathroom every night. I pray for vibration so that I may breathe in this pink bathroom with the green mat and the locked brass doorknob, because my parents are in their room sleeping and the sinks have filled and begun to spill over.

 

***

 

I struggle between wanting and knowing how crucial it is to be aware of the world yet being extremely cynical about how individuals are portrayed in the news. I have difficulty trusting people and I question compulsively.  I otherwise avoid politics, topics of immigration, equal opportunity, underemployment, The American Dream, because my grandmother is dead and nothing I say, write, or scream can bring her back. I suppose her aneurism could have exploded later in her life—instead of her head puzzling into the corner of the sidewalk weeks after the indictment, it could have happened to her in the shower, while she was gardening, maybe as she boiled water for tea. I suppose she could have died in February, when rain is plenty in California, when the San Bernardino Mountains glow with snow. But she died during fire season.

I spent my entire childhood learning of fault lines and tectonic plates, how to effectively duck and cover if ever a displacing earthquake split the Golden State, but none of that prepared me for this. What do you do as a child when your mother nearly strangles herself with a telephone cord as pages and pages of multiple counts and superseding indictments pour out of the fax machine? How else can you escape besides swimming at night in your bathroom? What sort of god do you pray to when you are asked to pray for justice?

 

***

 

He describes it like a love affair. He says the sky carried white lines that morning and the night blooming jasmine stretched itself until dawn. In a California December, there is a king shrub that blooms: bougainvillea with white and red and pink petals. He noticed that this king shrub seduced night blooming jasmine, and saw these two perennials, the jasmine and bougainvillea dance together, slide in and out between each other with lines of pink in the sky behind them. He never realized that the bougainvillea carried thorns on its branches. My father saw the ninety-one freeway and the seventy-one freeway alit with white and red when his hands were behind his back, when his Miranda Rights were read, when he admired the jasmine’s ferocity towards morning.

 

***

 

My father owned one hundred and fifty charter buses. Each bus was purchased at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. He employed six hundred employees and operated in six western states. My father’s buses traveled around nineteen million miles a year and brought in thirty-three million dollars in ticket sales. My father was born in Mexico. My father was born in a kitchen of an adobe house and my grandmother gave birth to my father in her kitchen. There were no numbers; there was only the earth and the rooted trees and deep ravines that cracked.

My father owned one hundred and fifty charter buses and was the owner of a business that was worth forty million dollars and he was indicted by the United States Government on December tenth, two thousand and one, and charged for transporting illegal aliens within the United States Border. How do you escape fire season in California?

You don’t. You let the fire take the fields.

 

***

 

I was twelve years old when I walked dogs for two months so that I could afford to buy a new sweater. There was a sixth grade camp field trip, and we would be going to the mountains, and we were promised that there would be snow. I went door to door, explained to my neighbors that I was providing a dog walking service. Those who agreed handed me various colorful leashes despite the fact I brought my own.

I walked dogs for two months so that I could afford my mountain clothes. It was a secret from my parents—dog walking required me to leave my cul-de-sac and wander to gated communities, but my father was with the lawyers, my mother back at work.  I was twelve years old and I walked alone with colorful leashes gripped in my palms and I counted my steps up every driveway and along the sidewalks. Out of necessity, out of nervousness, I counted. I counted numbers, ones and twos and threes and then I would return the dogs and count the dollars in my pockets. I counted three dollars for every big dog, one dollar and fifty cents for every small dog and five dollars from the nice man, whose name I can’t remember, with a beagle named Thomas.

My father took me to the Lake Elsinore outlets when I asked him if we could buy a sweater for the mountains. And so he took me there, one afternoon, when he was not with his lawyers, when my mother was working, to buy a sweater.  I walked around the outlet, attracted to the walls of waterproof coats, and bright, sequined boots, but found myself at the clearance rack. I held the yellow tags in my hands, and read the prices in my head. In my head I read the numbers, I thought about what twenty percent off meant and how the additional ten dollars off at the register would bring down the total of my sweater to thirty-four dollars. I had fifty.

My father reached in his pocket and I said, I got it, Dad.

 

***

 

Not always, but definitely in my case, the traditional Hispanic household, backed by Catholicism, does not believe in anxiety or mental illness. My father was battling the most powerful country in the world, my grandmother was unmoving in a bed, and still, we continued. My nights alone in the bathroom, my fear and visions of death, my questions of god and faith including the ulcer I had given myself were never discussed. Instead, I prayed. I crossed myself and lined up relics on my nightstand. I picked at their sad faces, I held them to my heart, and I gave them alternate names begging them to make things normal again. I wanted them to aid in the normalcy of life before my questions went unanswered, before my grandmother stopped painting her nails and dying her hair. It saddens me that my devotion to myth, faith, and family has been fueled by the same traditions that urged me to be shameful of my body—that prevented me from ever attempting to decode the inner workings of my brain.

 

***

 

She tasted the color green and heard the spots on a giraffe in the doctor’s office and there was no mention of her last good day, or her last good thought, or about how her hair appeared red in the reflection of the helicopter window when they moved her to another hospital. There was a delay in the airlift, and talk of a stroke, and no health insurance because the business had dissolved.

I saw my grandmother with a thick, white wrap around her head in a room that smelled like melted latex. It was an aneurism, a word I believed to sound like bees. I imagined my grandmother shoving her head into a beehive and swelling with honey behind her eyes. I hoped she would wake with a crown that smelled of cinnamon, and fingernails as sweet as candy, and her hair as red as the carnations she tucked behind her ear.

 

***

 

I learned how to do laundry during my father’s sweat spells, and I learned about false charges. I went with him to his meetings and I learned about racial profiling. I learned about money laundering and conspiracy, and I learned how a man who sweats is not necessarily guilty.  My father was sweating because he was losing.

Mr. Rey was one of my father’s lawyers. I would listen to Mr. Rey talk about racial profiling, and money laundering and conspiracy, and pride. I learned that no matter how innocent my father was, no matter how absurd and inventive the allegations were against him, my father was Mexican. My father was fighting the most powerful country in the world. My father would not win. Mr. Rey told us about the gardener that trimmed his hedges, and his housekeeper that he drove to the bus stop some times. You see? Hiring and transporting. You see how easy it is to do this? Plead guilty. It was no big deal. If my father pled guilty, he would stop sweating. If my father pled guilty, the eight superseding indictments would dissolve like detergent.

Were you listening to that? My father asked. I hope you were listening to that. You don’t ever give up.  If you do nothing wrong, you don’t ever give up, do you hear me?

 

***

 

Greyhound Bus Lines owned a subsidiary named SITA. SITA owned fifty percent of a bus company called Crucero that operated out of Mexico and crossed into the United States at the Tijuana boarder. My father was urged by his friends at Greyhound to trade in Golden State stock for Crucero stock. This would expand his business. This would give him more land. He would be powerful.  It was never disclosed to my father that Crucero had avoided being indicted for transporting and harboring illegal aliens just before Greyhound proposed the arrangement. My father knew none of this until the United States Government had to disclose their evidence. There were field agent reports that showed how Greyhound distanced themselves from my father after asking him to step down as President, after bankrupting his company, after giving the government his bus terminals in exchange for asylum.  My father could not win because he was living in a country that feared terrorism. My father could not win because everyone else had something to gain. Greyhound erased the competition, wiped their hands clean of the subsidiary and the government made beautiful, imagistic, outer space fiction of a family, of a business, to ensure the American people that the United States borders were safe.

What a strange, fictitious world we live in that dilutes our very real stories.

 

***

 

My father was indicted in the state of Arizona.  He was arraigned eight times over four years. My father drove slow out in the desert, but I found some comfort in desert sunrises.

I asked him if he ever felt like bursting. I looked out the window and asked him if he ever noticed how the sky looked scratched.

He listened mostly. I thought of the car to be a shuttle and my father to be a stranger. I talked and talked in a way that was liberating. I thank the desert, the blueness of the mountains, and the vastness of the land that allowed me to purge. I told him how afraid I was to die—how certain I was that my grandmother plumped then sanded back into the earth. I told him that I thought he would leave us, and that my mother would lock herself in the bathroom forever and we would have to live off of spaghetti and peanut butter jelly sandwiches. And then I started to describe stars, space, and this color of blue that was neither dark nor light. I told him that I imagined this color blue to be a higher place in heaven. I wanted to float in it, to swim, kick out my legs, be a part of life without ever having to endure it.

My father said, You have to have faith that we will eventually see things from a different place. It’s not our time yet, and when it is, it will be.

And if we don’t, what difference will it make?

My father was shaded by shadows in the car. His hair was thinning. His arms were thin. The orange streetlights passed us and provided momentary sparks of gold. My father looked older to me. I looked down at my hands as they turned yellow, then black, yellow, then black. I thought about saying something, screaming out, but instead I imagined my hands melting under an Arizona sunrise.

 


Adriana Gonzalez lives, writes, and works in Seattle, Washington. She holds an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago and her work has been featured in Hippocampus, Label me Latin, and Cactus Heart, among others. She hails from Corona, California.

Adam Martinez

I’ve Seen the Blood Moon

“Eclipse”

There is always a certain sadness that is felt upon leaving the Indio Polo Grounds in the early hours of a Monday in April, long before the sun has risen or reached its point in the sky where you can no longer escape its rays. There is an instant longing for the magic that is spending three days in the desert with the one you absolutely love, or with close friends, or sharing in debauchery and dancing with someone strange and new—pausing to kiss at dusk while Calvin Harris plays “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place” and segues into  “Sweet Nothing” just as you peak. And then, you come down.

The next night, reveling in my Post-Coachella depression, I watched the Blood Moon eclipse with my roommates, Jeff, De Maio and Tatiana. We read excerpts from Annie Dillard’s “Total Eclipse” aloud while sipping port and eating truffles. I told them about how I saw her on Sunday. I told them that, strangely, I would have rather watched her walk into a bedroom with him than see her holding his hand, guiding him through the crowd in a place that used to be ours. I was a devout Catholic watching an unconfirmed sinner take the sacrament and get blessed with Holy Water. It was bullshit.

“What are the odds of that, Adam?”

“Yeah, dude. You have to write about this.”

I stared at the Blood Moon, an orange-reddish circle that looked tangible, if only I’d just reach up and pull it down. I was afraid. What would happen if I reached up to touch it and it wasn’t real? It looked like a clementine. I wanted to pull it down and rip open its skin, peel it to its bare flesh and taste the citrusy pulpiness burst in my mouth—a mouth that had dried out from talking and crying and yelling and talking and talking and talking about a girl with a perfectly circular mole in between her big wide eyes.

Looking up at the Blood Moon, I waited for my Rustin Cohle moment of clarity. I waited for the sky to open up, for all worlds to connect in my brain, and for time to flatten. A wave of anxiety rushed over me, like the time I watched the uninterrupted six-minute shoot-out scene in the fourth episode of True Detective. Sometimes love becomes a botched drug deal. I wondered if we were doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. I stopped fighting and let the wave hit me, and as the eclipse began to lift, I felt a sense of hope that everything is cyclical. There is a time for happiness, sadness and more happiness—then, more sadness and that is life and it comes with seasons. It’s all circles – Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds and Tea Cups – and patience is what keeps us still in between the phases of the moon and the tides that wash in and out of our consciousness.

***

“A Conversation at a Coffee Shop”

“How are things with your boyfriend?”

She smirks at me.

I chuckle back and force out, “How are things with Hilgard?”

I can tell she is shocked and I myself am shocked that it came out of my mouth. It took me three years to get here. And it doesn’t hurt the way I thought it would.

We are sitting in my bedroom; a room she has never slept in. A room littered with Coachella posters, books, movies, a ukulele, articles of clothing (somewhere buried in a dresser drawer is the “Cupid’s Chokehold” Gym Class Heroes t-shirt I bought on our first date) and other knick-knacks she bought me over the years. A room she’s had no physical presence in until now. We are working on a gift for our godchild, and it feels all right. We share our recent shortcomings, vices, lack of consistent income, and how we thought it was ironic that we started smoking a lot of pot these last few years when, together, we were staunchly against it.

“You’re totally judging me right not, aren’t you?”

“Nah, I tried coke once at Coachella with Jon and Diego a couple of years ago. It was weird. My face was all numb for a few minutes, and I had this tunnel-vision focus walking from our campsite to the entrance. I didn’t want to do it again.”

“Ew, I’m totally judging you right now.”

We both laugh.

We carve our names into the frame of the canvas, a Mother’s Day gift for our godchild, Omi and her mother, Irish (Manang). That is a strange word to see as I type: The possessive adjective our. We are not a we – nothing is ours together, except for the six years of memories we both spent the last few years, and will perhaps spend a lifetime, trying to forget. The canvas is beautiful. I am proud of it. We made it together, despite us being not together. It is a sepia-toned photograph she took of Manang standing in front of horizontal window shades, the light bursting through each blind, illuminating her beautiful pregnant body. Manang is in the center with her baby bump, her little seed sitting inside of her, pointed to the right. She is a silhouette, a moon in total eclipse, surrounded by the words of a poem I wrote, “A Flower Blooms in Virginia.” The words surround her like stars in the night sky.

When we finish carving initials, birth dates and hearts into the wooden frame, we go for a walk.

“Sorry I didn’t tell you ‘Happy Birthday,’ it’s just that, you know, I hate you.” I laugh.

“Yeah, I know, it’s okay.”

“Let me buy you a belated birthday drink.”

“No, it’s fine.”

“No, let me. I have a gift card.”

“Oh. Well, then, yeah. Cool,” she says, with her dorky chuckle.

As we sit outside of the coffee shop across the street from my apartment, drinking our caffeinated drinks, I tell her, “It’s not that I’m not over you, it’s just that—the hardest part has been that I lost my best friend and I miss that. You’re the only person I’ve ever met who just got me and I feel like I got you, too.”

I try to avoid eye contact because my voice is shaky and I think I might cry but I make it anyways and see that her eyes are welling up too and she says, “me too.”

***

“Girl With Mole”

Her mole. That was the first thing I noticed—the mole on the bridge of her nose. It was nearly hidden by her black-framed, rectangular glasses that matched her equally black hair. Perfectly circular and protruding thickly off of her face, pulling me in like a black hole, full of mystery.

I met her at orientation, at UC Riverside, in 2004. After lunch, outside of a dining hall full of hot-blooded virgins, we participated in various Ice Breakers like “name your favorite band.”

“The Smiths,” I said, looking in her direction.

“Hot Hot Heat,” she said, as if it were some kind of retort.

She thought I was cool. I thought she was, too.

We played “the human knot,” clasping onto each other’s arms with the goal of trying to unthread the mess of body parts; just two shy strangers then.

I sat next to her in University Hall while a corny “Welcome Freshman” type of informative film about the exciting adventure that is living on campus played in the background. I caught the reflection of the film in her glasses while I snuck glances at her face. I found myself attracted to her face in a way I’d never been attracted to a face before.

After a day of guided tours and choosing fall quarter classes, it was time to go home—back to whatever routines and familiar faces we were accustomed to on sweltering summer nights that were melting quicker than ice filling red cups. She and I exchanged numbers, which led to texting. “Call me, Jojo.” She handed me my phone with her number freshly added – a number that is still in my phone, changed from “Baby” to “Anne” and erased from my memory.

***

“Tree”

A single text from her about borrowing a book prompted a dialogue between the two of us that led to a love I am not sure how to remember or forget. I continued to text her and soon, we learned each other’s schedules. I waited for her at a tree between the Bell Tower, Watkins Hall and Rivera library, walking back and forth from the tree to the corner of Watkins, placing myself back at the tree, pretending I had just arrived there when she finally made her way around the corner. From there, I walked her to her class in Olmsted Hall. For weeks, I took these brief moments to get to know more about a girl I was growing increasingly fond of with every footstep.

Soon, she invited me over to watch a movie at the apartment she shared with her older sister, Irish. I brought over Garden State and I sat utterly frozen, mouth closed, breathing through my nose, one hand gripping the couch cushion and the other on the arm of the couch.

***

“2005”

Our love story did not begin as one of Hipsterdom. Coachella transformed us into monstrous music snobs. Music was our thing and we protected it with a pretentious air. It was our secret. Initially, Hip-Hop is what we bonded over. Jay-Z was my favorite rapper, I was really into Kanye West, and I loved all things that had to do with Pharrell Williams. She loved Pharrell for reasons that made me jealous but I was just glad I found someone who knew who N.E.R.D. was. I thought “underground” rap was Mos Def, Talib Kweli and The Roots but she quickly showed me through the door of indie rap with, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, El-P, Sage Francis, and the Living Legends, and I fell in love with this music as quickly as I fell in love with her.

At the time, I was also into emo and post-hardcore. I showed her Brand New and Taking Back Sunday.  I invited her to a show at the House of Blues on Sunset. This is where I first took her by the hand as we made our way through the crowd to watch Gym Class Heroes, Fallout Boy and the Academy Is… sing pop-punk songs about the importance of teenage love, while sad teenagers made out, moshed, and bloodied each other’s noses.

On our way home, we stopped at In-N-Out, and in the backseat, I watched Anne slowly and meticulously nibble at her cheeseburger, taking the entire ride home to finish. I found her coyness completely charming and I followed suit early on in our relationship when she brought me a burger and fries from In-N-Out after her shift working there. I carefully and quietly ate my meal in a span of an hour and a half as we watched Battle Royale in my dorm room. I didn’t want to ruin my chances with impolite eating habits.

***

“We”

We began dating, officially, on March 27th, 2005. The night before, I had been in Pomona watching a band called Northstar at The Glasshouse. She called me and told me there was a spider in the kitchen and it scared her. Her excuse was enough to make me leave the diner I was at to drive to her apartment. That night, after the spider mysteriously disappeared before my arrival, we watched The Ring with the lights off. We shared a blanket and told ghost stories after, as a candle flickered and gave us cause to snuggle just a little closer than before. To distill the quiet, we shared a Guinness and then, I finally kissed her. This is when Anne became “Jojo” to me and I was inducted into the intimately familial world in which she had been nicknamed after her mother’s friend. I felt privileged. This is where I lost myself completely to that unexplainable, inescapable feeling we are blessed and cursed to experience every so often in life.

The next months were pure magic. The stuff Puppy Love is made of. The stuff that made us go half on a half-Basenji, half-German Shepard puppy we called Luca, after a few years together. We named him after the Brand New song, which is about the character, Luca Brassi from The Godfather, one of her favorite movies. Early on, we spent our days ditching lectures, playing tennis, browsing through CDs at Mad Platter, and eating tacos from Del Taco and drinking Vitamin Waters every Tuesday.

We took trips frequent trips to Melrose and La Brea to shop at Buffalo Exchange, Wasteland, Urban Outfitters, and Crossroads, and spent hours watching Family Guy, Chappelle’s Show reruns, HGTV, and other junk TV. We celebrated month-versaries and romanced each other in a way only naïve lovers know how: Surprise picnics at botanical gardens, Hershey’s Kisses trails leading to bedrooms filled with balloons and rose petals like it was our own private prom, lipstick love letters on bathroom mirrors, living room concerts covering Savage Garden’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” and Foo Fighters’ “Everlong.”

***

“Our thing”

Over the years we went to so many shows, fighting our way to the barricade in front of the stage – I still have a shoebox full of ticket stubs and wristbands of all the bands that we spent days and nights watching together, lying in the grass or holding hands, kissing, hugging, brushing bangs from each other’s foreheads and fighting off taller, sweatier people in the crowds just to reach the front of the stage for.

Our first capricious trip to Coachella was in 2005. We went to watch Coldplay. We camped in the desert and fell in love with the festival culture we found. Novices of the festival circuit, we learned quickly that to be in close proximity to a headlining act, you must dedicate hours of waiting at a particular stage. At first, I was devastated when we couldn’t get anywhere near the front to see Chris Martin sing hits from Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head and newer stuff from X&Y, but my bad mood was quelled as we lied on our backs in the grass, completely absorbed by the beauty that was us. Coldplay became our background noise.

When we came home from the desert, we bathed together after a weekend of dirt and sweat and no showers. It wasn’t much later that I lost my virginity to Jo. It was spring and I wanted this forever. Spending days and whole weekends, drinking whatever alcohol our underage selves could get our hands on and indulging, only separated by sleep. She twitched when she slept.

***

“Let Down”

Three years later, I cheated on her. It was a sloppy, drunken kiss that I barely remember. Maybe it’s because I saw betrayal followed by vague forgiveness in the home I grew up in and I thought that all couples worked the same. I was scared it was too good to be true anyways and it would eventually end. Maybe it was the fact that she wasn’t a virgin when we met, and I was, and that notion gnawed at my immature mind. Or maybe it was just a case of you always want what you don’t have and I didn’t have the freedom to sow my wild oats like young adults are encouraged to do.

And then we tried and tried to make it work for three more years. And then it finally ended. And then my whole life changed like the first time I met her. And I’ve never been the same. And I started to find the irony in my birth name, with the Forbidden Fruit, and all. I began to look at myself differently and I wanted to see the good in me. Instead, all I heard was myself repeating, “And I did this to myself and I did this to you, but you were brave enough to be happy without me, and you are happy now, and that is just what you deserve.” Slowly, I unraveled and didn’t know what to do with myself. I wrote songs and shot videos in which I got rid of all of the cute pictures of us and the cards and notes but it didn’t help. And I wrote poems about how much of a wreck I’d become – how jealous and impatient and needy I now was. And it was Richard and Irish consoling me often, and suddenly, I had become a let down.

***

“Days after the 4th

It was the day after the 4th of July 2011 and I had taken Luca to visit my parents for the holiday while Jo was out of town with her family. I was in the middle of walking him at dusk when the fireworks began. I should have known better, he started to freak out. We rushed back to my parents’ small apartment and he jumped into their bathroom tub, shaking from the shrill Piccolo Pete’s and M-80s. I held him and stroked the back of his ears until he fell asleep.

The next day, Anne and I broke up. There wasn’t an argument this time. Not like the times before. It wasn’t out of the blue, but it wasn’t expected either. I fought it, but the words she said to me were like a sedative. She gently put me to sleep.

“I know I don’t want to be with anyone else but you, but right now, I just need to be on my own. I can see us getting back together in the future, in a few years. You’re what I want. You’re who I want to end up with.”

I was draped in an anesthetic fog. Surrounded by these words I played back over and over. Her soft words that I clung tightly to like a body pillow. The things people say when there is nothing left to say become the keepsakes we’d rather not keep. They burrow into our brains and eat away at our delicate membranes until we are swallowed up and completely digested.

***

“Loft”

I saw her three months after later. She had already started seeing someone new. She wasted no time. We were at the bar underneath her loft in Brea with Manang and Bernard. I drank way too much and she spent the night with me in her bathroom. She nursed me, like always, and I cried, asking, “why are you with him?” and I took it out on her porcelain. I woke up with a blaring headache but everything felt okay because, somehow, we’d ended up lying on her bed and I was holding her the way I used to. And that was the first of many awkward interactions between us struggling to find a balance between ex-lovers and best friends (see: Atmosphere “Body Pillow”)

***

“Ritualism”

Some people dive deep into fitness, while others focus on their careers to distract themselves from a broken heart. Art was my catharsis. I wrote an EP called Three Days in the Desert, rapping over songs from bands we’d watched together at Coachella. I shot several music videos, trying to figure out ways to destroy any and all sentimental pieces of our relationship I had clung to. In the video for “You Win” a rap cover of the song “A Walk in the Park” by Beach House, I walked along the Santa Monica Pier to toss a Tootsie Roll lollipop flower she had made me one Valentine’s Day into the Pacific Ocean. I passed lovers, young and old, holding hands, kids playing on the boardwalk and in the arcade, a belly dancer, a trapeze artist, a sad clown making balloon animals, a psychic, troubadours with their guitar cases open for spare change, fishermen with guts in buckets, a spinning Ferris wheel, and a fortune-teller machine as I walked those wooden planks towards the open sea, fake flowers in hand – despair being filmed for others to see, be entertained by and feel pity for.

These are the rituals of the post-modern broken-hearted. Every action must be dramatized to the degree of which we feel an emotion in order for us to believe in the pop culture and/or art that we define ourselves by. These acts, of course, have to be sensationalized in writing, whether they are nonfiction or not, for fiction is already a given the second we perceive a moment in time through the senses and the image presented to us in our brains – a replica of an incident that becomes highly romanticized. It is the artist and the writer’s choice, or some may feel, responsibility, to produce a work of art that does not shy away from such perceived anguish so that someone searching for meaning in a time of heartbreak can chance upon it and identify with well thought-out, aggregated keywords.

I thought of all of the poems I had written about Anne in my thesis, the thesis that I had successfully defended a few months prior in November 2013. I was a recent graduate from a dual master degree program with no clear direction. I was not well. By Spring, as I cried and began to write the makings of this piece, I thought of the song “This Modern Love” by Bloc Party and how much it meant to us. I thought of another song called “Anne with an ‘E’” by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Perhaps it is the English major in me that could allow the romanticization of death, the idealization of dying from heartbreak—a tragic Shakespearean death, and Anne gave me that pure, unadulterated heartache that only a First Love, only someone who was everything to you and took and gave everything that made you, you, to push my mind even slightly in that direction.

***

“Watching Blood Orange at Coachella 2014”

I dreamt of her on a Saturday at Coachella, nearly three years since we broke up.  I hadn’t thought much of it. I had plenty of dreams of her since she became my ex. Despite my near-constant anxious state, I was happy I had survived the weekend without running into her.

I was watching Blood Orange with a girl that had potential. A girl that I slept with. A girl that hurt me. A girl that I had fleeting feelings for.  A girl that I wanted to sleep with again because what else was there to do. A girl that was there to distract me from the anxious and depressive state I had been in for months now. But when I saw Anne walk mere feet in front of me, boyfriend tailing behind her, an eclipse fell over it all.

In that moment, the girl became a shadow and I thought of various scenarios: Me calling out Anne’s name, Anne turning around and me sticking my tongue down this girl’s throat in the coolest way possible; me walking up to Anne and her boyfriend, saying “hey,” and punching him; Anne turning around and seeing me and it ruining her day.

It was in the upper 90s to low 100s and my face was on fire, burning with sadness and defeat, tears forming. My throat closed up for a moment, I stared ahead at the stage and watched Devonté Hynes sing, “Time will tell if you can figure this and work it out/No one’s waiting for you anyways so don’t be stressed now/ Even if it’s something that you’ve had your eye on/It is what it is.” I kept my eye on her in my peripheral vision and I realized something: after three years, I never truly let her go.

***

“Happy Birthday”

I couldn’t bring myself to tear up the two remaining photos of her. One a wallet-sized college graduation photo that I found in an old commencement announcement from 2008, the other from the Los Angeles County Fair in 2005. I wore Aviators and sported a shaved head. She had on that pure smile that was always too good for me, along with a black beaded necklace and top that accentuated her jet-black hair, eyes and the mole that I loved so much but always made her so insecure. She wore a sheer long aqua blue skirt that came down to her sandals and life was good.

I was tearing up trying to tear them apart, listening to Just Once EP by How To Dress Well. I participated in this pathetic ritual on her 28th birthday, and the first one in nearly a decade that I did not bother to call, email, or text her a simple “Happy Birthday.” It was difficult and I cracked up and it’d been three years and I didn’t know why I was still all fucked up.

The day began with me cracking jokes to myself and singing the lyrics to “Unhappy Birthday” by The Smiths. I thought, maybe I’ll tweet the link to the YouTube video, or post it to Facebook. Maybe one of our mutual friends or followers will see it and know what I mean by posting it. And maybe it’ll reach her and maybe she’ll think of me for just a moment of her day. Maybe it’ll bum her out, just a little.

I tried to distract myself by cleaning my apartment. I started in the kitchen, and made my way to the living room. After I Lysoled every inch of the bathroom, I finally got to my room and lied on the floor with sweat on my forehead. I thought of how ritualistic and methodical I had made the “getting over” process over the years; it was almost unnatural – too sterile. I’ve heard people say that it takes half of the time you’ve dated someone to get over them, or, for saps like me, it could double in length. Anne and I were together, on and off, for six years. The first six years of our adult lives. I knew nothing else. I no longer remembered the person I was that first quarter of college. He is a fictional character in my brain. With three years behind me, I was either right on time or a quarter of the way there. When I started to accept that I wasn’t going to get her back like in TV shows and movies or like my mom, with her motherly intuition, would claim for a time, I wanted desperately to speed up the process of moving on. I wanted it too badly. Just as The Supremes sang, “you can’t hurry love,” well, you can’t hurry healing. Everything in due time—it all depends upon the ticking of the clock. The clock is the object that one must surrender to in order to truly get where one hopes to be, instead of being a dog chasing its tail. We make this big deal about healing, like it has to be this ritualistic thing. Like we have to wait to go to therapy or have a religious conversion to see progress when really, it is something that happens naturally over time. The moment you feel the pain, the healing has already begun.

***

“Baptism in Sacramento”

We hadn’t spoken for three months, but for a weekend in August, we stayed up late every night, drinking beers and talking. Talking about us. Talking about her and Hilgard. God. Work. Music. Talking about anything. I just wanted to talk to her. I just wanted to sit with her in perfect silence and look at her and think about what she was thinking.

I glanced at her.

She glanced back and looked away sharply, asking, “What?” and laughing.

“Nothing, what?” I laughed back.

There was a lot of nervous laughter, like when you meet someone that makes you nervous in an exciting way, and for a moment, I had my best friend again and all was well in my world. But then, I’d see her phone light up. She’d walk out of the room, and I knew my place in reality.

“You can’t do that, man.” She said, whenever I brought something up that reminded her of the times we’ve shared. The good times.

“You didn’t fight for me.”

She said that because I had gotten so close to Manang, she didn’t have anywhere else to turn, and that’s where he came along—maybe in the same way I came along once.

On the drive to Omi’s Baptism, I rode with her cousins, Jay and Ida.

“Adam, have you met Jojo’s boyfriend?”

“No, not yet.” I said, chuckling.

“He is nice. He’s kind of like you.”

“Yeah? Then, I hope you like him.”

“We like you, Adam. Why did you and Jojo break up?”

“It wasn’t up to me,”

“Well, you know, Adam, maybe you will get back together in the future. You never know. We hope so.”

“Time will tell.” I said, turning my attention from Jay and Ida to their son, Jacob, who was sitting next to me in the backseat, asking about going to the mall to eat Panda Express.

We arrived at the church on Sunday, August 10th, 2014. It was a bright day, it was mid-afternoon, and hope was in the air. I’m not Catholic, or even baptized, so the first thing I did after hanging up with Manang and Bernard on the day they asked me to be Omi’s godfather was Google, “Godfather’s duty at baptism”. As Manang prepared Omi in her white baptismal gown and bonnet, Jo and I stood awkwardly in a pew, anticipating.

“You nervous?” I asked, not looking at her, but staring ahead towards the altar, where the sunlight burst through the round skylight, onto a crucified Jesus Christ hanging over a regal pulpit, which was surrounded by lush plants and golden candelabras.

“Yeah, you?”

“I’m all nerves. I don’t even know what we’re supposed to do.”  I was enchanted by the majesty of the cathedral and I thought it was the perfect place for Omi, a queen in the making, to be dedicated.

“Me either.”

“We’ll be okay.” I finally looked at her with a half-smile. The priest called us over – it was time to begin.

The Baptism was picturesque. We surrounded the baptismal fountain and as soon as the priest, Anne’s cousin, started praying, I felt a calm and I prayed every prayer. I prayed as hard as I could for Omi, her parents, and for Anne and I to be protectors, providers of love and guidance, and godly godparents. I prayed to lead by example. We stood side by side, Anne and I, as Omi was blessed with Holy Water. We said various “I do’s” like, do you believe in God, do you believe he suffered for us, do you renounce the devil and all of his pomp? Anne lit the candle and held it near Omi, as a symbol of God’s light. It shone brilliantly on her forehead.

As everything beautiful in life, the ceremony was over quickly and we were taking pictures with the mighty Omi, servant of God. We returned to Jay and Ida’s and I devoured plates and plates of delicious Filipino food that I’d missed for years without realizing.

Tired from her big day, Omi napped, while the rest of us drank and ate in her honor. I watched Anne take shots with her dad and cousins. I took their photo to commemorate the occasion. In the photo, she holds the shot with her left hand, and the tattoo on her bicep is seen clearly. Flowers entangled in the words, This Modern Love Rhymes With Fire. Her smile stood out to me. It always stands out. Sometimes all you can do is smile.

On the drive back to Southern California, I sat with her father in the front. I still call him uncle as a sign of respect. She sat in the very back of their maroon Toyota Sequoia with her mother, whom I still call auntie. Anne and I texted from the front to back seat through out the drive. Separated by years and sleep. We got home and went back to separate routines.

***

“Songs I’d rather not sing”

I remember playing “The Highest Commitment” by Qwel over and over again in my freshman dorm room on the weekend that she showed it to me. It was raining and I spent all of Saturday playing Bomber Man, Dr. Mario, Dig Dug, or some other video game from my childhood, on an NES emulator. It was the same when she showed me El-P’s “TOJ.” It resonates with me now that I can say that I used to be in love when he raps,  “and one time when I was deep inside your body, you purred/And I was sure that you were gonna have my baby.” This is how the verse ends, immediately followed by the aching hook, “And you can tell that maybe time is out of joint, my love/So this is maybe just an S.O.S. shrapnel/An echo of dead sentiment/Measurement tossed to nothing for no one/A wasted effort/A shrug.”

There was a time when I was certain that Jo and I would marry and have kids and we would never end in this mortal life. In that way, I always imagined our story to be unfinished and that made me feel safe. When we broke up it felt unfinished in a completely devastating way. It felt as though we’d spent years writing this remarkable story and the paper we had written it on got decimated in a fire because she left a candle burning or I fell asleep with a cigarette in my mouth; or maybe the sheets got drenched in a flood, causing the ink to smear and ooze down the page, forming one giant abject blot of ink.

Some songs will haunt me. Any song by Atmosphere will do the trick. I traded in Gwen Stefani’s “Real Thing,” which I once recorded a cover of for her birthday, for “Cool,” hoping we’ll eventually get there. I think about No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom album cover, with the moldy, rotten oranges with holes in them. And I think that’s what I’d become. Then, I think back to that Blood Moon eclipse in its wholeness and rejuvenating vitality. And I knew that, all this time, I had started to foster a new sense of self in a singular way.

***

“Boarding a plane to Virginia”

It’s December, and I’m boarding a plane to Virginia Beach to visit Omi for her first birthday. And the ruminating starts again. But that is okay, because I will be fine, and I will recover like I have in the past. And she will always be there, and I will always be there, and there will always be some form of love.

I think about how we all fall in and out of love. I think about how we’ll sit in Manang and Bernard’s living room on these late winter nights like we did in Sacramento. And I wonder if, for one glance, we’ll fall in love all over again.

“You made a huge mistake being with him. Why are you so afraid of being alone? All you do is jump from one relationship to the next. I resent you for not taking the time to be completely on your own—to be your own person, because you have so much to offer yourself.”

She’s staring at me in shock with tears welling in her big wide eyes.

“I miss you. But I guess I should thank you for leaving me because it was what I needed.” We’ve being drinking a few beers while we sit on the couch. In an inebriated stupor, I just go for it. “Look, Jo, I love you still. I do. I wish I didn’t but I do.  I dream about you at least once a week. I haven’t met another girl who has come close to you.”

The fact that I’ve just divulged this information frustrates me. “You said I didn’t fight for you enough? That’s bullshit. I fought for you. And then I fought myself, and sometimes, I still do. And I daydream about being the person you settle down with. What it would be like to come home to you, after work. Or what it would be like to see you walk in the door after a long day, and I’ve just taken Luca out for a walk, and he runs up to greet you, and you talk to him sweetly.”

***

“Maybe”

The plane hasn’t even left the ground yet. Everything turns to a maybe again.

Maybe I’ll tell her how I’ve been writing this for the better part of a year now and it’s something that finally feels right, after all the shitty fiction, and poems, and songs indebted to my own personal Lucy (see: Atmosphere “Fuck You, Lucy”). And maybe in a few months time, if I should be so lucky or blessed or whatever the fuck you call it, maybe it’ll get published. Maybe I’ll turn it into a perzine and make Xeroxed copies. Maybe I’ll gift her copy and sign it, “Jo, I still love you like the first time. Love, Adam.” Or maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe we can be friends and she can start listening to my music again, because, even though she’s with someone new, it’s been too hard for her or whatever.

Or maybe I’ve been missing the point this whole time. Maybe this is bigger than us. Maybe we can be cordial godparents and Omi will never need to know that Ninong and Ninong used to be in love, because maybe that beautiful girl was why we were brought into each other’s lives in the first place. Maybe that’s all the hope I’ll ever need in this story that remains unfinished in a way that doesn’t frighten me, because now, we are bound together by a beautiful girl. I’m sure most exes would love nothing more than to put planets between each other, histories of biblical proportions, to make it so that they were from two different dimensions entirely. But this is what it is. As the plane ascends, I can rest easy knowing that Coachella is coming up. It will be my tenth and final year, and I know I won’t be running into her again. Instead, there will be birthday parties and holidays where we’ll sit and reminisce for a few hours as we watch Omi grow.

***

 


Adam Daniel Martinez is a musician, writer, and native of the Inland Empire region of Southern California. He holds a B.A. in English from UC Riverside and an M.A./M.F.A. in English and Creative Writing with an emphasis on poetry from Chapman University.

George Djuric

Le Bapteme de Solitude

Herman Ehrenberg (1816 – October 9, 1866) is the namesake of Ehrenberg, Arizona. A native of Germany, Ehrenberg joined the military volunteer unit the New Orleans and fought against Mexico in the Texas Revolution. He was one of few survivors of the Goliad Massacre. His memoirs of the Revolution were published in Germany in the 1840s and translated into English in the 20th century.

A theory held by historians Clarence Wharton and Natalie Ornish is that Ehrenberg was Jewish. This is based primarily on hearsay from Barry Goldwater, whose grandfather was a close friend of Ehrenberg.

About 5 miles east of North Shore, CA, lies Dos Palmas. It was one of the main stage stops on the Bradshaw trail, which ran from 1862 till the coming of the Southern Pacific railroad in 1876. Mysteries and legends have always surrounded Dos Palmas.

A letter from Dos Palmas Station from Nov. 1873 stated: ‘The son of old Chino Theodore from Yuma came to the station recently about dark, on foot, and nearly dead for water. He said he had left his father and a boy, out forty miles on the desert, without water and nearly dead for the want of it, having been without it for nearly three days when he left them twenty four hours before. Joe Dittier, the station keeper, and Hank Brown started the next morning with a team and plenty of water to find them. After going twenty-five miles they came upon the old man. He had found a cask of water that had been left by surveyors. One of the parties stayed with him, and the other went to look for the boy. After going fifteen miles he was discovered stretched out under a bush, naked and almost dead – his tongue being swollen and black, and blood running out of his nose and ears. He was brought to life after two hours of hard work, having been without water for five days and nights. Their three horses died. The old man said that if he had not lost his knife he would have cut his own throat and ended the misery.’

Herman Ehrenberg was murdered there on the night of Oct. 6th 1866 as he slept outside on a pallet. Legend has it that he was carrying $3,500.00 in gold from the La Paz gold fields in Arizona back to Los Angles. Newspapers reported that it was by Indians, but some have even come to believe that it may have been by the station keeper himself, Mr. Smith. He was buried the next day, close to the station.

When the Southern Pacific Railroad came through the Coachella Valley, from Yuma to Los Angles, they established a train stop called Dos Palmas. It was 260’ below level. When the Colorado River broke its levies, causing the floods of 1905 through 1907 which would eventually form today’s Salton Sea, the train station disappeared underneath its waters.

It is well documented that a family from Texas passed through Dos Palmas and while there, their baby died and was buried next to the grave of Herman Ehrenberg. The ‘baby white’ headstone was carved in 1906 and placed on the grave by thirty-year resident Frank Coffey, who had prospected the Chuckwalla Mountains and surrounding area since about 1885, and was also known as the mayor of Dos Palmas.

Seldom are legends of both desert treasure and sunken ships together. There is one place in the desert southwest where this phenomenon exists, due to a combination of naturally occurring geologic features and a series of historical events. The Salton Sea lies in a depression in the earth’s crust 227 feet below sea level. Marine fossils have been found that indicate the Sea was once a continuation of the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) extending through the Imperial Valley as far north as Palm Springs.

As the Colorado River, quite different now than it was hundreds of years ago, carved out the Grand Canyon, tons of silt and sediment were deposited at the mouth forming an enormous delta, which continued to increase in size until it separated the Imperial Valley from the Sea of Cortez. Prior to closing off this sea route it was possible for ships to sail north beyond where the Salton Sea is now.

Reports by emigrants, prospectors, and other travelers suggested an ancient ship lying in the desert sands, subsequently buried and uncovered by the blowing, shifting sands have persisted for many years. The now crumbling, torn out books about this golden opportunity were never written. A story appeared in The Los Angeles Star in its Nov. 12, 1870 edition that ‘Charley Clusker and a party started out again this morning to find the mythical ship upon the desert this side of Dos Palmas. Charley made the trip three or four weeks ago, but made the wrong chute and mired his wagon fifteen miles from Dos Palmas. He is satisfied from information he has received from the Indians that the ship is no myth. He is prepared with a good wagon, pack saddles, and planks to cross the sandy ground.’

The Star printed another story on Dec. 1 that ‘Charley Clusker and party returned from the desert yesterday, just as we were going to press. They had a hard time of it, but they have succeeded in their effort. He was without food or water, under a hot broiling sun for over twenty-four hours, and came near perishing. The ship has been found! with crosses and broken masts, mostly buried in the sand several miles from the nearest water. Charley returns to the desert today, to reap the fruition of his labors.

He was never heard from again.

Antonio de Fierro Blanco in his historical book, The Journey of the Flame, states that after filling his 50 ton ship with a sufficiently large fortune in pearls, Iturbe – the great coastal pilot sailing along the California Gulf Coast in 1615 exploring for the king and fishing for pearls on his own account – sailed on past San Felipe in search of the Colorado River mouth. Instead he found a ‘vast sea extending far inland (presumably the Imperial Valley). Assuming he had found the long sought Straits of Anian, the fabled passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, he sailed on and eventually went aground on a sandbar in a vain attempt to locate a continuation of the Straits. From the highest mountain he saw a vast body of water winding toward the northeast (the Colorado River), but he could not find the entrance.

On his return voyage to the south he could not find the narrow opening to the Vermillion Sea and again went aground. ‘They left their ship and its vast treasure of pearls upright as though sailing, but with its keel buried in sand,’ reports Fierro Blanco.

Salton Sea’s bright lights would quickly fade in the 1970s when the sea’s water level began rising from several years of heavy rains and increasing agricultural drainage. Shorefront homes, businesses, resorts, and marinas flooded several times until the water stabilized in 1980 after a series of conservation measures to reduce field run-off. However, for the many resort areas, it was too late. The salt and fertilizers of the run-off had accumulated to such a degree that they had reached toxic levels, which began a cycle of decay. As algae fed on the toxins, it created massive amounts of rotten smelling matter floating upon the surface of the lake and suffocated many of the fish. Within just a few years, the resorts had closed, the marinas were abandoned, and those who could afford to, had moved, leaving in their wake abandoned businesses and homes and scattered junk.

He can see a coyote as he trots toward him across the sand and through the underbrush, with a pace no coyote can keep up with. It looks like a coyote, but it is twice the ordinary size. Only God knows that for sure, but he thinks it is not a coyote. There are things that appear to be coyotes, but are not. If it is carrying something in its mouth then it is not a coyote, but I cannot see clearly, the speed blurs the image. He heard of a woman from El Centro. She was killed. It happened when he was a little boy. The woman, they said, used to turn into a female dog. And one night the dog went into the village to steal a chicken. The villager killed the dog with a shotgun, and at the very moment the dog died the woman died in her own hut.

He stands out into the sandy plain and stands awhile alone. Presently, he will either shiver and hurry back inside the gates, or he will go on standing there and let something very peculiar happen to him, something that everyone who lives there has undergone and which the French call le bapteme de solitude. It is a unique sensation, and it has nothing to do with loneliness, for loneliness presupposes memory. Here in this wholly mineral landscape lighted by stars like the Fourth of July flares, even memory disappears – a strange, and by no means pleasant, process of reintegration begins inside him, and he has the choice of fighting against it, and insisting on remaining the person he has always been, or letting it take its course. For no one who has stayed in the desert for a while is quite the same as when he came.

Reliving Titian’s The Death of Actaeon, this man is dying, mauled by a ferocious yellowish-gray coyote who has already sunk its teeth into his waist and ripped open his flesh from hip to knee. The bloody viscera of the his thigh stands out in rust-colored contrast to the brown toga covering the rest of his body, and the sharp splash of red across his hip can be read as the exposed ridge of his pelvic bone. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.

As he reaches the point of great physical distress, he listens as the coroner pronounces him dead. He begins to hear an uneasy noise, a loud ringing or buzzing, and at the same time feels himself moving rapidly through a long unlit tunnel. He finds himself outside his body but still in its physical vicinity, spots his corpse down there. From this vantage point he observes the autopsy while in a state of emotional upheaval.

Ultimately he gets a grip of this circumstance, glimpses the spirits of buddies and long lost relatives, reruns the highlights of his life to date, feels love floating around, then reaches the doors of perception leading into the afterlife.

The Other Side is right here among us, another dimension superimposed on our own world, some three feet above our version of ‘ground level.’ Its vibrational frequency is much higher than ours, which is why we don’t perceive it. People who have seen spirits invariably describe them as ‘floating above the ground.’ There is good reason for that – they are floating above our ground. On the ground level of The Other Side. We’re actually ghosts in their world, sharing the same space but unreal by comparison, since it is in the spirit world that all being are completely and fully alive.

The Death of Actaeon can also be seen as a very personal statement: a great artist’s final meditation on the power of art. Actaeon dies after an accidental vision of beauty, the crime of seeing the virgin goddess Diana at her bath. He is forced to experience deeply the terrible power of beautiful things, a power that can transform and destroy.

A large coyote spotted around Dos Palmas was killed Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2013, according to Salton City police, reports the Desert Sun. Residents of this tiny desert community were startled to see a humongous coyote roaming their neighborhood on Tuesday night. The animal was spotted near Main and Psiville around 9 p.m. Police arrived in the area just in time to see the coyote run into a ravine near Dos Palmas wash. A short pursuit ensued and police fired a warning shot to get the animal to return to the desert. Officials say the animal returned to the community, and due to its aggressive behavior, it was shot and killed.

But whose undimmed human consciousness is trapped inside the body of the coyote beast?

George Djuric published a critically acclaimed collection of short stories, a book read like the gospel by his Yugoslav peers, The Metaphysical Stories. Djuric is infatuated with the fictional alchemy that is thick as amber and capable of indelibly inscribing on the face of the 21st century literature. He lives in the desert near Palm Springs, California. Djuric is the winner of the 2014 Cardinal Sins Magazine’s Nonfiction Contest. His stories have been published in thirty plus literary journals and anthologies, from Hobart to Santa Clara Review, Taj Mahal to Los Angeles Review.

Juanita E. Mantz

A Shit Day

.

The day started out bad.  Like bad days always do, it got worse.

Ontario airport was where it started.  Ontario airport is the kind of airport no one wants to go to, in the middle of nowhere in Ontario, California about sixty miles from Los Angeles.

Ontario is known as the apex of the Inland Empire (the IE) which is like being called king turd on turd island.  The IE was where my parents had lived for years and where I grew up.  Growing up, our house was the notorious one where all the screaming and yelling came from, the bright red and blue lights of the police cars signaling our family’s dysfunction for our neighbors.

I had taken the week off from my attorney gig at a large law firm in San Francisco to see my dad who was sick.  My twin sister Jackie picked me up.  We fight sometimes, knock down drag out fights, but Jackie and I are close.  We are so close that we call each other wonder twins.  My mom said we had our own language as kids and that we read each other’s minds.

I decided that the only way to help my dad feel better was to get him some fish.

Some people think of fish and picture broiled sole or freshly grilled Halibut.  In my family, we like Long John’s Silvers.  Their fish is the ultimate in fast food processed crispy deliciousness and their fish basket comes with their deep fried hush puppy potatoes.

Food equals comfort in my family and the more fried the comfort the better.

We hit the Long John Silvers on Mountain in Ontario and picked up the fish.  Jackie and I walked up to my parent’s apartment in Mira Loma greasy bag of fish in hand.  Before I could ring the bell, my mom opened the door with a sullen sounding grunt.  My mom is not mysterious.  She wears her anger on her sleeve like most people wear their hearts.

“What took you so god damn long?” she said as she walked past me.   “Watch your dad.  I need a new cell phone.”   She left with a squeal of her car’s tires without looking back.

And there we were, my twin sister Jackie and I and my dad.  I gave my dad the fish.  He didn’t want to eat it.  He had lost so much weight that he looked like a little bird.  My dad used to be a big guy and now he was bone thin in his white t shirt.  I felt a rock in my chest and couldn’t breathe for a moment when I saw him.

And I made Dad eat the fish.  I admit it, I made him.  I am the oldest twin and Jackie and our younger sister Annie call me the bossy one and I call Jackie the fucked up middle child and Jackie and I call Annie the spoiled baby.

I admit I bossed him into it.  I said, “Dad eat the fish, you’ll feel better”.   He nodded.  My dad took one bite of the fish and started choking.

Jackie and I we looked at each other.   What the fuck are we going to do?  We communicated with looks, not saying anything.   We can read each other minds like I said.

Time stood still for a moment.  And my dad was choking.  It seemed as if he was choking to death and I thought to myself, he’s gonna die from that god damn piece of fish that I made him eat.

With just instinct guiding me, I ran outside and screamed into the air, “Help!, Help me someone!” and then out of nowhere help arrived.

A man came running from the golf course next door and mind you it’s a crappy unkempt 9 hole golf course.  The man had a UCR hat on.  The guy must have been in his sixties but was spry as hell for a senior.  He ran into the house like Superman.  Usually I would have been embarrassed for someone to see my parent’s messy house, but this time I was grateful.

Superman didn’t hesitate and grabbed my father out of the hospice bed and gave him the Heimlech maneuver and the piece of fried fish flew out and hit the wall.

And we all stood still for a moment.  Jackie, myself, my dad and old man Superman.  Superman disappeared before I could say thank you and my dad looked at me with his blue eyes and said with a grunt, “You almost killed me Jenny.”

Jackie and I laughed but I thought I almost killed him.  I did.  And I think that was the moment I realized that my dad was going to die.  I didn’t kill him with the fish but the cancer was going to take him.  It had to.  You don’t get that sick, you’re not on hospice unless you are going to die.  And even Superman can’t fix that.

A couple of hours later, my mom came home and my younger sister Annie came by with her kids Selena and Sophie.  I remember Selena, who was six, hugging my dad goodbye.  “Love you grandpa,” she said.  And Annie held Baby Sophie up to my dad for him to kiss and he nuzzled her fingers and smiled.  My dad was back to himself for a moment.

Annie left and it was me, my mom and Jackie sitting with my dad.  Really it was just me because my mom and Jackie were useless.  Jackie was texting and my mom was in bed reading one of her Harlequin romance novels.  Mom had always loved those stupid dime store romance novels.  Mom had a whole library of them and would let Jackie and I read them when we were in elementary school.  Dad built her bookshelves in the garage to house all of the white paperbacks.  Maybe right now the fantasies were comforting.

The bathing nurse arrived and my dad said he had to use the bathroom and the nurse took him to the bathroom.

Then I heard the bathing nurse scream.  “Help me, Help me!”

My dad died right there on the toilet, his pants around his ankles like fucking Elvis.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I found out later that a lot of people die on the toilet.  It’s because when you take a shit your blood pressure drops.  And his incompetent Medicare-provided bathing nurse didn’t know CPR.

There would be no angels singing.  There would be no beautiful Hallmark last breath kind of moment.  It would just be him on the toilet.  What a shitty way to die.

The rest was a rush like a Twilight Zone movie on fast forward.  Surreal and real at the same time.

I called 911 screaming, “Please help me, my father.  He’s not breathing.”

My voice didn’t sound like my own.  The paramedics got there in 3 minutes.  I timed it while crying, looking down at my watch hyperventilating outside in the cool Riverside air.

When the paramedics got there, they started CPR.  They didn’t seem hopeful.  After about five minutes, one of the male paramedics asked me, “Should we go on?”

That is when I knew I had to be the one to decide whether to let him go.  Was I going to let him go?  Could I do this?  I didn’t know.  Could I let my dad go? I kept asking myself.  What should I do?

As one paramedic’s fingers thumped into Dad’s chest and the other breathed into his mouth they asked me again, for the second time, “Should we go on?”

Dad looked like a bloated fish lying there.  And my mind flashed back to that fried fish from earlier.  That damn fish basket was haunting me.  I looked back down at my dad.  He wasn’t breathing- they were making him breathe but he wasn’t breathing.

And the paramedic looked at me for a third time and said, “Should we go on?”. I looked at my mom.  And my mom hugged me for the first time in my whole life, except maybe when I was a baby. She must have hugged me when I was a baby, right?
My mom and I moaned into each other’s arms while my twin sister Jackie sat outside against a tree texting.

Jackie was standing against a tree with that vacant house look she gets on her face like she’s not there.  Our dad was dying and she couldn’t help me.  My mom couldn’t help me.  What was I going to do?

“Should we go on?” the paramedics asked me again, for the fourth time.

Thoughts raced through my head.  I don’t fucking know.  I don’t want to do this.  Why do I have to do this?  Is it because I am the oldest? If you want to be technical, I am not  the oldest.  Jackie and I are twins.  I am a thirty-four year old lawyer.  I am also the high school drop-out in my family as my mom reminds me periodically.  My route to USC Law was a detour rather than a straight path after I royally fucked up high school.  This straight A student ditched and dozed her way through her senior year.  You see all that childhood chaos had to go somewhere.  I am like an ABC After School Special, one titled: “How to make it through a crazy childhood intact.”

And where the hell is Annie?  She always gets out of everything.  When Mom would go bat shit crazy when we were little Annie never got hit.  Annie always hid under the bed.  And now she’s not here. Annie was the baby who always got everything she wanted. Annie got the cherry apple bike, us twins got the yellow banana bikes and they called Jackie and I the banana bike twins, she got the white fur coat we got the dark brown fur coats.  Why did Annie get out of it?  Why was I stuck with this burden?  She was the lucky one.

And then one of the paramedics asked me again, for what must have been the fifth time, “Should we go on?”  They were going on.  One female paramedic was breathing into his mouth and the male paramedic was pumping his heart with his hands.  And my dad was just lying there.

And, I just remembered when I was little, Dad driving in his sixteen-wheeler listening to Johnny Cash on the 8 track smoking a Kent cigarette one hand on the wheel, his beer in a green foam sleeve.

I remembered everything.  I remembered going to Vegas with him when I was 22 in a Winnebago that broke down twenty miles from Vegas with him and my mom and Annie.

And we sat in the Winnebago all night until they towed us the next morning.  And I remembered Dad catching on fire from a Tiki torch when he got drunk at a family reunion. I was in my late twenties.

And I thought about the good times and the bad.  All the fighting and the cussing.  All that childhood chaos.  When he got drunk, Mom and him would fight like maniacs.  I grew up in a war zone of sorts, but there were good times.  I blamed him for everything, for all of the chaos and it wasn’t even all his fault.  Dad was a drunk, but Mom was crazy when she got angry.  Dad always said he couldn’t leave because he was afraid Mom would hurt us.  Maybe she would have, maybe she wouldn’t have, but we never found out because he stayed.  Dad was always there, even if he was drunk.  And a drunk dad was better than no dad at all.  Playing cards with us little girls on a Friday night when Mom had to work late at the restaurant.  Taking us to the Pomona Drive In on Saturday nights.  Making us breakfast every Sunday morning.  Pancakes with jelly inside or fried bologna and eggs.  Dad was always there.

The paramedic said the question again, “Should we go on?”

I took a deep breath and let go one word.

“No.”

Juanita E. Mantz (“JEM”) grew up in Ontario, California with her two sisters, manic mother, and alcoholic father. After dropping out of high school at seventeen, Juanita took her GED and waitressed her way through UC Riverside and USC Law. After law school, Juanita worked at large law firms in Houston and San Francisco, but she moved back to the Inland Empire after her father died suddenly and found her bliss as a Deputy Public Defender in Riverside. Her stories have been published in The Acentos Review, East Jasmine Review and XO Jane. She is a four-time participant in VONA’s Summer Writing Workshop and is hard at work on her YA memoir, “My Inland Empire: Hometown Stories”. You can read her Life of JEM blog at http://wwwlifeofjemcom-jemmantz.blogspot.com.

Memories of Mom’s Travel Journals by Carlos E. Cortés

“And then to bed.”

Those iconic words, sometimes with minor variations, provided closure to just about every day’s entry in my mother’s detailed travel journals, which she wrote scrupulously during each long driving trip our family took as I was growing up.

I still recall the steamy July, 1946, day when I first saw my mother open her bound spiral booklet of blue-lined paper and begin recording the day’s events. The four of us had just left our Kansas City, Missouri, home, heading south toward Mexico for our first lengthy family vacation. Just 12, I watched with fascination as she carefully noted every stop, sight, and event: meals; gas stations; hotel rooms; natural wonders; tacky roadside museums; Dad’s ripostes; Mom’s souvenir purchases; and the often irritating antics of my six-year-old brother Gary and me. Nothing seemed to escape her notice; nothing seemed too miniscule as to avoid being memorialized by her.

Mom kept her meticulous daily journal throughout our five-week trip to visit Dad’s mother in Mexico City and his aunt in Guadalajara, the aunt who had raised him after his father, a prominent Mexican Revolution politician, had fled to the United States in 1913 to avoid execution. She created another journal in 1948 when we visited my folks’ extended families in California and still another in 1951 when we motored through eastern Canada and then down the Atlantic coast to Boston, New York, and Washington, DC.

Mom wrote while Dad drove, sometimes during meals, and every night in the hotel, bolstered by her omnipresent pack of cigarettes and a scotch and soda. No matter how full the day, she refused to go to bed without finishing her beloved journal, as if fearing that sleep might permanently eradicate precious memories. The next morning, usually during breakfast, she would read aloud the previous day’s journal, a mandatory event that commanded our full and delighted attention.

Those journals were probably as close as Mom ever came to “official” creative writing. To the best of my knowledge, she didn’t write poetry or fiction. At least she never told us about it. She sang in local opera productions, but didn’t compose any songs that Gary and I are aware of. Her writing creativity went mainly into those journals.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” goes the old saying. Sorry, but I don’t completely subscribe to that cliché, no matter how often I hear it. I watched Dad’s old movies and methodically mounted his photos into chronological albums: Mexican pyramids and California forests; skyscrapers and skyscraping mountains; Mom posing in front of half-visible monuments; Gary and I acting like little jerks in nearly every state in the union. Yet as much as I enjoyed those visuals, they never held a candle to Mom’s travel journals, page after page of artistically looping handwriting, fastidious grammar, and carefully chosen nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

Always detailed and relentlessly chirpy, those journals provided us with hours of fascinating reading and happy recollections. Even when the glow of actual events faded, Mom’s words helped us recall those long trips and embedded them in our memories.

The glory of the pyramids at Teotihuacán. Scaling the hill up to Chapultepec Castle with Uncle René, Dad’s half-brother who managed to end up six months my junior. My initial taste of abalone in Monterey. The mystery of our first night in a Yosemite tent. Being soaked at the base of Niagara Falls. The awe of our first glimpse of night-time New York City’s glowing towers.

I often encouraged Mom to write her memoir, but she never got around to it. She was always too busy, whether working as office manager of our small family construction business or being active in the community, especially during Dad’s brief political career. Then lung cancer snuck up on her, suddenly, mercilessly, and terminally.

Even if Mom had written her memoir, it probably wouldn’t have been all that engrossing. Her relentless attention to detail, which so enriched her travel journals, became her bane when she orally tried to tell a clear, simple story, inevitably losing her audience as she elaborated minutia and lumbered into tedious side trips. But, wow, did she ever write fabulous travel journals! And, at the end of each day, she always made certain that everybody knew we had all gotten a good night’s sleep.

I don’t know if it’s through genetics or mimicry, but somehow or other I’ve inherited Mom’s travel journal keeping habit. My storage cabinet overflows with journals about Laurel and my trips to all seven continents, including Antarctica. Yet, while writing these journals has helped me recall those trips with greater clarity, I doubt that they will ever bring anyone as much pleasure as Mom’s magical words brought to Dad, Gary, and me.

Resolutions for Writers by Cati Porter

Here we are at the end of December and once again we are about to turn the corner into a new year. Many of us see this as a fresh start and set goals for ourselves for the following year. For writers, often this means setting out to finally write that memoir or that novel. To accomplish this, I recommend setting small daily goals. By breaking it up into bite size pieces, the project will be much easier to digest.

To forge a writing practice for ourselves, it is best for writers to carve out a few minutes from every day. If you’re a poet, this might mean writing a few lines of verse or even the first draft of a whole poem. If you write fiction, opt to write a paragraph or two. If your aim is to write the Great American Novel, this allows you to chip away at it slowly but steadily. Incremental goals are much easier to keep. And if on any given day you happen to have more time once the ball gets rolling, you can stay with it, but if not, you’ve at least met your goal for the day. Setting a timer helps.

For my part, early mornings—prime time for writing, where I wake long before my kids—are usually spent frittered away with a cup of coffee or three and surfing the net. What else could I be using that time for? So here is my resolution: I will write just fifteen minutes a day. It doesn’t sound like much, but if I keep it up then I will have written for 5,460 minutes by the end of the year. This morning, those fifteen minutes have netted me about three hundred words. If I were to do this every day, by the time the next new year comes around, I will have written over 100,000 words. And, voila! The Great American Novel—Round One. Sure, there will be false starts. Sure, there will be days when I flake out. But should I fall off the wagon, I’ll just hop back on and start again the next day. Or the next.

Like any goal, it is more easily met with the support of a routine, good friends, and maybe some prompting. To begin:

First, decide on a routine that suits you—writing in the morning, on the lunch hour, at night. You may need to try different times to figure out what works best.

Second, decide how you’d like to write. If you prefer to write longhand, you could treat yourself to a nice writing journal, but a yellow legal pad works just fine too, or you could be like Emily Dickinson and write on scraps of old envelopes or whatever is handy. You can even write using your phone. I have written using the notepad app on my iPhone, or sometimes directly into emails to myself.

Third, If you miss writing one morning, don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you’ve blown it for the day—even if you write at a different time, or for fewer minutes than you planned, at least you wrote! Allow yourself some latitude.

And if you’re looking for inspiration, here are a few places to start. Two of the leading magazines for writers, Poets & Writers Magazine and Writer’s Digest, both have pages with free writing prompts on the web:

– Poets & Writers Magazine “The Time Is Now”: http://www.pw.org/writing-prompts-exercises.

– Writer’s Digest Creative Writing Prompts page has new suggestions about once per week from the silly to serious: http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts.

Poets & Writers also has a page listing the Best Books for Writers: http://www.pw.org/best-books-for-writers with everything from poetry craft books to writing nonfiction to how to publish your memoir to Virginia Woolf’s writer’s diary to issues of copyright and other practical things. Some books that I have personally found useful: Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, John Drury’s Creating Poetry, and Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox.

And it helps to have the support of like-minded writers. Being a part of a writing group is a great first step. Finding one can be a challenge, but there are many ways to go about this. First, look to your friends. You’d be surprised at how many people write. Also, you can look to the web—just type in “how to find a writing group” in the search bar. Or you could join one of Inlandia’s free writing workshops, which is a slightly more structured form of writers group, offering critique and craft tips in addition to the support of other writers, plus opportunities for publication and publicly sharing your work. With workshops in six different locations throughout the Inland Empire, there’s bound to be one near you.

Whatever you decide, if you begin the new year with some reasonable yet flexible goals in mind, by this time next year, you’ll have a brand new body of work to be proud of. I’m with you. Let’s go.


For more information about Inlandia’s writing workshops, please visit www.inlandiajournal.org/workshop.

2014 Pushcart Prize Nominees by Cati Porter

For the first time, Inlandia is proud to announce that we have nominated the following works for this year’s Pushcart Prize Anthology, an annual anthology of works culled from little magazines and independent presses. Editors may nominate up to six works, and can be any combination of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and stand-alone excerpts from longer works published or scheduled to be published during the current calendar year. This year, we have nominated the following:

From Inlandia: A Literary Journey

Kathleen Alcala’s “La Otra”

Elisha Holt’s “Geology”

From Orangelandia: The Literature of Inland Citrus

Juan Delgado’s “Walter’s Orchid”

Casandra Lopez’s “Those Who Speak to Trees Remember”

Chad Sweeney’s “World”

From No Easy Way: Integrating Riverside Schools – A Victory for Community by Arthur L. Littleworth

Congratulations to all of our nominees!

And to all of our contributors, we wish we could nominate all of you!

KIDLANDIA: Come to the Museum by Julianna M. Cruz

I’m using my blog space to promote an event at our wonder-filled Mission Inn Museum. They are holding a Riverside author signing event, and I will be there to sign copies of my book, Dos Chiles, Two Chilies and my friend Cindi Niesinger will also be there to sign her new children’s book, Mouse Wedding at the Mission Inn Where’s Daddy? There are lots of other books by Riverside authors as well. I will have a sample copy of No Easy Way if you would like to look at it before ordering. All proceeds from sales will go to the Mission Inn Museum.

I hope to see everyone there!

Mission Inn Museum

1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Sunday, October 26, 2014

 

Thanks for all your support,

Julianna M. Cruz


Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.

Poetry in Idyllwild with Cecilia Woloch by Myra Dutton

I first met Cecilia Woloch in 1999, when she became the founding director of the week-long summer poetry program at Idyllwild Arts Academy in Idyllwild, California. For the next nine summers, Cecilia selected an impressive lineup of guest poets. It was an honor to listen to renowned authors as they read their work in our little mountain town. Pulitzer Prize winners, Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds, and Natasha Trethaway; U.S. poet laureates, Ted Kooser and Billy Collins; MacArthur Fellowship recipient, Terrance Hayes; National Book Award winner, Lucille Clifton; and National Endowment of the Arts recipients, David St. John and Cecilia Woloch were some of the headliners who entertained us while we sat on the grass hills that lined the amphitheatre where the event took place. I became accustomed to the idea of having such greatness in Idyllwild, and when it finally ended, I became keenly aware of what we had lost.

Now some of that greatness is coming back! After teaching numerous graduate and undergraduate creative writing programs, as well as leading workshops in locales ranging from Los Angeles, to Paris, to Istanbul, Cecilia Woloch will return to the Inland Empire to offer a weeklong writing retreat at the Idyllwild Manor, a 4200 sq. ft estate in the center of Idyllwild. From November 1 – 7, 2014, Cecilia will lead intensive workshop sessions, offering inspiration and camaraderie, close-critique of participants’ work-in-progress, generative writing exercises, craft-talks, and fireside readings. A special event is also planned. On Sunday, November 2, from 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm, Cecilia will read from her new chapbook, Earth, accompanied by two of Idyllwild’s treasures: jazz saxophonist, Paul Carman, and jazz legend, Marshall Hawkins. Carman toured and recorded with Frank Zappa in the late 1980’s as part of Zappa’s “Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life.” Hawkins joined the Miles Davis Quintet and toured with them. His jazz credits are endless; his philosophy of life is this, “the world would b-flat without music.” The performance will be held at the Idyllwild Manor and will be free to the public.

Woloch’s poems are travelogues of the human spirit, recounting mysterious liaisons, gypsy ancestors, wild horses, and heartfelt longings. She is a guardian of the downtrodden, a creatrix, a wild one that no one can tame. Her words illuminate each page with intensity and beauty: “Do I look like a bride in these rags of wind? Do I look like the angel of home and hearth with this strange green fire in my hands?” Master of the prose poem and impeccable lyricist, she is the gifted tenth muse that Shakespeare idealized… “ten times more in worth than those old nine which rhymers invocate.” As Natasha Tretheway explains, Cecilia is “…a poet who is passionately alive in the world.”

Cecilia Woloch is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Carpathia (BOA Editions 2009), which was a finalist for the Milton Kessler Award, and Tzigane, le poème Gitan (Scribe-l’Harmattan 2014), the French translation of her second book, Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem. Tsigan has also been adapted for multi-media performances in the US and Europe, and is currently being translated into Polish. Her novella, Sur la Route, a finalist for the Colony Collapse Prize, is forthcoming from Quale Press in 2015, along with a new chapbook of poems, Earth, recently awarded the Two Sylvias Press Prize.

Cecilia’s honors include The Indiana Review Prize for Poetry, The New Ohio Review Prize for Poetry, the Scott Russell Sanders Prize for Creative Nonfiction, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, CEC/ArtsLink International, Chateau de La Napoule Foundation, the Center for International Theatre Development, the Isaac W. Bernheim Foundation and many others. Her work has been translated and published in French, German, Polish and Ukrainian. She collaborates regularly with musicians, dancers, visual artists, theatre artists, and filmmakers.

“Instead, you came late, you came after I’d made myself into harbor and chalice and wick. More like the ashes than any warm hearth. More like a widow than wanton, beloved. And you lifted me over the wall of the garden and carried me back to my life.” — Late, Cecilia Woloch

Please join Cecilia Woloch for a workshop of creative writing and performance. Stay at a historic estate, located in the heart of the mandala of Idyllwild. This is an incredible opportunity to refine your writing skills and get your work ready for publishing. The Idyllwild Workshop and Retreat is open to all writers with a serious commitment to the creative process and the desire to be creatively challenged. Cecilia will address participants’ questions and concerns in regard to work habits, reading, revision, submission, publication, and other ways of moving one’s creative work out into the larger world, while honoring, always, the inner source and the integrity of the poet’s voice. Cost for the retreat with 6-nights lodging (exclusive of meals): Shared bedroom: $975, Private bedroom: $1075, Commuter rate (exclusive of lodging): $675. Cost for 3-days only (exclusive of lodging): $350. To register for the workshop, or for further information, contact Cecilia: ceciwo@aol.com.

In Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month by Cati Porter

Everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. Not surprising, considering that statistics show 1 in 10 women eventually will be diagnosed.

I am no exception: both my mother and stepmother are breast cancer survivors, as well as my maternal great-grandmother, and still others not too far from me in my family tree. And that’s not counting any friends.

The importance of recognizing October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is that it serves to raise awareness about the disease and to remind us all how necessary it is to make those screening appointments.

But no matter how faithful you are about screening, if you happen to be the one who is diagnosed, it will change your life.

Writing is a therapeutic art, a healing art. For a writer who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, writing through the illness can be cathartic. And, of course, it’s also beneficial for all who enjoy reading and hearing others’ stories.

Here are some good reads on the topic:

FICTION

Bodily Harm” by Margaret Atwood is a novel about a travel reporter who is a breast cancer survivor and who, after her recovery, takes a Caribbean vacation, which leads to romance and political intrigue.

Talk Before Sleep” by Elizabeth Berg is a novel about two female friends and how, when one of them is diagnosed with breast cancer, the other – along with their larger group of friends – rallies to care for the friend in the last days of her life.

What Girls Learn” by Karin Cook is a novel about adolescent girls whose mother finds love, moves them to another city and then finds a lump in her breast, as well as the importance of the bonds of family.

NONFICTION

The Cancer Journals” by Audre Lorde, a classic cancer-chronicle text that presents excerpts from Lorde’s diary and tells the story of her journey through breast cancer from a feminist perspective.

The Dog Lived (And So Will I)” by Riverside author Teresa Rhyne, a seriously funny memoir about Rhyne’s experience battling breast cancer as well as treating her beagle Seamus, who was diagnosed with cancer, too.

Places in the Bone” by Carol Dine, a poet who turns to a memoir to write not just about her experiences with breast cancer but also about the abuse she suffered as a child. She discusses her writing career, which has included studying with the poet Anne Sexton.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person – A Memoir in Comics” by Miriam Engelberg, described as: “a cartoonist examines her experience with breast cancer in an irreverent and humorous graphic memoir.”

Cancer Vixen: A True Story” by Marisa Acocella Marchetto, which “tells the story of her 11-month, ultimately triumphant bout with breast cancer – from diagnosis to cure, and every challenging step in between.”

Mom’s Cancer” by Brian Fies, a freelance journalist. While not about breast cancer – rather, lung cancer – this book is from the perspective of a son helping his mother go through cancer treatment.

POETRY

Divine Honors” by Hilda Raz, a finely crafted and accessible collection of poetry by the editor of one of the nation’s leading literary journals, Prairie Schooner, detailing her breast cancer journey.

Her Soul beneath the Bone – Women’s Poetry on Breast Cancer,” edited by Leatrice Lifshitz, is a serious and unsentimental anthology of remarkable poetry written by breast cancer survivors.

It’s Probably Nothing…* Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Implants,” a poignant and humorous collection of poems by Micki Myers.

And if writing is your thing, then consider putting your journey to paper – as a record for family and friends, and possibly as a resource and source of comfort for others going through similar circumstances.

One book that may be helpful in guiding you is “Writing as a Way of Healing – How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives” by Louise DeSalvo.

Regardless of whether you are personally coping with breast cancer, encourage your friends and loved ones to take care of themselves by making and keeping screening appointments, in memory of those who have come before and for those who have yet to come.