Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pet Parade Poem--So Many of You Have Asked


Shoulder to shoulder, with our sun umbrellas
and stadium seats, baseball caps and tubes

of SPF 30, I see the cashier from the carnicería
on Cerrillos, the retiree, the roofer

from high on Agua Fria Rd., the high school
teacher and downtown jewelry-maker.

And their children--ponytails, midriffs,
Raiders t-shirts, high-top Keds. This is a city

of markets, fiestas, community days, 4th of July
pancake breakfasts. If familiarity can no longer

gather us, then fry bread and Navajo tacos--
no matter how long and slow the line—

or a tortilla and bowl of green chile stew.
Grandma sits next to me on the curb

with no more short term memory. She tells
Serafina, her fidgety great-grand-girl,

about the way her father used to keep butter cold
in 1926 on the porch of the house in Española.

A system of shelves and wet canvas in the shade,
chilled by the summer breeze. Serafina says, “Wow,

Grandma, you ARE old,” and swings her monkey
purse over her left shoulder. These days

the city seems split in isolated directions—
east-side, Airport Road, Park Plaza,

and Casa Solana. The eighty year old
next to me says, in his day, all Santa Feans

lived in all the neighborhoods, at fisticuffs
or pleased as sardines. Today, it’s the saving

grace of the Pet Parade: goldfish bowls
in red wagons, a golden retriever in tails,

someone’s ferret in disco glitter. Is it
dogs in drag that bring us together?

There’s a pueblo song that calls
the four directions so many times

I nearly believe we have come here
for some kind of blessing. Like the bones

of the skeleton, in that Hispanic folktale,
coming together to grant the courageous

the chance to do good. Or the Puritan,
Jonathan Edwards, writing persons of all

nations and all conditions. These four
third-graders, dressed up like daisies

and tethered to three family cats form
some kind of unlikely and fabulous family.

And here we are. My sister says, “stop
asking me and just eat your chicken-wrap

burrito thing.” When she leans forward
I see the purple shadow on her lower back--

mark of the Moors, they told Mother,
distant remnant of old, bloody Spain.

There are no simple answers there, just
a chubby blonde girl throwing candy

from a wheelbarrow, the strangers
across the street rubbing upper arms,

the seams of the city zipping up
at the threshold of donkeys and pet snakes.

Grandma says a veces la gente necesita
juntar codos. It’s true, we’ll never

own things equally, agree and agree,
but there are days like this, lucky crush

and mosaic of blue jeans, baby bags,
sun hats and cowboy boots. She’s right,

of course. Unlikely, mismatched, contentious.
“Sometimes, people just need to rub elbows.”

Valerie Martínez

Monday, September 15, 2008

Poem for the Railyard Complex Opening Celebration


I tell you—City, City, City—a story you told me--brown eyes, green eyes, black--in the days of snow drifts, mini-skirts, nothing beyond Richard’s Ave. The center of earth was a patch of land where the house was, the backyard, arroyo humming over the reddish concrete wall, and one immortal turtle. The neighbor’s immense ham radio antenna and Mr. Chang hunched to static and metal under the morning buzz of Osage Ave. We went to school in pick-ups and dented sedans, or workmen showed up to build vigas in the big room that swelled our home, Alfonso saying, Linda, get me that bucket and ¿donde está tu mama? Me saying, at the grocery store buying tubs of ice cream, you know, those big ones? Get me, ice cream, you know took to the air over the rooftops to Frenchy’s Field. We weren’t supposed to go there—He’ll shoot, you know--and I imagined him hunched somewhere near the water, listening. In those days the Santa Fe River ran and sang. It’s true? you ask, staring at the empty bed, dust rising at the dead end of Avenida Cristobal Colón. There was water? Now, we dream of blue winding, blue way along West Alameda—barbershop, coop, health clinic. The clog and cough of St. Francis Drive. Back then there were cars and wanderers and children just like now—towheads, dark braids, dirty cuffs—rolled up with all of us on the days of markets and parades along San Francisco and Palace Ave. Hmmm went the afternoon sun and you really could get fry bread for a quarter after walking down Washington Street from Fort Marcy after Zozobra burned. Now I go downtown where the acequia crosses Closson and Maynard, stutters along Water St. and sings the parallels of East Alameda and Canyon Road. Like a whisper, it lays itself down between Camino del Monte Sol and Camino Cabra, two streets with the river in-between—one with her skirt trailing southwest to the Paseo Real, the other reaching her fingernail moons to the foothills. And the river itself, p’oe tsawa, flushed from the red burn of the Sangres, running headlong downhill into this city of ours, then and now, with her canciónes encantadas--with her blue, with her brown mouth open.

Valerie Martínez
Santa Fe Poet Laureate
© 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Upcoming Events

Please join me and members of the community for the upcoming events in Santa Fe:

Monday, September 1, 2008


The sky’s a triplet--
indigo, navy, dusty pink.
Thirteen gargantuan ravens.
Bits in their beaks; Asian eyes.
Cheeky moon playing Jupiter.
I count nineteen black branches
and Lorca’s three gold letters:

Valerie Martinez
copyright 2008

How Not to Blog

I am brand new to blogging and have often told others that no one wants to know what I'm thinking about every day. Even so, when I think about poetry and community and Santa Fe, there's a lot to tumble with.

One, Santa Fe is a city that sits in many layers of beauty, conquest, conflict, and reconciliation. My friend Selena Sermeno has taught me a lot about "conflict engagement" in the last year--the idea that there are some conflicts that will never have a resolution for various reasons--historical realities, religious incompatibilities, entrenched (so much so they might be called "innate") beliefs. What we can hope for, in these situations, is to learn the "stamina" to stay with a dialogue about conflict, to engage with it in fruitful ways, to keep trying to listen to, empathize with, and understand the "other's" point of view, whether we will ever agree with it or not. This process of "conflict engagement" presents us with an opportunity to let go of the idea of resolution (which may blind us to the present moment) and concentrate on LISTENING to another and deepening our understanding of what s/he thinks and feels.

What kind of conflict, you may ask? How is Santa Fe a place of conflict? Next weekend is the annual Santa Fe Fiesta, a "celebration" of the "bloodless" reconquest of Santa Fe by Don Diego de Vargas in 1693. However bloody or bloodless the actual reconquest was, the event was preceded by many violent years of conflict between the Indians and Spaniards. Many have argued, fruitlessly, about what happened during the actual "reconquest." Is it not more important to acknowledge that Indians and Spaniards were at war with each other and that our history lies in the truth of this?

Acknowledgment of this truth may direct us away from impossible arguments about what happened and toward the present need for more open and productive dialogue about how people feel about the past and present of Santa Fe. Once, while in graduate school, I took a class with N. Scott Momaday in which we read his WAY TO RAINY MOUNTAIN. On the back cover was a quote that said something like "This book nags at the white man's conscience." On the first day of discussion, a graduate student blurted out that she was sick and tired of being accused of being complicit in the oppression of Native Americans. As a white woman, she said she had not participated in violence against Indians, would never do so, and was tired of being grouped with those who did, ancestors or not. This sparked a long and contentious debate in the class.

After some time, a Navajo student, who didn't (as it turned out) talk a lot in class, waited for a rare hiatus in the discussion and spoke up. She said that most of the time, native people just want to hear that people acknowledge what happened in the past and see the darkness of it, its legacy in the present. I have never forgotten this. We sometimes get caught in the cycle of guilt or defiance against guilt, in the effort to resist the ugly past, so much so that we forget that we "simply" need to acknowledge what happened and express our remorse.

As a mestizo woman, I sometimes feel the warring between different parts of my own psyche--the dark and historic legacy of my Spanish ancestors, the presence of Navajo blood and the absence of any real experience of a Navajo community (as our native ancestry was subdued). I am learning to accept this warring as a fact of my body, blood, and psyche and trying to engage with this conflict by listening to myself and others as they reflect, probe, and grapple with the past. These undercurrents rumble beneath the streets of Santa Fe and it seems wise to acknowledge their movement.

I am talking, here, of some very first steps in what will be a long process, I hope, of building a future together as once warring peoples. We have made strides, yes (many would urge me not to be negative, to concentrate on the fact that people in Santa Fe live in relative peace). But we have all seen prejudice, anger, resentment, hurt reflected in the faces and words of our fellow citizens, have we not? Rather than turn away, we could lean forward and listen, stay with what might feel uncomfortable, unfair, wrong-headed, unfriendly. This is acknowledgment. This takes stamina. And, it might be the beginning of something "else."