May 17, 2012

Who's that Gay Fellow?

That would be me. I'm a Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow!

Last month, I applied for the Lambda Literary Foundation's Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. I'd heard about and was encouraged to apply for the week-long residency program when I attended the AWP conference in Chicago.

LLFWe are pleased to inform you of your acceptance into the 2012 workshop ... More applications this year than in any previous year made the selection process extremely competitive. Congratulations on taking your place among an outstanding field of applicants! 

The emailed message continued, "This year also brought us a challenging economic climate, and we have faced difficult decisions in allocating the available scholarship funds."

I'm so happy that they awarded me a partial scholarship to help cover some of the expenses including tuition. However, I'm responsible for the remaining $650 for room and board. I'm also responsible for travel to the retreat which will take place at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Calif.

Clearly, papa's gotta get some chedda, yo.

In order to help meet expenses, LLF fellows are authorized as fundraisers and may use the foundation's Donor Pages to accept tax-deductible donations.

A few years ago I would have never thought something like this could happen for me. Yet because you believed in me, I believed in myself. I believed I could be a writer. It's all I ever wanted to be.

You may not be in a position to help. I understand that -- really, I do. And I know this is  a strange way to ask for help, but I can't ask for help without saying 'thank you' for what you've already done. So, thank you for a lifetime of encouragement and support.

My Donor Page

To inquire about travel expenses (not included in the Donor Page account),contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

May 5, 2012

5to de Mayo

A few weeks ago, an foreign language instructor at Johnson County Community College reminded me that it's time to dig out my Cinco de Mayo poems since the holiday was approaching. She surprised me by saying that she uses them in her classes.

So here's my love/hate relationship with Cinco de Mayo ...

Sink-O duh My-O 

I hate that the birthdays of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta
are followed by the embarrassment that is
Sink-O duh My-O.

I hate that many young Latinos will mistakenly toast Mexican Independence
four months early
and on the wrong day.

I hate that shirtless frat boys will host Taco and Tequila parties
where they’ll wear giant sombreros and fake mustaches
and that the women will wear Hawaiian leis and bikinis.

I hate that from the weekend before to the weekend after I will avoid Mexican restaurants
as they reduce our cuisine to cheesy combination platters
and jalapeño eating contests.

I hate that when I walk through the grocery store,
someone will ask me what’s the best brand of tortillas
or which salsa is more authentic.

I hate that someone outside my culture will speak Spanish to me and,
when I don’t respond in Spanish,
will lecture me on how I’m losing my heritage.

I hate that teachers beat my parents for speaking Spanish in school.
And now some yahoo will get in my face to tell me I should learn it
for the one day a year it seems we’re allowed to speak it.

I hate that I must smile through this ignorance, because if I don’t,
I’m an Angry Mexican reinforcing yet another stereotype
by which they judge us.

I hate Sink-O duh My-O.

  * * * * * * * * * 

Cinco de Mayo

I love that summer begins when Maracas shake,
guitars strum and trumpets blast
on Cinco de Mayo.

I love that it initiates the emancipated days of summer
like Junteenth, Gay Pride, Fourth of July
and closes with Hispanic Heritage Month which includes the real Mexican Independence Day.

I love the sound of stomping heels
and the ruffling fabric of whirling dresses
as young folklorico dancers fulfill the tradition of siblings and elders.

I love the smell of roasted peppers,
the sizzle of beef
and how the breeze carries chili powder instead of pollen across the fiesta.

I love that booths offer everything from homemade tacos to HIV testing to la Avon
and that everyone understands the celebration comes from the gathering of community
not the authenticity of the products.

I love that Latino kitsch like the paintings of the Matador and the Señorita,
calendars featuring the Aztec warrior carrying the maiden, and wooden puppets
release childhood memories and reveal cultural meaning.

I love the rhythm that flows from Spanish spoken without shame
on the one day a year everyone wishes they were fluent.
El que sabe dos idiomas vale por dos.

I love that instead of apologizing for our accent, our skin, our hair, our shape,
we celebrate, appreciate and validate our existence
despite the revolución’s evolución into the Mexican St. Patrick’s Day.

I love Cinco de Mayo.

Originally published by Present Magazine in 2009 
and  featured on the Facebook page, Poets Against SB1070 in 2011.

May 4, 2012

The Jotos Are Coming!

Last year Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano asked me to contribute to a queer Latino anthology of poetry he was editing.

I was honored. Frankly, I didn't even think he knew who I was. I knew of him because I attended the AWP conference in Denver. As part of a panel, he read one of his poems and all I could think was, "Damn, I wish I had written that."

I wanted to go up to him after the session and introduce myself but ... what was I gonna say?

"I liked your poem. It was good" or "You sure talk pretty."

So when I got his Facebook message last May asking me to contribute to the Joto anthology, I was like "Hey! It's that guy from that panel."

Then I thought, "Oh, he meant to send this to the other Miguel Morales." You see, at the conference, there was another guy named Miguel Morales and he read a poem at an off-site event that was well attended.

The more I thought about it the more I kinda convinced myself that he really did mean to send me the invitation to contribute. Then I started to think of what I could send him and, well, I didn't have anything. That really surprised me because I was sure I had poems about being a gay Latino -- but I didn't.

I took a day or so to figure out what I wanted to say and then worked through the thoughts and images that lived in the back of my mind. I emailed the poems ASAP to Lorenzo because he was on a tight deadline. For some reason, I sent him an email a few days later asking if he received the poems. I didn't want to be pushy but something told me to email him to make sure he go them.

He didn't.