Night Drive in Ojai

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Noses up! Attention!

Dad & I perk our noses in the air

as we part the orchard’s dark on Grand Avenue

with exaggerated pranayama inhalations

to absorb the scent of the orange blossoms.

Ojai, a place I’ve never been before,

orange blossoms, a sensation I’ve never smelled,

have no reference tab in the black book of metaphors.

Reference & comparison fall aside

as the thick, undulating pleasure

seeps into my chest, hushing my mind

into a dizzy state, drowned with sweetness.

.

I reach for metaphors;

I settle on closing my eyes.

.

.

-Zoe

Rationalizing Privilege in Atzompa

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A dry, hard lump, the shriveled foreskin

corn husk embalms

the white masa and a brown stain of cooked pork.

Eyes first, she offers me the tamal.

When I lift it from her grasp, her split palm opens

like dry-lipped mudcracks in Arizona in June.

The fissure on her hand crosses the life line, the love line, x-ing them out.

My pocket shimmies with coins and they fill her craters.                                   

 

Here I am, hopping buses across the clay-rich countryside,

a region of Mexico that quenched Spain’s gold throat nearly five hundred years ago,

and to take a bus this woman, who could be

my great grandmother, who could be dead by now,

must steal her way onto the bus, slipping off ten minutes into the ride,

in the back pocket of a family.

It’s not about the wad of week-old tamal

or about the fact that it costs the same as the bus ride,

and that, this time, she pays it up—clinks into the driver’s neat stacks of change,

still warm from my pocket—

but feeling the gold marrow of my body

blushes my neck and my face contorts with…

                                                                                    pity.

And I don’t want to have it, to be burdened with gold teeth,

but now that I am, I must eat wedged tamales until I die of thirst.

I sit in my bus seat, knees pulled tight to my chest,

hugging all the pieces of myself, terrorized by their departures from each other,

by growth, by intellect, by simple observations.

A poem for insomniacs…

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Plus Shipping and Handling

by Elton Glaser

 

I’m waiting to see if all these insights, these dark

Residual visions of insomnia, will burn down to

Vapor and ash that hour after dawn,

 

That hour when the tired sun pulls itself up

Behind the luminous maples, each leaf

Shining as if lit from within.

 

Already the grackles are out walking knock-kneed

Over the lawn, like a flock of philosophers

Who have laced both shoes together.

 

Already the dog next door, his howl halfway between

A wolf and a vacuum cleaner, is making me think

Of sprinkling poison on the pork chops.

 

And those early strollers in their stretch pants, squares

Circling the block, pace by again and again,

Gazelles of polyester in the first light.

 

With my Buddha belly and my Confucian stoop,

I can face the east from either side of

This seesaw trauma of the soul,

 

At one end, crisis, at the other end, Christ,

As if I didn’t have enough to do all day

Solving the mysteries of the quotidian,

 

Enigmas that leave me so weak I’ll need each night

Baling wire for the brain cells, and another

Martini I.V., olives flavoring the drip,

 

Hex of the meat-haters, curse of the smoke-chokers,

Who must have found some way to live forever

In pure fear of the flesh.

 

Deep in the farmlands, the good folks busy themselves,

Up with the dew and the rooster, storing the hay,

Stacking the canned corn in the root cellar.

 

And somewhere lovers are brushing the crumbs of wedding cake

From their sheets, mouthwash in the champagne glasses,

Aspirin in the bride’s pink hand.

 

Here, where the clocks conspire and the church bells

Certify the day like a notary public,

I’m wrapping my throat against

 

The cold gold of October, a new scarf of

Polynesian pinwheels woven in the wool,

To keep my voice warm for

 

Crying out at an revelations on the sidewalk,

Sudden epiphanies delivered by the fall

And paid for in pain at full price.

Twirl Dizzy

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Dance lifts a sullen crowd like sugar,

spins them amongst strangers,

dabbling in criss-cross talk,

the caller’s voice indecipherable

from interior thought.

Up and down the line

we wobble, floating tops,

spun off a string

to rock solo

and–in breath–be held again.

Lavender’s song,

old Irish green, the hills

dip into silver-blue before a rain;

we all come back to it,

even those who never knew it,

with the tumble of a beater

across the Bodhrán.

Oh, partner, swing me round!

Lost the tune to a ten-year-old

and, by now, I’d better be heading out of town!

Easter and Passover: Let’s talk about the food.

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Easter and Passover: Let’s talk about the food.

Easter eggs

Is a love of food contagious or is it the kind of affliction that grows slowly, rooting itself in the same streams where our blood flows and our senses determine our preferences?

Today happened to be Easter Sunday, a fulfilling day of procrastination, brimming with food joy and enjoyment, song, sweets, and a mix of strangely wonderful company. I woke up hesitant about taking on this day, a part of me afraid of all that homework, and my whole body deliciously sore from climbing yesterday. I spent the morning comparing plane tickets and transport methods, planning the future (exciting, some may say, but still my least favorite activity), and arranging applications. I hadn’t eaten when I looked at the clock and it said 1:45, so I went over to the Catholic church which host a lively potluck on the second Sunday of the month. They always are thrilled to see me, surprised they hadn’t yet scared me away and happy to give me a hug and introduce me to all the new volunteers, intently showing me the single me as though a Jewish, non-religious girl could keep up with the Catholic dating scene. I shaved ham bones for a half hour chatting it up with the local ladies group members, whose names all seemed to end with -Ann. Leeann, Laura-ann, Sue-ann, what have you.

At three o’clock the food’s all spread out in a colorful, steaming display across the wall, a twelve-year old squints at his saxophone from behind his rimless glasses, playing the latest for middle school band, and the crowds are arriving, with all the customary baggage, and finding seats at the round tables. The baggage is all most of them have; the majority of the guests or “clients” as some of the servers irked me by saying, are homeless and trying to get by.

Volunteers serve up generous portions as the guests walk along the buffet wide-eyed, grinning, and with profuse gratitude. I remember many of them from when I used to come monthly, and when I welcome them by name they appear startled and look up from the steamed veggies, tamales, turkey, scallop potatoes, and deviled eggs, all of which I’m serving with five serving utensils between my fingers. “Good to see you again,” I say. And it’s the truth; many of them I’ve had long conversations with about their family, immigration, troubles, and joys.

After eating (somebody brought chocolate covered strawberries!) we cleaned up in the kitchen and discovered we had still barely made a dent in the plentiful ham, with five full trays remaining. All the food tastes good but the sheer excess of it fills any desire I have to eat much, especially meat, and apart from not particularly liking ham, it feels even worse to eat it during Passover. So I grabbed a load of cookies and apples and headed over to my school’s café to cook for tomorrow’s Passover Seder.

With lots of friends in the kitchen, I made Charoset, salad, stuffing, and broth. Other people made matzo balls from scratch, horseradish sauce that was magenta from the use of beets, stuffed roasted chicken, and chocolate cupcakes. Who’s flying to Arizona? It’s doubtful I’ll write again about the Seder considering the last time I published was February, but hey. That’s the latest.

For all those who know me, but don’t see me it could be one of two reasons (to generalize). I live in Arizona–way out there. And I’m taking a load of writing classes this semester, so when I’m being studious and generally when I’m procrastinating, too, I’m indoors or on a porch somewhere, unfortunately not running up hillsides and down gullies. Only sometimes. And less often naked.

I actually like doing this: writing about what I do with my silly time and my silly self. The self is always of interest to the self itself.

Have a great evening, week, and year, even if you’re on the lunar calendar or do not abide by time. Enjoy experiencing life with your self. It’s the only way to go.

It’s Snowing in Arizona

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Now this isn’t all that abnormal since we’re at a mile altitude in Prescott. However, these are fat flakes that glide down like loose paper, swaying side to side. After finishing my intensive month-long college class, this afternoon feels freakily free. I’d effectively worked down the lists and lists of things I had to in order to graduate, get a summer job, and finish this class.

So I came home to do some good old fashioned domestic multi-tasking. So far I’ve sent emails while making orange soup, since it turns out we had a lot of past-due veggies that were orange of all colors. I also went on a short walk while that was simmering to grab a bedside table from the sidewalk that needed an adoptive home, especially now with the snow. That table’s going in the living room, which I’m redesigning. I’ve also started a no-knead bread recipe that I found on the New York Times. I guess the reason no-knead isn’t as big as a craze as it should be, since you barely have to touch the thing, is because it has to rise eighteen hours. Yes, if it was rising now—I’m waiting for the mixing bowl to dry itself—I would still have to wait until I woke up tomorrow morning to bake it. So basically what that means is I’ll have to go buy bread anyway tonight. So I’m going to try this recipe, but make a quick bread, too.

*

I just finished baking an apple bread. Going from being a student to a domestic live-in. But after, doing a deep clean of the kitchen, making a beet stuffing with my roommate, and playing cards with her, I’m getting out.

It’s been a huge shift since coming back from Guanajuato, Mexico. It was able to work through the culture shock a little bit during the writing class I just finished, in which I wrote about my love-hate relationship with Guanajuato. More like it changed from annoyance to enjoyment. I’ll post it when I’m satisfied with it.

Also there are the changes like learning to speak English again, and to write in it. And to be hanging out with old friends who I haven’t seen in eight months or more, and to be going out a lot less, just because there is more of that culturally down in Mexico. I’ve been going on more adventures outside and no more hitchhiking.

I miss it down there so much and will go back as soon as I can, but not too soon because I need to be where I am right now, being with the place and people, and just living with what is. And that ain’t hard.

Thanks for reading!

Happy New Year!

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I’m back in states after exactly six months in Mexico. I left June 26th, 2011 and came on back to Boston Logan December 26th…all four limbs, and never having experienced anything alike. I’m still spinning on the adrenaline of the arrival and seeing family and friends and familiar landscape. All the goodbye letters, gifts, and embraces warmed my heart and I miss you already, my sisters: Cinthia, Naza, Anette, Riko, Ale, Aye, Karla, Juana, and Marlitt.

Piñatas aka Goodbye, Villa Seca.

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Today was the last day to go to Villa Seca for the weekly reading program. Actually the other program that the kids had to make them run wild around town (called hide and seek or soccer, something like that) also ended today. They’ll both start up again in February (they always say that…more like a maybe). I was the only one who showed up from my class—what’s new! At 3pm there was a Last Day Party with guacamayas and a piñata. Guacamayas are semi-gross, coming from somebody who will eat anything under the sun. It’s a bread roll (yum) with fried pork skins (questionable), salsa, and avocado. The piñata was fun because we made the thing last week and it’s always fun to brutally destroy inanimate objects with bats.

This is my second piñata in Mexico, and the first that I’ve done without a blindfold. I think we did that because there were little kids, I’m not sure, but I gave thing quite the whacking. I was the last one to go, let’s just say that.

My earliest piñata memory was my fifth birthday party. I thought it was a blast, I remember that much. We had slip and slides in the backyard and the whole place full of five-year-olds. Can’t imagine that now. I had been Pocahontas for Halloween and so someone brought a piñata of her. She got tied up in the big pine tree with a noose around her neck and hoards of white five-year-olds whacking the shit out of her. Anyway, the moral is that my dad didn’t want to have anything to do with piñatas after that. I’ve come along way to be a human rights activist.

So I hadn’t pounded a piñata in many years until last week when I just happened upon a party in the language school where my Japanese friend was dressed up in an Arab costume and my friend from W. Virginia riding a toy horse. No questions asked. The language school is where it’s at.

Back to Villa Seca, where I was today. For the last time, with the kids for the reading program. After the piñata, they all wanted to read! Psyched to read! I just shrugged and went along with it, surprised how pumped they were. The only detail was that I brought few books because the plan wasn’t to read the last day. So we dawdled with those for awhile and then I asked if they wanted to make a video. I had my camera and I filmed all of the kids present (maybe eight) about what they like about reading, why it’s important, and what they had to say to other kids who liked or didn’t like reading. They were so eloquent! We did four rounds: every kid spoke four times! The first three were “serious” and then the last they all spoke in “ranchero” accents, the equivalent to hick talk.

Finally my professor arrived and they all went running to him, surrounding him like cawing seagulls, hugging him and saying how much they missed him, asking what books he brought. Can you see why I love this place? Then I walked up and he was so surprised and happy that I’d stayed so late. It was already dark. I’d been there at least four hours. I gave him my final work for the class, hugged all the kiddies, gave away the ten or so books that I had on me, (this amazed the children; literally left them in awe that they were getting their own books) and I was off.

Chill day in the life

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Nothing especially special this week. Well, every week is special, for example this week has been my coop-myself-up-in-my-room-for-finals week. Gotta have em. I’ve been writing voraciously everyday and with all that practice, it seems like it’s getting easier, that is writing in Spanish. I’m making less grammar mistakes and my brain can keep up with my hand. Today I watched some Spaceballs (classic) and last night Tropic Thunder, which was hilarious! I don’t really watch movies all that much except with Mom in front of the fire in the winter months. So this must mean it’s starting to feel like the season of laziness and eating. I’m cool with that. Today I also learned how to make Panecotta, a creamy flan-like dessert which must have originated from Italy with a name like that. They don’t sell heavy whipping cream in the stores regularly, so it came out a little funkier than expected.

I’ve noticed a lot of people are not present in the experience here anymore. In the last couple weeks the mood has shifted and people are just ready to go home. That’s not all of us, but many feel that way. I just want to spend more time with people here because I feel melancholy about leaving the fulfilling and enjoyable life I’ve had here. It’s difficult to think about the culture shock when I already feel it coming by just thinking about crossing that border. I could pull a move like some many Americans (US) before me, and expatriate myself! But I love my family and I’m looking forward to seeing friends at school.

I have some bumper room before returning to the states: I’m going traveling through the Yucatán for 10 days with some buddies I’ve met here. I’ll be there for Christmas to witness a full-out Catholic celebration of the holiday. I want to see how many types of Christmases I can experience in a lifetime. Last year was Italian-American in Delaware, often it’s a Jewish X-mas with the water pipes frozen in Maine, it’s been in NYC, and on the plane from Asia.

Peanuts are the shit. So is my friend’s new kitten. Her name’s Alpura after the milk brand. She’s probably the first cat whose taken a liking to me, but that’s probably because she doesn’t know me well. I’m terrified of cats, mostly their wisdom and mysterious habits. They like to take advantage of this. Last night, either a big orange cat somehow got into the house where the kitten was or I saw a cat ghost. A night of firsts if it was the latter, because I’ve never seen a ghost before either. Looks like with all these changes I’m going to have to rewrite my belief system.