NM Poetry: Albino Carrillo

11:45 AM


We here at Things in Light love poetry. And New Mexico's literary landscape is steeped in the stuff. In celebration of National Poetry Month, TiL will present poetry by members of the exciting and diverse contemporary New Mexico poetry community. The second TiL NM Poetry entry provides a two-poem introduction to the work of sixth-generation native New Mexican Albino Carrillo. Carrillo is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Dayton. New Mexico's history and culture feature prominently in his body of work. And he's TiL Managing Editor Rudolfo Carrillo's twin brother. What better day to feature the work of TiL family than Easter Sunday?

More than what we know

When they strike we’ll never know.  Perhaps in the future
the historians will write that the combat yet to come was like a wild
beast thrashing somewhere in the forest.  Some could hear it.  Some
could see the way the grass and trees were bent to its animal will.
Clinging to the desperate notion their fathers had of a true dream
in which our world was saved by some form of energy or another

way beyond the merely global.  Sure, there are small markers of another
life in the boxes and loins that color your most vivid dreams—
what you take from one place to the next signals you as nomad, willing
to take some beat up guitars, some good ones, a couple of wild
dogs, and the love of your life to live in the woods:  in the future
you hope that the things that held you down don’t expand like some

kind of plastic dream kit that they sell at the mall.  In honor of some
small god from another world, you, you yourself, take the last wild
shot of whiskey and move on.  You’ve heard there’s a war coming, another
shitty episode in the history of the lives and worlds beyond you, the future
jutting out like a piece of living rock upon a mountain, some dreamy
kind of desert prophet atop waiting for, temping lightning.  If you will,

this kind of scene is avoidable.  But its removal from your willing
train of anxiety means accepting what might be an awful truth, wild,
yet plausible:  we as humans are made for war and any kind of future
sense of peace is an illusion.  Al otro mano, I think I know that this thought, another
fault of mine, is also an illusion, masculine and patriarchal in nature.  Some
kind of altered sense makes me hate war, then.  If I see it while dreaming

I’ll let you know, that is my final vision that we were all here, a dream
for some one else to get hold of.  You have to realize that in my lifetime, wild
shit has happened:  the bombings and guns are one thing, another
indication we’d all gone wrong some time before.  When I was young I was willing
to suspend disbelief in the current system long enough to hope for some
love-wrapped action to seal things up.  Now we live in the future

and there is no love in atom bombs or penetrating thermal lasers from the future
that rip though concrete or rock like they were so many layers of some
kind of cake.  For what its worth, there’s a murky moon tonight, willing
and unadorned.  It tells me we’re in for a spell of storms and another
kind of weather.  But at this point, even the sky is laughing, each wild
star laughing.  They are her children, after all, and know all our dreams.

So we read the news every night, hoping the future is like just another
TV show where some of us can see the outcome clearly, willingly.
And if only the show played like a dream, a dream from the wild.



1982-1983

The slow magnet time of our faith was over—the blank desert loomed like an open book,
the bright flowers bloomed, each orange Mallow bud a shock against the dryness
of the earth.  Sometimes Sand Verbena also grew, but you had to look hard along an arroyo’s
twisting bank to find any.  Mostly desert gourds and loco weed grew there in the summer—
I’m not the kind who’d spent too much time in the sun. I preferred darkness,
at night among the stars to see the stories I’d been told unfold in the heavens above

me, the only one in my family who’d stayed up late enough to watch Orion hang above
the Western Plain before drifting into another time zone.  Then there was a summer
that took me away from all that.  I lived in town where we all went to the same school, a dry
state university where the smallest class had 30 students.  In some classes we studied darkness,
but in most we simply memorized history or formulae or names we found in old books
dusty with age, a library dustiness that lingered like smoke above an arroyo

when there’s a brush fire in the hills just east of here.  Of course most arroyos
around here are dry, except for flash flood season.  So you could say the knowledge in books
surged through us like cold summer rain water.  So while I had to linger a while through summer
school, I never forgot the ways in which I knew the ultimate darkness
unfolding around me, how in photographs I could see the shadows much better, dangling above
life,  significant slices of gray against the bright New Mexican day.  It was in the dry

abyss we call the foothills I lost myself, then.  When she first found me I was a dry
gourd waiting to be opened.  Because every night I counted the planets and stars above
me like chandeliers, I didn’t know the human heart and how it can flood like an arroyo
in mid-August when the thick blue clouds race over the eastern mountains, quenching the darkness
and the light.  I must have known her forever in that desert scene, where solitude was a book
to be opened and read as the secret to life.  In this first summer

away from everything I knew, I found nothing had changed except the feeling of summer,
the freedom, I mean.  Whereas before we’d get drunk and stoned out in the desert hills above
a friend’s house, nothing mad or formal would result in our long, discursive talk of books
and future travels to the East or what was easier, the Pacific and Los Angeles.  Of the dry
desert, we’d had enough.  But I don’t think many of us were brave enough to leave the arroyos
of our homeland, the granite hills infested with Lady bugs and snakes that hid in the darkness

like bad karma.  But for those of us not afraid to forever leave the darkness
behind, all I can say is that you enter into another land where there are other shadows and dry
tomes and blackboards that teach nothing, only simulating how life is to be lived beyond and above
the surface of the earth.  Once it gets started in your head, it’s all growth, the easy part of summer
before the heat sets in and the salt cedars stretch deeply their roots past the clay under the arroyos
 to the rich aquifer below.  All I know is I am different for leaving and cannot write a book

because I am now a book of experiences wandering way past the summer
of my undoing.  In the darkness about my dry house I still see stars,
I sit and wait for rain. There are no arroyos here—the rivers rise above flood stage.


———
Albino Carrillo, a sixth generation native New Mexican, received a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from Arizona State University in 1993, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of New Mexico in 1986. He has published poetry in many literary journals, including The Antioch Review, Puerto Del Sol, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, The South Dakota Review, Columbia: A Journal of Art and Literature, Sou'Wester, and World Order. Carrillo's poems are anthologized in both Library Bound: A Saratoga Anthology (Saratoga Springs Library Press, 1996), and The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press, 2007). Carrillo's book of poems is In the City of Smoking Mirrors (University of Arizona Press, 2004). Before teaching at the University of Dayton, Carrillo taught in the English Department at the University of Minnesota, and at Union College of New York, where he held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship. Carrillo is a Pushcart Prize nominee.





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