Getting back into the groove of things isn’t easy. Especially after taking a long hiatus. A hiatus that I figured would last indefinitely. Last Thursday, I participated in the Latine Heritage Month reading at the library. Yes, that library. The one I used to work at. 

And two weeks before that, I participated at an open mic at Moonbeans. Though, if I’m honest, I wasn’t going to partake in that reading (more on that later, possibly another post). 

At both readings, I read something I had written with V in mind. (This poem, actually.) As you can see, the poem didn’t age well. Which is a problem with adding pop culture references in your works. (Note: This isn’t always the case, however. There are plenty of beautifully, wittily written poems that drop random references that have aged wonderfully. Well, I’m sure there are, anyway.)

During the Moonbeans reading, I noted what wasn’t working with the poem. Keep in mind, this version is a Frankensteined creation of two poems smashed together. Something I had composed for a Love & Chocolate reading held a few years ago. 

For the reading at Sekula, I omitted most of the first point. And noted that my father had passed a few months after writing the piece.

While doing so, I remembered something a creative writing professor told me. How the editing process is never truly done, even after publishing. Writers always think of new ways their works could have been better. And maybe that’s what I’ll do. Sit down and read my “best of” poems and contemplate how to “correct” them. 

Because outside of that one poem, I haven’t written poetry in a long while. And outside of these rough-draft, journal-entry type blog posts, I haven’t really written anything either. 

Once a fixture—a staple—within the local poetry scene, I bowed out and took a seat. While the conflict that led to the decision was only partially to blame, things had changed by then. I’d become a father, took down a real job, and began focusing my attention on them. Coupled with the fact that my relationship with Jeanna began, poetry readings didn’t seem as important. 

But performance is a drug not easily shaken. Standing at the mic, reading to a roomful of strangers or friends, just felt right. Like a missing limb or an old confidante.

Photo by Heorhii Heorhiichuk

I Just Want to Know You

There’s always a jolt of panic before a reading. I’ve done this hundreds of times in different venues, in front of different faces. It never fails that moments before I even set foot inside the venue, I become a lyric from an Eminem song. A blast of anxiety rushes through my head the moment my name is read off the list, and I’m introduced. I approach the podium/mic stand with caution, folder in hand with a collection of writings and musings, blog print outs and random things scrawled out on anything from emergency room brochures to napkins—my greatest hits, as I sometimes jokingly call them. My body moves along with my words, something that could be mistaken for nerves and jitters. But without the dance, the story would fall flat and it’s message lost in anxiety of my voice.

Carol & her uke
Carol & her uke

Tonight wasn’t any different, outside the ceremonial upchucking. The only difference that, for the first time in all my history in poetry readings, I brought someone into the group. And in a sea of strangers—with the exception of Richard Sanchez and Julieta Corpus—I had someone in the crowd that was a familiar face.

Nearly a decade ago, I was a staple in the poets/writers community. I traveled from venue to venue reading my words. And it got easier with time. I carried the nerves with me, but I managed them better. However, something in my life happened and I just dropped out. I declined requests and invitations and friends became strangers. When I started working at [redacted], I attended one poetry reading and had a falling out with the Alpha male poet—a pompous poser who calls himself a mariachi (and that’s all I’ll talk about on the subject)—and I vanished from the scene until Amado returned to host his Nueva Onda readings. And we had a good run until he vanished on us. I can’t say I blame him, though. Sometimes life gets in the way.

Tonight, at the Love & Chocolate reading, I thought about my good friend Amado as I watched Julieta Corpus introduce a somewhat nervous Carol Noe because that was me what feels like a life time ago. I still remember the night that I entered the dimly light Nueva Onda Poets Cafe off McColl and sat down watching the musicians play while the owner, a friend of my then-creative writing professor, Rene Saldana Jr., crouched down beside me and asked if I wanted to read. And after much reluctance, I agreed to place my name on the list. He assured me that it was only if I wanted to. No pressure. And, of course, the man lied through his teeth because it wasn’t but ten minutes later that I sat on the stage peering down at the audience and reading in front of a crowd for the first time.

When the assistant director asked me if I knew the young lady who played guitar last time, I shook my head. While I knew who he was talking about, I hadn’t a clue what her name was or how to contact her and Googling “Female guitarist who wears a hat” was getting me nowhere. And while I conceded to defeat that I’d never find her, I remembered that I met a guitarist a month prior. So I shot Carol a quick text asking if she would be interested in performing and she liked the idea enough to agree.

As she began the opening cords of Taylor Swift’s “Everything Has Changed,” I couldn’t hide my smile. Her voice coming out of the PA filling the meeting room and spilling out through the open door into the rest of the building, she attracted a crowd at the onlookers standing outside the twin doors. “She’s really cute,” my director said. “She’s good.”

Carol, who moments ago said she’d keel over dead and play as a zombie, was killing it at her first appearance at one of the events. And while I’ve never seen her play before, I knew to expect nothing less than a stellar performance. And as Julieta Corpus introduced me for the first time in a long time, I took a breath and spilled the lines. I might have missed up on the poem, but I won the audience with my best-of-piece, “Note to my Twelve-Year-Old Self.”

And after the nerves have resided the only thing I can think of is, when do we get to do this again?


What I Have Been Up To

There’s nothing like writing to keep me away from, well, writing. To my audience of one (Isabel, I’m addressing you), I have taken a leave because there’s a lot of things going on in my life (as you should already know), but mostly it’s the poetry reading—no use in redacting it—Love & Chocolate.


I started writing two poems (and it bled into three poems) for the event, though I’m afraid to read the third poem—which I may title “On Modern Courting (The Dick Pic).” The first poem I started writing is entitled “A Made-for-TV Romance,” which I used a friend as the basis for the subject I talk about. I intended the second poem to be for Shaun, though I’m still dealing with the kinks in the editing process. And as for the third poem, well, that’s an obvious subject.

I’ll try to keep up with the blog a little better in the coming days. I’m also looking at the renewal of my URL in a few months, though I’m thinking of dropping GoDaddy and finding another service to host the domain name. In the meantime, just know that after the third poem I’m writing is completed (before final revisions and blah blah blah), I’ll post what I have for you to read.


“Lately, everyone is making fun”

Do not continue before you listen to the heartfelt song above. The post isn’t going anyway. Go ahead. Push play. I’ll wait.

Now that the song is stuck in your head for all eternity and you’re damning me to hell, we can continue. This post is about nothing and it’s about everything. It’s an episode of Seinfeld, y’all!

Cue song.

(Okay, not really.)

Jenny Owen Youngs 5
Exhibit A: Jenny Owens, who isn’t Jenny Lewis as I said earlier at work.

Ever get the feeling you’re living a Jenny Owen song? No? Neither do I. It’s just something I say every once in a while. Ever feel like you’re living a [insert name here] song? Last week, the end of March, marked the second [redacted] poetry reading hosted at [redacted], and already I managed to [expletive deleted] things up already.

Now, I cuss like a sailor. When kiddos are present, I always have to clear my throat and state that my story contains images of sex, drug use, cussing, dissing god, junkies, alcohol, and the possibility somebody’s gonna get killed but everyone’s gonna see it as just another day in Boroughs, Texas.  Why should I sugarcoat the world around them because a couple of swear words bring tears to their eyes? Maybe it’s [expletive deleted] – oh fuck no! Expletive deleted my nutsack! Expletive so not fucking deleted – time they grew a pair and accept the world around them, rather than just bitch about it.

Exhibit B: Good ol' fashion censorship in the one place where it shouldn't exist.
Exhibit B: Good ol’ fashion censorship in the one place where it shouldn’t exist.

So what’s the deal with [redacted] censoring the poetry reading by posting a sign outside the door? Am I the only one that’s disturbed that was even an issue? Have you read what’s going on in YA novels of late? Girls blowing boys. Guys losing their virginity to suicidal girls. Taking down an entire religion. So my story containing a little phrase like toaster fuck is enough to ruffle the feathers of some blimey bloke who’s offended by what I said? I can’t speak for the real librarians who work at the library, but the fake ones shouldn’t really be allowed to run the show. And yet, they do. They’re mocking the very fabric of libraries because they’re too shitty to act like adults.

Don’t get me wrong, though. If these were five-year-olds, I’d be appalled by my words. But these are teenagers. These kids already know what “slut threesome dp hardcore” before they make it to high school (meanwhile, when I was in middle school, I couldn’t figure out how to get a girl to like me, let alone fuck me).

I have a suspicion whose cage I rattled. I won’t say any names because I’m a gentleman, despite my love for profanity. These poetry readings are supposed to give a voice to the voiceless, to be cliché. And now because of some pansy little bitch, that voice will never inspire a younger generation. Congratufuckinglations, pansy little bitch.

Next time, on this blog:

Exhibit C: Let's just call all Axe products this already.
Exhibit C: Let’s just call all Axe products this already.

Annnnnnnnd closing credits:

Books · Writing & Writers

Re-establishing Myself

Last week, I read my short story, “12 Notes to my 12-Year-Old Self,” for the Nueva Onda Poets’ reading at Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial in Edinburg, Texas. I had recently revised the piece, hoping to have it down for the reading – the night’s theme was Chocolate Lovers, even though in many posts I had called it Chocolate Love.

I don’t know if the Nueva Onda Poets – which I am a part of – were the ones heralding the night, because the most of the readers in attendance were apart of the Texas Rio Writers – which I’m not a part of. Texas Rio Writers were there promoting their recently published anthology, Valleysong: An Anthology Echoing the Rhythm and Cadence in the Rio Grande Valley, which features short stories from fellow NOP writers and friends, Richard Sanchez and Dr. Anne Estevis.

Because I’ve never read in front of a crowd of writers who’ve been writing before I was even a thought in my parent’s head, I was nervous. Here I am, reading a piece about an awkward time in my life that happened to coincide with the momentous event of receiving my first love note. Lucky, I took that piece and not the lyrical essay about the raunchy details of my ex-girlfriend. (I actually did have this piece in my binder, but because the night also involved a younger crowd, I decided not to read it for their sake.)

So I read it, the second adult reader of the night. Nervously, I should say, I concluded the piece. I said my thank yous and sat down beside Ann Greenfield, a friend of Anne and a writer featured in Valleysong. To my right was El Senor, who said he wasn’t reading because all his material was still packed from the move. I produced a copy of his poem “Politically Incorrect,” which I thought suited the night’s darker side of love. No dice.

During intermission, I got several I-liked-your-story compliments and spoke to a few strangers, something I’ve been having a harder time doing since I’ve divorced myself from society. Jan Seale, who – I believe – is the organizer of the Texas Rio Writers, also came up to me. While I’ve been to a reader where she was in attendance, I never properly met her. She asked if we’d spoken before in the past, but I told her we might have only just seen each other at a reading.

She asked if I had ever been published. Other than a piece I wrote for Gallery, I told her I hadn’t. She insisted that I stop with the perfectionist attitude and get my stuff out there. Maybe “12 Notes” is ready to see some light, maybe in a YA magazine – after I make a few minor cuts and alterations.

Later, one lady – who I believed worked for the library – complimented my story again, adding in that my writing reminded her of Augusten Burroughs – though, in the past, I’ve been told I’ve reminded people of the other Burroughs.

I think I came out of that night with an inflated ego – something I was in dire need of because I was falling back into myself – and a library copy of Kinky Friedman’s Kill Two Birds & Get Stoned. All in all, it was a good night.