Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Nostalgia

When I was younger, the New Year was a time of magic. There was something sacred about that deepest part of the night, when the sky was black save for homemade fireworks, and the brilliant mass of stars that glittered brightly enough to challenge the snow ten floors bellow my apartment. As I grew up, hours became less and less mysterious until the whole night became tried and tired, explored. I came home at midnight, then one, then four, then five, then suddenly there was no more night, it was the same as day and morning and afternoon, only with less light.
But then much of the magic of childhood is gone, and every New Year's Eve I can't help but remember all the times we hid under bedframes to hide from thunderstorms while the older kids battled them by tossing flour from the balcony into the rain. Or the evening swims in the river, when everybody from the town came to seek refuge from the daily summer heat, when everybody was only an unfamiliar shadow with a familiar voice, and a common tone of happiness. I miss the birches, and how the wind tangled their leaves with the same warm touch that it spun through our hair. Every New Year's Eve I miss the Russia that I remember.
I remember a country that wasn't political. My only political association then was thinking that Yeltsin looked like a fat pig and I didn't like him for that. My other political association was that I knew, somehow, that Clinton had oral with some chick whose name sounded complicated and foreign. I thought that meant they brushed their teeth together and I didn't understand why Americans were so upset.
I remember a country in which it was okay to stop by a neighbor's house to ask them for iodine when one of us fell from trying to jump between the garage roofs. I remember a country in which alcoholism was just a brief example of something you should never do. I remember a country of love, strength, and support. But what I remember is through the eyes of a child, and I wish I still had that sort of vision.
I remember a particular night. We left our tiny apartment, just the three of us, and played in the snow so long that I thought I could see the age melt from my parents' faces as they laughed. Then people gathered in the snowy field, as if meeting to see a miracle happen. They were people we didn't know, but the simple act of sending off a tired old year in exchange for a new one made them friends. We lit fireworks and the whole sky was aflame with color. People shouted, embraced, and celebrated another year gone by. It was as if everyone saw the moment with eyes of children- they saw friends in strangers, they saw the majesty of the night, and the sacredness of companionship. I knew in that moment that God was watching His world, and I felt His grace in a way that I could never relate, but that moment of peace was the best proof in the divine.
I wonder, if I was in Russia once more, if that moment could happen again, but I doubt it. Russia has grown up with me, loosing its integrity for worldly callousness. Or maybe it's just me. Still, as I am about to face a new year without any reverence for the night or any true feeling of renewal, I pray that those moments can be repeated even in this new world that we have created. I pray for honesty, for bravery, for companionship, for faith, and for joy. And I pray that we learn to see the world in a way that we all knew, although perhaps a very long time ago.
Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Translation: 1

Александр Пушкин

Я вас любил: любовь ещё, быть может,

В душе моей угасла не совсем;

Но пусть она вас больше не тревожит;

Я не хочу печалить вас ничем.

Я вас любил безмолвно, безнадежно,

То робостью, то ревностью томим;

Я вяс любил так искренно, так нежно,

Как дай вам бог любимой быть другим.

I did love thee, and love, although but maybe

Within my soul has not extinguished itself yet;

But let it not distress thee any further;

I would not wish to ever cause thee grief.

I loved thee silently, without a cause for hoping,

Consumed by shyness, and by jealousy sometimes;

I loved so violently, so gently

As god may grant thee to be loved again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

10.


"Truth is one, sages speak of it by many names."

-Rig Vedas

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

9.


"Myths are public dreams; a dream is a public myth."

-Joseph Campbell

Sunday, September 5, 2010

8.

"Even if political prisoners are being tortured and killed, young people still want to date one another, parents still need to make sure their sons and daughters do their schoolwork, people still want to get a fair deal when buying or selling or renting a home, and a good meal is better than a bad one." -Roy F. Baumeister



Sunday, August 29, 2010

7.

"-А теперь скажи мне, что это ты всё время употреьляешь слова 'добрые люди'? Ты всех, что ли, так назывешь?
-Всех,- ответил арестант, -злых людей нет на свете."

-Conversation between Jeshua and Pontius Pilate.
Master and Margaret (Mihail Bulghakov)

"'Now tell me, do you call everyone a "good person? Do you presume to know everyone?'
'Everyone,' answered the captive. "There are no evil people.'"


Monday, August 16, 2010

6.


When we forget our preferences
Set aside our differences
And disable our prejudices
We realize that beneath
the language
the beliefs
the culture
and the skin

We are One.

Friday, August 13, 2010

5.


If your thoughts are running too fast for you to keep up with them, you need to slow down your life.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

4.




"Everybody is special. Everybody. Everybody is a hero, a lover, a fool, a villain. Everybody.
"Everybody has their story to tell. Even every Hammond. I should very much like to hear Hammond's story."

-V from "V for Vendetta"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's a Special Day

So my best friend is all the way over on the East Coast, celebrating his 20th without me. And I'll the way out here on the West Coast, getting ready to celebrate it without him. And this is the second blog I've written about him but I figure he deserves it. For everything he's done.
So I met you on some unspecified day. Only you remember the date; I'm bad with dates. But I remember the day perfectly. Obviously you do, too. I remember being starstruck, kind of. I always heard so much about you. I was just like any other high school kid who wanted to hear you play guitar.
At first I thought you hated me because you were so quiet. Or rather disliked me. I didn't feel like I'd be worth your energy. But then we went up to Sucide Hill and I stopped showing off and trying to be entertaining. We just talked. And I realized something that very first night that would make us best friends forever: other people loved me for my cheerfullness, for the mask I wore. You love me for who I am when I take off the mask.
My life was hell for the next few months. Between boyfriends, parents, friends, work, personal insecurities and mistakes, you were a constant force, pushing me forward, urging me to succeed and never give up.
And here were are, talking about my dreams of your brother being an alien, and speaking common words but in a language only we can understand.
I wanted to write something amazing but I can't compress our friendship into a blog. I wish you could be here today so that we could all celebrate your birthday together.
PS: I'm listening to old Gaslight Anthem. It's not half as good as the stuff we listened to together.
Happy birthday. Thanks for being one of the best gifts God ever gave me.

3.


There are two types of wrong choices:
Those that lead to death
And those that lead noplace at all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

2.



I'm not ashamed before my God as I'm ashamed before my people
For God can see what people dare not understand-
When man is blinded by his need for judgement
The Lord is there to give a firmer hand.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

1.


The best offense is a kind word, not a curse.
The best defense is a hug, not a hit.
The best way to battle anger is with love, not hate
Because when you are cruel people shrink from you and cannot listen
But when you are kind, people come to you to hear your words and change.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Letter to Myself

Hello.
Let me remind you why you're doing this. Today, a friend told you that you can type up a letter to yourself and give it to a teacher, who will send it back to you in ten years. But you don't have the time to go get a stamp or an envelope right now. Maybe you'll print this out and bring it to her tomorrow. But maybe you won't. Besides, you have a spanish final to study for tomorrow at snack and senior singer rehearsal at lunch.
So you're writing to yourself on here. Because only your friends read this anyway and they will remind you. Only Michael and Cris. And maybe Iris. But that's okay, they're the ones who won't think that writing a letter to yourself for the world to see is strange.
What's happening right now. You were studying for a math final. It's tomorrow and you're scared that you will get a C in the class. You hate math so much. You have A+s in all of your humanities and language classes (and let's not even mention the arts) but you hate math and science. Last year you struggled just to earn a B in honors chemistry.
Do you remember Miss Bunch? Mrs. Moore? Mrs. Jelnick? Mr. Laino?
If not... how could you forget?
They're people who changed your life. You should remember.
Today we read replies to a few questions that we answered a year ago... well nine months ago. The questions were on art. And your writing was so pretentious that I wanted to murder you. I was so embrassed. I wonder if you will feel like that when you read this letter from 17 year old me when you're 27.
Does the world end in 2012? I guess if you're reading this, it hasn't. How was UCI? Where did you go to gradschool? Are you married, do you have children? Have you ever dyed your hair? Smoked a ciggarette?
Do you still write?
Here's a quote that I fell in love with today. I'm actually sitting here wiping tears away from my eyes because I just read it and realized how much I loved William Faulkner. When I read this quote I wanted to send him a letter. I wanted to tell him how much he changed my life.
Then I looked at wikipedia and it said that he died july 6 1962. Long before I was even born. And now I want to cry again when I think about that because he talked about how modern writers back then forgot to listen to the human heart, to the raw emotion, and how they forgot to write for the soul. And it hurts because now it's 2010, seventy years later and if modern writers had forgotten the heart then, and if we are the guardians really, cheesy as it may be, of the heart, then where is the heart?
Older Dasha, do you believe in love? I don't. I used to. Fervently. Now I think people just want to do obscene things to each other and pin pretty phrases to it. I don't want to. I really do love some people, my friends, my family... Maksim especially... but I can't love a guy. Maybe it's because I'm 17 and I'm still a kid, but what if Faulkner is right and I just don't have a heart?
Oh, I forgot the quote!
"I don't think anybody can teach anybody anything. I think that you learn it, but the young writer that is as I say demon-driven and wants to learn and has got to write he don't know why, he will learn from almost any source that he finds. He will learn from older people who are not writers, he will learn from writers, but he learns it — you can't teach it."
Did you learn what drove you? Or did you forget the word and how it made you feel? Let me remind you. It rips you open, leaves you raw and fixing yourself is the best possible feeling. Creation is so violent and beautiful.
You should write again.
Are you still self-conscious?
How is Maksim? He is so beautiful right now. He has the bluest eyes and a smile that can melt my heart.
Right now I'm listening to Jack's Mannequin and thinking about people I've dated because this song always comes on when I'm on dates. It's Dark Blue.
I'd rather not think about the people I've dated. I doubt you talk to any of them anymore. That's too bad though. Some of them were nice.
You better still talk to some people though. Michael better be your best friend and Julian as close as a brother. They make you who you are. Julian makes you laugh so hard you honestly think you'd die. He listens to your fairytales. He respects you. Michael... there is nobody like Michael anywhere. And then there's Cris. She's pretty amazing. Well, there's a lot of amazing people in your life.
You should study for math. It's almost 8.
I'm still drying my Faulkner tears. Because Faulkner is dead. 27. Where are you now? If they invented time machines or anything, send me a letter back ;)
Peace out.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Translation: La Camisa de Margarita

Margarita’s Nightgown (La Camisa de Margarita) by Ricardo Palma (from Peru)

Margarita and Luis

When the spinsters of Lima wanted to protest the price of something expensive, they would say: “Well! This is more expensive than the nightgown of Margarita Pareja!” I was curious to know who this Margarita with the famous nightgown was, and one day in Madrid I found an article that told the story that you will now read.

Margarita Pareja was, in 1765, the favorite daughter of don Raimundo Pareja, the tax collector of the port of Callao. The girl was one of those very Limeñitas whose beauty could captivate even the devil. She had a pair of black eyes that were like torpedoes loaded with dynamite and could explode the hearts of any young men in Lima.

One day, a young arrogant man came from Spain. He was the son of Madrid, called Don Luis Alcázar, and he had a bachelor uncle who was very rich and therefore very proud. Even so, until the occasion to inherit his uncle’s money came, our don Luis lived as poorly as any rat.

In a church procession,

Alcázar met the beautiful Margarita. The girl dazzled him and pierced his heart with an arrow. He courted her and, though she would not answer him with a yes nor with a no, she told him with smiles and with other feminine guiles, that he pleased her. And the truth is that they fell completely in love.

Don Raimundo's Resistance

Just like lovers forget that arithmetics exist, don Luis believed that to marry Margarita in his poverty would not be a problem, and went to her father without hesitating to ask for his daughter's hand.

But don Raimundo did not like this idea and he politely dismissed the young man, telling him that Margarita was too young to marry because despite of her eighteen years, she still played with dolls.

But this was not the real reason. In truth, don Raimundo did not want to be the father-in-law to a poor man, and he said so to his friends, one of whom went to tell the gossip to don Honorato, who was the uncle from Aragon. He, who was more proud then El Cid, became furious, and said:
“What! To reject my nephew! So many l
imeñitas would love to marry this boy. There is nobody better in all of
Lima. What insolence! Who does that damned tax collector think he is?”

Margarita, who was very nervous, screamed and pulled out her hair, became pale and thin, and talked of becoming a nun.

“To Luis or to God!” she screamed every time she got more nervous, which happened with every hour. Her father became alarmed, called a few doctors, and all of them said that the problem was serious and that the only medicine that could save her could never be bottled or sold. He could marry her to the man she loved, or burry her. Such was the medical ultimatum.

Don Honorato's Agreement

Don Raimundo, forgetting his cape and his cane, ran like a madman to don Honorato’s house and said to him:

“I come to you so that you will consent to marry your nephew with my Margarita this very morning, because if you do not, the girl will die.”

“This cannot happen,” answered the uncle coolly. “My nephew is very poor, and you’re looking for somebody rich to marry your daughter.”

The dialogue was violent. The more don Raimundo begged, the more proud and angry the uncle became. The father was about to leave without any remaining hope when don Luis intervened, saying:

“But uncle, it is not right to kill her who has no fault.”

“Do you consent to marry?”

“With all my heart, uncle.”

“Well then, boy, to please you I consent, but with one condition: don Raimundo must swear to me that will not give a centavo to his daughter nor give her a coin of inheritance.”

Here the discussion began again and grew even more agitated.

“But my good man,” argued don Raimundo, “my daughter has twenty thousand duros in her dowry.”

“Renounce the dowry. The girl will come to the household in nothing other than the clothes she is wearing.”

“Allow me at least to give her furniture and the bridal trousseau.”

“Not a pin. If you do not agree, you let the girl die.”

“Be reasonable, don Honorato. My daughter needs to bring at least one other nightgown to replace her old one.”

“Very well, I consent to this so that I cannot be blamed of being obstinate. You may give her the bridal nightgown and nothing else.”

The Bridal Nightgown

The following day don Raimundo and don Honorato went to the church of San Francisco very early to hear mass and, to follow through on the oath, Margarita’s father said:

“I swear not to give anything but a nightgown to my daughter. God condemn me if I fail to keep my word.”

And don Raimundo fulfilled his oath most literally because not in life nor after it did he give to his daughter a single centavo. But the laces that adorned the bridal nightgown cost one thousand seven hundred duros. Moreover, the collar was studded with diamonds that cost thirty thousand duros.

The newlyweds let the uncle believe that the nightgown was of little value; because don Honorato was so stubborn that if he had learned the truth, he would have forced the two to divorce.

And so, we can agree that Margarita Pareja’s nightgown deserves it’s fame.

Translation: Una Sortija Para Mi Novia

A Ring for My Fiancé (Una Sortija Para Mi Novia) by Humberto Padró (Puerto Rico)

José Miguel

That morning (it was already eleven!), José Miguel woke up and decided to buy a wedding ring for his girlfriend. This, for José Miguel Arzeno, who was rich, young, unemployed, would be the easiest thing in the world. All it would take would be him getting his “roadster” from the garage and in a flash he could go to the most accredited jewelry store in the world. But we should note that nothing was as easy as it might seem, because before he could obtain the ring, José Miguel would need to find somebody to give it to. To say things in a clearer way- José Miguel did not have a girlfriend.
Nor had he ever had one. Of course, we shouldn’t consider him a saint… There you have it, as a matter of fact, his “cohort in escapades” (this is what he called his automobile), was his partner in many a grand and daring an adventure.
Nevertheless, it would be reasonable to believe that this decision of his to buy a ring for his fiancé, was making him, without doubt, give up his restless Don Juan sort of lifestyle to devote himself to a final, definite adventure. But… where would his fiancé be?

In The Jewelry Store

In the city, José Miguel entered “The Emerald,” which was considered the most aristocratic shop in the city. It was the first time that he had visited a shop of this kind, because, despite his enviable position, jewels had never really attracted his attention.
While he waited for somebody to assist him, José Miguel was content to look, without admiration, at the profusion of jewels in their various forms and hues that stood out against the velvet backgrounds of their cases, like constellations of stars in a velvet black night sky. In his innocent, disinterested browsing, José Miguel went so far as to leaf through a sales book that was on the glass counter. The name of the saleswoman was written across the cover.
“What can I help you with, gentleman?” asked a young woman, who seemed to be the saleswoman. But what a saleswoman!
“I wanted to find a ring for my fiancé,” José Miguel responded, and at the same time he hurried to drop the sales book onto the table which he had absentmindedly taken from the counter. And afterward, as he was handing it to the young woman, embarrassed, he asked:
“This is your sales book, right?”
“Well, yes, and yours if this is what you want…”
“No, thank you, I don’t need it,” said José Miguel, smiling.
“Well, of course,” added the lady with wit. “You see, in this sales book lies my happiness.”
“How so?”
“Well… the greater the sales the greater my earnings,” she responded, not having found another way to answer.
They found each other with their eyes and smiled.

Choosing a Ring

“Well, let’s return to the ring,” the saleswoman said, who –is it necessary to say this?- seemed to José Miguel to be exceptionally beautiful.
“Yes, could you be so good as to show me a few?”
“What size are you searching for?”
“Oh, how silly am I! I don’t seem to remember,” José Miguel tried to excuse himself.
“Well, does your fiancé have fingers that are somewhat like mine?” asked the sales woman, showing him her hand innocently.
“Let me see,” said José Miguel, daring to caress her fine, long fingers, which were crowned with long polished nails, lightly. They were made (without a doubt) to touch sapphires and diamonds.
“Oh! You have dangerous hands,” said José Miguel after a while, letting her hands go.
“Really? Why is that?” she asked with interest.
“Oh! Because they can be capable of driving whomever they so desire to distraction.”
“You don’t say.”
And they continued laughing.
“Well, and you believe that since the ring fits me so well that it will fit your fiancé?”
“Yes, it is likely.”
And the beautiful sales woman went to get the case of sample rings. Meanwhile, José Miguel studied her fabulously modeled figure with devotion.
“Here you will need to choose… Don’t you think that this one is especially beautiful?” said the young woman, showing him a beautiful ring made of diamonds.
“It must be, if you think so. Here, try it on.”
“It fits me like a glove,” she said mischievously.
“And how much does it cost?” asked José Miguel.
“One thousand two hundred dollars.”
“Very well. I’ll take it.”
“And wouldn’t you like to engrave it?”
“Oh! Of course, I forgot.”
“What are the initials of your fiancé?”
José Miguel looked at the sales book that was on the counter. He said:
“R.M.E.”
“Perfect,” said the sales woman, writing the three initials onto a yellow card, which she tied to the ring.
“When can I come back?” asked José Miguel.
“For the ring… you mean,” she commented.
“Well, certainly. That is to say… if you don’t decided something else.”
They laughed again.
“You can come back this afternoon at five.”
“Very well. Until five then.”
“Goodbye and thank you.”

At Six

There is no reason to be surprised that at 5:45, José Miguel had still not presented himself in the store to reclaim his ring. The watch and the hours were two things that had never preoccupied him. It was lucky that his “friend in escapades” was flying down the road at that time, like one possessed by the devil.
The shop was almost closed by the time that José Miguel entered the jewelry store, breathless.
“If you had been a moment later, you wouldn’t have found us here,” said the beautiful employee who had sold him the ring that morning. And, handing him the case with the ring, she added:
“Here you are. I am certain that
she will be pleased.”
“Thank you,” José Miguel responded, as he put the case into his vest pocket.
And, seeing that the sales woman was getting ready to leave, José Miguel asked her:
“Would you allow me to give you a ride to your house? After all, you lent me your hands…”
“If it’s not an inconvenience.”
And they left.

A Disbelieving Fiancé

“Miss, forgive me that I have to tell you one thing,” José Miguel was saying to the beautiful young lady as the automobile was gliding smoothly along the avenue.
“Provided that your fiancé will not hear,” she responded with witty irony.
“Rosa Mar
ía, you are a simply adorable creature…”
“But… how do you know my name?” she asked with surprise.
“Rosa María Estrades… is that not your name?”
“Exactly. But how did you find this out?”
“I read it this morning on your sales book.”
“Well, how clever! But be careful with your compliments, because your fiancé’s ring is listening and she might reveal them to her, and well, if this should happen…!”
“Rosa María, for God’s sake! Don’t make fun of me. You are the only one I could ever want. I don’t have another fiancé.”
“Ha! Ha! Ha! How silly! And then, if you don’t have another fiancé, then how could you explain the initials on the ring?”
“Very easily. They are yours.”
And, saying this, José Miguel found the ring in his vest pocket and showed it to her, adding:
“This ring is for you,
Rosa María Estrades, R. M. E. Rosa María Estrades… Do you understand the initials now?”
And Rosa María, doing all she could to understand, asked, not believing:
“But… is this possible?”
“Yes,” responded José Miguel with a triumphant smile, “as possible as saying that all my wishes would be fulfilled with a single kiss of yours.”
I bear witness that she complied, over and over again, with his wish.
The rest is left to the imagination of the reader.

Translation: El Nacimiento de la Col

The Birth of the Cabbage (El Nacimiento de la Col) by Rubén Darío (Nicaragua)

In the Garden of Eden, on a clear day when the flowers were created, and before Eve was tempted by the serpent, the evil spirit approached the most beautiful new rose, at the moment when she was offering to the caress of the celestial sun the red purity of her lips.
“You are beautiful.”
“Indeed I am,” said the rose.
“Beautiful and happy,” continued the devil. “You have the color, the grace, the and the scent. However…”
“However?”
“You are not useful. Can you see those tall trees bent with the weight of their acorns? Those, besides being leafy, feed multitudes of live beings that come to rest underneath the branches. Rose, to be beautiful isn’t much…”
The rose then- tempted as a woman would be after- wished to be useful, so much that she became pale.
The Good Lord passed by the next morning.
“Father,” said that floral princess, trembling in her scented beauty- “Would you make me useful?”
“So be it, my daughter,” the Lord answered, smiling.
And so the world saw the first cabbage.

Translation: Cajas de Carton

Cardboard Boxes (Cajas de Carton) by Francisco Jiménez(from Mexico)

First Part

The end of the harvest

It was the end of August. Ito, the contractor, had long stopped smiling. This was natural. The strawberry harvest had ended, and the workers, most of whom were day laborers, did not gather as many boxes of strawberries as they had gathered in June and July.
Every day the number of day laborers diminished. On Sunday only one worker- the best- came to work. I liked him. Sometimes we would talk during our half hour lunch. This is how I learned that he was from Jalisco, my homeland. This Sunday would be the last time I would ever see him.
When the sun set behind the mountains, Ito signaled to us that it was time to return home. “It’s time,” he yelled in his broken Spanish. These were the words that I waited for anxiously twelve hours a day, every day, seven days a week, week after week, and to think that I would never hear them again saddened me.
On the way home, Papa did not say a word. He watched the road intently with his two hands on the steering wheel. Roberto, my older brother, was also silent. He threw back his head and closed his eyes. The dust that seeped in from outside made him cough repeatedly.
It was the end of August. When I opened the door to our shack I stopped. I saw that everything we owned was packed in cardboard boxes. Suddenly I felt the burden of the hours, the days, the weeks, the months of work. I sat down next to a box and my eyes filled with tears at the thought of having to move to Fresno.

The Move
That night I could not sleep, and a little earlier than at five that morning, Papa, who had apparently not shut his eyes either, woke us up. For a few minutes, the joyous cries of my little brothers, for whom the move was a great adventure, broke the silence of the dawn. The barking of dogs soon accompanied us.
While we packed the dishes, pots, and pans from breakfast, Papa left to start the “Caranchita”. This was the name that Papa gave to his old black Plymouth ’38. He bought it in a used car agency in Santa Rosa in the winter of 1949. Papa was very proud of his car. “My Caranchita,” he called it affectionately. He had the right to feel this way. Before he bought it, he spent a lot of time looking at the other cars. When he finally chose “Caranchita”, he examined it inch by inch. He listened to the motor, tilting his head from side to side like a parakeet, trying to detect any sound that could indicate mechanical problems. After satisfying himself with the sounds of the car, Papa insisted that he know who had been the owner. He never found this out, but he bought the car anyway. Papa thought that the owner must have been somebody important because, in the backseat, Papa found a blue tie.
Papa parked the car in front of the shack and left the motor running. “Ready!” he cried. Without a word, Roberto and I began carrying the cardboard boxes to the car. Roberto carried the two larger ones and I carried the two smaller ones. Papa carried the mattress and secured it onto the roof of the car with ropes so that it wouldn’t fly off.
Everything was packed except for Mama’s big cooking pot. It was an old pot that Mama had bout in a secondhand shop in Santa Maria the year I was born. The pot was dented and scratched, but the more dented it became, the more Mama loved it. “My cooking pot,” she would call it proudly.
I kept the door of the shack open while Mama carried out her pot carefully, grasping it firmly by its two handles so that she would not spill its contents: cooked beans. When she got to the car, Papa stretched out his hands to help her. Roberto opened the back door and Papa carefully placed the pot on the floor next to the seat. We all got into the “Caranchita”. Papa sighed, wiped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeves of his shirt, and said tiredly: “That’s all.”
As we were leaving, I got a knot in my throat. I turned and looked at out shack one last time.

The Arrival in Fresno
At sunset, we arrived at a work camp next to Fresno. Since Papa did not speak English, Mama asked the foreman if they needed more workers. “We don’t need anybody,” he said, scratching his head. “Ask Sullivan. Look, continue on this road until you arrive at a white, large house with a fence. That’s where he lives.”
When we arrived there, Mama walked toward the house. She walked through the fence, through rows of rose bushes, and up to the door. She rang the bell. The porch lights turned on and a tall, heavy-set man came outside. They talked briefly. When the man went back inside, Mama hurried to the car. “We have work! The man let us stay for the entire season,” she said, a little choked up with pleasure, and pointed at an old garage next to the stables, where we would live.
The garage had been run down by the years. The walls had been eaten away by termites and they barely held up the torn roof. There were no windows and the floor was a dirt floor covered by dust.
That night, by petroleum gas light, we unpacked our things and began to make the garage livable. Roberto swept the floor with energy; Papa filled the holes in the walls with thin sheets of tin. Mama gave my little brothers something to eat. Papa and Roberto brought the mattress and put it in one of the garage corners. “Viejita,” he said to Mama, “you and your little ones can sleep on the mattress, and Roberto, Panchito, and I will sleep under the trees.”

Second Part

Working in the Vineyard
Very early the next day, Mr. Sullivan told us where the vineyard was and, after breakfast, Papa, Roberto, and I went to the vineyard to pick.
Around nine o’clock, the temperature climbed to one hundred degrees. I was soaked with sweat and my mouth as dry as if I had been chewing on a scarf. At the end of the row, we would open the jar of water and drink. “Don’t drink too much- you’ll get sick!” Roberto yelled at me. He had not finished warning me when I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. I fell to my knees and the water jar slipped from my hands.
I could only hear the buzzing of the insects. Little by little I began to recuperate. I splashed water onto my face and neck and watched the black mud seep down my arms and boil when it hit the earth.
I still felt sick at lunchtime. It was two in the afternoon and we sat under a large walnut tree that was at the side of the vineyard. Papa wrote down the number of boxes that we had filled. Roberto was tracing designs in the earth with a stick. Suddenly, Papa grew pale. He had been watching the road. “School bus,” he whispered in alarm. Instantly, Roberto and I ran to hide ourselves in the vines. The yellow school bus stopped in front of the Sullivan house. Two very clean, well-dressed children got off. Roberto and I left our hiding spot and returned to where Papa was waiting. “You must be careful,” he warned.
After lunch, we went back to work. The pungent scent, the buzz of the insects, the sweat and the dust made the afternoon seem eternal. Finally, the mountains surrounded the valley and swallowed the sun. An hour later, it was too dark to continue working. The grapevines covered the grapes and it was very difficult to see them. “Let’s go,” said Papa, signaling that it was time for us to go. He took a pencil and began to calculate how much we had earned the first day. He added numbers, erased them, and wrote more. He raised his head without saying anything. His eyes were sad and sunken, and wet with tears.
When we came home from work, we washed ourselves outside with cold water from a hose. Then we sat at a table made of wooden crates and hungrily ate a soup of noodles, potatoes, and fresh flour tortillas. After dinner, we lay down to sleep, ready to begin a new day of work with the arrival of the sun.
The second day, when I woke up, I felt beaten; my whole body ached. I could hardly lift my arms and legs. Every morning that I woke up I felt the same way until my muscles got used to the work.

School
It was Monday, the first week of November. The grape season had ended and I could go to school. I woke up early that morning and stayed in bed watching the stars and savoring the thought of not having to go to work and of getting to start sixth grade for the first time this year. Since I could not sleep, I decided to get up and have breakfast with Papa and Roberto. I sat with my head down in front of my brother. I didn’t want to look at him because I know that he was sad. He would not go to school today, nor tomorrow, nor the following week. He would not go until the cotton season was over, and that would not be before February. I rubbed my hands together and watched the dry, acid stained skin rub off and fall to the ground
When Papa and Roberto left for work, I felt a great relief wash over me. I went to the top of a slope and watched the “Caranchita” disappear into a dust cloud.
Two hours later, around eight, I waited for the school bus. Finally, it came. I climbed into it and sat alone. The children were all playing and yelling.
I was nervous when the bus stopped next to the school. I looked out the window and saw a crowd of children. Some carried books, others carried toys. I got off the bus, put my hands in my pockets, and went to the principal’s office. When I entered I heard the voice of a woman asking me: “May I help you?” I was startled. Nobody had spoken to me in English for months. For a few seconds I was unable to answer. Finally, and with a lot of effort, I managed to tell her in English that I wanted to enroll in the sixth grade. The woman asked me a few questions that seemed to me irrelevant. Then she walked me over to the classroom.

Mr. Lema
Mr. Lema, the sixth grade teacher, greeted me cordially, assigned me a desk, and introduced me to the class. I was so nervous and so afraid in that moment when everybody was staring at me that I almost wished that I could be with Papa and Roberto picking cotton. After taking roll, Mr. Lema gave work to the class that we had to finish in the first hour. “The first thing that we have to do today is finish the story that we began yesterday,” he said enthusiastically. “We’re on page 125,” he told me. When I heard this, all of my blood rushed to my head and I felt dizzy. “Would you like to read?” he asked me in a querying tone. I opened my book to page 125. My mouth was dry. My eyes had begun to water. Mr. Lema asked another boy to read.
During the rest of the hour, I was angry with myself. I should have read that, I thought.
During recess I took the book to the bathroom and opened it to page 125. I started to read quietly, pretending that I was in class. There were many words that I did not know. I closed the book and returned to the classroom.
Mr. Lema was sitting at his desk. When I entered, he smiled at me. I felt much better. I walked up to him and asked him if he could help me with the unfamiliar words. “With pleasure,” he answered.
For the remaining month I spent my lunch studying English with the help of the kind Mr. Lema.

The Trumpet
One Friday during lunch, Mr. Lema invited me to accompany him to the music room. “Do you like music?” he asked me. “Yes, very much,” I answered with enthusiasm, “I love Mexican folk songs.” He picked up a trumpet, played it a little and gave it to me. The sound of the trumped made me tremble. I loved that sound. “Would you like to learn to play this instrument?” he asked me. He must have understood my expression because, before I could reply, he added: “I will teach you to play this trumpet during lunch.”

That day I couldn’t wait to get home so I could tell my family what had happened. I got off the bus and saw my little brothers yelling and jumping about with joy. I thought that they were happy to have me come home, but when I opened the door of our shack, I saw that everything we owned was packed in cardboard boxes…

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My best friend

He finds beauty in places I would never dare look.
He believes that darkness is the absence of light, that silence is the absence of sound, and that sin is the absence of good.
He makes the world simple and yet so complex and beautiful.
He is my second half.

"We don't have to beat the devil. The devil has already been beaten."

Whoever says that people have to be dating to love each other is wrong. Because I love my best friend more than I ever loved another boy, even if that love is totally different.

Someday he'll see this. And it will brighten his day.
Until then... perhaps friendship is the absence of loneliness. That whiny, terrible word I hate so much.
BFFL.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Let's get some color here

Umbrella

-Even in chaos sometimes we can stop and look for rainbows-

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Glory


I always associated glory with victory. The shining knight, trampling his dying foes with the hooves of his white stallion. All of the pretty cliches. And, of course, I have no stallion, no sword, not even a single 'foe' whom I want to trample.
Maybe just... subdue a little.
And then I remembered who I always based my true understanding of 'glory' off of. Glory. To a Christian, what can surpass the glory of God? There is the sword and the shield, and the stallion, plunging us into eternal truth and the only true way to doing something right. Only nobody needs to be trampled, just changed. Victory is not the act of destroying the enemy, heartlessly, and then shining radiantly in a pool of blood. That's false victory, false glory. The glory of painters and poets who have never conquered the simplest understanding:
He whom we associate with victory never achieved it in our understanding. He whom we identify with glory was glorious without trampling, but rather by changing. He was humble rather than shining, dying in the mud of the people, under the sun of the people, washed by the tears of the people. He humbled himself enough to go without a victory. The victory was after death, in changing Hell, in marching in as the glorious Knight and defeating evil. But destroying nothing. Because by destroying, we achieve nothing other than a mock-glorious painting of our imagined victories.
And, come to think of it, to change is significantly more difficult than to destroy.
And therein lies the glory.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Doesn't everybody want love?


It sounds nice. But if I ever fall in love, he needs to smell and smile like sunshine. So many guys smile so brightly they blind you, bind you, figure you out and refuse to even realize that they barely scraped the image of who you are.
I was talking to a friend about being in love. "Isn't that what everybody is always searching for?"
And I thought about that. I'm not searching. I haven't felt like anybody I know speaks in a way that make the stars in my heart race through their colors and explode. Or like anybody can be satisfied with just being happy. Or like anybody can remind me why I am human, why I was born with two legs instead of four.
On top of that, I realized how much I loved that friend and all of my other friends. Because their arms are always open for me and for my tears. Even if I am sick, they will comfort me and then think about the consequences... possibly after they already share my fate. They trust me fully and who needs to search for anything else?
Everybody wants love. But some people just don't know how to look past the obvious definition.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)


here is a wonder to keep the stars apart
and when i shall find it it shall hide in my heart
and i will carry you with me

always

and we shall hide in the roots of this tree called life
(drinking ambrosia from the cups of the wrong gods
and not caring and not fearing and so timid)

i will fear
nothing for you will protect me
i will trust
no one who speaks against
you
my darling

(roses can never shoot their thorns
into the biting morning neither can blooms
explode into blossom with
sounds of a bomb so) tenderly take time my love
and never look

for you shall find me

i will be the one carrying your heart within mine own

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hear me

I wish you would listen. I forgot to say one final thing to you:
I promised never to hurt you. And I wish I could say I'm sorry, if I ever did. I forgot to say it when I had the chance and now you won't listen.
Of course, there are more things I wish I could say. I wish I could ask you why you did everything you promised never to do. I wish I could know how you really felt, if you were living a lie or fighting a fear. I told you I hate it when people read my blogs, and I have no idea why you would ever read mine. But when I said: "if you wanted to be with me, you would have asked me already," I kind of wished that you would... well, ask me.
Only now my dreams have tangled themselves with reality and I sleep in Heaven and wake in Hell. And I'm not sure what I want. But it sure was never to hurt you or cut you out of my life. Losing you doesn't hurt; that's something I can accept. You lose people. But I can't accept breaking a promise. Especially since losing you is hard enough to accept.
You said once that my mind is beautiful. This is exactly why I both agree and disagree.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Prayer in Moderation




All I want is this song to stop being my life...

I close my eyes and I smile
Knowing that everything is alright
To the core
So close that door
Is this happening?

My breath is on your hair
I'm unaware
That you opened the blinds and let the city in
God, you held my hand
And we stand
Just taking in everything.

And I knew it from the start
So my arms are open wide
Your head is on my stomach
And we're trying so hard not to fall asleep
Here we are
On this 18th floor balcony.
We're both flying away.

So we talked about mom's and dad's
About family pasts
Just getting to know where we came from
Our hearts were on display
For all to see
I can't believe this is happening to me

And I raised my hand as if to show you that I was yours
That I was so yours for the taking
I'm so yours for the taking
That's when I felt the wind pick up
I grabbed the rail while choking up
These words to say and then you kissed me...

I knew it from the start
So my arms are open wide
Your head is on my stomach
And we're trying so hard not to fall asleep
Here we are
On this 18th floor balcony...
We're both flying away.

And I'll try to sleep
To keep you in my dreams
'til I can bring you home with me
I'll try to sleep
And when I do I'll keep you in my... dreams

I knew it from the start
So my arms are open wide
Your head is on my stomach
And we're trying so hard not to fall asleep
So here we are
On this 18th floor balcony, yeah

I knew it from the start
My arms are open wide
Your head is on my stomach
No, we're not going to sleep

Here we are
On this 18th floor balcony... we're both..
Flying away

You might ask why... I mean it sounds WONDERFUL.

Wait a few seconds...

there's a hidden track.
I lost a piece of me in you
I think I left it in your arms
I forget the reasons I got scared
But remember that I cared quite a lot
You see but lately I’ve been on my own
Yeah one, but one by choice
You see that’s a first for me
This only me, yeah there’s only me
And I realize for once it’s just me
It’s just me
It’s just me and I’ll find a way to make it
There’s no one left to stop me, here I go
Can we take it from the top
So wide, so long, so sad I want to be strong
Don’t try to take this from me
I’ve already spent living half my life undone
So wide, so long, so sad I want to be strong
Don’t try to take this from me
I’ve already spent my life living half undone
I’ve been talking to my aunts and uncles,
Mom and dad again
I’ve been finding out that I have
What this world has called friends
I’ve tried to push them all away
They pushed me back and want to stay
And that’s one good thing I have
I’m gonna feel a peace in me
I’m gonna feel at home
I’m gonna make this cloud above me
Disappear, be gone
I want to feel a punch inside my heartbeat on the floor
I don’t want to hurt no more
Yeah it’s just me
It’s just me and I’ll find a way to make it
There’s no one left to stop me, here I go
Can we take it from the top
So wide, so long, so sad I want to be strong
Don’t try to take her from me
I’ve already spent my life living half undone
So wide, so long, so sad I want to be strong
Don’t try to take her from me
I’ve already spent my life living half undone
I used to be the one who won before
I used to smile but don’t no more
Living just to watch it all go by

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This is really a scream in disguise

I'll write something straightforward. I won't aim to be beautiful or poetic or to transform my life into art.
Because I love life but sometimes it's just too difficult to think about things straight. Especially when you're only 17 and you know the world would understand if only you could explain. The world isn't at fault, it's you.
My brother has a fever. 103 degrees. The world understands perfectly. But I can't explain how seeing him makes me feel. How scared I am. I'm holding him every chance I have, feeling the terrible heat, so terrified that he will just vanish from my arms. Trying not to cry because that would be silly, right? But I imagine him with the oxygen masks on his face, or I imagine how tiny he was when he was first born. And then I remember how people always think I'm his mother, and how often I feel like I am. I know I can't give him nourishment but sometimes my mother can't make him happy and I can just by singing something in his tiny ear and it feels incredible. I love him more than anything else in the world. He looks like a tiny angel. And when I play with him, throw him in the air or whirl him around quick, in that way that he loves, he looks like one. Soaring, happy, beautiful.
I'm going to college in a few months. Today I got accepted into one of my dream schools. I was in the library during class with a friend and I opened the email and screamed. Everyone must have been glaring at me but I didn't care. I was in. NEW YORK! Just think of it, this time next year I can be so far away from it all!
And then I thought. Far away from what? My family? My friends? This beautiful (perhaps somewhat bland) city? I'm so scared of doing anything. Even talking to people. I see somebody I like and clam up right away. I say everything that's on my mind just to avoid being vulnerable. And here I am, not saying what I wanted to say because I'm too scared someone will read this.
Only I'm sure nobody ever does.
I'll probably delete this soon anyway.
It's ugly words.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shadows


I love the concept of sin because if sin exists, so does integrity. Correct action. A superego to the id. Water to quench the fire and light to purge the world of shadow.
A white to black.
Only white is the excess of color whereas black is the lack of it.
And both do not exist singlehandedly.

So maybe sin is just a collection of mistakes and integrity is all the right steps we took, blindfolded. Babies can only see a few colors; as we age we begin to recognize shades. We recognize that shadows are the products of light.