Personal

“The bandwidth is throttled”

I should be doing something. I have the whole day off and all I’ve managed is to go back to sleep after dropping Shaun off at school. I’ve also watched several minutes of Tik Tok videos. I blasted through two hours of watching YouTube. On my bed, lies my journal, my Dungeon Master’s Guide, and a magazine with an article I’ve been meaning to read for three weeks now. Yet, I can’t muster up the motivation to write, work on a D&D campaign, read, or anything.

Hell, the moment I turned on my computer, I opened Word then quickly double-clicked the Left 4 Dead 2 icon and wasted half an hour shooting modded hellish zombies.

Last night, the library held a book reading by local poet Edward Vidaurre. I haven’t been to many poetry readings recently. This year’s Love & Chocolate event was the first I stepped foot on stage in ages.

El Senor and Amado were also there. They were talking about getting the old band back together. I could be working on new material, but I’m not. I’m just here, listening to the song on repetition while writing these words and wondering what the fuck am I doing?

Maybe, I’ll take a nap. Figure some shit out in my dreams. Or, I don’t know, make an actual attempt. Maybe it’s just time to panic.

Personal

Year Twelve

“It’s perfectly natural for butterflies,” I type. I pause for a moment, counting the years on imaginary fingers. “Twelve years into this game and it still takes a lot out of me,” my fingers click-clack on the keyboard, pausing for just a glitch of a second to take in the fact that, twelve years ago, I met Amado. Twelve years ago, he convinced me to get on stage for the first time and share my own work.

“Wow,” Nora responds. “Twelve years. That’s a whole career!”

Outside of this blog, work-related pieces, and my journal(s), writing and I have become estranged. Creative writing, I should say. When Nora asks if I wrote as well, my answer is banal. Empty. Even now when I look over the e-mail back-and-forth we had leading up to Love & Chocolate 2017, it reads monotonously—Once upon a time, I did.

Thoughts filled my head that night, and every night since Tuesday afternoon when Amado sent me a message via Facebook.

“Tonie Marie Cortez,” it read, “she passed away this Monday morning in her sleep… I thought you should know… I posted on my wall…”

I sat with the new generation of the children’s department staff, working on something. I can’t remember what. Or what we were talking about when I heard my phone vibrate from its place in my top drawer. I opened the message figuring it was about Thursday’s event or the one in April. Instead I see those words echoing from the screen. I’m sure they noticed the sudden drop of my voice. Even my response to Amado wasn’t the best.

“Oh shit. I didn’t know.”

Tonie and I weren’t the best friends. Press me on it, and I cannot tell you when was the last time I saw or spoke to her. It was either in line at the box office—she was there treating the boys to the Ninja Turtle movie and I, quite possibly, waiting to see something by Marvel—or at poetry event.

Like Richard Sanchez and Anne Estevis, I met Tonie at the Nueva Onda Poet’s Cafe all those years ago. All those twelve years ago. Twelve fucking years ago.

I excused myself. Sat in the back, and tried to understand the emotion swirling around me. Is this grief? Am I grieving? It only makes sense that my heart would ache for the loss of a friend. But this feeling? This is alien. This is new. Because mixed with the grief is the confusion. The confusion of not knowing why I felt the need to grieve to this extend.

If you never had the opportunity to hear her sonorous vocals as she sang on stage, then you were robbed of the experience. Robbed way too soon. There exists a recording of her singing at the Nueva Onda Poets Cafe all those years ago. All those fucking twelve years ago. Video that I never edited and posted on YouTube out of a promise to her.

These days I’m more content in organizing the events than I am writing poems or performing in them. A lie repeated until it became fact.

As the poets read, a thought clawed at me. There will never be a poetry reading in which Tonie will perform. I will never see her again. Never hear her voice again. Never think about contacting her as I had two or three weeks ago when the April event was also assigned to me.

My friend may have passed away, but she lives on through the memories of her loved ones. Though the voices of those still breathing, still willing to perform in front of strangers and friends alike. And while it wasn’t a poem. And while it wasn’t new. And while it was more personal than I might have liked, I did perform something that night.

Because if there is one way to honor the loss of a friend, it’s by doing what we do best.

Personal

“Welcome to the New Age”

According to Amado, I’m sharing more intimate details—more corazón—at the readings. Thursday, I read Eulogy of the Living (a sewn together piece I shared a few months ago) and a post from the blog. “My writing’s always been personal,” I defended myself, not knowing why. “Yeah, but…” And I knew what he meant. Give a man a mask, and he will tell the truth. I’m just a man whose outgrown masks. I dropped the Ennui Prayer moniker (though it’s forever present in the background of social network urls).

Writing is therapy. The cliché is never been more prevalent. As a child, I started writing to keep my thoughts. To put things in order. To hold control over things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I worked on my craft all these years out, not out of some sense that I’d become a profound writer one day but to keep myself from going over the deep. I wrote mostly autobiographical pieces, using dead bodies and drugs and alcohol as metaphors to the demons I carried with me.

Last year, I saw my relationship with Jeanna crumbled. And the dead bodies, drugs, and alcohol came back. Writing about divorce and separation without putting the topics in the foreground is a difficult task. So I dropped them and started writing from my heart. I returned to my poetry roots. I returned to just standing at the mic and speaking. I’m blending my journal writing and personal blogging skills into my new pieces (minus the links) and pouring out a side of me I’ve kept hidden.

So if my writing carries more corazón, as Amado states, it’s because I’m not holding back anymore. I’m building my way toward my feature night when I can stand in front of the mic and profess a year of separation and moving on. And last night’s conversation gave me hope. But hey, just because I’m sharing more doesn’t mean I’m sharing every detail. Not yet, anyway.

 

Doldrums

And All That Could Have Been Pt. 2 The Electric Boogaloo.

I slaved away at an introduction for last night’s reading. Set to introduce Amado Balderas, a friend of mine, as the night’s MC (and every night’s MC), I didn’t want to screw it up. I didn’t, but I went off script. What I said and what I wrote were the same, though greatly edited. This is what I wrote:

I met Amado through my creative writing profession, Rene Saldana, Jr., sometime in 2005. We were at some poetry event that ran throughout the day at UTPA, and Rene was going on about this friend of his who wanted to open a café specifically for poets and writers. We hit it off and I said I’d visit it whenever it opened. Well, a few months later when it was opened a few of my friends and I decided to check the place out. I reintroduced myself to Amado, we spoke, and after a few minutes of him talking me into it, I reluctantly wrote my name on the open mic list. My intentions that night wasn’t to read mind you, but I knew men like Amado in the past so I went prepared. He reassured me it was up to me if I wanted to read, he wasn’t going to force me. Well, one reader got down and he called another and after that guy did his thing Amado got up and announced an up-and-comer. And wouldn’t you believe that he called me? But I never really thanked the man. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now in my writing. His café brought together a motley crew of us. Some comedic, some serious, some profane. So without him, the writing and poetry community in the Valley wouldn’t be where it is now. It was his love and respect for the craft that paved the way for his dream of a inter-valley community, not just in Edinburg or McAllen, Brownsville or Harlingen, but all along la frontera, and maybe, just maybe further. He wanted to make a noise so loud that others will recognize our singular, unison voice. His nueva onda movement sparked the flame that now burns brightly in every poetry venue, at every reading. So if he doesn’t get a large chunk of credit for that, then he at least deserves a nod of recognition. Ladies and gentlemen, poets, writers and musicians, up-and-comers and those who’ve been in this game for years: Please join me in giving that nod of recognition to my friend and tonight’s MC, Amado Balderas.

Also, I feel obligated to Rene Saldana, Jr. to mention that Amado is an excellent break dancer and we should all try to get him to bust a move for us.

I was an awkward night for me, being on stage after a couple of years. I did last year’s reading at the library, but it was a different case. Parts of an older me were still lingering. Now I’ve established myself, somewhat, in the library that when I stood up there and stared into the eyes of four of my kids (not my kids, but you know, kids who go to the library), I suddenly didn’t want to read the story I had. “I never mind cussing in front of kids so long as the parents are okay with it,” I said. “So if you’re not, this is probably the time to take those kids out.” But was I okay with this? I did my best to censor my words, remove some that didn’t really change the sentence or dialogue. But phrases like toaster fuck couldn’t be altered. So I swallowed my conscience and went along with it.

Still, I had fun last night. Saw some older friends and sat at a table with a few (possibly) up-and-comers to the scene. Until next time, I say. A reading is just a few weeks away.

 

Doldrums · Writing & Writers

Important, Life-Changing Events First

If a little is not enough for you, nothing is. -- Epicurus

“Why do you say such a sad, depressing thing?” she asks. The words fall from my lips because if I say them aloud, I somehow validate my fears. Sad, depressing things, however, have been my life’s bread and butter. I didn’t get this far being cheerful and optimistic. Lately, though, I don’t know. A new emotion has fallen into place. The void, the vacuum where my theoretical heart should reside has been filled in with something I cannot fully explain. So forgive me, please, if I fear that one day I will wake up and find all this was just a dream. Was just the imagination of a writer’s hope and I was never happy.

April 09, 2005

I meet Amado Balderas for the first time. My creative writing professor – his friend – Rene Saldana, Jr. does the honors of introducing us to each other. We’re at some poetry pachanga, something that’s been happening all day from my understanding. Something I wouldn’t have thought of coming to, but I had plans to be present. Perhaps for extra credit for a class I have no need for it. I’m supposed to be here with a friend, but she’s – for one reason or another – decided to ditch me.

Several months later, Amado forces me on stage to recite my poetry at his diner/cafe. And in the light, I swallow whatever fears I have and stand there and my mouth opens…

Cut-Ups

Multi-screen viewing is seemingly anticipated by Burroughs’ cut-up technique. He suggested re-arranging words and images to evade rational analysis, allowing subliminal hints of the future to leak through…

I’ve mentioned this before. Someone once asked me how I do it, let loose with my emotions, my thoughts. How do I managed with such lengths of exposure? There’s no secret to it, really. You just write, shutting your inhibitions off. There’s a bit more, for those who are still having trouble. Write without writing. Sorta of speaking without speaking. Or acting without acting. If you’re good at it, you’ll pour out your meaning without letting anyone know. Like let[ting] the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural.

I’ve started this blog as a way to find my place in this world, create something while continually writing. I may not edit my posts as often as I’d like – or revise them before hitting post (at least, not all the time. When I do, it’s very rare. This acts more like the journal I left out on the coffee table, with the cover opened, begging the finder to turn the pages and read) – but does that part really matter? The whole purpose is to never stop writing, never stop giving up. Keep on reading.

So convey without conveying. Use the cut-up theory. Just do.

Or you can be painfully obvious and hope that no one realizes. Here’s an example:

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

Sad, Honest Truth

I’ven’t any confidence in myself, anymore. My writing’s gone to shit. My life, mood, (fictional) self-esteem rely on others. Mostly, they rely on Jyg’s love for me. Without that, I am nothing.

Notes and References made in this post:

  1. Cut-Ups quote from Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  2. “Let[ting] the air in…” reference is from “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, the master of saying things without actually saying things.
  3. The example poem is “Metaphors” by Sylvia Plath.
Books · Writing & Writers

When did this start?

Pic Unrelated

It might have been a mistake when fellow writer Ronnie Garza let it slip that I was a “staple” in the local poetry community. Otherwise, I’m just being humble. I don’t believe anyone would agree with either or. I managed to go from hiding in the shadows to leaving them to returning to them in only a span of five years. It’s a feat that I don’t think anyone has managed before, at least not in my world. It started when René Saldaña, Jr. introduced me to Amado Balderas in April of 2005. Had it not been for that single moment, I don’t think I would have stumbled into the Nueva Onda Poet’s Cafe, or taken stage. Which would have led me to not have the balls to run for president of the local chapter of Sigma Tau Delta. I wouldn’t have taken over the poetry group, renamed The Nameless Poetry Group, during Amado’s absence. I wouldn’t have met great writers like Richard Sanchez or Dr. Anne Estevis. Nor would I have met Amalia Ortiz, Dagoberto Gilb and Richard Yañez – also great writers, but not local ones. El Senor and I wouldn’t have been friends and X-Cell One Would have just been a cell phone store to me, rather than the moniker of Donovan Maldonado. I wouldn’t have had the balls to approach the Pan American with the article for the cafe, which would have led me to never meeting David Robledo for a job with The Paper of South Texas, discarding my chances of ever meeting Reverend Adam Zuniga. I wouldn’t have made such great friends and acquaintances like the Abbies, Mike, everyone from EMO. Which means, I wouldn’t have heard of Mike’s bookstore and I wouldn’t have been one of his outstanding customers. And if it wasn’t for that fateful night in April, I wouldn’t have been even considered a staple of anything because I would be unknown and the name Guillermo Corona would just be on some roster. To say this started with Amado, however, is giving one man too much credit. Credit that is easily spread throughout every English teacher who believed in me. To my grandfather, whose tales inspired me to read and write. To my mother who fed and still continues to feed my addiction every birthday and Christmas by buying me books, notepads and whatnot. To the friends who held me up when life was getting me down. How do I get to every single person who has inspired me, supported me, pushed me toward some greater state of being, of thinking, of writing? And to ponder why I want to return to college is silly. I only would I like to work hard to get my work published some day, I’d like to be that first domino to fall setting off a great chain of events in other people’s lives. Is that so hard to understand?