the turntables might wobble but they don’t fall down


. b o x e d . i n
Originally uploaded by js wright

Damn, I made it through NaPoWriMo with 21 drafts, and that has me feeling damn skippy.

And for anyone of y’all who took the NaPoWriMo (or NaBlogWriMo) challenge and came away 30 for 30– I salute you, word warriors.

I would have loved to present 30 drafts for 30 days but I knew early on that it wasn’t going to happen since I was out to stay on target and continue to add to my current manuscript and I wasn’t going to put the NaPoWriMo cart ahead of the manuscript horse. I also knew that 30/30 was not going to happen while reading four books of poetry, attending a ton of poetry readings, reading at two events, hosting one event, and blogging when it was necessary.

Looking back, I am proud of all but one of the drafts and stayed focused on expanding the manuscript with every draft except for #8, the ice worker palimpsest, which I am ultra-proud of for a whole different set of reasons and will be the only poem that will stay up.

Regarding Palimpsest. I came across the word while reading Beneath the Metropolis and saw a lot of possibility not only in the word but also in my interpretation of it. In the last month I have come to view it as a form of process, one where I insert myself into poetic traditions and take what I need while disregarding what I don’t. What is left is either homage or sacrilege, all depending on who is reading the poem.

The AudienceSpeaking of audience, this might be a good time to record the set-list from last week’s Achiote Press reading which was wonderful. I got to read with (and introduce) some amazing poets and had an attentive audience. What more can I ask for? (Gourmet food and fun music? Yes, the reading had that too! Thanks go to Craig and Jen for such a great event.)

Set-List

⋅ Palimpsest: Sonnet
⋅ Palimpsest: The Trouble with Poverty
⋅ Palimpsest: Zuihitsu
⋅ Palimpsest: B-Boy Prayer
⋅ Palimpsest: Congruence
Traffic Misdirector by Pedro Pietri
⋅ Palimpsest: A Bodega on Anywhere Avenue
⋅ Palimpsest: The Break
⋅ Palimpsest: Ghazal

It was great to read all the new poems and experience them in the format of a live reading. The start of the set was a little rocky but my confidence increased poem by poem and by the end I was feeling really strong. Looking forward to read some more of these in the future.

I did this NaPoWriMo thing on a fluke but I am glad that I did because it reminded me that when I want to write poems, they’ll get written. It might be painful, but it’ll get done.

To anyone thinking of doing it next year, I say go for it. I also say- Form is your friend. Well, at least it was mine.

Now it’s time to revise some older poems, get to writing a long poem, and then revise this group of poems for a future chapbook.

Word.

Traffic Misdirector by Pedro Pietri

Traffic Misdirector

the greatest living poet
in new york city
was born in Puerto Rico
his name is Jorge Brandon
he is over 70 years old
he carries his metaphor
in brown shopping bags
inside steel shopping cart
he travels around with
on the streets of manhattan
he recites his poetry
to whoever listens
& when nobody is around
he recites to himself
he speaks the wisdom
of unforgettable palm trees
the vocabulary of coconuts
that wear overcoats
the traffic lights
of his poems function
without boring advice
from ac or dc current
book stores & libraries
are deprived of his vibes
to become familiar
with this immortal poet
you have to hang-out
on street corners
building stoops rooftops
fire escapes bars parks
subway train stations
bodegas botanicas
iglesias pawn shops
card games cock fights
funerals valencia bakery
hunts point palace
pool halls orchard beach
& cuchifrito stands
on the lower eastside
the admission is free
his presence is poetry

by Pedro Pietri
(from Traffic Violations, Waterfront Press 1983)

Telephone Booth # 679 by Pedro Pietri


phone
Originally uploaded by oddthingies.

because I am one
of those passengers
that took off before
the airplane got off
the airport grounds
I cannot be called
A. Neorican
B. Nuyorican
C. New Rican
D. Barrirican
E. Ameri Can
I refer to myself
as none of the above
who has never left
the land deeply loves rum
which is holy water
to speak in tongues
after being Informed
your check ran out
& they are too drunk
to chase after roosters

© Pedro Pietri

the house pietri built


the house pietri built
Originally uploaded by oscarb.

ultra sad moment: during a friday night slam, feature poet tish benson offers all the proceeds to any books she sells that night towards the fund to help the ailing reverend pedro pietri. (silence in the room)

who’s pedro pietri?, asks one honest audience members and 200 other heads start nodding their heads equally in the dark. its kinda hard to use the word ignorant for these matter being that the nuyo does ZILCH to promote its history unless tragedy is involved.

fast forward a year and a half later. the reverend has passed away and now the cafe is adorned with various images in celebration and honor of his life and poetry as a saturday night hip-hop show is on as a rapper points to the art.
big ups to piñero!

the more things change.

big time confession: one of my deepest regrets as a curator was not getting pietri to feature at acentos. i am not sure if his health was already failing when i first (very very briefly) met him but he had just done one feature. well, who knows now. the history of booking acentos is very much like a six foot high game of jenga, if one feature never appeared it could throw off the whole thing and (for the most part) the whole thing has worked pretty damn well. part of the reason i didnt book pietri was cuz i was one of the ignorant mofos who didnt have a good understanding of the man and his legacy.

while much of the early nuyorican history remains in dispute and disarray, one thing remains clear. pietri was a universally loved and respected poet. a rabble rouser and non-conformist. a visionary. his blend of theatrics with poetics is the blueprint of what years later would be organized into slam. safe sex was a phrase birthed in the mid 80s but pietri was advocating the use of condoms way before the AIDS epidemic became news.

a mentor to many, he opened his home and his ears to a good number of poets. just a nod from pietri was almost enough to give you legit ‘nuyorican poet’ status.

looking at the thirty foot jenga puzzle that is my life- every day i grow to love my mistakes and thank my friends and fam for helping me through some of the more treacherous passings. lately, i’ve been feeling like i am starting to live up to what i was created for. and i know it wasnt to ring up sales, generate invoices, maintain inventory, deal with the subway, get my car out of the pound, argue with people, pick fights, wake up, shower, breathe… nah. these things are just the warm up to what i am supposed to be doing. “dont ask me where i am going/but im pretty sure im supposed to be here” was something i wrote once and that image gets clearer and clearer all the time.

now before you go outside and grab some sun. read this:

Puerto Rican Obituary by the Reverend Pedro Pietri

They worked
They were always on time
They were never late
They never spoke back
when they were insulted
They worked
They never took days off
that were not on the calendar
They never went on strike
without permission
They worked
ten days a week
and were only paid for five
They worked
They worked
They worked
and they died
They died broke
They died owing
They died never knowing
what the front entrance
of the first national city bank looks like

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
passing their bill collectors
on to the next of kin
All died
waiting for the garden of eden
to open up again
under a new management
All died
dreaming about america
waking them up in the middle of the night
screaming: Mira Mira
your name is on the winning lottery ticket
for one hundred thousand dollars
All died
hating the grocery stores
that sold them make-believe steak
and bullet-proof rice and beans
All died waiting dreaming and hating

Dead Puerto Ricans
Who never knew they were Puerto Ricans
Who never took a coffee break
from the ten commandments
to KILL KILL KILL
the landlords of their cracked skulls
and communicate with their latino souls

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
From the nervous breakdown streets
where the mice live like millionaires
and the people do not live at all
are dead and were never alive

Juan
died waiting for his number to hit
Miguel
died waiting for the welfare check
to come and go and come again
Milagros
died waiting for her ten children
to grow up and work
so she could quit working
Olga
died waiting for a five dollar raise
Manuel
died waiting for his supervisor to drop dead
so he could get a promotion

Is a long ride
from Spanish Harlem
to long island cemetery
where they were buried
First the train
and then the bus
and the cold cuts for lunch
and the flowers
that will be stolen
when visiting hours are over
Is very expensive
Is very expensive
But they understand
Their parents understood
Is a long non-profit ride
from Spanish Harlem
to long~sland cemetery

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Dreaming
Dreaming about queens
Clean-cut lily-white neighborhood
Puerto Ricanless scene
Thirty-thousand-dollar home
The first spics on the block
Proud to belong to a community
of gringos who want them lynched
Proud to be a long distance away
from the sacred phrase: Que Pasa

These dreams
These empty dreams
from the make-believe bedrooms
their parents left them
are the after-effects
of television programs
about the ideal
white american family
with black maids
and latino janitors
who are well train
to make everyone
and their bill collectors
laugh at them
and the people they represent

Juan
died dreaming about a new car
Miguel
died dreaming about new anti-poverty programs
Milagros
died dreaming about a trip to Puerto Rico
Olga
died dreaming about real jewelry
Manuel
died dreaming about the irish sweepstakes

They all died
like a hero sandwich dies
in the garment district
at twelve o’clock in the afternoon
social security number to ashes
union dues to dust

They knew
they were born to weep
and keep the morticians employed
as long as they pledge allegiance
to the flag that wants them destroyed
They saw their names listed
in the telephone directory of destruction
They were train to turn
the other cheek by newspapers
that mispelled mispronounced
and misunderstood their names
and celebrated when death came
and stole their final laundry ticket

They were born dead
and they died dead

Is time
to visit sister lopez again
the number one healer
and fortune card dealer
in Spanish Harlem
She can communicate
with your late relatives
for a reasonable fee
Good news is guaranteed

Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
Those who love you want to know
the correct number to play
Let them know this right away
Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
Now that your problems are over
and the world is off your shoulders
help those who you left behind
find financial peace of mind

Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
If the right number we hit
all our problems will split
and we will visit your grave
on every legal holiday
Those who love you want to know
the correct number to play
Let them know this right away
We know your spirit is able
Death is not dumb and disable
RISE TABLE RISE TABLE

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Hating fighting and stealing
broken windows from each other
Practicing a religion without a roof
The old testament
The new testament
according to the gospel
of the internal revenue
the judge and jury and executioner
protector and eternal bill collector

Secondhand shit for sale
Learn how to say Como Esta Usted
and you will make a fortune
They are dead
They are dead
and will not return from the dead
until they stop neglecting
the art of their dialogue
for broken english lessons
to impress the mister goldsteins
who keep them employed
as lavaplatos porters messenger boys
factory workers maids stock clerks
shipping clerks assistant mailroom
assistant, assisant assistant
to the assistant’s assistant
assistant lavaplatos and automatic
artificial smiling doormen
for the lowest wages of the ages
and rages when you demand a raise
because is against the company policy
to promote SPICS SPICS SPICS

Juan
died hating Miguel because Miguel’s
used car was in better running condition
than his used car
Miguel
died hating Milagros because Milagros
had a color television set
and he could not afford one yet
Milagros
died hating Olga because Olga
made five dollars more on the same job
Olga
died hating Manuel because Manuel
had hit the numbers more times
than she had hit the numbers
Manuel
died hating all of them
Juan
Miguel
Milagros
and Olga
because they all spoke broken english
more fluently than he did

And now they are together
in the main lobby of the void
Addicted to silence
Off limits to the wind
Confine to worm supremacy
in long island cemetery
This is the groovy hereafter
the protestant collection box
was talking so loud and proud about

Here lies Juan
Here lies Miguel
Here lies Milagros
Here lies Olga
Here lies Manuel
who died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Always broke
Always owing
Never knowing
that they are beautiful people
Never knowing
the geography of their complexion

PUERTO RICO IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE
PUERTORRIQUENOS ARE A BEAUTIFUL RACE

If only they
had turned off the television
and tune into their own imaginations
If only they
had used the white supremacy bibles
for toilet paper purpose
and make their latino souls
the only religion of their race
If only they
had return to the definition of the sun
after the first mental snowstorm
on the summer of their senses
If only they
had kept their eyes open
at the funeral of their fellow employees
who came to this country to make a fortune
and were buried without underwears

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
will right now be doing their own thing
where beautiful people sing
and dance and work together
where the wind is a stranger
to miserable weather conditions
where you do not need a dictionary
to communicate with your people
Aqui Se Habla Espanol all the time
Aqui you salute your flag first
Aqui there are no dial soap commericals
Aqui everybody smells good
Aqui tv dinners do not have a future
Aqui the men and women admire desire
and never get tired of each other
Aqui Que Paso Power is what’s happening
Aqui to be called negrito
means to be called LOVE

© Reverend Pedro Pietri