Nicole Henares has been a high school English teacher for over 20 years, and in 2021 she is a workshop leader for the Círculo de poetas and Writers Annual Conference. In Nicole's workshop, "The Heroine's Journey," participants explore the concept of what makes a heroine in history, in a story, or in myth. Nicole considers that we all are living history. As we look around the events as they are happening around us, we must continually ask ourselves- What happened? How did this happen? How could it have been different? Her leadership, teaching, and creative writing focus on exploring how our lives are deeply connected to the images we encounter.
Excerpt from "Aurelia Lorca And The Heroine’s Journey"
Aurelia is not my real name.
But, I, too, have lost myself
in order to find the burn
that keeps everything awake.
I, too, will always be on the side
of those who have nothing and
who are not even allowed to enjoy
the nothing they have in peace.
I, too, am an anarchist
in the best sense of the word.
I heed only three voices:
that of death,
that of love,
and that of art.
Almost eighty years ago,
the great poet Federico Garcia Lorca did not finish his last play-
Dreams of My Cousin Aurelia.
His protagonist, Aurelia, said she could not live
without reading fiction and putting on plays
because the men in the village never laughed.
To read the entire poem go to "Aurelia Lorca And The Heroine’s Journey"
Javier O. Huerta is the author of American Copia and Some Clarifications y otros poemas, which received the 31st Chicano/Latino Literary Prize from UC Irvine. He studied in the Bilingual Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Texas at El Paso. Currently he teaches at Chabot College in Hayward and lives in Berkeley, California.
There was a man who loved. It is not important to know his name. Only that he bought his beloved some flowers. It is not important to know what type of flowers. Only that he placed them, along with a brief note, underneath her windshield wiper. It is not important to know what the note said. Only that he did not sign his name while writing hers in bold letters. It is not important to know her name. Only that he misspelled it. Later he received a phone call and denied leaving the note and flowers. It is not important to know how long they talked. Only that the receiver, now and then, lightly touched his lips.
Raina J. León is an Afro-Boricua Philadelphian (currently living on Lisjan Ohlone lands in Berkeley). She is a daughter, sister, madrina, comadre, partner, poet, writer, and teacher educator. She believes in collective action and community work, the profound power of holding space for the telling of our stories, and the liberatory practice of humanizing education.
She seeks out communities of care and craft and is a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Macondo, Círculo, The Ruby (SF), and the SF Writers Grotto. She is the author of three collections of poetry, Canticle of Idols , Boogeyman Dawn and sombra: dis(locate) and the chapbooks, profeta without refuge and Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self. She has received fellowships and residencies with the SV Community of Writers, Montana Artists Refuge, the Macdowell Colony, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Annamaghkerrig, Ireland and Ragdale.
She is a founding editor of The Acentos Review, an online quarterly, international journal devoted to the promotion and publication of Latinx arts. She is also the poetry editor for Raising Mothers (raisingmothers.com). She is a full professor of education at Saint Mary’s College of California, only the third Black person (all of us Black women) and the first Afro-Latina to achieve that rank there.
I borrow wings from other angels, coast
the streets to find feathers loosely attached
to slender silver ties. With care, I close the catch
and fasten cardboard stiffened form so close
I cannot breathe or fly for the air
pushed out into a world in masquerade.
I am African. I am goddess with flare
sounding the trumpets. I call out God.
Meaning changes like sea water in storm.
I part the crowds until, beaten, my wings
fly, fall, litter the streets. I cradle the newborn
twins and realize that I am fallen,
a lesser angel, wingless and depressed.
I am seductress unpetaled, undressed.
dress her navel in lotus flowers
to swim in the pool of her abdomen
twine orange blossoms in her hair
and smell the scent of oils and natural perfume
kiss her nipples so that they become pyramids
wet from a summer rain of tongue
press her down into soft linens with hard
body folding into hers like tributary waters
warm her hands against heated chest
that covers drum rhythms resounding
men, worship your women this way
women, flush at the adoration
and you will know how I feel
when he touches my hand
Raina J. León, "Scenes in the life of a lesser angel" from Canticle of Idols. Copyright © 2008 by Raina J. León.
Chicago poet Elizabeth Marino has seen her work travel. Her poems and essays have appeared in little magazines, litzines, blogs and print anthologies in India, Gambia, England, Scotland, San Francisco, Austin, Cleveland and Chicago, including two Vagabond collections (Rise and EXTREME), as well as the new full-length ASYLUM (poems and memoir). Her work also appears in four Revolutionary Poetry Brigade anthologies. Prior releases include two chapbooks, Debris (Puddin'head Press, 2011) and Ceremonies (dancing girl press 2016). She was awarded a Ragdale residency, a Hispanic Serving Institution grant, and a CAAP grant. She holds an MA in English from University of Illinois at Chicago's Writers Program and a BA in English and Humanities from Barat College, in addition to coursework at the University of Oxford. She earned her living teaching writing and literature at local universities for years, as well as had a popular SAGE workshop.
Another sleepless night,
and my remote
takes me to Charlie and his
blue plastic boat, shared at
St. Vincent Orphan Asylum
in Chicago. His hair was wondrously
full, and he made my belly laugh
as we waited and drifted.
The dormitory cribs were
far different from the blue vinyl
mats on the concrete floor
of the women’s wing of the
shelter. Each places of shelter
and transit, an end time
at any time.
And I see these pictures
of the children stacked up like
cordwood, relatively safe
in their Texas detention camps,
compared to the Pakistani children
stacked up like cordwood
in ox carts, after a drone attack.
It is difficult to shut off
these images on the screen
of the mind’s eye. The browser sticks,
and keeps refreshing itself.
In the morning
I must go out the door
and decide to be alive.
José (Manny) Martínez aka J.M. Curét is the author of the short story Wife-Beater Tank Top, from the Akashic Books 2020 anthology Berkeley Noir. His short story Papi’s Stroke and poem, Fragmented/Fragmentado were published in the May 2020 issue of The Acentos Review. His poems Tracy and What Had Happened Was were published in Quiet Lightning’s Sparkle + Blink Issue 109. J.M. lives in the Bay Area teaching high school English and Ethnic Studies, and lends his voice to various salsa bands in the Bay Area.
sueño contigo aunque
irme de ti fue lo más que yo quize
Sueño con tus palos de mango,
cual la fruta yo subia a buscar, o
recojia del piso o obtenia a pedrá.
sueño contigo porque
tus rayos de sol y el sal de tu mar
jamás me han dejado.
De ti yo nunca hablo mal,
pero que no me hablen de tu politica
o de tu sistema de salud
por que entonces ahi si que no.
sueño con tu pasado, tu futuro,
y tu presente. Sueño con tu gente.
Humilde y guillú, ansiosa y tranquila,
feliz e infeliz- tó a la misma vez.
Gente que no tienen que conocerte
pa darte todo lo que puedan darte.
Gente que te partan el alma con machete,
bate, pistola, chancleta, musica y letra
o lo que encuentren, porque nadie usa
los recursos disponibles como el Boriqua.
Mira la alcapurria
Borinquen sueño contigo
por las lecciones que me enseñastes.
Por ti se cuando darle un break a alguien y
cuando decir, mira no jodas mas coño
como tener orgullo en mi trabajo
y como mandar a alguien a las ventas del carajo
como pararme firme en mi orgullo y mi identidad
como seguir pa’lante, porque patrá ni pa cojer impulso.
Borinquen sueño contigo
Porque algo en mi sabe que
lo nuestro no se ha terminado
me llamas, me llamarás, me has llamado
me has ruinado para cualquier otra patria
y en mis momentos mas sublimes o
mas en necesidad de esperanza
contigo es que sueño. Borinquen.
Adela Najarro is the author of three poetry collections: Split Geography, Twice Told Over and and My Childrens, a chapbook that includes teaching resources. With My Childrens she hopes to bring Latinx poetry into the high school and college classroom so that students can explore poetry, identity, and what it means to be a person of color in US society. Her extended family’s emigration from Nicaragua to San Francisco began in the 1940’s and concluded in the eighties when the last of the family settled in the Los Angeles area. She currently teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at Cabrillo College.
Until syllables undulate a Nicaraguan cadence,
I am a white girl. Once I was asked,
“Where’d the green eyes come from?”
The question arising from longing for a simple
explanation: a gringo father and a love story
where Lupita throws down a rose. Un amorcito
mío once told me not to worry because I was
brown inside. Even so, for a while I dyed my hair
almost black. I still wear gold hoop earrings,
but I haven’t tattooed that iguana on the inside
of my right wrist. Her Honorableness Sotomayor
got rid of the subdued hues and laid on
red nail polish after her confirmation. She began
the business of being herself. My mother
keeps insisting that I was born blond. Blondness.
Whiteness. I have been so confused.
I look in the mirror y quiero un color quemado.
A burnt umber. La pimienta. The prickly spice
of tropical brown. But I am güera, chele, fair skinned,
blanquita. Desde América Latina.
Latin America. The history.
My eyes are from los conquistadores.
From genocide. From the collision
and a struggle