Thursday, November 5, 2015

Remembering Santos Rodriguez

Altar at El Centro de la Raza, Seattle (2015)

Do you know about Santos Rodriguez?  
I did not until Estela Ortega, Executive Director at El Centro de la Raza, explained the story of the 12 year old Dallas boy shot in the head in 1973 by a white Dallas police officer.  Santos and his brother were handcuffed and taken from their home to be questioned for the burglary of a gas station soda machine.  Santos was in the front seat of the patrol car where the officer showed him his gun loaded with only one bullet. The policeman demanded that Santos tell the truth or he would place the gun to his head. Santos denied any wrongdoing and the officer pulled the trigger twice. The first time nothing happened, but the second time, in front of his handcuffed brother, Santos was murdered. No evidence was found that the boys were involved in the theft.

El Centro de la Raza with the City of Seattle built a park in memory of Santos. Learn more about the Santos Rodriguez Memorial Park here

This November second, forty two years after Santos's murder, his mother, Bessie Rodriguez, and a delegation from Dallas came to El Centro to visit the park and to remember and honor Santos for Dia de los Muertos.

Here is the poem I wrote for the occasion.

Think of Santos
-- In memory of Santos Rodriguez

Since not anger, not prayers, nor protests
The clock can stop and prevent the bullet
Fired by a half man and his coward hand
And no brotherly love nor mother’s tears
Life into his lifeless body may inject
We who live yet must Santo’s life recall
His narrow shoulders, the milk of his teeth
Remember his tomorrows in each day
In children smiling on their way to school
Cherish and protect the things he didn’t get
When you say his name he lives inside you
Inside me live his truth, his hopes, his dread

So as the moon calls tides from her distant perch 
So may one day soon Santos and Justice merge.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Seattle's Civic Poet

The Mayor's Art Awards at Seattle Center on September 4th was the site of my first official reading.
Here I am with Mayor Murray at the Chihuly Garden and Glass right before going onstage .

Photograph courtesy of Marcus Donner

Seattle’s Poem

Seattle is a house
on the comings
and goings
of water and wind
ripple of fish
feather of crow
early morning
ferry yawn

Seattle I say
and invoke
a man and a place
the two inseparable
not proportional
not parallel
but as language
is to poem
and salt to sea

I watch bridges, bicyclists, boats
summer blankets tendered
on public lawns
I watch fiery sunsets
tango and sway above jagged peaks
and autumn trees bursting gold
up and down hilly streets

Nevertheless before
I postcard and gloss
and more sunsets
and more trees
find their way into my lines
I must confess
the house’s foundation
is in places brittle
and many rooms are dark
for windows lack

Plenty have I been
on the receiving end
of rehearsed indifference
heard enough shallow
arguments on who belongs here
to wake up scooping
ocean water with a spoon
we are all here
that need to be

The city is concrete and steel
plus the sum of its people
every day we destroy
our house
then race to remake it
those narrow windows
block future’s view
mute voices
that need to be heard
muffle the sound
of the falling tree limb
heavy with ripe plums

Every day we tread
over Chief Sealth’s legacy
his prophetic words,
“At night when the streets
are silent (..) and you think
them deserted,
they will throng
with the returning hosts
that once filled them
and still love this land”

We are not alone
save for his people
we are all immigrants here
waiter, teacher,
artist, worker, nurse
we belong
all of us belong
Seattle is a house
we all need to afford

Claudia Castro Luna

Friday, August 7, 2015

Youth Poets

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet a group of youth from the South West Youth and Family Services Young Writer's Workshop. I was invited to chat with them about writing and to read some of my work. Every summer they gather to to express the Word -- what is true and beautiful and hard in their lives. The Boot is where their poems are published.

They will celebrate the release of The Boot on August 12th, 2015 at 5:30 in the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center's auditorium in West Seattle. AND, this year The Boot returns to its original print format. Don't miss their performance and get a hold of that chapbook - It is worth every line!

Here is the one of the poems I read for them:

On my way to the Castle

Twice a day
This walk
Past empty corner lots
Liquor stores
Boarded up buildings
Prayer Mission Pentecostal Church
Retired condoms
Stuck in gutters
Lotto tickets littering sidewalks
The reek of despair
From seedy motel rooms
The color TVs can’t hide the stench
Praise Fellowship Christian Church
Twice a day
This walk
Past sullen faces with hawk eyes
Flimsy bodies inside loose garments
Boys, their wings of love lost long ago
Now turned into vermin spirits
Feasting on decay
Center of Hope Community Church
If a soul needs
Or if the weight of things
Becomes unbearable 
Comes in many colors and languages
On Macarthur Boulevard
Available at each block
Between 72thh and 86th streets
Centro Evangelista Bethel
Todos los días
A lump in your throat
Reliving your little brother’s asthma attack
The rape of your 20 year old aunt
The day before
The robbery at gunpoint of your best friend
 Al Islam Community Education Center
At the end of the road
Is a school
It once looked like a medieval
Castle high on a mount
Surrounded by lawn and roses.
Now black spears
Surround its tower
The moat long and narrow
Love Involvement Fellowship Education
This walk
Every day
How to think about factoring integers?
What about the causes of World War I?
Crafting a thesis statement?
All elemental truths
Like the mattress
With guts spilled out
In the middle of the sidewalk
Or the apartment windows
Dressed with stained sheets
Tied at the corners
                  Greater Life Community Outreach Christian Church
Walk and think
How to make yourself invisible
In each one of your classes
Hide your body neatly
Behind the head in front
When the teacher
Calls on you
The lump in your throat throbs
The worms 
Too many to hold back
Can come flying out
Spill out onto the desk
Crawl their hideous crawl 
Vision Ministries
But you are too kind
You spare your classmates the horror
And look back with an empty stare
Smile politely,
Hopefully, earn a pass
You ask yourself
Does anyone ever vomit
Whose wings lift
The grayness of things?

Originally published in Milvia Street  2010