The crowd was waiting, waiting. We were waiting not so much for Godot as for Cervantes. Lorna Dee had taken the Amtrak into Sacramento from the Bay Area and was looking for a way to get from the train station to 1719 25th Street.
She came into The SPACE while the end of the open mic session was starting. Art Mantecon briskly ushered in the evening by bringing out Francisco Alarcon who provided an invocation of the four directions (five, if you count the direction of the person standing next to you). Despite the fact he was about 180 degrees off, the cardinal directions didn’t seem to mind, and the spirits of the ancestors arrived more or less on time.
Alfred Arteaga started off the evening by reading from his long poem entitled “Frozen Accident.” The section he read from this poem was entitled “Nezahualcoyotl in Mictlan” and told of the great philosopher-king from Texcoco descending into hell (like Dante). Then he read a prose piece dedicated to Ireland entitled “Air,” and finally, he read a poem to an Irish lass he had fancied at one time who had gotten her barbs into him.
Lorna Dee Cervantes started off the evening by reading a piece that was dedicated to poet Phil Goldvarg entitled “For My Ancestors Adobed In the Walls of the Santa Barbara Mission.” Cervantes ended the poem with a resounding “A-men” which had a final “d” tacked on to make it “Amend.” Prior to the recitation of the poem, a Chumash song was chanted by Francisco Dominguez, and the song also followed the end of the poem. During the poem Cervantes shook a gourd rattle so vigorously that one of her earrings must have come off. Several of us scoured the floor after the reading, but we were unable to locate it.
She then read another poem for Phil Goldvarg entitled “Poeta de Pueblo” which was followed up by ten one-line poems to America.
Then she read “The News” and a series of what she called “Play Poems.” Each of these short pieces resulted from exercises in the classroom where a word or phrase is drawn from a hat and the poet has 7 minutes to construct a poem after that. The result is read unedited. Of these poetic equivalents to minute rice, she read “Blind Desert Snakes,” “Night Travelers,” “Allis,” “Movement,” “Tiny,” “Fear of Death,” and “Summer ends Too Soon (a poem about a young Chicana poet who hung herself from a tree at the age of twenty).
Cervantes finished off the evening with “Shelling the Pecans” which ended with “how a woman can rip out the heart whole.” Then there was “Nothing Lasts,” a long meditation on landscape and loss.