Indisputably, 2020 and into the present are painfully difficult times for humanity and the planet laden with grief. However, hope is resilient. The U.S.begins 2021 with the inauguration of a new leader and administration. We begin the year with vaccinations on the horizon. These are demanding times for activists and taking agency on all sides on the part of individuals of all stripes. It is also a time for the need for art, music, poetry and stories. In the spirit of upholding beauty to restore our hearts and spirits, I’m thrilled to announce my new forthcoming publication.
MY BOOK OF THE DEAD: NEW POEMS
will debut this fall in a cloth edition, including drawings (not featured here) by the poet.
With thanks to friends who assisted with translation of the Spanish poems to English.
This year, pandemic vaccinations taking place by allow the resuming
of the CULTURE STORM movie production of SO FAR FROM GOD
The Canadian based Indigenous feminist production will be internationally filmed.
(From MY BOOK OF THE DEAD,
written on the occasion of the inauguration of the new president at NEIU, Chicago, Pres. Laura Gibbons)
In these times, you and I share,
amidst the air you and I breathe,
inspiration we take from day to day thriving,
opposition we meet,
the sacred conch shell calls us,
drums beat, prayers sent up,
aromatic smoke of the pipe are our pledge to the gods.
An all-night fire vigil burns
where we may consume the small cactus messenger
of the Huichol and of the Pueblo people of New Mexico,
red seeds of the Tlaxcalteca,
mushrooms of María Sabina,
tes de mi abuela
from herbs grown in coffee cans on a Chicago back porch,
tears of my mother on an assembly line in Lincolnwood, Illinois,
aid us in calling upon memory,
in these times.
In other days,
when memory was as unshakeable as the African continent,
and long as Quetzalcoátl’s tail in the underworld,
whipping against demons, drawing blood,
potent as Coatlicue’s two serpent face,
and necklace of hearts and hands
(to remind us of our much-required sacrifices
for the sake of the whole.
we did what we could to take memory
like a belt chain around the waist to pull off,
to beat an enemy.
But now, in these times of chaos and unprecedented greed,
when disrupted elements are disregarded,
earth lashes back like the trickster Tezcatlipoca
without forgiveness if we won’t turn around, start again,
say aloud: This was a mistake,
we have done the earth wrong and
we will make our planet a holy place, again.
with my two hands,
palpitating heart; we can, and we will
turn it around, if only we choose.
In these times, all is not lost, nothing forever gone,
tho’ you may rightly think them a disgrace.
Surely hope has not abandoned our souls,
even chance may be on our side.
There are women and men, after all,
young and no
t so young anymore,
tired but tenacious,
mothers and fathers, teachers and those who heal and do not
know that they are healers,
and those who are learning
for the sole pur
pose of returning what they know.
Also, amongst us, are many who flounder and fall;
they will be he
lped up by we who stumble forward.
All of these and others must remember.
We will not be eradicated, degraded and made irrelevant,
not for a decade or even a day. Not for six thousand years
have we been here, but, millions.
Look at me. I am alive and stand before you,
unashamed, despite endless provocations
railed against an aging woman.
My breasts, withered from once giving suckle,
and as of late, the hideousness of cancer,
hair gone grey,
and with a womb like a picked pomegranate
left to dry in the sun; so, my worth is gone,
My value in the workplace, also dwindled,
as, too, the indispensable role of mother.
As grandmother I am not an asset in these times,
but held against all that is new and fresh.
Nevertheless, I stand before you;
dignity is my scepter. I did not make the mess
we accept in this house.
When the party is done,
the last captive hung — fairly or unjustly,
Children saved and others lost,
The last of men’s wars declared,
trade deals busted and others hardly begun,
tyrants toppled, presidents deposed,
police restrained or given full reignupon the public,
and we don’t know where to run,
on a day the sun rose and fell,
and the moon took its seat in the sky,
I will have remained
who stayed behind to clean up.
by Ana Castillo,
September 2 2018, NM/10/10/18