Poem: Still Life

Still Life

If memory loomed over Roethke
as large as my Buddhist friend
said, then I prefer to remember
what you remember: her earring,
his old wallet, a few nickels, a bolt,
collected in an unexpected corner.

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Poem: Thief


You said all the best poets steal
and I believe you. But I can’t help
but feel like there’s an addendum
somewhere in there, a clue
left behind in one of our friend’s
sketchbooks, a doodle or a smudge
of sage lightly traced through
with a fingertip or with glitter glue
and it’s waiting to be discovered
underneath a crumpled Pizza Hut
receipt or on a flash drive or maybe
even bottled up inside a tiny bottle
of tiny rocks placed beside the altar,
which no one will ever, ever take.
Go ahead. It’s ours to borrow now.
Let’s try and find everything we can.

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Poem: The Cloud

The Cloud

I refuse to believe
that The Cloud can be
understood. I’d like
instead to believe in
mystery, in a little bit
of magic. The answer
to why my new iPod
can’t automatically sync
with the computer
I’m looking at, or why time
insists on temporality, or
why memory fails me each
time when I try to recall
my LinkedIn password
should not be searchable
on Google. Rather,
it should be the opposite:
We forgot our smartphones
at home by accident and yet
we still managed to arrive.

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Poem: Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Today I am working on simplicity. An apple,
a banana, a handful of almonds
for breakfast. An email letter to a friend
traveling in Europe. Small cups of hot water
to soothe my aging guts. I will try not
to talk politics when my father
serves us the dead bird. I will try not
to disappoint my mother when I skip
her dry pumpkin pie. I will try not to forget
the hundreds of water protectors standing
in sub-freezing temperatures in
North Dakota, pelted with water cannons
and rubber bullets by a government
I am finding it harder and harder every day
to recognize. My brother in Alabama,
a traveler in the heart of Make America Great Again
country, texted me Happy Thanksgiving
with a bearded, animated image of himself
waving hello from inside a cornucopia.
Why not? Joy and hurt are plentiful.

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Poem: Parading

for Mireyda

You asked me about my writing
the first time I met you. It was the third week
at my new job in our writing program.
We talked about Xicanismo and we
talked about our parents and tíos and tías
and we talked about coming to
identity. I told you I wasn’t writing
literary essays right now, maybe
I never would again. You said to me,
simply, that if I hit a productive period
I would be welcome anytime to share
my work with you and the other
Chicanx kids. Your offer meant more to me—
a White-passing Chicano with a White father’s
surname and a Mexican mother who learned
to forget her Spanish before I was born— than I
can ever express. I feel so grateful
to have known, even for a short time,
such a generous and warm person as you.
Rest in power, my friend, Xicana seester.
I will see you parading down Blackstone
Avenue and I will talk back yeah
with hand claps, yeah hand claps for you.

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Cary Park water temporarily stopped, but now continues to flow

As of today, the broken sprinkler head on the SE corner of Cary Park continues to release water steadily into the gutter. It has been one week since I first noticed it, and it has been 5 days since the leak was reported to the city.

As of today, the broken sprinkler head on the SE corner of Cary Park continues to release water steadily into the gutter. It has been one week since I first noticed it, and it has been 5 days since the leak was reported to the city.

This past Friday, as I left the house, I spotted two white City of Fresno trucks in Cary Park. Repairmen were looking at the sprinkler heads, two days after my initial blog post about the daily watering of Augusta Street. When I came back in the afternoon, the busted sprinkler head at the SE corner of the park, which had been quietly releasing water into the street since at least the start of the week, looked like it had been dug up and presumably repaired. At a glance, the curb looked dry. I then posted a tweet saying that the city appeared to have fixed and adjusted the sprinklers. I felt happy and relieved. The city said it would fix the problem and it looked like they did.

But then I noticed on Saturday that a bigger plume of water had formed in the gutter alongside Holland School. On Sunday, I walked over to check it out and I was heartbroken to trace the source: The same busted city sprinkler head at the edge of Cary Park was again flowing. And it’s still flowing today. I’m not a landscape guy, so I’m not sure how these kinds of repairs work, but it seems like this water leak must be coming from somewhere deeper than the sprinkler head at the surface. I’m not sure when the city plans to come back. I hope it can be fixed soon, so I can get back to focusing on not-watering my own (mostly brown) yard!

Local journalist Joe Moore and the news team at Valley Public Radio have invited me to come on their Valley Edition program on Tuesday to talk about “drought shaming” and my blog posts from last week. Also appearing will be city spokesperson Mark Standriff, as well as someone from the state water board. I’m looking forward to seeing how the conversation develops. The show airs live on FM 89 from 9 to 10 a.m., and the re-broadcast airs from 7 to 8 p.m. I think our segment is scheduled second, and it’ll run for about 15 minutes or so.

In the comments section of my second blog post last week, Mr. Standriff invited me to ask more questions about the city’s water plans. He pointed to 10 “water conservation representatives” that the city apparently has on hand to respond to residents. Among other things, I’d like to know more about what exactly those folks do. (The Fresno Bee less flatteringly called those 10 city employees “water cops” in their Sunday cover story on the drought.) If the VPR segment runs short, I’ll post more questions here so that Mr. Standriff and the city can respond in full and so that others can chime in too.

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City pauses overwatering, blames the homeless

So first, the good news.

After I wrote a blog post yesterday calling out the City of Fresno for its daily watering of Augusta Street alongside Cary Park, a wide range of friends and strangers on Facebook, Twitter, and in local media responded by sharing, retweeting, and engaging with the story. This morning, as I made my morning walk, the sprinklers were off for the first time this week and the city’s overwatering of Cary Park was paused–for now.

Now, the bad news.

As my new video above shows, there’s still a busted City of Fresno sprinkler head on the SE corner of Cary Park, where the water has been leaking into the street 24/7 for at least four days. The broken sprinkler head is on the edge of the park where people with cars–including city vehicles–often drive over the curb and onto the park’s grass. Local journalist Mariana Jacob and a news crew from ABC30 captured the quiet gusher in action yesterday as well, as part of their story on the challenges of water wasting that both the city and others are facing. It aired last night on ABC30’s 11 o’clock news.

Here’s what upsets me about the city’s response. In the ABC30 story, the city’s public works director, Scott Mozier, blames the homeless for the broken sprinkler head, rather than accepting responsibility himself. He says: “People [are] vandalizing and breaking into boxes to be able to get water out of the system, and sometimes that’s damaging the irrigation system.”

The homeless? Really, Mr. Mozier? Yes, the city’s public relations strategy for owning up to its own water wasting and lack of oversight and prompt fixes to public parks seems to be to blame the homeless, some of the most vulnerable people in our city, a group that our mayor and city manager saw fit to flush from downtown in a series of removals the past two years. A friend of mine on Facebook yesterday commented that he’d heard from neighbors near Einstein Park that sometimes the city would run the sprinklers in that park all night in order to keep the homeless from sleeping there. I thought that might have just been a rumor, but perhaps giving the city the benefit of the doubt on having such a strategy would be too kind.

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So, let me be clear.

First: Dear city, please come and fix this gushing sprinkler head in Cary Park. Mr. Mozier told ABC30 that when fixes are reported, “We will be jumping on that. If there’s a repair that needs to be made, we’ll make it happen.” How about today?

Second: Dear city, own your mistakes and stop blaming others. If the city’s high-paid communications director, Mark Standriff, is asking local journalists (like VPR’s Ezra Romero, in the above photo’s Twitter exchange) to give the city a chance to have its voice heard, it better be ready to point the finger at itself when necessary.

Finally, as the city prepares to move us to “Stage 2” watering restrictions on Aug. 1, which will include fines for violators who run water unchecked into the street, I ask this question: Is the city prepared to fine itself the state-mandated $500 per day for mistakes like this broken sprinkler head in Cary Park, as it seems poised to fine residents?

The city says to call 559 621-5300 to report problems you see with the city’s water wasting in parks and medians. I say, take them up on it.

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