Friday, April 29, 2016

Gemini Ink Writing Lab - Week #9 - Dreams

Engaging the Active Imagination: Writing as Activism

Writing prompt
  • Describe the details of a daydream housed in your imagination

Poem: String of Millionstars* (draft)

And you,
string of millionstars,
knocked about
the bedside table
with one swift kick
from the rustling sheets,
you ascend,
strung up swiftly
across the ceiling
by the conductor's
and there you remain,
in the warm glow
of lovers' laughter,
until heaved
in a celestial downspin,
to be gathered
on your bed
of molten amber.

* - Millionstars, also known as Baby's Breath (
Gypsophila paniculata), are a type of perennial flower covered with tiny, loosely-scattered, white petals.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Gemini Ink Writing Lab - Week #8 - Wanderlust

Engaging the Active Imagination: Writing as Activism

Writing prompt
  • Write what keeps you rooted or what moves you to spread your wings

Poem: Meditation on the San Antonio River (draft)

From the trampled reaches
of the trickling river bed
the great white heron bathes
in the waves of the mallard's call,

and the live oak leaves refuse
the reprieve of the unwelcomed breeze
while the younglings stir
restless in their nests,

but when the night owl's tempered
sugar skull begins to rot
the dwindling cypress pine needles
cry out,

Thursday, April 21, 2016

National Poetry Month: William Carlos Williams

It's the anarchy of poverty
delights me, the old
yellow wooden house indented
among the new brick tenements

Or a cast-iron balcony
with panels showing oak branches
in full leaf. It fits
the dress of the children

reflecting every stage and
custom of necessity -
Chimneys, roofs, fences of
wood and metal in an unfenced 

age and enclosing next to 
nothing at all: the old man 
in a sweater and soft black 
hat who sweeps the sidewalk — 

his own ten feet of it — 
in a wind that fitfully 
turning his corner has 
overwhelmed the entire city

- "The Poor", William Carlos Williams

Monday, April 18, 2016

National Poetry Month: Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

- "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front", Wendell Berry

Friday, April 15, 2016

Gemini Ink Writing Lab - Week #7 - Tale of Two Cities

Engaging the Active Imagination: Writing as Activism

Writing prompt
  • Which side of the tracks do you come from? Write the perspective of your city as you see it through your lens

Poem: Frontier Town (draft)

Where the cracked-tooth smile politicians
with their supreme visions of longitude
file the copy papers for foreclosure
beside their former chief of staff.

Where the gypsies on main street
stripped of their right to sleep
rush to retrieve the confiscated
split-bar benches dumped in the river.

Where the good samaritans facing fines
in the commissioner's court
sit idle in the principal's office
while their most loyal patrons starve in the park.

And the leaves of the garden house lay wilting
and the stone fountain in the city runs empty.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

National Poetry Month: Beirut

Uptown, the street's in a calming way
And outside is warm as a bed with a maid
And I find it's all our waves and raves
That makes the days go on this way

I heard the sad sound of words
Spoken from a beak of a wise old bird
Uptown, the streets are kept to a flow
Our ground never leaves me alone

He means well, saying, I've got stories
Of wine superb and, of course, my childhood
Forks and knives and a hospital bed
Where I turned my life over and over again

- "Forks and Knives (La FĂȘte)", Beirut

Saturday, April 2, 2016

National Poetry Month: Hafez

One rosy face from the world's garden for us is enough,
And the shade of that one cypress in the field
Strolling along gracefully for us is enough.

I want to be far away from people whose words
And deeds don't match. Among the morose and heavy-
Hearted, a heavy glass of wine for us is enough.

Some people say that good deeds will earn them
A gated house in heaven. Being rakes and natural beggars
A room in the tavern for us is enough.

Sit down beside the stream sometime and watch
Life flow past. That brief hint of this world
That passes by so swiftly for us is enough.

Look at the flow of money and the suffering
Of the world. If this glimpse of profit and loss
Is not enough for you, for us it is enough.

The dearest companion of all is here. What
Else is there to look for? The delight of a few words
With the soul friend for us is enough.

Don't send me away from your door, oh, God,
Even to Paradise. Your alleyway, compared
To all space and time, for us is enough.

It's inappropriate, Hafez, for you to complain
Of your gifts from Fate. Your nature is like water,
Your beautiful flowing poems for us are enough.

- "One Rose is Enough," Hafez (translated by Robert Bly)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Gemini Ink Writing Lab - Week #6 - On Trial

Engaging the Active Imagination: Writing as Activism

Writing prompt
  • Justice or Restitution? Write of a time you've been put on trial for your own convictions
The Scene: Frio Street Courthouse Blues

"You must be a lawyer," said the parking attendant. "Oh, no," I said, "I'm here for a parking ticket." "Oh, well, you look like a lawyer," said the parking attendant. An oxford shirt and silk tie, yes, a lawyer's attire. Texas bluesman Son House, mentor to the legendary Delta blues guitar picker Robert Johnson, once sang of the blues as a lowdown aching chill. This chill ran cold through my bones as I entered the magistrate court facility. As soon as we make our way through the plate glass doors we're deprived of all externals - "even your belt, sir" - and forced to regather our personal belongings on the other side of the metal detector. We're also stripped of our inherent compassion, our humanity. Our skin, whether tones of white or brown or red, appears in pale shades beneath the harsh fluorescent lighting from the ceiling. I ask the security guard to point me in the direction of a traffic violation. I ahve no difficulty in following the signage but I ask him because I figure I would ease the tension of a day in the life of someone charged with keeping the peace. I ask him because it seems not the most uplifting task of commanding others to remove their personals day in, day out. I f we feel violated, how must he feel? Though, he's more than glad to guide me about the building. I'd been here once before, but it was hard to tell where I needed to be. Each door looks just like the last, the same lighting, the same old wood.

It was more than ten years ago. I had turned 18 years old that summer and was learning my way around the inner city by car. I was parking on Pereida street in the heyday of the First Friday art walk in the King William Cultural Arts district. Two separate cops stuck me with two separate violations at two separate times: One for parking opposite the flow of traffic, the other for parking less than twenty feet from the intersection. $25 a piece. They didn't cover that in driving school. And so, I showed up for my scheduled court date and paid the fines, guilty as charged. But how insidious it seemed; no posting listed of any possible infractions, no traffic violation rulebook given to you after the infraction, nothing.
Fast forward to the present story and that same violation is now being charged for $35. Infalation, I guessed. I reached out to  friend, who recently graduated with a law degree, to dig deeper into this subterfuge and uncover who was pulling the ruse. He told me he attended a closed door city-county budget meeting in Dallas where the city manager explicitly demanded an answer from the chief of police how he intended to increase revenue for the city and county. Increased crackdown on parking fines and traffic violations, of course. "It's not secret within the administration," my friend said. This only infuriated me further, to see everyday people get nickel-and-dimed, and so I reach out to another friend majoring in criminial justice. I told him I was concerned with the amount of resources being allocated to the police for law enforcement. Public safety is a eupehmism for law enforcement. "Oh, it's not just parking tickets," he said, "it's speeding tickets, pulling over people for not signaling a lane change, for not vacating the passing lane when a squad car is approaching. They're called STEP cops." "STEP cops?" I asked. "Specialized Traffic Enforcement Police," he explained. And there was the rub. They didn't cover that in driving school.

Back to the courtroom blues, I was on a mission to dispute. I had paid my dues years ago. With the facade already in place, I decided I was going to act the part of the lawyer. Instead of a courtroom I got a glorified custodian's closet. Three employees crammed into this tiny space with the "judge" seated in front of a computer behind an elevated lectern. Some setting for a trial.

"Good morning," I said, "I'm here today to dispute a parking violation." I almost boasted this fact as to take command of the room and let them know that without physical evidence I was going to talk my way out of a ticket. "We'll be with you in just a moment," the judge said. I guess you could call him that. His loosely-fitted black judges' robe draped over his shoulders with a faded polo sport shirt showing underneath. His appearance was drab and seemed apathetic. The other two clerks didn't bother to look up, busy, I assumed, with the neverending paperwork of civic cases piled high on their desks. "Can we have a look at your ticket, please, and see your driver's license?" the judge asked. I confirmed my name and address. "And what is it you would like to dispute, Mr. Gonzalez?" the judge asked. Here it was, my big moment I had prepared for the entire morning. Going over the rhetoric in my head on the drive to court of how I had been a student at San Antonio College for years, who couldn't afford a parking pass, (more like, refused to pay for what should be a fundamental student amenity) and parked along the same side streets for years and never received a ticket and how another car was parked closer than I was and didn't receive a ticket and so on. And so, with a deep breath and a confidently lower tone of voice, I began...

"Well, I've been pursuing an Associate's Degree at San Antonio College since the fall semester of 2013. I've since become familiar with the intersections of Lewis and Evergreen adjacent to the Laurel Apartments and a block away from Crockett Park. Like many other students who cannot afford a parking pass, we see it fit that..." I was interrupted by the judge ripping up the paper and tossing it in the wastebin, a few clicks of the mouse, and a jaded look in his eye when he said, "Your ticket has been dismissed, sir. Thank you." I was stunned. No additional paperwork to sign? No evidence necessary to be presented by the purported guilty party? Not even a Bailiff present should the defending explanation of the purported perpetrator get out of line? "Is there anything else I need to complete?" was all that came out of my mouth. "No, sir. Thank you." And as the next defendant filed in right behind me, I filed right out.

I made sure to nod and acknowledge the security guard on my way out. A shirt and necktie, I thought to myself as I pushed open the doors and made my way across the parking lot. I started my car and drove away. Not a dollar paid. Case closed.