April News & May Announcements 

As we close out National Poetry Month, here’s a look back on some highlights:

San Jose Museum of Art Annual Poetry Invitational on April 21st

It was an incredible evening of poetry, art, community and inspiration. Thank you to the poets who joined me: Ann Sherman, Janice Sapigao, David C. Perez, Asha Sudra Finkel, Nils Peterson, Amanda Williamsen, Mighty Mike McGee, and Lorenz Dumuk for stunning poems inspired by the Border Cantos and Tabaimo exhibitions at SJMA. We had a record breaking 150 people join us for the event!  Thank you also to Jeff Bordona and Paulina Vu, SJMA; Robert Pesich, Poetry Center San Jose; and Phillip Pasag, Pasag Photography. Please visit SJMA Poetry Invitational photos by Pasag Photography to view images of the event.

Here are some of the poems created for the project.


Untitled by Arlene Biala

* based on Angel Exterminador / Exterminating Angel (Border Cantos, Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo) and Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders

when the child was child

she raced her little brothers to the top of the rainbow painted carnival slide

the one she had been dreaming of all week

feet clanking up the metal staircase rising in the middle of the desert town

a mirage of fantastic colors, strange music and dust

out of breath at the landing, she twirls in the four directions

to the south: her abuelita’s hands reaching out to her, cuidate mija

watch your step, watch your step

to the east, her mother’s song: sing your way home, at the end of the day,

sing your way home, cast your troubles away, smile every mile, it will lighten your load, it will shorten your road, if you sing your way home

to the west, her oldest brother playing guitar in her dreams

and to the north, the memory of her father’s thirst in the melt zone

never turn your back to the sea, he would say.

the sea, the sandstorm, the blast of la migra, hail of bullets and the slide is lifted

in a horrendous crash, twister of dreams, knocked the wind out of him,

he is broken and bent without the name his ancestors gave him

gutted like a fish, scales scraped off until the rust of his skin

is gone and delicate flesh and the scorching sun have textured him

a new name: angel.  noose of drag chain falls to the ground

and the wind beats the corrugated lies out of the body, singing

fly on, my sweet angel, fly on through the sky . .

when the child was child

she took a deep breath, grabbed the rough edges of burlap

and pushed off. her body shooting like a bullet through border lies,

blasting through impervious walls, her angels watching her fly.


Room for Whom by Lorenz Dumuk

 Am asked

“Can’t you see the light

and all the different colors?” 
Most times I nod yes

deviate conversations 

of what is wrong with my perception.

Nod yes, to affirm their reality

which is as clear as light

which am suppose to see without effort

which leaves me feeling like a mad hatter.

Nod yes, as I visualize my neck

pressed again and again 

against serrated blades

slowly decapitating my head 

as I habitually nod yes

to being wrong, being broken

sever my vocal chords 

pickle them in a silence of my compliance.
When alone or when I dare be brave

in front of another 

I nod no.
Am wondering why

they do not see the dark lines

these shapes that do not leave me
as if my saturation of sadness

is this Schroeder steel box

I should have left unopened. 
I know what 3D looks like,

feels like, but no one

prepares you when the world

becomes flat, becomes wall

becomes a room you cannot

seem to get out of.
This light am told of

looks more like these shadows

I have been ripping myself out of,

tearing away what is essential 

my own skin, cutting through

the murk of my own flesh

hoping I can understand 

this light am told is here.

Only to find myself

melting between

shades of realities,

unnamed colors of emotions 

and feelings no one really

knows how to paint, how to dance,

how to sing into expression.

Even feel like stranger 

when mirrored what appears truth.

Hear it’s voice articulate 

out of my pickled muteness,

an open jar of home

returning back to me.


Playas de Tijuana by Asha Sudra Finkel

They say the grass is always greener

The sand is cleaner

The air is free-er.

Fear manifested into dreams.


Sent to protect the white children.

Cylinders of hate

Barred from familiar face

Familiar touch

From Family.

And ironically called friendship park.

Nixon named

Dedicated in “attempts at national relations”

Only reinforcing realizations of superiority

Of purity

Of disdain for different 

as if diseased

Imprisoned to breathe in the air only allotted to them

Seeking permission to access 

First class humanity.

Given a park.

A leisure getaway for families to remind themselves that they are not good enough to actually engage

To actually hold each other 


Instead forced to watch every ounce of dignity drift away into the rip tide.

Bars to divide worlds 

And remind 

Those that their souls are not worthy of want.

Friendship park… San Diego 


you can take yoga classes 

and salsa dancing classes,

Have your wedding there 

or child’s baptism there

Don’t forget about the kite flying festivals

Don’t forget about the beach clean up events.

forget about those who died trying to see their family.

Forget about those who drowned trying to catch the surf on the playa.

Forget about those who took their last breath alone and separated.

Forget about Pat Nixon who said in 1971

“I hope there won’t be a fence here too much longer..”

Because remember.. 

For our white children..

Our brown children can’t forget about the bars.

Can’t forget about the disregard because

It’s all they’ve known.

Friendship Park…

Where every weekend from 10am to 2

Those brave enough to show their faces 

Face one of two opened gates 

And border patrol agents. 

Watching their every step

Frantically searching for family members.

Unless they run out of time


Unless they are unable to find those once familiar  


Unless they’re  

Unable to recognize through mesh and iron pillars.


Dared to challenge the manic inside

To not expose itself,

As borders built in fear tower 18 feet over head,

Enclosing your sense of identity and efficacy.

Limited and


Interaction with those cared for and loved for the most,

But only on the weekends,

Where every other day

The barred crevices are simply Windows.

A degrading invitation to reminding those that they are the other

That they are unwilling


Boarded in.


the most ambiguous man in the world by Ann Sherman 

I= X



signifier for no

known name


dancing or


silent witness

cipher or



staking a claim

to the four directions

spread-eagled Angeles


in a windwhipped dry wash

straddling remains

of a parch-veined


beneath the crossing

over ​under​through

beyond anything

certain, though

light beckons

from the other side

disembodied stand-in

starring in endless


capturing equivocal vision

harsh sun

dazzled shadows

incident ray

reflecting each mind’s



hoodied crucifix

scavenged scarecrow

even vultures

won’t come

too close



defiant deviant letter

of shame

bounced back from

blanched dreams


.”..no need for geography / now that we’re safe everywhere… do you know what it’s like to live / someplace that loves you back?” – Danez Smith

Freedom, somewhere by Janice Lobo Sapigao


somewhere there are second chances

somewhere, changes. places families –


free to grow as many children

as there are seeds – places opened,


wide as deserts, endless as summer sun

skin born brown, not splinters from rusted blood.


in this place, children roam at home &

staying is equivalent to smiling.


where freedom is place, feeling, & a right.

here, color is the sky’s job. here, only


mountains are playmates, & not

burial sites. & not gauntlets. & not


an american labyrinth. here, no uniformed

minotaur. no arms that can’t cradle kin.



every time brown mamas pray, a white man

slaps himself. & new crops of fruit &


vegetables pick themselves. every

bible page that’s fallen out of place


finds its way back home no matter

the trash or terrain. no one is left stranded.


alone does not exist because

you come from the earth. & dirt


is not an insult; rather cremated crowns from

weights and stories that no longer serve us.


whenever nature shines in pink

our normalistas go back to classrooms


every morning, a new son. he runs in,

reads one book to the next, he himself once


the mancala beads in the trenches. & every

time he wins, houses will emit music


blanketing & pocketing poems written

with bone and breath. & nails and wood.



valleys be the best hiding places.

here, brown men assume nightvision naturally


little girls’ laughter be named soundscapes

& damn near everybody stops to listen when they sing.


no villages. no states. no borders. just

Intimacy. these walls just be for decoration


and graffiti. no holes, just space. no laws,

but trust and restoration. singing when sadness.


here, you can see freedom giggling. here. here,

you hear it. do you hear it? here? right here.



fear lives alone, no scare tactics necessary,

no unnamed vigilantes.


boots. hats. rainbow

zarape for shelter.



Advice from Guillermo Galindo by Nils Peterson

First try to see the “tears of things.”
Along the trail to the border fence

begin to see the spoor of grief.

One can sigh, moan, weep, shake

a futile fist. Better to honor the rusted

abandoned juice cans. Find wood

with a straight grain, – shape, sand,

varnish till fit to support a grief song.

Attach the cans. They’ll sing their story.
Make a harp of a forgotten ladder.

Hang bottles of water from the rungs

filled to make different pitches.

Pluck the wires that hold them.

How elegant that dance of notes.
Or if you find a piece of the sheet metal fence,

the separating fence, lying on the ground,

bend it in half, hang it high. Strike it like a gong

celebrating the entrance of royalty, like a gong

celebrating the end of fence.
But first learn to see the “tears of things.” 


DIVINATION by David C. Perez 

after “Artifact Grid” by Richard Misrach and “Micro Orchestra” by Guillermo Galindo

There is a pink comb meant for a child.

The hair it once pulled straight

now woven into a chain-link fence.

The missing teeth left behind

like casted lots or chicken bones.


There is a toothbrush and a beach towel

covered in the filth they were to wipe clean

from a young face that tonight each of us

will sketch and then erase.


In one rendition, she’s still out there

a body sewing dirt and bone.

One more sun brittle instrument

plucked at random by a reptile

licking at the wind.


This shoe was made in the far east

by hands who guided each stitch.

Fusing sole to cloth so someone

could grow and learn what we learn:

to carry your things

until they’re not your things.


Out there, they made a temporary home.

A sightless roof and a floor ever in motion,

spreading wider with each footprint

signed on the dotted line.


There is money enough for street food

and the gum for the space between meals.

There is the slant of the ball’s oval shadow

and the cracks that paint its blushing face.

The juice cans all strung up.

We have locked in a glass house

the music of the spheres.


This mirror holds no trace.

The more you look, the less desert,

the less cool evening dash,

the less story and escape,

the more it’s just you. Here.

You a story that creates you.


Her tweezers are here too.

Maybe she doesn’t need them, but maybe

slivers so tiny they’re felt and not seen

pierce her skin and she has no choice

but to let them inside.


BORDER CANTOS (first draft) by Mighty Mike McGee

(after Richard Misrach’s photo, Border Patrol Target Range, Boca Chica Highway, Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, 2013)
As you can see

there are no people here

One must understand that

we trained to shoot paper

to think ourselves poets

merely aiming our pens at nameless outlines 

editing our thoughts

into these already very sad poems

on posters bleached by an ever watching sun

one that only punishes those that dawdle
Some targets are small

to represent distance

from us

in space

and age
There are no people here in this




just things that pray that

they won’t become prey
It is not lost on us

that even the sun forgives

those that run
There are no people here

Just paper dolls that never run

Even in the rain

Pulling a trigger is a lot easier

when the target is an advertisement

for what you think is the opposite of your life

a photo negative of your identity

a representation of poor choices

made before they were born
Put it all down on paper

make if official

make it federal

might as well be names in a phone book written

in a language learned as

a job requirement
In Spanish, I legally only allowed to give you directions

back to where you came from

Behind you

or below you
There are no people here

just flyers for the future dead

Stacks and stacks of phone books

full of names and numbers

Trying to infiltrate our way of life

to change what must never change
Those trained to shoot paper

are making confetti and

It too is not lost on us

that we are keeping this country free

from the tyranny

of next door neighbors

of other exemplary work ethics

of nearly identical family values
We can understand why they want

to join our team

But you don’t keep winning

by adding more losers
When the target is of no use anymore

we can use the corners

to wipe the 4th of July enchilada sauce

off of our faces

So that we can smile over

this empty refuge

And when people do show up

I am surprised they didn’t hear me editing

Burning the midnight oil
There are no people here

Nothing stays unless I make it so

I only see things getting smaller

I only see paper

just magazines of unpublished poetry

and birds that head south

and cold blooded creatures

that crawl and hide
When you are trained to shoot at paper

You should accept that you will never write a poem worth reading
We shoot at paper

nothing more than

disowned poetry and yesterday’s newspaper

being punctuated very fast

very loudly

We edit these poems

day and night

Because—as much as we’d like to—we cannot control

when inspiration

will come to us
I am sorry for your uncle

I am sorry for your great grandmother

But I only saw paper


Poetry Invocation at San Jose City Council In honor of National Poetry Month

Thank you to San Jose City Councilmember Manh Nguyen for inviting me to share poetry for the invocation at the April 5th meeting.

SV Creates Artist Laureate Event
I was honored to share a poem in collaboration with dancer Olivia Esparza to welcome folks to the event honoring the SV Creates Artists Laureate on April 11 at the School of Arts and Culture @MHP.

Olivia is the daughter of Artist Laureate Pilar Aguero Esparza and Chris Esparza. With the help of Chris we were able to pull off the big surprise of Olivia’s performance along with my poem. Congratulations to all the honorees: Pilar, Demone Carter, Shannon Wright, Natalya Burd, Ron Gasparinetti, and Kevin Hauge!

A POETree poem from March


We are writing sunshine on Easter morning,

Where I meet the poets of my barrio.

It’s true. The littlest things are love.

The color of my sadness is blue,

The city where I live is busy. My name means water.

God is red sky love and today my name means springtime.

I am Kirill, Lizzie, Asher, Mallika, Aida, Lisa, Chesna, Ashley and Zoe.

Whatever my name is, I am a person who loves dogs.  It’s simple. Today is the day I put pharmaceuticals out of business.

Let’s go to Nepal. The skies are blue there.


Thanks to Daniel Garcia, David C. Perez and Content Magazine for including me  in the current issue!

Kuwentuhan/Talk Story Project led by Barbara Jane Reyes and Poetry Center SF supported by the Creative Work Fund

I participated with poets Barbara Jane Reyes, Angela Narcisso Torres, Javier O. Huerta, Lehua Taitano, Urayoan Noel and Aimee Suzara in an intense four-day poetry residency during April 20-23 in San Francisco. Here is a write up of the project in SF Gate.

May Events

SJSU Legacy of Poetry Day on May 5th

Please join us at Hammer Theatre Center for the annual event featuring SJSU students, faculty, staff and alumni readings; Pachanga on the Paseo: A Roving Spectacle of Public Art; and Poets Laureate reading featuring our US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera!

Full details here.

Out of Our Minds with Rachelle Escamilla May 4  8-9pm   Tune in! I will be talking story and sharing poems along with Darrell Dela Cruz and Rachelle Escamilla.

Well-RED at WORKS/San Jose  May 10  8:30-9:30pm  WORKS/San Jose 

ImagineSJ Showcase #8 – Poetry  May 12   7:30-9pm   Anno Domini Gallery

Lips Uncurled, Eyes Forward  May 14   3-7pm    School of Arts and Culture @MHP 

Poetry Center San Jose presents REED Book Launch

Flash Fiction Forum on May 18


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