Monday, November 5, 2007

A Few Poems from Braille for the Heart

My chapbook Braille for the Heart (Momotombo Press) is now available for $10. All proceeds will fund scholarships for students at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Pilsen, IL, to attend a creative writing camp at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Checks should be made out to "University of Notre Dame" and sent to the following Washington, D.C. address:

Francisco Aragon
Institute for Latino Studies/Notre Dame
1608 Rhode Island Ave. Suite 348
Washington, D.C. 20036

* * * * *

California Sonnets: Elegance

Elegance has its lightning too, its jagged
dance that ebbs late in the evening, slightly
vexed by a high-heeled partner and her unrepentant
smoke, her waxed legs ascending like heat.
All night I've wanted to unlock some lost
octave that frets about this and that, mostly
that: the guitar's tightly wound chords
my fingers would register and release. But
this middle-aged campaign for elegance
doesn't pirouette like wind in the orchards;
only the frogs start up in the canal's
orchestra pit. What's left is this stunned
self-portrait, irregular and estranged,
a fifty year old man anxious to tango.

--Robert Vasquez
(from Braille for the Heart)

* * * * *

The Myth of the Happy Family: Yield

Driving back to the L.A. basin,
I see cloud-softened lightning
sluice down to the black

Sierras, and I think of Henry
Vaughan who forever sought out
behind such stony

clouds a 17th-century God,
his haypaths ribboned with belled
roses and poppies,

whereas my asphalt lane divides the
dairies between Goshen and
Kingsburg. Here the dammed

Kings River must give way to cow stench
and burnt ions filling each
car's air vents. Vaughan, un-

like his champion George Herbert, could
never scribble alive a
holy being who dined

and courted you; Vaughan could only "look
and call," the divine hand a
peripheral blur

at best, adrenalin stammering
his heart. Nevertheless, the
rock-faced countryside,

down to the least soybean and wheatflake,
could make Vaughan yield--just as I
have tonight along

US 99, my blinkers on
to scare off help, for I've no
flat to change or plug,

just a dairyman a half-acre
away who closes down the
stanchion lights shed by

shed, his milked guernseys briefly arc-lit
as they all mill and call in
the barn-dark tableau.

--Robert Vasquez
(from Braille for the Heart)

* * * * *

California Sonnets: Discharged

Discharged like smoke or sadness in bars,
I walk the day's remedial structure, terse
as a scrawled fragment, the neighborhoods
planned and proscribed. Mary, you always
asked, "Will you miss me when I'm gone?"
And here's my daily reply, the measured
pain muted with pastels (not obvious
like the rap-swelled Chevys that thump
in my chest thirty feet away)--vacant
as an echoing chamber. Soon the birds
intervene, scoring the Visalia sky.
I'll walk until the sparrows tire and roost,
until the vacuumed harbor of space lists
with stars stalled--like me--in a blue bay.

--Robert Vasquez
(from Braille for the Heart)

Author's note: The Myth of the Happy Family poems are syllabic; the stanzas consist of twenty-one syllables: nine in the first lines, seven in the second lines, and five in the third lines. California Sonnets are neither rhymed nor metered; the poems' main title stems from a review of Charles Wright's poetry: The critic couldn't understand why Wright utilized a certain kind of lineation in his work and surmised that it must be a "California thing."