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11/27/2014

A Dog Called Schrödinger

Rudolfo Carrillo
by Rudolfo Carrillo

Nine years are a fraction of a human life. Nine years are most of a dog's life. Nine years ago I began my experiment as a college instructor, after having spent many years in the newspaper business. Nine years ago, I met a big red dog, a stray who frequented campus. These were experiences that changed me.

The change was foreboding and relishing at the same time. Though I spent four years teaching high school in the late nineteen-nineties, I found myself mostly unprepared, thoroughly astonished by the challenges I undertook as a teacher of adult basic education.

My new colleagues helped. Feeding the stray dog during breaks from evening class helped. Norma Versakos was my supervisor. She was an old school wobblie, a leftist with a mission; passionate, well-educated and patient; her mission was to bring education to the masses. We are making the future in this office, she would tell me.

The dog was suspicious of humans. While Norma taught me how to teach, how to reach out to others with knowledge and optimism, he taught me about the fragility of life, how circumstance makes partners of separate lives.

The big dog would wander around campus in the evenings with a companion, a small black and white spaniel. While he could be coaxed into contact with the requisite hot dog, taco or hamburger, the spaniel kept her distance, growling and pacing in the distance while he partook. Afterwards, both would run off as if summoned elsewhere by a mysterious force.

One night, I saw them in the distance by the river. They were living in a hollow by some trees, had dug a hole under the roots of a large cottonwood. When they saw me approach, they barked and ran. I wandered back to campus and lectured on the basics of fractional equivalence.

When they ceased to make their nightly appearance for a solid week, I considered calling animal control. I practiced my speech, but never called, convinced they had been taken in by others or had died. For the following four weeks, I allowed the knowledge of the dogs to wane, comforted by my memories of their tenacious existence in the Bosque.

Sometime in late September, the phone in my office rang. It was the campus receptionist, calling to say the dog I had been feeding was at the front door, wagging his tail, wanting to come in from the summer sun. I walked out to the main office. The big red dog was sitting by the entrance, wagging his tail and licking his chops. He was thin and frightened. I walked out of the door and he jumped up on me, wagging his tail and howling. I gave him a turkey and cheese sandwich I had brought for lunch.

For the next five hours, I hid the dog in my office. I consulted Norma. She had a kind heart and allowed me to keep him quietly under the desk. She said I should call him GED, since that was what I taught at the school. When my shift was over, I got up to leave and he followed me out to my car and jumped right into the back seat when I opened the door.

I drove him over to my house in Fringecrest. The first thing he did when he got inside was to urinate on the leather couch in the living room. Then he went to sleep. I told my wife I wished to keep him. He was a good dog, had remembered me and sought me out after all. I said I would call him Schrödinger, since I had considered him dead when he was actually alive.


The years spun by. Schrödinger had an exciting life among our pack. He didn't get along great with Arnold, the old Malamute I kept in the back yard, but they were always polite to one another. He was indifferent to the bonded pair, Rosie and Dulce ... until they were in the backyard together where they would chase each other around, tongues hanging out, legs flying, dust everywhere.

In 2011 my wife adopted a miniature pughuahua who she called Hannah. Schrödinger bonded with Hannah and the two became inseparable, sleeping together, eating in the same room and. though they were very different, displaying a devotion to one another that is endearing. When they are out in the yard together, Schrödinger seems to guard Hannah, standing by while she explores, following her around loyally, sharing her joy.

During the summer of 2014, long after his older pack mates had passed into infinity and as his relationship with Hannah the pug continued to grow, I noticed Schrödinger was having trouble eating. I switched his diet to a softer sort of dog food and he was grateful. But by the time autumn arrived, he was still having trouble. I guessed he had some bad teeth, and made an appointment with the vet.

While under anesthesia, it was discovered Schrödinger had a tumor in his mouth, on his hard palate. A biopsy was done. The pathologist who investigated the material said he probably had an aggressive cancer. The doctor prescribed pain killers and referred the dog to an oncologist.

Now it is the end of November. Schrödinger sleeps a lot. His appetite is good; we are feeding him boiled chicken, rice and cheeseburgers. He still goes out every evening for a long walk that takes us from the edge of Fringecrest up to the Air Force base and back again. He likes a bowl of cold milk and a chunk of chicken breast afterwards. Sometimes he sits by me and puts his head in my lap. Other times, he licks his pet pug on the face and paws at her affectionately as they lie together on the living room couch until both fall into a deep, wintertime sleep.

And though through experience, I have learned to view things in the distance and have learned to view the world in groupings of many years, I now find myself measuring my time in days, in moments. There are triumphs in those minutes and there may be tragedy too. I am reminded those things will change me, will show me a way into the future.

*Learn more about Schrödinger's battle against fibrosarcoma at bit.ly/schrovsfibro.



7/20/2014

The Goastt, Etc.

Rudolfo Carrillo


By Archie Von Rilke
Dateline: Louisville, KY, 6/21/14

It wasn't the most awesome concert experience I've been to, although one of the opening bands blew me away with their precision and professionalism.   The first band, sad to say, was a throwaway, a power trio of dirty hippies dressed like Pigpen, (think dirty cowboy hats, greasy jeans, and flannels) playing raunchy psychedelia...not much to report there, but they did have nice guitars, as compared to me (a shitty ol’ Gretsch with electrical problems, a borrowed Telecaster and a borrowed Breedlove C350) but sounded only slightly better then when Matt Atkins and I play.

Except between acts I saw and briefly met the man, Sean Lennon.  I’d read and seen his interviews, and never really knowing his music, invested a lot of preconcert time listening to his new album, Midnight Sun, and two previous albums, La Carotte Bleue and Friendly Fire.   His latest albums are with his well-practiced band, The GOASTT.  He was a nice guy.  Obviously exhausted but kind, graceful, honest.  That’s what I got for the handshake and my mild intrustion into Mr. Lennnon’s life as a working musician.
 As usual for these types of venues, there was lots of strong beer and the legendary Zanzabar Pizza... Hot out on the patio, broiling inside with all the human traffic:  die hard Beatles fans, lots of indie rockers, barflies, frat boys, and jocks from UL.  Tattoos galore.  A typical midwestern local music venue:  you can find these types of bars all the way fron Lexington to Dayton:  a small stage, a long bar, in a sketchy neighborhood.  I guess what might bother Lennon bothered me.  All the Beatle fans expecting the second coming.  I wanted to be amused and actually learn from this dude, his music, his way of playing.
 
In the middle of things, The most amazing band by far was the Richie White Orchestra, fronted by Cesar Padilla, with some help from Lydia Lunch.  Hard, punky, prog, driving and loud and mesmerizing.   Great songs like "Marlboro County" and "I Be Michael"...the best "local band" I've seen in ages. I don't wanna talk the band up too much here, but check them out on Facebook if you wish.  I also met Cesar during the break and he was puro superpadre tambien.

*            *           *            *          *

When The GOASTT went on stage in a quiet and breathless moment, they started into their new album without as much as blink...Lennon's and Muhl's vocal work and the sheer drive of the band pushed the audience right up to the sonic wall, producing near replicas from the album, Midnight Sun.  The space was small and crowded and noisy with not the best sound, yet they rocked it.    There were small jokes in between, a contest to identify an old Patsy Cline song,  and weird asides to Paul Getty--the subject of of the band's most interesting and sardonic songs.  I was wishing he'd do more from La Carotte Bleue, such as "2012," or early stuff from Friendly Fire, at least to cut back on the heavy intellectual psychedelics he offered.   I left with admiration, and was stunned by the energy of the band and their tight sound,  but I had some hard questions:  Why was the Richie White Orchestra so f'n good?   Why is any local music scene so rich with veritable unknowns?  I remembered I’d be playing in late July in a “jam band” that did full live renditions of THE LAST WALTZ.  As a poet, I’ve read for five for 500.  Swirling in my brain, the importance of Lennon’s work in the light of the singer/songwriter movement that took from American poetry its punch and its relevance. Shit.  I’d die to have that kind of talent as a lyricist.   What I really wanted to do.   What is the strength and depth of Lennon's oeuvre?  Is it "all too much?"  After listening to his early sentimental work, on Friendly Fire, can I find a balance between that and his new heavy, driving, symbolic, allegoric and metaphoric psychedelic explorations of our culture?

I have to admit I like sentimentality and insist that my students risk it in the stories and poems they write.  Sure it can be overdone and become maudlin or cloying.  But the brief exposure of the human soul, the artist's soul, is worth it.  I briefly felt that when I shook Mr. Lennon's hand.  I hear it in his songs, and sensed that, when he was on stage, even in that small hot tight venue, for all the genius of his songs, the deep and clever lyrics, the chord progressions so affirmative and revelatory.  I know there are some things any son cannot deny his father.  As undeniable as when my father's 84 year old sister says I walk, talk, act, and look just like my long lost father.

As Bob Seger said, the songs reach you at the end of evening, there in the hotel room, and you replay what you saw in your head until you sleep.  Dayton's a long way home and your travel has just begun.  The GOASTT cd?  It sits in a stack with all your faves on the back seat while the Replacements drive you home.

6/22/2014

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Rudolfo Carrillo


by Rudolfo Carrillo

It was the first day of summer. I decided to livestream the March to End Police Brutality on a laptop in our living room. The internet network coverage was sketchy so the broadcast was interrupted on numerous occasions; I had the teevee running as well. To prevent boredom, this particular Sony Trinitron was switched on to “Doctor Who.”

I have never watched that show before, serio. All those years of the TARDIS and the Daleks and the Cybermen are mostly a mystery to me, and I was curious; I considered the potential for juxtaposition in relation to the livestreaming protest and was intrigued.

The march was civil yet passionate. The heat of our summer days can be devilish, inflammatory, but today it had no such effect on citizens who took to the streets asking for accountability, justice and tangible reform.

While all this was happening in reality, the Doctor was at the beginning of the sixth series, conspiring with President Nixon and fighting against some rather nasty, otherworldly creatures. They were a murderous, controlling lot and had a special power. This was their special power: Whenever you stopped looking at them, you forgot all about them.

This ability allowed the beingswho had large deformed heads and wore business suitsto get away with murder. By the way, the name of this fictional species of world-destroying maniacs was “The Silence.”

Anyway the protest was so peaceful and “Doctor Who” so fantastically unbelievable (compared to American stuff like “Star Trek” or “Forbidden Planet,” for example). I fell into a luxurious sleep. I dreamt of a world where authorities were responsible in their exercise of power, where government officials were accountable for events that happened on their watch and real reforms were carried out merrily in hopes of kindly serving the citizens of the state.

I also dreamt of endless plates of green chile enchiladas and heaps of fresh, hot latkes served with cold applesauce. (Hey, I’m on a diet, okay?)

When I awoke the marchers had mostly gone home; I decided to give up on Dr. Who because of continuity issues. I liked the way everyone on the show talked, though, and decided to try and incorporate that aspect of the series into my writing, for sauce. Meanwhile, a teevee news station reported a curiosity. Apparently, APD infiltrated yesterday’s march, placed an undercover agent among the hopeful humans.

The intelligence agent took photos, made himself familiar with the families and other folks gathered together, was practically invisible in mission and presence. But he was there, according to published reports, possibly following some administrator’s Nixonian agenda.

Unless I am forgetting something, that’s not cricket, I mean it’s just not on. The decades-long militarization of a municipal police force on display is one thing, but the remaking of these well-grounded protests as something espionage-worthy is either cruelly revisionist or crassly experimental.

5/04/2014

Things in Light Poetry Series 2014: Rebecca Aronson

Super User





Gorge


Sometimes what got the upper hand
would send a body over wholesale,
a ragdoll in a barrel, a dropped cannonball,
but never, I think, a swan dive.

Looking in at the feathery tree tops—
soft with sunlight or rain
above a slip of a stream
pebbled with bright discs
and calling all sideshows down to it—
come moss come fern
and burrow and jagged outreach
come sharp pins of light and pillowed shadow
come and be taken in
who could but lean a little forward?

And what is a tide but a calling in?
And the body a body,
a structure building itself
towards its own one end, just as it builds itself
towards everything else.

And what is a tide but return?
Every overflow gathers what it can.
Every flood sweeps at the reachable world
with a quickness that could be said to be greed.
It is all the body’s wanting: this world and the other and the other.



Peril




When you ask as you move your lips along
my arm tasting where I am I say I’m
here right here and this means I am pulling
my self down into my body again
from where it has drifted—though I do try
to watch—past the periphery. I am
forever slipping away unnoticed.

This is true: desire is peril. I want.
I want. I bay at the door of wanting.
The trouble is the door—it slides from side
to side, it goes incognito or a-
way. Unlike me; there I am, knocking, see,
in the wrong place, pulling the dresser’s knob
for instance and waiting to be let in.




Hold


While we were waiting
the storm took down
all the power lines in the world.
We were a little surprised
but soon in the dark
(when we could no longer discern
our own palms)
we discovered we could float
from our bodies
just as untethered balloons
slide free from tiny wrists
where they had been tied
with provisional knots
and are followed then
by all the eyes in the vicinity
until nothing remains to be seen.




***

Rebecca Aronson's first book o
f poetry is called 
CreatureCreature. She has poems recently or forthcoming in Quarterly WestCutbankCimarron ReviewTattoo Highway and others. She coordinates the CNM Visiting Writer series and facilitates a student and community writing group.


5/03/2014

Things in Light Poetry Series 2014: The Cast and Crew

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The Things in Light Poetry Series continues to be a totally bitchin' phenomena; readers dig the hell out it. As we sift through submissions in order to bring you the best in new work from humanity's poetic representatives, we thought tonight's post should be a celebration of the amazing work we've already received. With that in mind, here are two new poems each by Ardith Brown and Albino Carrillo.

"Why this combination?" one might well ask. Well, as our managing editor explains it, the poets mentioned above and published below all had the same Shakespeare class together at UNM as undergrads. Our managing editor was there, too. The group of them performed a scene from Othello as an alternative to writing a midterm essay for the notoriously rigorous professor MacPherson. Those were halcyon days, a place to begin thinking about the power of words.

Tomorrow we begin the second chapter of the 2014 series with the poetry of Rebecca Aronson. Stay tuned.


Snake Farm
by Ardith Brown


Off an alley near the University
the dealer's younger brother says
my name sounds like a clipper
ship sailing away from the desert.   
He says Albuquerque needs more
boats, and I pretend to laugh when
he offers me a bump. His cocaine
eyes, wild and glassy-green, flitter
and pierce me like two snake fangs.
He grabs the twenty dollar bill
rolled up near the ashtray, licking
his tongue to rid his sticky
mouth of loose tobacco.


I am not the only girl surrounded
by snakes. Posters of boas adorn
airbrushed blonds, their huge breasts
weighing down the beige wallpaper.
Harley models writhe, their serpentine
guile strangled by itchy scales on waxy
lipstick smiles. Do you like snakes,
the dealer sneers as his brother
notices my brand new tan line.
He says I look sexy in turquoise.


I could run you up, if you want,
says the dealer on my next visit,
pointing toward a coiled up rubber
band next to his nudie magazines.
Instead I ask about the silver chopper
in the parched yard.  A large pit bull
is barking--its red eyes mad and bright--
at the new addition in his dusty,
weed-filled lot. The brother yells
shut up and asks if I want to ride.




Birds, San Antonio, 1992
by Ardith Brown


The wedding was not the apocalypse she imagined.  

Endtime, dystopia--call it what you will, but her dress

did not explode or combust. Late October was still hot in Texas.
Sweating through itchy lace, she could barely stand up for the vodka.
A marching band and jet fighters competed for the minister's voice,
but she wasn't interested in the Bible.  It was mostly exposition;  
anyway, she didn't quite believe. All the crystal and glitter
reminded her of discotheques on LSD, of tragic infernos,
sad Victorian women trapped in a muted Renoir.

She thought it unwise to get drunk at weddings,
but it was eighty degrees and the pressure was outrageous.
Booze wasn't sufficient to still the jackhammers fragmenting
her head; instead, she focused on the Virgin of Guadalupe
surrounded by roses and pink aura. Unusual to feel so totally clean.  
There would be friends and children, death and monsters,
days of confusion and depression, yet God would lower
her down soon, crush the hibiscus petals beneath her feet.
She wished for great flocks of grackles, their iridescent
bodies, black and shiny, whistling sharply to settle, settle.

But there were no birds. Silence wrecked her flight.  
Grass sparkled, but she wanted to forget the lawn,
how this night softened her own feathers, clipped her wings.
Married. Until today, time had worked against her--
distorted biological clocks. Grandmothers and aunts
hovered over the cake; small children danced.  
Odors of perfume and coffee smelled of hospitals
and unbearable civilization.  Now the bridesmaids
were poised, squirrels twitching, heart rates heightened,
each vying to catch the throwaway bouquet.

Momentarily she leaned toward the coast,
toward Corpus Christi and Galveston,
slouching a gray posture past the border all the way
down to the Gulf of Mexico where the water opened up,
a whale's mouth swallowing her delight.  Smells of salt
corrupted the reception, and out on the beaches the hotel lights
twinkled and blinked, calling her like diamonds on a neckline.

I lost hope.
I wanted do die right there.
I wanted to swim away and laugh,
an atheist at the coming of the Lord.


***

You Don't
by Albino Carrillo

You don't
Listen to the
Darkness eating
Me alive.  When
My bones shake
In the night.  When
The terror of my own
Death echoes like
A police baton
On my skull.  Even
The sun knows
My pain, why don't
You.  The easiest
Task is falling
Away into the
Antigravity that'll
Spin me away
Like a lousy planet.
The most difficult
Being just the
Utterance of one
Word.  Whether
I can dance
I'm the morning.


On the Death of Childhood Friends
by Albino Carrillo

There was one time we were all
Gathered around a campfire
In the sandias, when it used to rain
And march was cold still in the lower
Passes between the high desert
And the ponderosa forests.

Chris was there, and Darrell-
We'd walked up with a keg
Of beer, made a fire in a
Dried out riverbed.  You
Never think you'll die
Then, when the class

Has gone away and
All you have to do is climb.
I think of Kenneth next,
Singing to Wagner
As he swung between
Love-boys, declaring

That even the pennies
On his eyes should be
Melted down when
The time came.  When
His brain stopped working
One day on stage

We He knew he'd be gone--
So afterwards we feasted
With money he left us--
Besides the food and
Booze, he left us each
A bottle of morphine

Tablets, dilaudid, and Xanax
To play with.
His parents told
Us they loved us for
Him, and only in death
Accepted that he was gay.

If you think
I have more to stay, listen--
Times I've been to
Funerals an carried caskets
Put money in baskets
And taken the Host.  Which

Is eating a part that
Reminds you most of death,
What's next.  Then there was
Countdown-- a prelude to what
Comes next besides
The lazy sun who knows its

Turn day after day without
Completion.  I give to you
The ultimate quantum
Of days:  hallway visits
Those transient times

When bells are really
Ringing outside, in the spring.

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