Jacqueline Mantz Rodriguez

          Jacqueline Mantz Rodriguez’s commitment to self exploration through writing is an artful devotion. A devotion to clarity, a raw devotion imbued with awakening into one’s bounds & boundlessness.

— Maureen Alsop

__

Juarez, 5002

Lee, my sister, now mother of two, was one of those girls. Women
who haunt people in their own faces:  Sisters, Fellow
Writers, Women, all those women.

Cecilia, journalist with a Ph.D.
looks like those women.
Her hair straight and long,
dark skin, walking the streets pausing,
as men both young and old whistle.

Searching for a key or clue to Esmeralda’s desmise,
who was saving for her Quinceanera.
“I want to pitch in mom.”.

Cecilia looks like those girls,
no station or education
may recreate color-
Everywhere Juarez

Where would Reina and Patricia, Lee’s little ones be if,
on such a drunken night in Tijuana,
TJ to all who go to play,
Lee and her older sister had never awoke?
Death instead of a shameful story?

Nude arms grasping dirt and air,
cuddled together.
Instead of
Tiptoed steps out the door past snores of drunken boys met two days ago at
Mr. Js Nighclub  El Monte, CA

Everywhere Juarez brims
while women and girls
sit with heads bowed.
“I am not those women.”

__

Write about five moments you would like to do over…

Moment 1 flashes by in a space saucer shaped cloud.
I want to time travel back, back to that point when you said, “the dog is walking you.”
I should of laughed, smiled at the very least or just, at the very least stayed dormant.  I did not, cannot it seemed pause when agitated, with you.

This is how it goes, we all know these are the moments, that define the worry
lines on our face,

That force pens to fall from a clutched hand on a signature line.

Moment 2
Another moment, another cloud this one God.  I screamed, “I hate you, I’ll never forgive you…
once it seems so long ago you said you read, “A happy marriage is made up
of two good forgivers.”
I did forgive you but I’ll spend eternity trying to forgive myself.

Moment three
Moment three
Moment three
Three clouds pass by and I think, hope
If I say it three times fast a chant of desperation maybe I’ll get a do over, a rewind.

I looked at you, frowned and put you down rather than listening.  I snatched my hand away and dove into the arms of another, even if it was my dog.  I let pride push,
no hurl me away.

Moment four
I don’t want to see the clouds anymore, or remember.  Do not
Make me remember, God.

I left, left you to cry alone out of sheer stubbornness even as I saw your tears well up; I still left and now I am gone now far away, and I cannot, cannot get back to you no matter
how hard I try.

Forever Moment Five

I swallow, eyes still shut as I float on a cloud.  I never did get back to you that day.  Accidents just happen, how was I to know?  I should have known, so I could Still be there with you watching as you rub your eyes.  I would then get to reach out and hold your hand to comfort you one more time.

__

Jacqueline Mantz Rodriguez was born in Great Falls, Montana but immigrated to the Inland Empire as a young child growing up in Ontario, California. She resides in Palm Springs and works as a special education teacher at Palm Springs High.  Jackie is currently working on her novella “Coo Coo La La Love and Other Tales I Tell While Doodling” while preparing a documentary on her special education students. Jacqueline received her B.A. in literature and creative writing from Cal State San Bernardino and her Masters degree and teaching credentials from National University. Jacqueline’s loves are her husband Joe and her Boston Terrier Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  Please visit Jackie’s blog on Word Press to read her collection of poetry, movie and restaurant reviews, and memoirs about the joy of teaching, marriage and dog rearing at: Love2writeandrelatetoworld.wordpress.com Any other questions or comments please email Jackie at jmantz (at) psusd (dot) us.

Kathryn Wilkens

           Kathryn Wilkens has been participating in the Inlandia Creative Writing Workshop in Ontario since September 2011, and in that time it has become apparent that Kathryn’s work is that of a seasoned writer and not a novice. In this piece, “Crossroads”, her rich descriptions of rural life embody both the joy and heartache of childhood, and are representative of her skill in her favored form — the personal essay.
          — Cati Porter

___

Crossroads

          Barefoot, I slammed through the screen door, bounded down the gravel driveway past the abandoned chicken coop and ran toward the golden fields of midsummer grain. When I passed the equipment shed, my eyes swept to the left, then widened as I stopped short. My heart pounded as I took in a row of stunted cornstalks rustling listlessly in the breeze.

          Of course corn was a common sight in the Midwest—driving down the road you’d see rows of lush green corn stretching off to the horizon. But these plants had emerged in an odd place: on an earthen ramp, directly in front of the double doors which Dr. Martin would soon slide open to roll out the huge harvester. He would wonder how in the heck cornstalks had sprouted there. I was pretty sure I knew.

          The farmhouse my family rented from Dr. Martin was at a crossroads on U.S. 27, two miles south of Lynn, Indiana. A gravel road ran along one side of the property, then skirted soybean fields and crossed railroad tracks before disappearing into the woods. We moved there the summer I was five. My first memories are indistinct, like an Impressionist painting by Monet: flashing fireflies in glass jars, a green sofa where I lay recovering from measles and mumps, newborn kittens mewling their helplessness.

          It was a four-season home. On autumn Saturdays we visited apple farms and burned piles of leaves that fell from elms and maples. In winter, storms coated branches with gleaming ice, and I learned how to skate on the frozen creek.  The whole house vibrated when a truck backed in the driveway and let loose a load of coal which tumbled down a chute into the basement.

          In spring I inhaled organic smells the sun coaxed from the ground on windy days. Along the railroad tracks grew wild strawberries which my older sisters, brother and I picked and ate. We lined up pennies on the rail and waited for the next train to flatten them to the size of fifty-cent pieces.

          In summer we set off fireworks in the driveway, ran through wheat fields after a rain and walked on stilts. At night we spread blankets in the front yard to count cars whizzing past and trace the Big Dipper in the sky.

          Some things lasted year-round—fighting between Dad and my brother, my sisters’ bickering, silent strife between Mom and Grandma. As the youngest in the family, I was powerless to intervene, so I spent time alone—wandering along the creek or reading Bambi in a tree.

          Or I’d play with the litter of kittens in the hay barn. My favorite one, the calico, died and I cried for days. Not long after, a group of men came to shear the sheep, and must have forgotten to close the gate when they left. After dark the flock escaped and several sheep ran onto the busy highway and were killed.

          That summer my mother planted a vegetable garden which yielded tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. Just for fun I filched a dried-up ear of field corn from the barn, broke off a few kernels and pretended to plant them on the ramp behind the equipment shed.

          Weeks later, as I ran by barefoot, I saw the row of puny cornstalks. Didn’t the corn know I was only playing? Apparently not—the stalks were undeniable proof that it had taken me seriously. My heart pounded—not in fear, but in the dawning awareness that something I did had actually brought about a change in the world.

          By the time I turned seven my Monet memories were sharpening into focus. We would soon move away from the house at the crossroads, a place that marked for me another kind of crossroads, the intersection of childhood and—not adulthood, certainly, but call it personhood. While living there I had learned to count, read, ride a bike and ice skate. I confronted sadness and loneliness. I began to see that a world existed beyond my family, a world of specificity.

          I lived in a particular place. Other places could be reached by going north, south, east or west. The things around me could be counted: two sisters, seven kittens, one brother. Dr. Martin’s farm covered sixty acres, with forty trees around the house. There were 26 letters in the alphabet and 48 stars on the flag. I fit into a logical, quantifiable scheme where nothing was random or vague. My actions had consequences and those consequences were predictable. A penny left on the railroad track would be flattened by the next freight train. And seeds, poked into the earth in jest, would grow into serious cornstalks

___

Kathryn Wilkens began writing for publication in 2000. Several of her travel articles have appeared in The Los Angeles Times. She has written essays and articles for Writers’ Journal, Personal Journaling, Verbatim and The Christian Science Monitor. Four of her essays have appeared in anthologies, most recently Writers and Their Notebooks (South Carolina Press, 2009). She lives a short drive from the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario where she has enjoyed Cati Porter’s Inlandia workshop.