Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I only have a few--but one of my closest friends with whom I went to college is a writer. Her debut novel, Locke 1928, came out this summer. I had the privilege to read her book long before it was snatched up by an agent. Here's my proud review:

What a way to debut! Locke 1928 is like picked browning of a worthy, juicy scab. Locke, the town, is no longer quiet or meek. This novel has put life back into an otherwise humble region of Chinese history in America. Characters in Locke 1928 are various but juxtapose each other brilliantly so that they are specific, full of intent, and individual! The book is written with such vision and craft: “Richard throws himself on top of her, yanks her head toward him and, not knowing quite what else to do, bites her neck…When he tastes blood, the whirlwind of all the minutes, the blankness of his mind, clears. He releases her. The poison subsides. He moves to the end of the bed, coughing. Everything’s been released in the press of teeth on tendons. A circle of bloody teeth marks starts to bruise on Chloe’s neck” (144). The language goes on with such skill and ease, “Below this, heightened by Poppy’s senses, it’s the smell of the dead stealing from the living—the way a decaying corpse can poison a river or a house” (147). Written in a Morrisonian vein, readers will marvel at the young author’s own stylistic build as there are chapters written in second person, “Under the bed was your suitcase. Made of battered paperboard covered in pig leather, it had lain under every bed you had slept in since your arrival in America” (101). It is beautiful openings like this and closings at each chapter that keep readers lulled by the story and the place. Even the setting in Locke 1928 is its own character. Perhaps the most intriguing female in the story is Ming Wai who is blue, beautiful, a smelly sea-like creature with a motive. Ms. Ryan invents this character with such skill that readers will want to follow her movement to the end…and beyond. More of the best to this young, well deserving, gifted author who is only just beginning. With a book written like Locke 1928, one can only anticipate and imagine what’s up Ms. Ryan’s artistic sleeve for future projects. An entertaining, brilliant read--A job very well done!

If you don't already own this book, you must get it. And be prepared for a little history, a little raunch, gorgeous images, and a great story!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

point to note

"When you turn everything into symbol, bad things happen or, the same instinct runs through it all"--Zadie Smith

hair suicide

Ok, cutting my dreads should have been a big deal. I think I was supposed to feel something like—maybe cultural betrayal—or maybe see it as-------hair suicide. Turns out that cutting seven years of twists with dabs of beeswax was as simple as cutting loose frays from my very short jean shorts. I started the process and Gerardo helped me finish. But I think in secret he was more affected than he revealed. Piece by neat piece, he picked up some of the locks and said, “Honey, this is good pelo. We can use it for something."

Monday, August 27, 2007

in his head

My grandfather was a skillful, gifted artist. He earned his living by ... painting signs: notary signs, hot wings and pizza signs, insurance signs, discount signs, and even did murals. He worked in the garage then attempted to start his own business in a rented space. He did well for a year until drinking took the best of his profit. His passion however: the ladies in his head. He didn't use a model or set up apples, cups, books, or vases with flowers--life is really never still, right? He rarely looked-then painted. Instead, he would steal away with a pint of Jack Daniels and cigarettes and would then sketch and water color. Daddy Billy gave women a different meaning in his work. Each one tells a different story, a different theme; they all have a different object or "apparel" that names them. Painted in the late 80s,here, these two ladies each have a completely different lifestyle---the same motif, and what a story! More to come....

Friday, August 24, 2007

res novae

When the residue of sun finally worked through
The coils of your hair, time had once again shifted
Past the countless beats of the hummingbird’s wings

Silence in tears ran into the crevices of your mouth
Then into my name to look at the day as if it were
Merely a memory

Harps of wails grew
In time to lock and hang into the air just perfectly so
Even the trees bent at you to a swell of their own kind

And it was the moment grief rode your back that you
Began to kick at the moon, to curse your own body
To sing backwards and hold yourself still,
Waiting to go

mothers alike

In Romania, Malaesia, a mother and her baby wait at the entrance of a temple in a cave. One must wonder how the baby was injured. The mother seems taken away or to be contemplating the next move. This picture was taken by one of my students, Andreea, whose home is in Romania. She has a brilliant eye, one that turns mundane into power. I love this picture because it reminds me that the minute one becomes a mother, life alters and even our eyes see the world differently. A mother can never look without foreshadowing. She becomes a foreshadow.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

them brown hands

the sweet brown in her hands
spoke like a god because their touch
quieted the young swollen mother
—fresh with grief
so many things she
could fix for this child except
this kind of rite-to-awakening
so she began to sing
––the brown
—in her hands
this will not be the first time grief
flies down to posture around them
like a crisp promise
grief hung around
even before death
it hung around
a definite lure
a famishing lurk
almighty and promising
like death's youngest sibling
grief pushed the child-mother
(barely a child herself)
into —too soon for her to know
how it feels to lose
a child
the brown hands worked and sang and
tried to begin over
and made a pecan pie soup and tea cakes
to change over
the hollow in ––time

them brown hands

all the while aware that nothing
will ever relieve this child
from the serious behavior of change
from this inevitable contradiction
from this kind of stunning residue

on home&auntie--Nov. 2004

it's a funny thing the fact that home never seems to leave the blood or the mind. there sits Ms. Irma chatting with Ms. Bobbie and yes she too just said how she was walking through the bedroom door and here comes down the hallway a dark shadow. it moved from one side to the other, down the hallway then into another room.

And I said, if that's you Mattie, rest in peace. If that's you,
Georgia, leave me the hell alone.

there's more to Texas than politics. just yesterday the climate was so warm and crisp, we didn't need jackets. then today it rained in the morning and is now snowing as if this place beckoned it up. the flowers are not confused though, not like the bees or the dogs who howl with sirens as if to help the beginning of death ease into somewhere close to sanity.

then my great-Auntie comes out of the kitchen. in the doorway--her body stands at a permanent angle.

Arthr got my ass today!

she asks me if I want some fly swatters with my food. if I say no she will become quiet, astutely offended. so I say, one and even this response receives a dry, suspicious look. ox tails. as we eat she asks me about my dreadlocks. she does not care too much for this style. at least not yet. then she tells me that after a certain age a woman ought not dye her hair. she is about to start in on Ms. Verdie who is sweetly bald.

I don't give a shit how much you dye it, the body still gonna age.
You get me now?

i explain the equivalence of perms and dye. natural growth versus chemicals to straighten negro hair. one week from now she tells me my hair is beautiful. but says so with regal reserve.

someone is cooking meat on t.v. it is red inside and to me looks like one of many luxuries toward death.

Op! I don't like my meat that damn red. Shit no! Hell, you might
as well go out there and bite that cow on the ass! Op!

i laugh and overly agree. my side dishes are gone, but the fly swatter is still there. it is a delicacy I can definitely live without. but one I devoured throughout my childhood. I have revised my eating habits. but my Auntie will watch this tail on my plate and she will be greatly offended if i don't eat it. because I am home I put half of the tail in my mouth then the rest. it glides back past my lips, slippery. my fingers pull it through. it comes out with nothing now but a tiny bone. it is then and only then I am praised.

Girl, you still know how to work them lips and clean a bone. Now that’s
a work of art. Damn, Sam! Well, tomorrow I‘ll make us some neckbones and ...

at this offering i show neither excitement nor reluctance. i walk into the kitchen.

i simply peel back the foil to each side dish and help myself

mothers who outlive their daughters are orphans

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

a different kind of happiness

A cluster of black men pool in a slough around and behind a cab bed
full with laughter their voices compete with thousands of trills and hoarse calls from whippoorwills
then a horse, his Mexican chavo, rides by
four boys fight verbally so he watches then riding
in a twist, passing, his brows touching at the center
dogs bark simply at the air while weeds
prove the history of their name wrong
random collections of trash blow lightly, catch in the wind and
sometimes snag beautifully across the tips of metal fences
A turn
His watch lays gently on the coffee table next to a measuring tape and sketches by an artist who only Aztec muses would fool with at birth
Dios has more than blessed the day because by the time the candle dies to the warm spring winds, June bugs begin to exercise for late night clumsy crashes and the roosters with their limitless crows generously peck through their own shit for a grain---it’s a moment when fathoming has no place
By July there will be a new life just beginning as will many
The same time only a different moment--that feeling of love seems like what god must someday tire of

Tuesday, August 21, 2007