I. Am. Afraid. of Cities.


I am afraid of cities,

all jagged and hard,

blades of concrete

leaving dreams

mutilated and scarred.


Where concrete legos scrape

the sky

only to show us

our place is where

the asphalt lies.


I am afraid of cities

where trees turn into

light posts and

sky into peep holes

reminding us God

once existed.


Where walls turn

into labyrinths,

keeping us confused

and distorted,

and silence is drowned

by sounds that rumble,

and honk and pierce, 

unnaturally persistent.


I am afraid of cities where

street lights distract us from


from the stars,

and the stem

of a crack pipe

is more familiar than

the stem of a rose.


Where women are asphyxiated

by back alley blow jobs,

and the earth

cracks the sidewalks open

for some air.


I am afraid of cities,

with their paper work 

and forms, long lines

and waiting rooms,

cubicles and punch-in 

clocks, rubber stamps

and guards that loom.


I am afraid of cities,

financial corrals

where humanity lives for

paychecks, and money

is always scarce. 


Where life is erased

by calculated numbers,

law and order is more sacred

than people,

and time rubs us



But I am more afraid

of living afraid, 

so I plant my bare feet,

solid, on the ground,

let the sun rays shine

sturdy, on my face and

catch the wind as it whispers,

“You matter.”







It’s Okay If All You Did Today Was Survive

In the wake of

Non-stop violent tragedies

I ask myself,

What do we need to do

To save our world?


I desperately gasp

for a sense of freedom,

like air,

to alleviate

the asphyxiating


in my chest.


Not enough

to breathe

with ease.


I run my fingers

along the asperous

edges of my heart,

eroded by

constant sorrow and



Does God make


Does he give

someone more than

they can handle

at times?

This is not

God’s work

to blame.


Am I up to

the magnitude

of this pain?


What do I do

with this?


Numb it

until I can no

longer feel



Stuff it

down so deep

it becomes

dense with



Let it flow

through me?

Like the river, use my breath

to remove toxins,


and debris?


I’m afraid of

drowning under

its current, not being

able to come up,

catch my breath;

being crushed

by a cataract of



Today, I allow

myself to feel










I have enough

courage to

loosen the grip,

let go,

just a little, of

the constriction

and allow the pain

to flow.



each cry,

each tear,

each gasp,

the pain becomes

less overpowering.

I see

I’m okay.

It didn’t

break me.

It hurt, but

It didn’t

break me.


My first lesson

from pain:

I am whole

when I don’t

betray myself,

when I accept

my goodness,

when I don’t

need to be


when I realize

I have everything

I need

to heal.



I will endure

a little more.



my next lesson awaits.



I will have

more strength than


Dedicated to my daughter and all those learning to heal, grow, and transform through their own wisdom and courage.


Fandango Fronterizo 2016

I want to acknowledge my daughter,Carmen,  for having introduced me to this beautiful event and reawakened my passion for the music I grew up watching my grandmother sing and dance to.

Photos from my experience at this year’s fandango:

This is a son I have written in Spanish.  See explanation of the son and translation into English below.

Aqui yo vine a cantar

Bajo esta cerca traídora

Con lagrimas que perforán

Mi alma undida en el mar

La migra no borrara

El amor de mi querida

Intenso como la vida

Sones, cultura, y amor

Las huellas de mi corazón

Raíces empedernidas


Veo tu cara en fragmentos

Se me a olvidado tu olor

Mis recuerdos llevan dolor

Es sofocante el lamento

sin tocarte un momento

Esta reja nos separa

Quisiera yo tener alas

Para volar hacia ti

Interrumpir tu sufrir

Pa’que en mis brazos soñaras


Mis ojos sufren angustia

por no poderte tocar

Como espinas de un rosal

Que florese rosas mustias

Mi amor no te renuncia

Te toco esta jarana

Con estos versos mi Jiliana

Pa’que te acuerdes de mi

Tu pretendiente colibrí

Cuando tu amor por mi reclama

Son Jarocho is a style of music from Veracruz, Mexico with its origins rooted in Indigenous, African, and Spanish influences.  Son is a kind of song, Jarocho is the name given to people and things from the Mexican state of Veracruz. The verses of a Son Jarocho usually follow one of a few metric and rhyming forms. A typical form, called décimas, is a ten line stanza of verses that follow a predictable metric and rhyming pattern. Between or directly before beginning a son, participants in a fandango may verbally recite a décima. Using the décima or similar structure, whether spoken or sung, the speaker may improvise verses. Improvising means making up your own words, melody or rhythm that still fits the piece you are performing. In Son Jarocho, the improvisor (called the pregonero if the lead singer) often refers to something or someone in the community. They may comment on a beautiful woman on the tarima, or poke fun at some other member of the community.

The jarana is a central instrumental component in Son Jarocho. It is a small, guitar-like instrument with 9-10 strings, most of them double. It provides rhythmic and harmonic body to the son.

Fandango, the traditional context of Son Jarocho, as a community celebration, where a great many members of the community gather around a tarima (raised wooden platform used as dance floor with percussive resonance) and participate singing, playing and dancing. As the whole community knows the songs and dances, they take turns singing, dancing and reciting verses, often into the wee hours of the morning.

Translation of verses in English:

I came here to sing

Under this fence of betrayal

With tears piercing

My soul drowning at sea

Border Patrol cannot erase

The love of my dear

Intense as life

Sones , culture, and love

Footprints of my heart

entrenched roots


I see your face in fragments

I have forgot your scent

My memories carry pain

I am suffocating in regret

Without touching you for a moment

This fence separates us

I wish I had wings To fly to you

Interrupting your suffering

So that you will dream in my arms


My eyes suffer anguish

Without being able to touch you

Like thorns of a rosebush

That blooms wilted roses

My love will not resign

I play this jarana

With these verses my Juliana

So that you’ll remember me

Your hummingbird suitor

When your love demands for me








The Alchemy of Your Presence

In my heart I carry
the memory of
when I first me you.

I asked if you were mine;
Tita pressed you closer
to my chest, assuring me.

But as I saw you grow,
I knew you were so
much bigger than my arms;
you were for the world.

The only place you could
fit would be in my heart.

I meet you there
in the silence and
whisper blessings
carried out to you by

I touch the silhouette of
your essence –
search for peace and solace
as you confront the chaos
of a world parched for

You are here to be
greater than the imagination of man,
to stave off the conformity
that binds us to fear.

Your purpose was carved into
the consciousness of the trees
when Mother Earth
envisioned you as her daughter
and me as the guardian
who would reverently usher you
into this world.

The alchemy of your presence
is a daily awakening of love,
a prayer answered
for the restoration of the
melody of our humanity.

To contain you is to try to
hold water in the grip of my hand,
embrace eternity in a second,
or confine the sky.

The most harrowing and liberating
lesson I’ve had to learn is,
you were never mine.
You are a gift through which
I glimpse freedom.

Dance in boundless spaces,
let your hair whirl in eddies of wind.
Grow roots from your bare feet,
let them go so deep, they go to
creation; let them be so strong
they break chains. Sing your song,
serenade the goodness in you
and fall in love the way the blossom
has fallen in love with her nectar.

Happy Birthday mi chiquita. . .

Her Hair


Spongy little


like bouncy springs

colliding in

mid air.

Fast moving


untamably bold

without a care.


Ven pa’ca Colocha!

Le llaman a la muchacha

del pelo chinito.

Esa Negrita que

tiene tumbao’

con la boquita

de corazóncito.


Seen as a subversive

resistance to

colonized ideas of beauty;

patriarchal ideas

of sedated femininity

as a duty.


It is simply an

extension of her.


Like the Hazel tree,

the branches of

her hair

grow defiant.


the oppression of

hot combs, hot irons,

and nappy-shaming,

it is not compliant.


In the summer

the ends bloom to

tiny sunflower



out toward the sun’s

golden shimmer.


In the winter

the ends withdraw

into tight twists

like spiral grass

embracing an

inward shift.


It laughs in

the breeze,

lingering notes of

honeysuckle, vanilla,

and coconut are

memory’s ease


She was born with

coily hair

stubborn and free

like hummingbirds

in the vault of the sky

fluttering with glee.



I grew spines on

my heart to protect

her from predators.


Creatures lurking

in the shadows of the sun

who would try to

devour her succulent flesh.


But my heart is

pulsating, and still

blooms in spring.


My flowers are the

inspiration of

those who seek



They are the fruit

that nourishes the

longing of the seed.


The wine that quenches

the thirst

of the parched.


My flowers are

my determination

to survive amidst

the calloused landscape.


I grew spines on

my heart

and bloomed flowers

on the verge of the

monsoon rains.


La Linea (The Border)

“La Linea” they call it – bars of steel

built to disrupt the natural order of migration.

There are no borders for politicians,

corporations, or narcos. Not for the

grey whales migrating from the Beaufort Sea

to the warm waters of Baja California.

Not for the Monarch Butterfly’s 2,500 mile

journey from Michoacan over the Great Lakes.

Only for the poor, the people with

skin like dusty, sun-baked clay.


We are born with dreams in our hearts,

looking for a better life for our families.

We make the trek to the country of dreams,

where the opportunities are vast and possible.

With hearts as heavy as our hunger and

as fearful as the incessant violence, we

kiss our children goodbye, imprinting their

faces in the softest part of our memories,

recording their voices into the sounds of our breath,

the only sounds that will puncture the suffocating

stillness of the desert whose unforgiving peaks

and valleys we attempt to conquer.


We leave for the country where streets

are paved with gold, hard work leads to

success, and education is the pathway to freedom.

Our expectations are high: back home

they talked about steady, abundant work,

about being able to save money to build a house

and start a little business for our family.

Not long after we get to the land of dreams,

we find ourselves toiling the fields for three

dollars an hour, working as dishwashers in

fancy restaurants where we can’t afford

a meal, competing with each other on

a corner for a day’s work like hungry ants.


We pay our life savings to the coyote, and

sometimes we pay with our lives, lured by

naïve expectations to 2,000 border-miles

of decomposed aspirations and desires.

“La Linea” they call it, an infected gash,

ripping lineages apart, disregarding cultures,

traditions and stories once told in the mother tongue.

T-shirts and tennis-shoes strewn about like

wilted wild flowers are a reminder of the

forgotten ghosts still wandering the parched sea,

trying to find their way home one last time.


We come here to escape government corruption,

officials taking our land because we don’t have

the right deed; to escape trade agreements pricing

out our crops and our labor, where the cost

of a coke is cheaper than “un kilo de tortillas”;

to escape the blood-drenched streets from

a war on drugs with endless consumption.

But it’s no different here. Just more insidious.

We’re slaves of the land our ancestors once owned.

and our spirits fade like the promise of a better life.


We walk in silence through the desert, talking

makes our mouths dryer. The crumbling of the earth

under our feet alerts us to the bones left behind

as a fine for dreaming and desiring more. The sun

lacerates our neck, face and arms like whipping flares.

The moon stings with cold, numbing our bones deep

into our remembrance of a place once familiar.

There’s fear in our eyes, but we don’t acknowledge it.

We simply glance at each other with brooding eyes,

praying for ”them bones, them bones, them dry bones.”


Some of us will make it to the other side, “al otro lado,”

with grit in our hands and determination in our feet.

Some will die in this merciless landscape with

no last name, no history, no DNA, to show we were

once here. Some of us will go on living, but slowly

die of heartache and disappointment, drinking away

the bitterness, stagnant in our throats. Some of us will

have a new dream, to go back, just one more time,

it will be the only thing that keeps us alive in this new

world made of competition, acquisition, and status.


With the help of volunteers, Border Angels leaves dozens of gallon jugs of water in the desert along high-traffic migrant paths. Why? Since 1994, more than 10,000 sons and daughter, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives have died from dehydration in their attempt to across our increasingly militarized border. Our water helps reduce the 475 plus deaths every year, that is at least one death per day. This past Saturday I was honored to volunteer for a desert water drop. I got a more intimate view of the life and death struggles that my brothers and sisters must overcome to escape hunger, state, narco, and gang violence, and to reunite with loved ones.

One of the most poignant and heart-breaking stories told to me during our water drop was of a 5 year old boy traveling with 19 men including his dad.  The little boy kept asking the men for water, but he was only met with head shakes.  The boy was the last to die, taking his last breath next to his father, who along with the 18 other men had already died.  This trip was not only about saving lives, it was also a powerful opportunity to invigorate me to continue the fight against borders, against policies that put profit over people, and laws that criminalize people who are simply doing what we would do in their shoes.


For more information about border angels visit: www.borderangels.org/

For Further Reading: