I just finished my first ten-day residency at Antioch University Los Angeles. It’s a low residency MFA program, meaning: each semester for ten consecutive days students attend seminars, lectures, workshops, and readings on the actual campus. These events begin at nine in the morning and end about seven at night, or so. During this time students receive their writing mentor. After the residency ends, students work independently. We are given writing exercises/assignments, fifteen books to read, six poems a month to submit to our mentor, and engage in online discussions/workshops regarding various poetic craft issues. It’s a two year program and one of the top five low residency programs in the country–and very expensive 😦 I feel blessed to be here, and plan on doing great things. The following is a poem born from my first writing exercise. My mentor, Richard Garcia, gave a list of twenty things to include in the poem such as: begin the poem with a metaphor, say something specific but utterly preposterous, make the persona or character in the poem do something he/she could not do in “real life,”close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem, or the beginning of the poem. I included most of the elements, and am fairly happy with the result considering.
Smoke and Mirrors
“Chisme is the devils’s teeth,” Aunt Lucy told me and my cousins
every time she caught us congregated in her garage gossiping about
our 6th grade classmates.
Aunt Lucy—who formerly worked in Vegas as a “lovely assistant”
to David Copperfield (getting sawed in half at the head and hips,
disappearing from black boxes with tight lips) once cracked a raw
egg on my head when I was nine suffering from a 103 degree fever,
mashing it into my scalp with her fists claiming, “The energy from
the chicken’s kulo will calm the savory spirits simmering in his soul.”
Dientes del Diablo, Mijo
Who once lifted her third husband by the greasy v-neck of his
chorizo-stained undershirt (the uncle we weren’t allowed to talk
about) hurling him down a flight of stairs, then soared from the banister,
serrated elbow leading the way like a luchadore unmasked by the foe
sprawled semi-conscious, two cracked ribs, and one story below.
Who spent Saturday nights guzzling Coronas cursing the TV
during heavyweight fights, and Sunday mornings lamenting the loss
of her only lover we ever referred to as our uncle; rocking back and
forth in the chair he built for her and my cousin who died before we
ever met. Who kissed my forehead from her deathbed and simply said,
“Don’t believe everything you hear.”
Someday during someone’s birthday, or wedding reception, or
funeral, I’ll catch my nieces and nephews huddled together talking
about something I got reprimanded for talking about when I was
their age. I’ll be the pious Uncle of Profundity voicing sage sentiments—
“Hijos. Breadcrumbs are the Lord’s dandruff.” They’ll look at me
the way we did Aunt Lucy. As if I waved a magic wand, and pulled
a white rabbit from my ass.