is a poem I wrote a few years back about two writers whose writing I admire. As a feminist, as a woman, as the grandmother of a young soon-to-be woman, from the content of some of the writing and from what I read about each of the two men, from my point of view, would not be men I’d hang out with. The separation of the artist and the work is a long-time discussion with various opinions and few agreements.
Still, I like the poem. It was published by Fifth Wednesday Journal and received a Pushcart Prize nomination. It appears in this new anthology. It is also included in my forthcoming new collection of poems, MY BOOK OF THE DEAD (Fall, 2021.)
At the end of this tragic year, I’d be surprised to meet run across anyone who hasn’t known someone personally who died this year.
In the Latino/a/x literary community three felt losses were Miguel Algarín, Rudolfo Anaya, and H.G. Carrillo. There were three men who, similarly to the two men in my poem, perhaps were complicated beings (as we all are.) In their public lives, however, they were professors, scholars, voracious readers and learners and prolific writers. They stood tall in their communities Each left footprints for others to follow. There skills and confidence made it possible for countless and many more to share in the one true thing that every writer wishes to accomplish, to say “I am here.”
Two Men and Me
I left Bukowski again, went back to Bolaño,
both men bad to their women. Both smoked and drank
themselves to death. They liked it rough, said
that was how they got their best writing done.
One winter we all ended up in hell, ran
into each other at a café. [REVISION: bar,
public bath…FILL IN THE BLANK.] Chuck
wanted to fuck. Roberto punched him in the gut.
We quaffed a few whiskies. They knew. I knew.
I wasn’t that kind of girl. Instead, we set out to do
a three-way poem. Tu primero–said Bolaño.
“What?” Bukowski said. “No comprendo.”
“HOW FUCKED UP YOU GOTTA BE YOU CAN’T
UNDERSTAND SPANISH EVEN IN HELL?” Roberto was mad.
“You illegals!” the other started racializing the situation.
(No wonder he was in hell. Then, again, we all were.)
“I’M NOT MEXICAN, PINCHE GRINGO,”
Roberto yelled throwing another swing.
This time he got me in the eye by mistake.
“There are no mistakes in hell,” the demon bartender said, handing me
some ice. “That’s the beauty of this place.”
The guys stopped.
No one had ever seen ice in hell.
Yeah, it was the start of something big.
–By Ana Castillo/MY BOOK OF THE DEAD