This week in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor Brian Blanchfield features five poems by Steven Alvarez. About Alvarez’s work, Blanchfield writes: “Like a wholly unanticipated amalgam of Edward Dorn and Ernesto Cardenal updated to embody a ‘Neo Baroque Xicano experimentalism,’ the work of Steven Alvarez is a standout in any context. It is all at once narrative, fragmentary, constructivist (unsynthesized), phantasmic, excessive, brash, documentary, and wide awake. Its fluid bilingualism is one of several strategies that achieve a layered stereo effect. Three of the following five poems are in his forthcoming book The Codex Mojaodicus, which also includes “G l o b a l,” a long poem that (to give you an idea of his boundless scope and capability) stages a sort of tour that Walt Disney gives The Rev. Billy Graham, a tour that periodically irrupts not only into Spanish but also into the theme park’s underlying theme: foul and exploitative colonialism. It would be among the few poems I’d collect as the most vital of the century so far. Alvarez is from Southern Arizona, and has a feel for one-storey Sonoran life in urban Tucson, as it looks up at the daily maneuvers the military air base conducts, as it nonetheless engages in the kind of place-claiming, place-making that my friend the writer and activist Roberto Bedoya elucidates as ‘rasquachismo.'”


                           G  L  Y  P  H*

image: prophetik Chaley Chastitellez 

& that brownish skin of history
limned in all imageswords 
nouns & verbs

context: this AZtlán moment pulsating 
caged temporal & spatial configurations 
nadie cd ever imagine dead imagine
a huevo—indeed—Tucson 
written in Codex Moja’odicus never happened / 
never each time
time cycles recycled cycles

e(s)pic: & all Chaley sees yepa—
neck resting on a yellowed whitewall spare tire 
behind his head reading solito in that parked beater
eseventydos Datsun he rolled / what folks in AZtlán
called “birth control” for C’s lackluster destiny
for “eseshual” conquests / five colors of sun
rusted away no bumpers / screwdriver in ignition
no passenger window
C browsing through his magazines
w/ images of high heeled bikini-clad rucas
posing w/ glittery love machines
w/ wire wheels / one C had his eye 
on violet flaked azure pearl lilac ghosts
choptopped tricked-out troka 
dancing pickup bed 
shaved taillights y todo / 
ah dreams / sweet dreams / relaxing
in his parked beater Datsun just off Calle Brazos 
Panadería Estrella’s lot / frowning down his mag
& up C’s eyes fixed on bluest sky he’d already known 
bluest azure pearl bluer than any ma-cheeng
the blues of ol AyZee 
these skies nothing more than postAZtlán sky grand
& yet tinted bluely differently  
from gilded styrofoam towers & hollow pyramids
plastic bodies & concrete cacti 
& suddenly prophetic C sees in all he sees
in all his Pochovisions
funneled to this quasimomenteeteeto
güey up high—that spot—¿Royal Chicano Air Force fighter jet?
¡güey! ¿what the shit is that?:
some damned green Mextica eagle w/ owl’s eyes order screeching  
             ¡ATENCIÓN!     ¡ATENCIÓN!     ¡ATENCIÓN!
diving from somewhere down from that tainted Aridzona sky
& only C sees this flapping madly plumedsnake
& wind so much wind mis jefes—
for since no one truly looks up in AZ (esp. bc doing so cd burn one’s eyes blind)
& yes look to this: how clouds emanate from this animal
& wind unveils 11 on the fog machine & surrounds—descends or ascends he can’t tell—
& frankincense scents 
soften into darkened foggy neonglows curtaining him
& as his gaze presses on looking further into this eaglesnake’s
owl’s eyes C sits up no longer in that pick-up’s bed
wind none heat some / wind in his swirling cabeza no doubt 
¿& his lowrider mag? snails w/ candypaint shells 
sliming trails of salsa verde / ¡de veras! 
now a barrio forest
& on his ankle ocelot skin & bells
no matter / & on moving on
untouched thick brush / ponderosa pine / sitka spruce
as in Alaska again
& up & walking on
tugging up his ethnocentric misogynistic chicansmo loincloth
& pushing on & on thru veils of cloudfog & on
he encounters her that ruca in ‘is magazine
cheenga kay yes
& Chaley peering thru
smoke (cough) fir needles singeing 
her bronzely freckled skin / Xochitl 
obsidian earplugs
posed on saplings ferns & ocelot pelts
eyes inaccessible
legs closed
heels high
her hair the ocean
& C behind some alders
& she on her petate of saplings & furs 
arching her back
magueyes walling her 
& her knees bend her legs open & C sees 
glisten . . .
& well—pos—taco de ojo—he stiffer than times
of global credit crises / boom ready to bust one cd guess
& his thoughts flash bulbs of black enlightening him yes
& right where he thinks Tucson was
there’s her & whatever happens . . . no / ni modo
& just then her curls leap & she sways & jerks
convulsively & again that green birdsnake 





& wacha C / mark how it soars & its claws
firmly gripping eyesockets
of one nice skull lit like dark stone*
& C thinks to himself stigmata

& now 

¿& la ruca?
                                       limp headless

yes manches some serious Zetas booshit

& up & up flies that birdsnake w/ owl’s eyes & her skull in its talons

                         UP & UP to that winedark violet 
smoking volcán

shit: C: that: Puebla.  
                          Es la verdad.  ¡Great storms of luz!
                          ¡Sweet baby Quetzalcoatl!
& C shuts tight his eyes terrorized
sways & damp stardust tumbles
             & wind whips him 

                                      smoke gone
as he hears shouts

              of bass from some eseventytres Monte Carlo at this stoplight
next to his Datsun Chaley finds himself returned to . . . 

              or he never left quizás didn’t he can’t sey . . . 

but truchas there his lowrider mag
              & as he rises from that bed & marvels redcandyapple
              flake / w/ pearl ghostpatterns calaveras
chromegleam of wirewheel rims
godly gold spinners
              yes de veras / Chaley calls out to these carnales
              over Ice Cube explaining why that day was a good day
not having to use his A-K & such Chaley
              sez to these gentlemen YO: ¿y’all see that plumed snake flying? 
              he shouts this three times bc bass drowns his voice
              & finally that pelón passenger volumes down their song
              & Chaley asks again abt flying feathered serpents screaming attention
              & these two vatos gesture signs w/ their fingers
              concoctions of knuckle & wrist twists accenting mano
              acrobatics & communicating to Chaley
              they prefer no verbal interaction & as they speed away
              BOOM b a s s BOOM BOOM b a s s
              BOOM b a s s BOOM BOOM b a s s
              Chaley glimpses airbrushed trunk mural
              soaring Quetzalcoatl pinching C’s severed head in his talons
              y verla fea headless heeled ruca corpse walled in maguey
       & abuelo Popocatépetl crying for his children . . . 


pero ain’t no sin to take off yr head & baile in yr bones 

& C scratches his cabeza 
asks if & why
Datsuns divinations in Tucson ache 

yr citizens, denizens

0:02fats well settled
0:05five days of the final status
0:09september the
0:10slept right there in front of ralph sat-sun seven fifteen if that pink
0:21it’s not about making you looking for
0:23and report was not included
0:26and out of the no-fly list
0:29scene is not taking away their madonna
0:33stuff like that
0:34trying to do what you are not allowed to come
0:38firing off my lifestyle nigeria
0:44these are citizens of the united states championship
0:49which is issued from former democratic fight hackers are children before you
0:55think you have to have a very appealing
0:59situated humans who harvest of food for the best friend people in the world is
1:02your partners
1:12one farmer look at this
1:15we used to all harshly
1:17now we got rent
1:20the secretary of labor looked at the migrant plight and said
1:24i think that the greatness is what i have called it
1:28excluded american
1:32who cried out
1:35workers and their children and their lives
1:39credit hopeful
1:40some assistance
1:42and uh… whom the quite fascinating
1:47the president of the american farm bureau federation the largest farmers
1:51organizations as
1:52i think that uh…
1:54most those social workers would agree that it’s better for man to be employed
1:58even if his capacity of salt shows
2:02through one of those
2:05combo we took the position
2:08that is far better to have problems leaves
2:12ferrara practically on adorable
2:14finding some
2:16throwing some productive work
2:18for at least a few days here
2:21measures are not part of it
2:24an engineer jersey and new york private
2:28who’s in nineteen sixty-eight grapes of wrath
2:30that begins at the mexican border in california
2:33an engine oregon and washington
2:36competitive the story of man and woman and children
2:40work a hundred and thirty three days of the year
2:43and the fabric nine hundred dollars a year
2:50playwright truck
2:53they follow the sun
2:55the migrants
2:57workers in the sweatshops of the soil
2:59the harvest of change
3:15the census reports exclusive
3:19it has to do with the men women and children who harvest their crops in this
3:22country of ours the best red nation on earth
3:26is are the forgotten people
3:27the under protected the undereducated the undertow the underfoot
3:33we present this report


0:37while take institutes
0:41which is fine but
0:43it goes beyond that
0:45because beyond sense that
0:47you have a political & social consciousness
0:50that may be other american-style
0:53you more
0:56that comes yr connection to yr
0:59brutal cultural heritage
1:00and on cultivated conquests
1:03expanded to catch a mexican because you know anything abt it
1:07when he perceived to be valuable
1:09and something that shd be
1:12best conquests yes
1:14deductions hernan good conquest yes
1:17passed on from generation to generation
1:23minutes has been delayed
1:28it was a really good summary online stores
1:41explicitly yr great conqueror
1:42it means an american a mexican descent born & raised in this country
1:46how do i have no idea people that
1:49considerable skylights satisfactory you stated in nineteen eighty
1:53ended up buying so much for the mexican american community in terms of
1:57that social consciousness of political awareness & the cultivation of the
2:01cultural roots
2:02that conquistador conquistador
2:03i mean it’s nice to working in a pioneering
2:13was among the w/ the deployment we have talked
2:16was a mom
2:18& is the end of it
2:26encircling mexico but they were
2:31status our estimates that some people
2:34they’re not water
2:37answer that explains
2:42went my
2:46french fries
2:48deputy simple abt hernan malinshay
2:50it’s you
2:52seeking tortillas once
2:54ensuring depends
2:56you want to know that i lived there
3:05an understanding
3:08come from
3:18in the back of his work
3:20what did you notice that we never did
3:26zuma zuma
3:29promises combo
3:31one of my resume of
3:34was the relationship
3:35came as a person who was
3:37warranty in the conquest w/ their parents their of mexican descent
3:42male definition of
3:44zuma it’s it’s a cultural thing it’s uh…
3:47it’s a different world span
3:50the electoral
4:15will salute g send yr letters
4:19and as soon as the one that you can tell
4:25for children
4:27and has sd that we survived
4:31marina where a service to meeting on


Pancho EL PRIMERO / to La Marcaida / Sinaloa

think I smell you
taste yr eyes
dream yr white hands
groping a map of Tetaroba
open my eyes / see yrs still closed
kiss yr lids w/ thoughts untied
yet only the deepness inside me knows—
missing the smoothness of yr warm / white neck
bids me to forget me in you more
fingers opening as roses & sudden
images descending
nations breathing
winds rise / hear yr breath
you breathe: tight (& writhe)
exhale / & my stomach shakes
paint any monstrosities you want / jellybean
poets all the same
words no action
¿ow to speak?  
wish w/ pages of boulders

yes Pancho EL PRIMERO / to La Marcaida / owned by the State 
decidedly chose to write 

 machines speak loudly / definitively 

 call me call me call me Pancho ordered himself to follow 
his desiring destined bones 
toward the nude whose back                                    [margin: La Malinche]
faced his front  
entered her / vigorously pumped / dispatched 
thoroughly / woke her / tho considering 
nothing else
                          she woke / turned her glance—
              seemingly expressed a kiss  

Pancho cd write / wrote / read 
sometimes instead 
hear train choo chaos
sun shines / clouds run / the blue blue blue
kind can’t stand divided

[MS letter holdings of Pancho Chastitellez estate / 19 Jun 2000]

Chaley to Pancho:

              see Olson: recognizing that writing & geometry are always entwined / connected 

shapes of letters reflect cultural notions of spatiality
                  Euclidian space in our letters we inherit mostly from Greece by way of Rome
                don’t write boustrophedon / nor hieroglyphically  
y liverty y susto for algunos

el conquistador es la figura que domina la historia de los años iniciales del contacto hispano-indígena/ y el conflicto
dominante es el desequilibrio de la Antigua sociedad prehispánica sometida a un NUEVO ESTADO de cosass—

                                      PHYSICAL ENJOYMENT Tío / 

                                      ¡Ay! reason Chastiteyes:
                                       both reality & process              how to operate 

nothin I cd be
               creature from second stage of—
                                                               no more than s-some creature crowing 
               over own triumph over incoherence

heard this from una ruca cryin / cryin / cryin:

   que ya te crees tanto . . . tú eres de Amurika / ya sabes hablar ingles y todo eso

think abt Quetzalcoatl 
my true conquistador
is that it helps me 
take my mind 
off things by 
doin something w/ me  
sometimes my sweet conquistador 
promises that we will do something 
& then we don’t do it  
my gentle conquistador makes fun of me 
in ways that I don’t like  
I wish my darling conquistador wuz different
O BUT WHEN I AM . . . 
when I am w/ my adequate conquistador 
I feel disappointed
& when I am w/ my antigovernment conquistador 
I feel ignored
& when I am w/ my reformed conquistador 
I feel bored 
& when I am w/ my symbolic conquistador 
I feel mad 
& I feel that I can’t trust my habitual conquistador  
w/ secrets b/c I’m afraid my feigning conquistador
wd tell my parent/guardian  
& when my abnormal conquistador 
gives me advice
my soft Conquistador makes me feel 
kind of stupid & ashamed
I wish my parliamentary conquistador 
asked me more abt what I think
I wish my necessary conquistador 
knew me better
I wish my loathsome conquistador 
spent more time 
w/ me


2008 / 5th sun / our present 

             & so Tío Pancho & Chaley
             penetrated Manhatitlán deep
             sloppy July humidity tangling
             them until ‘Times Esquare’
             as Tío used to sey
                                        tho he’d never been
             & so his Sinaloan destiny linked
             w/ web to this eastern place & so
                                        Chaley Chastitellez
                                        wd dump his Tío’s
                        ashes wherever he
                                 thought best here in Times Esquare

             Chaley looked down at his Tío’s new shell / then sd
                pero oye listen oye
                          & ¡ look ! Tío — LA LUZ / sd Chaley to his Tío
                                     whom he toted in black plastic sack
                                                       cinched at top &
                                           . . . how long & hidden
             Tío in his dreams followed clinking cloud rolling
                         curtains / gas green neon
                         billowing / crowd furrowed /
                         strange brows—

SURE:  mighty torrent / sure as its might / crowd /
& calmate Tío—hush yr thunder sd Chaley clearly
   speaking his Tío
          —shun what’s common & mean
6,982,488 lights flashing fury thoughtbulbs & another
6,982,488 & noise

& his Tío from beyond:  para el tiempo to boot & these
             COSMOS black blanket star speckled 
    nebulae / constellations of 

¡ LEND YR EARS ! thought Chaley to the folks
          exiting Planet Hollywood &
            to some beautiful fifty-foot tall pouty-lipped
            white young man or maybe woman O Tío

            away alone along on forty-two Chaley walking
            solo west w/ Tío’s ashes in this sack / plastic /

            watchale / walking Tío’s ashes north / past
            hugged sidewise O / servicio hear Tío
              here time’s money Tío
/ Chaley sd to his uncle’s
                ashes / sack cinched
                   time y movement / in Ethiopia time metaphors / sd
                Chaley to his
                uncle’s ashes / of movement don’t exist WELL
                                                           buckle no arrow
                                                                 buckle no fleeting

                                                           y ¡ SENSE !

& Chaley Chastitellez reckoned here en Nueva Yor lights / lights & folks
                     ask C for money
                        & ask sey / b the b / ¿ wha’sin thet bag boss ?

               & / ¿ canna git some ?
                & C:  no / es mi tío en esta bolsa

                                   ¡ BASTA !
y know forever sus primos no tienen su papa not now nor forever Chaley 
                                       & the body just disappears
                                                    becomes dirt dirt dirt
             well his ashes anyway / never to have visited
                Times Esquare w/ blood 
                                                  mixed w/ his flesh

             O TÍO / dead / dead / dead / first blind as a bat
                in political matters
                                               racist / como Ezra Pound
             racist Tío / fearful Tío / hatred / hardhearted /
                contra women / Jews / homosexuals 
                Puerto Ricans — evil Tío of different worlds really
             refracted bigtime         ¿& he wanted Times Esquare?
                   no manches:
                            he’d die from selfhatred selfpity selfdread
             all these lights Chaley looked up
                            always electric day here in this place
                            Chaley needed a dark place & he
                                         eyed a green flowerpot
                                         sweat in his eyes pot
             over yonder & sd to the box
there are two things in this dirty dirty world
             up he looked at groups of students chaperoned
             by workingclass folk from Wax Museum / J-LO
second:  visible thru the window:  two things:  brute facts
    & social facts

Tío:  brute facts exist w/o man
Chaley still speaking to cinched bag:
                 but objex in relation to time:  after the lantern
                      yard loss of God

                                                          absence of meaning & Chaley speaking faster
             / rambling:
                            raveloe:  space w/o time . . .
                                          repetition instead
                                          cyclical time 

                                                          HALLO QUETZALCOATL
                            I order ye universe / TIMES SQUARE
                                            ¡ zsTOP !

                                                       & nothing / nothing 

             look Tío:  here he spoke to the ashes in the box:







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