Browsing Tag

Alma Luz Villanueva

Guest Posts, poetry

SIMPLE BEAUTY (Mas Tequila)

February 27, 2019
frida

By Alma Luz Villanueva

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the word, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too.”

Frida Kahlo

Me– “Frida, I think if
we had been girls to
gether, we would have
been best amigas.”

Frida– “Are you more
boy than girl?” she
laughs.

Me– “I think I’m half
and half, sometimes the
boy takes over, and
sometimes the girl.”

Frida– “I wouldn’t
want to be all boy or
all girl, that would
be boring, como no,” she
laughs again, stirring the
dark mole, making me
hungry. “Juana will
take over, time to
paint, boy/girl,
girl/boy, I give
birth to paintings, not
children,” she
smiles. Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

La Llorona

October 29, 2015

By Alma Luz Villanueva

I lived in Santa Cruz, California, for sixteen years while my youngest son grew up, became a surfer, a runner, and went off to university. So, when I heard that eight-year-old Madyson Middleton was missing from the Tannery Arts Center, where she lived with her mother, I immediately began to worry in a personal way. Also, one of my granddaughters is exactly Madyson’s age, and I was to find out later that she knew Maddy from school. And so, the night of July 26, 2015 I kept checking for updates- was she found yet. Then I finally gave up, went to sleep after midnight. I kept seeing her large, beautiful, child eyes, awake when I checked the clock, back to dreaming. In the very pit of my stomach, where the truth lives, I knew she was no longer alive- but I refused to believe it. And her mother, her young mother- I imagined what she was going through. Her beloved child missing.

I felt the horror in every cell of my body like small fires. And I remembered myself at seven, an older thirteen year old friend saying it was okay to go to the park by ourselves. Buena Vista Park, San Francisco, the early 1950s. I was wearing a brand new dress and twirling around because I thought I was beautiful, special, in my brand new dress. My grandmother had made large curls on my thick, dark hair, held by barrettes- I remember they matched my dress, soft pink. I never left the street by myself, my grandmother, Mamacita, watching me from the window as I rode my Hopalong Cassidy bike with rainbow streamers on the handlebars. She’d yell my name, “ALMA,” and I had to answer like a song we knew together. Alma means Soul, and she’d often say (in Spanish), “Tu eres mi Alma…You are my soul.”

When my older friend, Peggy, and I got to the playground area we had swinging contests to see who could go higher. Of course, she was stronger as her feet pierced the sky much higher than mine. But I didn’t mind, I remember I was just happy to be swinging with my new dress blowing around me. I remember wondering if Mamacita was calling my name, waiting for me to sing back to her. I remember wanting to go back suddenly, like a pain my eight-year-old stomach. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, motherhood, Pregnancy

Letter To My Fifteen Year Old Self: For Every Pregnant Teen Who Feels Alone.

April 4, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Alma Luz Villanueva.

(For every pregnant teen who thinks, feels, she’s alone.)

San Francisco, the Mission Barrio, 1960-

I see you standing at the very edge of the rooftop, gazing down into the darkness. The garden below. Where the roses are blooming. Your step (real) father, Whitey, tends these roses. Your mother doesn’t believe in roses. You lean into that darkness. No fear. Not really. You were the tomgirl who jumped/leaped roof to roof to avoid the streets for blocks. And just for fun. The thrill shot through your body. You leaned. You leaped. Sometimes barely making it. Barely landing. Fear. Then laughter. Your tomgirl pal following you. Roof to roof. San Francisco, the Mission. Your childhood city.

Why are you leaning at the edge of the rooftop, gazing down into the darkness? The roses blooming. No scent from the edge, but you can see the blood red petals shadowed in moonlight. Some are fully blossomed, ready to shed their beauty. To touch the earth. Die, transform. Some are tight, baby blossoms; tiny slivers of blood red barely revealed. Still in the womb. They sing their whisper song of blood red. Beauty.

You’re pregnant at 15, gazing into darkness. Listening to the songs of the blossomed roses, and the whisper songs of the baby bud roses. Still in the womb. You’re pregnant at 15, alone, at the edge. Leaning. Into the darkness.

Stars pulsing overhead. Some brighter than others. Alive with light. Your favorite place. The roof. View of the city lights. Silence. You sit down at the edge, letting your feet dangle. Night breeze on your sweaty face. You wishing, suddenly, that you still passed as a boy on the city streets. Your night time visits to Dolores Park, sitting high in the pepper trees. The Bay Bridge a shiny necklace across the dark water. A few times you had to run for it when a pervert spotted you, perched so high and happy. Sometimes you sang the old Baptist church song, “I have a joy joy joy joy down in my heart…” And sometimes you sang parts of “Canta, No Llores…Sing, Don’t cry,” the parts you remembered that Mamacita knew by heart. You whisper sing those parts now, your sandaled feet dangling over the edge. And you smile because you see Mamacita, so clearly, in the alive stars, lifting her long skirt. Dancing. You join her, dancing.

You remember the morning ritual of sharing dreams, the hot chocolate, cinnamon on top, steaming your face. You almost always woke up to Mamacita praying, singing to the Child Sun in Yaqui. Her rattle. Tears and joy in that strange, beautiful language you never learned. But you loved to hear. She told you it was a song to El Niño Sol, to be born safely every dawn. You thought if Mamacita didn’t sing that song every morning, there would be only darkness. Night. No Child Sun. Birth. Dawn.

You didn’t know what birth was, being born. Except your mother, Lydia, once told you she almost pulled a sink out of the wall, in the hospital, when you were born. That it hurt like hell, that’s what she said. You asked Mamacita once, “Does it hurt the Child Sun’s Mamå when he’s born?” She laughed, “Every birth has pain, niña, but when la Mamå Tierra gets to hold her child, el regalo de luz…the gift of light, that warm little body, she laughs. Now, tell me your dream, mi Alma.” (All conversation in Spanish, Mamacita never spoke English.)

You would tell her your four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten year old dreams, and she would tell you hers. When you were six you told Mamacita you kept falling in your dream. She gently, then firmly, touched your shoulder blades, left and right, massaging them.

“These are your wings, niña. When you begin to fall in your dream, remember them, where they are. Right here.” Left and right, massaging each one firmly. Gently. “When you begin to fall, remember your wings, open them wide.” She’d spread her arms wide, smiling, her eyes on fire. “You’re ready to fly, niña, remember, open your wings wide. Your wings. Right here.” Left and right, each one.

You remember stealing your first bike as the pre-dawn wind begins to chill you on the rooftop. You lay on your back, the old blanket you hide up there under you. Some of it covering you as you gaze at the brightest star, so alive with light. You don’t know the star’s name- Venus, Quetzalcoatl. Years later you would call this pre-dawn, dancing with light, star by name. This night you remember seeing a brand new bike lying on the street by itself. You were eleven. You walked by the bike twice. No one claimed it, so you did. Riding to Golden Gate Park with your tomgirl amiga, sometimes alone (instead of boring school); riding down the final hills to the so green forest entrance, the scent of green, felt like flying. The magical fern forest, as tall as trees, the sun barely peeked through. Damp earth. The tall fern trees, large flowering plants beneath them. Large purple flowers, the size of a baby’s head, always made you laugh. And when the fairies welcomed you- their small, tinkling voices- you knew you were safe. If they didn’t, you rode away as fast as you could. Flying to safety.

You woke up one morning- your first flying dream- the large mirror over the bed you shared with Mamacita. She was singing to the Child Sun. You stood up and looked down at the bed and saw your self sleeping. You felt so sorry for her, that she had a to be in a body, that you knew how to fly and didn’t need her body. In fact, at that moment, her body disgusted you. You didn’t want to return. You looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize your six year old face. What scared you back to life. Back into your sleeping, dreaming (flying) girl body.

When you told Mamacita your first flying dream, she made you cafécito con leche with still warm pan dulce from the store down the street. But you never told her about the girl in the mirror that didn’t need a body- who returned to live. Your life. Who saw your life and stayed. You sipped your cafécito con leche and ate two fresh pan dulces, celebrating your first flight. At six. With Mamacita.

***

You wake up to warmth on your face. The Child Sun licking you with warmth. The bright star fading. You sit up, facing the Child Sun and begin to sing your own song to his birth. And the baby bud roses join you. Still in the womb. You’ll wait for your mother to leave for work, taking your baby brother to his sitter. Then you’ll go downstairs to Whitey’s house (your step/real father), use your key to enter. Fix hot chocolate with cinnamon on top in his clean kitchen Some toast with jam. Go down into the garden to pick some blossoming roses, leaving the baby bud roses to dream. Still in the womb.

(The Birth)

“I can’t marry you. My parents say you’ll have ten kids in ten years.” The boy is crying as you both walk to your favorite restaurant where no one goes. For tea, coffee, a piece of pie. Sometimes the dinner special. He pays. He has two parents and their house is always clean. You go there once. His parents are white and their eyes say, Dirty Mexican. Sometimes you and the boy walk clear to the ocean, talking, laughing, sometimes crying, telling sad stories, and funny ones too. He tells you, “My mother used to tie me up in a chair with clothesline and gag me. She made me stay there for hours and sometimes I’d fall asleep. I learned not to cry or scream, just wait. Till she untied me. When I cried and screamed the rope made me bleed. She’d say, ‘Are you ready to behave?’ I’d nod my head yes.”

Then you and the boy take the trolley back to the Mission, from the ocean. Home. Promising to meet at the corner of 16th and Guerrero. Then one time he doesn’t come. You see him at school and he turns away, his friends laughing. Years later you find out that the word Guerrero means warrior.

Your mother, Lydia, tells a neighbor, “She didn’t want to marry him.” The neighbor smiles kindly into your eyes, “Only the good girls get caught, honey.”

You’re two weeks overdue. The doctor at St Mary’s Clinic, just three blocks from your place, tells you, “It looks like your baby’s small, so that’s okay. Plus, you’re just a kid yourself,” kind smile. But the nuns hate you. They can barely contain their contempt. An unmarried fifteen year old, pregnant, about to give birth in their Catholic hospital. The nuns want you to give your baby up for adoption. They bring in a different nun each time after the kind doctor leaves.

“How do you plan to take care of this baby, child?” Thin lips, contempt. Eyes hard, trying to kill you. You hate them back, refuse to cry. Guerrero, warrior.

“You’re going to suffer for this sin and your baby too. Do you want this for your baby?” You just smile and they finally leave you alone. You also give them los ojos de bruja…the witch eyes. The eyes you’d give to the old church ladies when they’d call you gringita and you knew they went home and broke an egg over their head for protection. You pictured the nuns breaking an egg over their bald heads, and you had to keep yourself from laughing. Guerrero, warrior.

The pains begin around your belly, and your best friend, Judy, is there at your mother’s place. Whitey cooks you special food so the baby will be healthy, and you go upstairs to his place to eat. You also bring your baby brother, John. It’s always clean, some music playing softly, his voice, “Ya look pretty damn good, kid, must be the food so chow down, and your favorite dessert, cherry cake. Hope that baby likes cherry cake, kid,” he laughs.

You’ve been taking care of John, cleaning the apartment, cooking breakfast and lunch. Dinner at Whitey’s. You even go to open house at John’s school, and a field trip to the zoo. When you and John enter the Lion House, just as they’re feeding them, and they begin to ROAR so your bones rattle, he begins to cry. Scream. You pick him up and run for it, like fuck those lions, caged. Their only moment to pretend they hunted, killed that raw mound of meat they’re devouring. That roar. John clings to you, safety. Fuck those sad assed lions.

The pains get worse, so Lydia brings you a ‘screwdriver,’ she calls it, and one for Judy. Orange juice with something funny in it, but it tastes pretty good. You have two. Judy barely finishes hers. You, Judy and Lydia walk the three blocks to Saint Mary’s, joking and laughing all the way. Even the pain is funny (still). John’s with Whitey- “I’ll be up ta see ya, kid, and don’t you worry, women been having babies for-ever!” You think of the baby, the tiny rosebud, trying to be born. Come out of you. You felt her move just once, but clearly, from one side of your stomach to the other. Her foot, that bump. You dreamt her, so you know, her. Her name, Antoinette Therese. You want her to be a queen. You tell no one about the dream, especially the nuns. If Mamacita were alive, you’d tell her of course. But you know Mamacita knows everything anyway. You heard her voice deep in your right ear. Guerrero, warrior, “No te dejas, niña.” She’d toss you out the door when you’d come in crying, to take care of yourself. Fight back. La vida. Guerrero, warrior.

The nuns are shocked, your laughing face. They take you to a room, all by yourself, and leave you there. There’s a window to the street. Guerrero Street. Some trees. You push the window open. Wind. The birds are singing to the Child Sun grown old, tired. Stretches of blood-red-violet. Mamacita had a song for the Child Sun grown old, tired. You hear her voice, the rattle, but not the words. The pain in your belly comes and goes, making you double over and moan. You begin to walk the room between pains and it helps. You’re still a little dizzy from the orange juice drink but fading- no one to talk to, joke with.

You remember how Mamacita floated you when you were sick, so you focus on the fluttering leaves, the sound of the wind, and begin to sing softly- “Old Child Sun, don’t be afraid, go to sleep, dream, in the morning you’ll be born again, Child Sun, don’t be afraid.” Then you double over with the pain but keep floating like the wind, straighten up to breathe the fluttering leaves and walk the room. “Don’t be afraid, old Child Sun, don’t be afraid…”

The door opens. “You should be lying down, not walking around, what are you doing!” the nun shouts. She shuts the window, hard, and leaves.

You get up and open the window, begin to walk again. The pain is like dying lying down, and you’re all alone, but not really. There’s the wind, the trees, the birds still singing, and Mamacita’s rattle filling the room. Her voice. Flotating.

The nun returns, her face full of hate. “I thought you’d be up again, you people!” And you know she means Mexicans, you people. She’s very white, she’ll never have a baby, she thinks God loves her better than you, a fifteen year old girl giving birth, alone. You hate her back, don’t cry. And you think of the baby Jesus born in a manger, his parents poor and wandering. The story goes in the Baptist Church. And you always loved the baby Jesus, and you think of his mother, Mary, giving birth in the cold ass manger surrounded by stinky farm animals. You smile.

The nun slams the window shut, hands you a tiny paper cup. “Here, take these, it’ll make you sleep, it’s bad for you to be walking around like a wild animal.” Face of disgust, hate.

You give her your best malo ojos de bruja and think, sleep. The room is dark, a thin light from the bathroom. Sleep.

You wake up to such pain you scream once, catch yourself and begin to moan. You can’t help it. You wonder how this baby, your daughter you’ve dreamt, is going to come out of you. At this moment it feels like she’s killing you, and, again, how will she come out, you wonder as you moan, the killing pain the killing pain the killing pain…

(Fast forward)

Years later this 5lb 4oz daughter, Antoinette, as Head Nurse Critical Care, will come upon a fifteen year old girl on her rounds, giving birth all alone, screaming. They can’t sedate her. She fights them off. My daughter, to the doctor’s shock, climbs into bed with her, behind her, wrapping her arms around her, telling her, “Breathe, breathe, I’m here with you, you’re not alone, breathe…” The doctor orders her out of the bed. She tells him, “I’m Head Nurse, Dr_____, and you can fuck off!” The birthing girl laughs, relaxes, and gives birth, screaming as the crowning begins, while my daughter holds her tight. “Breathe, breathe, now push…” Later as the girl holds her daughter, she tells her, “My mother was your age when she had me, and you’re going to be fine. You’re a fighter like my Mom, so you and your daughter will be just fine.”

Saddle block. Numb from waist down. They wheel you into a bright, white room. “Turn the mirror, she shouldn’t watch this.” The birth. Your daughter. You’re too young to insist, “I want to watch.” You finally see the doctor holding up a blue baby by her ankles. You felt nothing. Where she came out of. But there she is and she begins to cry, a thin wail. Her tiny body pulsing pink, alive. Later on, your Tia Ruth tells you Antoinette was born on Mamacita’s birth day. A sliver of Mamacita’s spirit, la curandera, the healer, this daughter.

You begin to cry. You want to hold her, but you’re too young to insist. They take her away. He stitches you up. No one speaks to you except for the doctor, once. “Are you glad it’s a girl?” He tries to be kind, but his voice conveys duty. Not the same one you saw in the clinic, whose hand felt warm on your shoulder, kind.

You nod your head yes. The nurse nun says, “She refuses to speak, doctor, don’t waste your breath.” She wheels you into a room with other mothers and she asks, “Do you plan to breastfeed?” Your mind whirls, breast feed, as in how in the fuck do you do that?

“No,” the word comes out of you.

Look of disgust, the usual hate. She returns and wraps thick bandages around your still-girl breasts. “So your milk dries up,” voice cold.

They promise to bring your daughter the next morning- the Child Sun’s warmth filling the room- you’ve been waiting for hours. One nurse nun said she was bringing your daughter right away, but it’s been hours. You finally insist, “I want to see my daughter.” The woman next to you says, “They promised to bring her baby a couple of hours ago. I’ve already held my baby many times.”

“You’re breastfeeding,” the nurse nun says, warmly. Warmly. The woman is older and white, and she later tells you this is her sixth baby, that she’s Catholic. And she asks, “Are you going to keep your baby, hon?”

She’s so tiny, your daughter. You open the blanket. The wonder of her perfect body. She’s perfect, her so tiny, pink rose toes. Her perfect, translucent hands, each delicate finger. There’s a wound on her belly button, still bloody. You open her diaper- a girl a girl a girl.

A young nurse nun brings a bottle of milk- you’ve never seen her before. “What’s her name?” she asks, handing you the bottle.

“Antoinette.”

“What a beautiful name for a beautiful baby,” she smiles. “A friend is here to see you, so when you finish feeding Antoinette I’ll let her in.”

“Thank you,” you smile into the young nun’s kindness. Sweet face. She’s probably eight years older than you, her twenties, you realize, and you wonder if she’ll become a nasty ass nun when she’s older.

As you feed your daughter, your breasts begin to ache under the tight bandages. It would be this way for the next four days, as they change the wet, sticky bandages. The young nun nurse changes them twice, each time tears come to her eyes. She bathes your girl-breasts in warm, soapy water- the other nurse nuns with cold, soapy water- and she strokes your hair.

Your mother, Lydia, finally comes on the third day after work. “You’re a mother now,” she says coldly. Just those words.

***

A week later, when your daughter’s wound on the belly button falls off, you think she’s falling apart. You bundle her up and run to St Marys crying. The kind doctor explains, “That’s where the cord was between you and your daughter when she was inside of you. That’s how you fed her, that cord. She doesn’t need it anymore, so it fell off. Now you feed her without the cord, isn’t that right?” He touches your shoulder, that warmth.

You stop crying, nod yes, and walk back to your mother’s place, holding your daughter tightly. So you don’t drop her, ever.

*

Your daughter would have colic and cry/scream for a long time after you fed her, every hour or so, in the beginning. You found that laying her on your chest, your heart, she’d fall asleep, and so would you.

One night, she was in her bassinet- the one you decorated with lace and ribbons (yes, you stole them from the five and dime store). You woke up to Lydia’s voice yelling, “SHUT UP SHUT UP!” She was shaking the bassinet, hard, yelling. You were up in one movement, throwing Lydia against the wall- you’d not ever touched her this way.

“If you ever touch my baby again I’ll kill you!” you screamed. You picked up the bassinet with crying Antoinette, taking her to the front room with the sad assed couch. Brought your blankets and slept on the sad assed couch with her on your chest, your heart.

The next morning the cops came. She told them you threatened to kill her. You told them why, crying- your baby, your daughter, barely a month old. Both cops looked at you with pity, telling your mother, Lydia, to work things out and left. She banged things around; it was Saturday, no work. She didn’t touch the bassinet, but she banged things so loudly your daughter woke up crying.

You took your daughter, your baby brother, up to Whitey’s place. He fixed you all a pancake breakfast with bacon. “You could live here for awhile, kid, I’ll take the couch. There’s no talkin’ to that woman, I know.”

You tell him what happened, why you threw her up against the wall. His face goes red. With anger. “Yeah, you and that baby stay here till we can work something out, maybe your own place.”

You’d go to welfare, holding your daughter tight. You’d stay at Whitey’s for a while, taking care of John, but not going into Lydia’s place. You’d never return to her place again, to live. To trust her. She was your birth mother, that’s all. She was not Mamacita.

When you finally got your own place with a roommate, one year older- she worked as a waitress and she was Mexican like you. You stopped taking care of your baby brother- and that broke your heart, but you couldn’t be your baby’s mother and his at the same time. She would yell, “Shut up!” when he cried and forget he was just hungry. You told Whitey to make sure John ate, especially dinner.

“Don’t you worry none, kid, I’ll be on it.”

“Even when you drink cause I’m coming back to check on stuff.”

“Dinner’ll be ready every night, so you and John eat here, you understand, Pocahontas.” This made you smile, your old name. “I’ll make sure things are okay before I get friendly with Jack Daniels, don’t you worry, Pocahontas.”

Whitey would pay your part of the rent and bring groceries every Saturday when he wasn’t being friendly with Jack Daniels. And when he and Jack got together, he made sure to bring you money before he did. And he’d bring your baby brother, John, leaving him for the day. Your daughter in a stroller, your brother in a swing, laughing. Hamburgers, fries and a milkshake later with the $20 Whitey gave you. Later, he’d give you $60 more for the week.

You don’t tell your roommate, Jeannie, about the Child Sun. She wouldn’t understand. She lived in an awful foster home and ran away. She tells you she was beaten with a belt all the time and shows you the scars, and you cry with her. And sometimes you have to throw out some guys she’s drinking with, and you know you have to move again. One of them grabs you by the arm and calls you a fucking bitch, and you won’t allow them in the apartment anymore. So now Jeannie’s mad at you too- “So what if he grabbed your arm, what are you a princess?” Her scars. The one on her face from the belt buckle.

You begin to plan, the edge of things. But not the roof- you don’t want to jump into the darkness. You want to live in the light, the Child Sun, with your daughter. The blossoming bud rose. Antoinette.

Guerrero. Guerrera. Leap into the light.

**This is part of an in-progress memoir.

 

Alma Luz Villanueva is the author of four novels, most recently, ‘Song of the Golden Scorpion.’ Eight books of poetry, most recently, ‘Gracias.’ Many anthologies, textbooks- including ‘The Best Erotic Latin American Writing,’ ‘Califlora, A Literary Field Guide, ‘Prayers for a Thousand Years,’ ‘Fightin’ Words’ (PEN Anthology). Has taught in the MFA in Creative Writing program at Antioch University Los Angeles for sixteen years, living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the past ten years, returning to teach, visit la familia. almaluz.villanueva@gmail.com   www.almaluzvillanueva.com

 

Mother's Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being.  Click photo to book.   "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Mother’s Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

 

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 1st cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 1st cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Guest Posts, healing, Women

Letter To My 13 Year Old Self (From My 70 Year Old Self.)

November 17, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Alma Luz Villanueva. 

Dear Alma Luz at 13 (aka Super Girl),

I see you’ve stopped eating, the sight of your ripening breasts, the patch of pubic hair, announces you’re becoming a girl. No, a woman. When you began to bleed between your legs; when you climbed to the top of the ten story building scaffold, sunset, all the men gone. Only silence, bird wings, the Bay Bridge lighting up like Xmas, spanning the deep water. Exit to la mar where you used to swim with your swim team at sunrise (yes, an ice cube). Mission Playground, the pool, you borrowed the scratchy swimsuit, but finally the mean-ass swim coach brought you a swimmer’s suit. Thin, your freezing girl nipples exposed, your shy V- but you could swim smoother, faster. The scratchy swimsuit bloated up like a sponge, the mean-ass coach yelling, “Ya got lead in yer ass, head down, up, breathe, swim like yer drowning!” You always laughed, which pissed him off. The other girls were scared shitless of him, his yelling voice. You’d heard that voice before, your insane, drunk stepfather (the bad one, not the good one you’d finally meet)- and you knew you could grab a weapon to defend yourself, or just heave yourself out of the pool. “Go fuck yourself, Mike!” And never return, leaving the thin, swimmer’s suit behind. You had your pride.

So, when you began to bleed at 12, at the top of the building scaffold, silence and bird wings, you remembered your beloved Yaqui Mamacita’s words and warning (in Spanish)- “When you begin to bleed between your legs, niña, you’ll become una mujercita, which means someday you’ll have children from your own bleeding womb. There’s pain, but you must bear it, never forget. The joy and sorrow of being a woman. Your strength and courage lives in your womb, niña, even now, never forget.” And how you heard Mamacita’s voice in the wind, “Never forget” (the power of words), and you slid down the steel so fast your palms were bleeding when you touched earth. Continue Reading…

The Converse-Station, writing

The Converse-Station: Gayle Brandeis Interviews Alma Luz Villanueva.

June 2, 2014

Hey there, Jen Pastiloff here. I’m the founder of The Manifest-Station! Welcome to the newest installment- The Converse-Station: A place where writers interview writers. (Thanks to author Elissa Wald for coming up with that name.) I am so excited by the idea of this series, I can hardly stand it. The readership on the site is so high that I figured it was time for something like this. Today’s interview is between two of my friends, two women I look up to tremendously. Both have appeared on the site already. Gayle Brandeis (her two pieces on the site went viral) and Alma Luz Villanueva. Both of these women are fierce. THis is an honor. Smooches, Jen.

“A Continuous Dream”: An Interview with Alma Luz Villanueva by Gayle Brandeis.

Alma Luz Villanueva is a visionary. She dreams her own world into being, as both a writer and a woman, and empowers others to pay deep attention to their own dreams.

I’ve known Alma for 15 years–she was my mentor in the MFA program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, where we are now colleagues and, more importantly, friends. When I was her student, Alma would have me write questions for my characters and put them under my pillow, sure I’d have more clarity in the morning (she was right!); unlike many writing professors, she encourages her students to write our characters’ dreams, a practice which often breaks our stories wide open. I love how dreams have guided the most profound decisions in her life, including her move to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico several years ago. A few months ago, she dreamed of me in a white gown and said she knew it signaled a powerful transformation. I ended up needing major surgery not long afterwards; I told her later that I thought of her dream often while I was in the hospital–I was worried it meant I was going to die, and I kept telling myself to be open to whatever transformation might be waiting for me, even if it was the greatest one. Alma told me that she had sensed I would be close to that edge, but she didn’t want to interpret the dream for me–she just wanted to give it to me whole, to let it reveal its own truth. That is the great beauty of Alma as a teacher–she opens important doors within her students and gives them the courage and freedom to explore what’s on the other side. This woman is brimming with, glowing with, hard-won wisdom.

I have the great pleasure of seeing Alma every June and December at the Antioch MFA residencies, and always look forward to the shamanic rattle she brings to the faculty meetings, her eye-opening, heart-opening seminars, and our traditional Thursday night dinners together, full of the most nourishing conversation. This June, we’re planning on pina coladas, and maybe dancing, to celebrate dreams and transformation and friendship.

Alma has been a literary force for decades. She began publishing poetry in the late 1970s, when she won the University of California at Irvine’s Chicano Literary Prize. She has since released eight books of poetry, including Planet, which won the Latin American Writers Poetry Prize, and the forthcoming Gracias. Her four novels include The Ultraviolet Sky, which won an American Book Award and is listed in 500 Great Books by Women, and Naked Ladies, which received the PEN Oakland Fiction Award. Her latest novel, Song of the Golden Scorpion, was published by Wings Press October, 2013.

Song of the Golden Scorpion tells the story of Xochiquetzal, a 58 year old woman whose dreams lead her to San Miguel de Allende, and her passionate connection with Javier, a 34 year old doctor. Their 12 year affair is deeply erotic but also reaches beyond the body, and the book is ultimately a story of healing on both a personal and cultural level.

I asked Alma a few questions about the novel over email.

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GB: You mentioned to me that male reviewers have issues with Xochiquetzal’s sexuality. Could you speak about this a bit? Was your decision to write about a 58 year old woman’s sexuality a political one in any way? Also, I know that sometimes you require your students to write about sex. Could you talk about why you feel exploring a character’s sexuality is important for a writer?

ALV: In a sense it was ‘political,’ as in it’s normal for a 58 year old man to be with a 34 year old woman- 24 year difference, as it was with Javier and Xochiquetzal. I recently read an interview with Joan Collins who’s 80 years old…her husband is 48, so a 32 year difference. She was asked the secret of her marriage and she responded, “Sex, sex, sex.” Then about the age difference, “Well, if he dies, he dies.” I laughed so hard, that spirit. And so, although there was a ‘political’ slant to these lovers, it ultimately was simply human. To be human is to be sexual/sensual/alive…I encourage my students to explore their character’s full humanity (as you know haha). And so, I think men, as in all cultures, still don’t want women to claim their full humanity/sexuality- yet they want us to continue to have babies, replenish the next generation. I say, GROW UP. And I say this as a mother of three grown sons, all feminist men. Male writers are expected and encouraged to express, write within their full humanity, their sexuality. Think of Junot Diaz, for example, and he’s a Latino who won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel, ‘THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO.’  A woman, and a Latina woman, would not be celebrated for her full humanity, her sexuality with no censors, on the page. But this is true for all women, no matter their ethnic/cultural group- that ‘mother/whore’ curse we must continue to challenge as whole human beings. We became mothers from our own desires, hungers, ecstasy. And if we choose not to be mothers, our desires, hungers, ecstasy remain intact. Our own.

GB: Because I’ve known you for so long, I recognize parts of your own story, your own life, within this novel. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about autobiographical fiction. How does fiction and life flow together for you? Did you set out to braid your own story into this novel, or did it slip in unexpectedly?

ALV: Fiction as life is a continuous dream, with a lot of work involved (haha), as well as much pleasure/joy. This novel isn’t ‘autobiographical fiction,’ as my characters, as in ALL of them and there are many, took over. I didn’t consciously choose to include some of my experiences in Bali, for example, but at the moment of la fictive dream, my dream and Xochiquetzal’s dream merged, and I liked it. So did she, so it stayed. The characters have to agree or forget it. I know many novelists include their own experiences, so I’m certainly not the first, or the last. I think of two of my favorite novelists I loved before I ever wrote- Colette and Herman Hesse, who wove in their own life experiences with their characters. And so, I have never been an Israeli Commando, Ari…or a Mexican drug lord, Pompeii…or a Japanese woman roaming the world planting peace crystals to honor Hiroshima/Nagasaki, Ai… or a Hopi-Taos flute playing man, Hank, and more. All characters in this novel, whom I had to dream with to know who they truly are.

GB: You weave a lot of poetry into the novel–Neruda, Rumi, your own/Xociquetzal’s–and the prose itself is deeply informed by poetic conventions: repetition, rhythm, etc. I know you also have a new book of poetry, Gracias, which you’ve called the novel’s twin, about to be released. How does the process of writing poetry differ for you from writing fiction, and how do the two crafts feed one another?

ALV: I was brought up by my full blood Yaqui grandmother Jesus Villanueva, who came to the USA from Sonora, Mexico, in her early 30s. She never spoke English so I was her translator at clinics, welfare offices, banks etc- she taught me ‘dreaming’ from the time I could speak. And then she taught me poetry, told me wonderful/terrible stories. As a writer, I was a poet first (I’ve published eight books of poetry), although I always loved to tell stories…I think of the traveling Native story tellers, perhaps in a past life with beautiful tattoos. Their tattoos symbolizing dreams, stories. I have some but probably not as many as I should to keep up with my dreams, stories. And so, I always begin with the Dream…I’ve kept Dream Journals for over forty years and return to them often to re-member. The gift. The map. The Dream guides my life first, then I’m led to poetry, and poetry finally guides me to stories, the written version, fiction. The fictive dream. Poetry is my mother tongue, and although I write in English mostly, it’s always sung/echoed in Spanish, my grandmother’s chanting Yaqui language. Her morning prayer/poetry to the Child Sun, her rattle…the first sound I heard when I woke up. Then we shared our dreams over hot chocolate, pan dulce.

GB: Your book is full of scrumptious sounding food, which helps amplify the earthy sensuality of the novel (I love the mango “surgery”, and all of the other delicious feasts that Xochiquetzal and Javier share.) Could you talk a bit about writing about food? Also, I remember reading a review of The Ultraviolet Sky that said something like “What’s with all the omelets?”, and there are quite a few omelets in this novel, as well. As an omelet fan, myself, I have to ask–are omelets a specialty of yours, and what’s your favorite kind?

ALV: As with sex/sensuality, the pleasure, and necessity, of food are to me hand in hand, mouth to mouth. They naturally come together when I write those moments- sense-uality. One of my favorite omelets is the ‘chorizo omelet’: Saute some chorizo, to taste, in a pan a few minutes, add red bell pepper, onion, garlic, simmer a bit more, covered. Then I add two eggs for one human, 4 eggs for two… break the eggs in a bowl, add some milk/almond milk, sprinkle basil, beat, and pour on top of chorizo/vege mix. Then add slices of Oaxaca cheese, my fave, or any cheese you like…over that some spinach, chili flakes, a bit more basil, and simmer until omelet is done with lid on. Keep lifting the omelet to see if it’s browned/cooked, and cheese melted, spinach cooked, YUMMY. I top it with fresh mango salsa, or store bought is fine. A glass of chilled chardonay, or champagne- at the end cafe con Kahlua, cinnamon on top. Here in Mexico, before you eat, you’re blessed with ‘BUEN PROVECHO!’ When I first moved here, total strangers would pause, lean in and yell this, making me jump. Now I wait for the blessing.

GB: Your book is also deeply spiritual, exploring Buddhism, Hopi ritual, Mayan mythology, the creation of the Energy Child, etc. It’s rare for novelists to tackle matters of the spirit the way that you do–are there any novelists you’ve been inspired by who explore spirituality?

Any words of advice for writers who wish to bring matters of the spirit into their own work?

ALV: I love Herman Hesse for his spiritual quests within his novels- I think of ‘SIDDHARTHA,’ but all of his novels include the spirit quest. Again, I read him before I wrote any fiction and he gave me ‘permission’ to think/write with spirit in mind (I fully realize now). Alice Walker’s fiction has that hallmark of spiritual writing- her ‘THE TEMPLE OF MY FAMILIAR’ a spirit journey to the very beginning, stirrings of humankind on our planet. Louise Erdrich’s ‘THE PAINTED DRUM,’ a spirit journey of ancestors, dreams, within Ojibwe, Native reality. I always return to the truth of Spirit- that all true spiritual paths/journeys are one journey. Which is what ‘SONG OF THE GOLDEN SCORPION’ brought me to, this truth. “We wed ourselves to the Mystery, not to conquer it or be conquered by it, but to greet it.” Inuit wisdom  If we, as poets/writers, approach spirituality in this Spirit, we’re always welcomed home.

GB: In the novel, you write “The tendency of her spirit wasn’t strange here, it was daily life. It wasn’t ‘magical realism’ (she hated that literary gringo term, as though the reality of millions was simply a fairy tale, a ‘myth’); no, it was just the reality, the human spirit. Unedited.”  Do you feel that your work is often fighting against gringo literary convention? Could you talk about what it means to you to write as a woman of color?

ALV: The first time I heard the term pathetic fallacy in regards to one of my poems in my MFA workshop (years ago), I almost punched someone. ‘Pathetic fallacy’ to whom…if you’re raised within a culture, a way of being, that honors the Dream, the spirit alive in all living things, even stone, water, stars, the center of our Earth, and that they speak to us (even if we can’t hear, cease to hear); the so-called Western Canon does NOT speak for those who can still hear this on-going song, music, poetry, voice of wild wisdom that surrounds us daily, nightly. Blessing our lives and our dreams. As a woman of color, I can only write from my own truth, voice, vision, while listening to the voice of wild wisdom as deeply as I possibly can.

GB: I know dreams play a vital role in your life and in your fiction. Could you talk about how dreams inform your process as a writer, and how they influenced this novel in particular?

ALV: Since I’ve already answered this in previous questions…and I love your deep questions, Gayle. From the beginning dreams (literally) hauled me into the fictive dream of this novel, as I was trying NOT to start/write this novel. I was dreading the long journey of the novel, that long pregnancy to ‘the end.’ Javier and Xochiquetzal came together in a dream…a ‘wide screen’ dream, taking up all the space…and they just stared at me, into me, through me. No words, but their eyes fiercely, yet lovingly, said, “Surrender,” and I did. Surrender. Wrote the first scene, which I tried to place further on in the novel numerous times…a very erotic scene, their first time together sexually. Every time I did this, they refused to appear within the fictive dream, the novel, and I could hear them laughing, very loudly. The scene remained the opening scene, and we…all of my characters…continued on to the end, six years later. Scene by scene. Dream by dream. I got ‘lost’ a few times in the 454 pages- not ‘logically’ as I could refer to my notebooks, but emotionally/spiritually. I simply couldn’t find IT, how to continue. Then one of my characters would appear in a dream. This happened most crucially toward page 300, and Javier appeared on the ‘wide screen’ of my dream, those eyes, and said, “I don’t need a map, only blood.” I continued to the end. Something released. That surrender.

GB: Xochiquetzal tells a story about a Balinese healer she met who keeps an eagle chained. When Xochiquetzal asked the woman why she didn’t set the eagle free, the woman asked “What is freedom, Madam?” (an encounter that I know you experienced in Bali, yourself.) In one scene, many of the characters answer that question for themselves, so now I must ask you: what do *you* think is freedom, Madam?

ALV: That healer’s question lives in my DNA, my dreams, and sometimes my answer is, “To see a hummingbird in flight….To see an eagle spiraling toward the sun…To hold my great-grandchild for the first time, that sweet human weight…To dive into my sacred glacier lake in the Sierras…To sleep on the Mother Rock there, no fear…To wake up to the stars singing so loudly and the lake singing in harmony…To see endless branches dripping with dreaming monarchs…To hear the young boys sing monarch songs as they laugh with such joy, here in Mexico…To see the vulnerable wonder in their parents’ eyes as they offer me food, these caretakers of the miracle of monarchs, these trees…To witness Madre Mar, her great heaving dance… To hear the laughter of my grown children and grandchildren…To dream the ancestors…To dance just cause I feel like it and as weirdly as I wish to…To cook wonderful food and share it, and to be fed juicy mangos…” And I see all of this is rooted in love/loving…”What is freedom, madam?” To exist within the rainbow, the spectrum, always changing…storm, sun, rain, snow, tears, laughter, pain, joy…always love. Listen.

 

Alma.

Alma.

***

Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement, Self Storage (Ballantine), and Delta Girls (Ballantine), and her first novel for young people, My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt), which won a Silver Nautilus Book Award. Gayle teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Antioch University and lives in Riverside, CA, where she is mom to two adult kids and a toddler, and is winding up her two year appointment as Inlandia Literary Laureate. Connect with Gayle here.

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Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading a long weekend retreat to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  Los Angeles, SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, Dallas. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Join a retreat by emailing barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com.

 

Book Excerpts, Books, Guest Posts

Excerpt of The Novel “Song Of The Golden Scorpion” by Alma Luz Villanueva.

February 18, 2014


9781609403461Excerpt of The Novel Song Of The Golden Scorpion by Alma Luz Villanueva. 

“Gamble everything for love if you’re a true human being.” Rumi

Someone was knocking just as she began to undress, “Shit,” Xochiquetzal muttered (friends called her Xochitzalita, and it wasn’t that hard to say once you got used to it, ‘Shweetzalita’). There was no eye-hole-peep to look through, “Fuck,” she breathed out. Her skin was salty, dry yet luxurious from la mar, and her hair was still wet, coiled on top of her head. Her dreaming, relaxed, exhausted from swimming in la mar head. She didn’t want to deal with a maid. She wanted to stay in this state of ocean dreaming; but the knock became louder.

“Quien es, who is it?” she hissed. Who the fuck is it, almost escaped her thirsty lips. She made a mental note to pour a full glass of bottled water; then the hottest shower, a nap, a dream. Later dinner. A slow walk on the sand to watch the full moon rise; one day after, waning. But still pregnant, full of clear erotic light. Her skin itched with salt, the Mexican sun.

Xochiquetzal thought of the handsome, very young, Mexican doctor she’d escaped, Like an idiota, she couldn’t help thinking. Brilliant, hermoso, but too damned young for me. Her body clenched involuntarily, with the memory of his confident eyes gazing into hers as they spoke of past lives, Kubler-Ross, his work in the ER- and when she told him it was her birthday, that she was old enough to be his mother, he said, “Maybe I’m your gift.” Those beautiful, clear, wise, young/old eyes staring into her. Into her. When he went to get drinks, she ran. She escaped.

There was laughter on the other side of the door- “Who the fregado is it?” she raised her voice.

“Es yo, tu amigo.”

El cabron, he followed me here, her mind flashed awake, he followed me here. Then, her body flashed awake.

“Go away!”

“No.” She heard the smile in his voice.

“I’ll call security!” She felt her thirsty lips wanting to curl into a smile. She forbade it.

“I’ll show them my medical credentials and tell them you’re my patient,” he said with his charming, way too charming, accent (he made English sound inviting, warm). “Here in Mexico they’ll believe me, el doctor.” Then he laughed again, that sense of confidence he exuded. That magnet. She loved his accent when he spoke English, though he spoke mainly Spanish from their conversation on the beach, switching back and forth. Spanglish.  Right now it was English for her pocha benefit; he wanted her to understand every word.

“Sinverguenza,” the word escaped her mouth, making her smile (one without any shame, nada, zero, zilch…shameless).

“Si, es yo, Javier.” More laughter. She put her face to the coolness of the door (the AC was on at seventy degrees), and she thought she heard him breathing.

“What do you want?”

“Tu sabes, you know.”

“You’re old enough to be mi hijo…”

“Que rica,” he laughed, the ‘r’ rolling in ‘rica,’ conveying pleasure to her ears. Senses. “I am not your son, let me show you, Xochitzalita,” he nearly sang to her.

His voice penetrated her in a stream of clear, erotic, full moon light, or the muy caliente Mexican sun; her body flushed with sudden longing. I’ll probably regret this, she warned herself as she opened the door to find him standing there in his still wet trunks, bare chested, slim like a boy, flared shoulders of a man, and smiling with that unwavering confidence. A doctor, a god, she thought briefly- is there a fucking difference? She wanted to laugh, but firmly refused to.

“I was about to take a shower, Javier, before your rude knock…” Xochiquetzal realized she was smiling, in spite of her inner command to be irritated, to stay in charge.

He stared directly into her eyes- large, dark pools of wonder that have witnessed birth, life, death in the ER. His eyes held no age, only wonder, terror, endless curiosity. He was a small boy of six; he was the eighty-eight-year-old man whose life he’d saved the day before. The infusion of energy that had made him pack a few things, drive directly to Vallarta, swim in la mar at 4am, cradled by the clear, streaming light of the sensual warm waves. Always a woman’s body, her secret salt on his tongue.

“This is my fifty-eighth birthday,” Xochiquetzal almost whispered.

“What magic potion do you take, mamacita, you look in your forties, and you know what they say about older woman, younger man,” Javier paused, smiling como un sinverguenza, shamelessly, into her eyes. “You know I’m your gift, Xochitzalita.”

“It must be the yoga,” she laughed weakly. “My son’s close to your age, he’s thirty, you’re thirty-four, as I remember.”

Que rica, let’s wash this salt off.” Now he spoke Spanish, that beautiful Spanish that entered hidden childhood sections of her brain: trust.

Xochiquetzal turned on the hot water, the way she liked it, almost unbearable. “What do they say about older women, younger men?” Her body flushed open like the ripest, red rose, so suddenly, she almost fell to her knees (red, fleshy petals floated so slowly). She was embarrassed. She was surprised. She was trembling.

“Are you trying to cook me?” he laughed deep in his throat. “Let me show you what they say.” Javier gently took the pins out of her coiled, wet hair, and it fell past her firm shoulders, damp with curls. She held her kimono closed, but her hair was past her small, still girlish breasts, and the tips of the curls on her back reached the deep purple lotus blossom tattoo at the sacrum, the very small of her back (where the kundalini serpents slept). No man, except for the tattoo guy, had ever seen it. She felt ridiculously like a virgin- five years of celibacy- and the yellow/red tongues of fire leaping from the center of the lotus, etched on her flesh, danced.

“Mamacita,” he laughed with joy, “your hair is so beautiful!”

He laughs like a boy, like my son laughs, still laughs, the boy still alive in the man. Xochiquetzal held her breath as the flames danced higher (as the serpents began to stir).

Javier took her hand and led her into the shower. “Make it cooler, por favor.” Then, he did it himself.  He took off his trunks. He was perfectly brown. Beautiful. Erect.

I can’t talk or I’ll weep, I’ll start crying and scare the shit out of him, she thought, staying silent, gazing directly back into his eyes. And he saw the same thing- pools of wonder that have witnessed birth, life, death. No age, only wonder, terror, endless curiosity.

Xochiquetzal let her kimono fall to the tiles, and she walked the one step into his boyish arms. Their strength surprised her as they enclosed her forcefully, gently. As they began to kiss- his thirsty lips on her thirsty lips- it was such a gift, just this long, sweet, deep in her mouth, kiss. She began to weep, but it didn’t matter, as the water encircled them, their joyful, melting bodies.

“This is what they mean, Xochitzalita, this is what they mean.” Javier lifted her body slightly from the tiled floor, and she surrendered to his hands, his arms, his chest, his lips, his tongue that sent jolts of lightning to her tongue. This is the deepest play, she heard- did he say it, did she say it, it didn’t matter.

He lowered her to the cool tile floor, the warm water caressing them. “Fuck me,” she wept, “fuck me.”

“Don’t you want an orgasm first, I know my anatomy,” Javier smiled gently, provocatively.

“No, no, fuck me.”

“This is what they mean.” His soft, commanding mouth found her breasts, left and right, caressing each nipple with his tongue until she reached the edge of orgasm (With my breasts, she wondered, weeping). She wanted to touch, to hold, to stroke his lovely brown penis, but he wouldn’t let her. Then he tasted her secret, salty/sweet place, smiling to himself- the engorged, erect clitoris. This woman has orgasms, he noted with pleasure, and she has pubic hair like a woman, not shaved like a girl, yes… And he heard her, “Please please please fuck me now please Javier please…”

He held himself up on his hands over her, lowering himself so his erect serpent stroked her belly. “Please please please…” she chanted, lifting herself up to meet him.

“Am I your son?” He stared into her eyes, waiting for an answer.

Xochiquetzal stopped undulating, moving, chanting, her eyes flashing anger, and his serpent stroked her again, slowly. “No,” she wept, “no.”

“No what, tell me.”

“You’re not my son, cabron…” As he entered her it felt like a membrane gave way, a boundary she’d created to protect herself against the world- and she heard it again, This is the deepest play. As he entered her to the tip of her tender womb (now pulsing with a life of its own…birth, life, death, birth), she remembered his eyes from a dream. And then she forgot as the dance of the living filled her, convulsing her with ripples of orgasms like birth from her womb. This is the balance of labor, giving birth, multiple orgasms, she thought suddenly, seeing her womb filled with her unspilled monthly blood.

As he began to convulse within her, filling her with so much joy, his orgasm, joy, her rational self wanted to shout, “Do you have AIDS, herpes, I forgot to ask…” Then she remembered he was a doctor, didn’t he pledge to do no harm, him and his beautiful uncircumcised serpent. She let it go, she just let it go- At least I won’t get pregnant, the thought flashed across her mind almost making her laugh out loud. And these womb orgasms, is this new or what. Now she was smiling.

“What’s so funny, I see your smile,” Javier smiled into her eyes.

“I forgot to ask if you have any sexually transmitted diseases, you know like AIDS, herpes,” she murmured.

“Ayy Xochitzalita, soy un doctor, no te preocupes, don’t worry, te quiero otra vez, I want you again, this is what they mean by older woman, younger man, Xochitzalita, after this I’m going to give you an orgasm directly upon your sweet, engorged clitoris…”

“Ohmygoddess it sounds like a fucking prescription,” she murmured, giggling like a teenager.

“Pues it is, it is,” he laughed with her, picking her up in his strong, boyish, man arms, turning her around to face the cool tile, the waterfall of lukewarm water that enveloped them, steam rising from their bodies. “Que hermosa tattoo, un lotus muy caliente,” Javier laughed softly, lowering himself to his knees. “I’m licking your lotus, your fire, Xochitzalita..” And he did until he nearly drove her loca.

This is the deepest play.

She clutched the cool tiles as he entered her from behind so deeply, so suddenly, so perfectly, she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs like a wild animal, a tiger, a lion, no, a female jaguar. The sheer pleasure, the sheerest of pleasures- This is why we live, this moment, this moment, now, her silent scream. She photographed this moment in her mind, the tiny blue butterflies floating in the tile at her fingertips.

“I’m so glad I found you, Xochitzalita, I’m so glad I found you,” and he meant it, in that moment, every atom of his body, his mind, his soul, meant it. Javier remembered her eyes from a dream, and then he denied it.

“I feel like screaming, I want to let you know, but I’ll rouse the dead.” She tried to laugh but instead she began to weep again, with joy, this moment, this is why we live, now, this joy.

“Rouse the dead, let me hear it, I’m your gift, you’re my gift, que los chingan,” and he thrust deeper, if that were possible.

Deep, inhuman, or truly human, the first human sounds escaped her mouth, and he joined her in that song.

“Quiero ver tu cara, tu cara hermosa…I want to see your face, your beautiful face,” Javier sang to her, turning her around to face him.

“I’m not perfect, I’m not twenty-five, I don’t think I was ever perfect but now I’m fifty-eight.” Xochiquetzal couldn’t bear to meet his perfect eyes, not a wrinkle. She looked down at his lovely serpent and missed it, him, inside of her, that sweet dance of the living.

“Look at me, hermosa, look at me.” Javier waited until she met his eyes, and it made him want her more because she was weeping. He entered her blindly as though he’d die, that moment, if he couldn’t feel the tender tip of her womb. He entered her fevered, pulsing, pushing, pulling birth canal, and he saw the fine lines of living in her face, and a rush of tenderness filled him.

“I’ve held the still born, Xochitzalita, I’ve seen death in the faces of teenagers, the very young, and what I see in you is life, perfect life, give birth to me, Xochitzalita,” Javier wept openly, sobbing in that hoarse masculine way, clutching her to him, kissing her eyes, her cheeks, filling her open mouth with his tongue.

And they gave birth to each other- his moans, her moans, his tears, her tears, his death, her death, his life, her life, that moment of birth.

This is the deepest play.

They fell asleep in each other’s still wet arms, the AC blowing its cool wind across their naked, damp bodies. Just birthed. He was thirty-four. She was fifty-eight. Just birthed. Timeless. His mouth sought her flesh, her trusting neck, as he dreamed, as she dreamed. They dreamt of miracles which they would forget the moment they opened their eyes. Yet the miracle would remain. Alive. Just birthed.

This is the deepest play.

Xochiquetzal woke up first. It was almost dark but she could see Javier’s face. “Diosa, eres tan hermoso, Goddess, you’re so beautiful,” she whispered. She carefully disengaged herself from his strong, sweet limbs. “I’m so fucking hungry,” she murmured, wondering if she should wake him, but he looked like a trusting boy sleeping (reminding her of her son, Justin). She didn’t have the heart to wake him. His eyelids trembled as he dreamt. She wanted to enter his dreams.

“Who is this boy/man who’s a doctor?” Xochiquetzal asked the violet twilight. And then she remembered El Nino Doctorcito, the little boy doll saint, in her favorite church in San Miguel de Allende. Surrounded by his toys, a stethoscope around his neck, a small black doctor bag in his right hand (with the tiny, sensual angel milagro, miracle, pinned to it). The healer. She thought of the candle she’d lit before her journey, placing it in front of El Nino Doctorcito. As she’d stared at him, the little boy doll saint, for a moment she saw his tiny, pink lips smiling. And now, she remembered what she’d whispered to him as her candle burned in front of him, with all the other lit candles, and the photos of the healed at his doll feet wrapped in black cloth shoes.

“Heal me, Nino Doctorcito, heal my hidden, almost fifty-eight-year-old, beat-up, bitter, wounded, untrusting heart that I may love again, heal me.”

This is the deepest play..

As she dressed in the bathroom, putting on the last of her make-up, she decided to leave him a note telling him to meet her at dinner.

“A donde vas…Where are you going, Xochitzalita?” Javier’s voice was husky with sleep and satisfaction, making her womb contract involuntarily.

“El Nino Doctorcito,” she murmured, smiling. “I’m starving so I was going to leave you a note to meet me…”

“Oh no you don’t, you can’t leave this room without your physician, mujer,” he laughed languidly.

“Okay then, quick, get up, where are your clothes anyway?”

“In my truck, and how are you able to walk around after what we just did, I’m still in paradise, Xochitzalita, ayyy… Come here, dame un besito, no mas uno… give me a kiss, just one.”

She laughed, “I’m not falling for that trick, Javier, so I’m going to the far end dining place, where we met at the end of the resort’s beach.” Just met, she reminded herself, her body still glowing.. “Meet me there when you get dressed.”

“How can you walk, I can barely lift my head, estas Amazon. See you there, Xochitzalita, but you’re mine after we replenish our bodies.” His voice was soft, satisfied.

“It’s a deal, see you there.”

“Un beso, mamacita, no mas una.”

“I don’t trust you, estas malo,” she laughed.

“Es la verdad, Xochitzalita.”

This is the deepest play.

She made a delicious salad with every vegetable in the buffet and ordered a vino tinto, waiting for him to join her. Did I make him up, this Nino Doctorcito, this beautiful man who tells me he’s my birth day gift, younger man, older woman, maybe I did make him up. Except her humming body kept singing its new song, yes this was a new song.

    This is the deepest play.

She’d never had multiple orgasms like this- from her breasts, from her nipples, from her no longer bleeding womb (there was a new depth, song). He hasn’t gotten to my clitoris yet, she realized, sipping her vino tinto, el prescripcion. This made her smile like an idiota, but she didn’t care. Maybe I made el doctorcito up…

“Did you miss me?” Javier was in jeans, a soccer t-shirt, sandals, and his boy eyes were fastened on her, laughing.

“Do you really work in Emergency?”

“Do you have something that needs fixing, Xochitzalita?”

She blushed in the darkness as he sat down opposite her. They both turned simultaneously to face la mar, her undulating waves making love to the sand in the darkness. From the northern tip of Alaska to the southern tip of Brazil, each endless wave making love to the willing, thirsty land mass.

“I think you already did that, doctorcito,” she said loud enough, only for his ears.

“Como no,” he laughed, “and there’s more to come, mamacita, let’s eat, I need fuel for the healing.”

She put the salad between them, laughing with him. Ayyy Diosa, he’s read my mind, the healing, and I’m healing him, something in him, el nino doctorcito. “Why do you call me mamacita, I used to call mi abuela, my grandmother, mamacita…”

“I certainly don’t mean it in the way you meant con tu abuelita. Here in Mexico, there’s mama, and then there’s mamacita.” He smiled into her eyes so intimately she became instantly wet, ready for him. Now.

What is he doing to me? she asked herself, enjoying every single moment. Something’s burning up in me, something’s melting away, something’s becoming so soft, soft, soft…

“What are you doing to me, Xochitzalita?” he murmured, taking her hands in his. People turned to stare for a moment, then looked away, smiling at their palpable intimacy.

Yes oh yes this is the deepest play.

She watched him load two plates full of chicken mole, tortillas, sliced fruit and more, handing her one when he returned. “Clean your plate, pochita,” Javier teased as he ate with obvious joy. She was aware of people stealing looks at them from time to time, curious.

“Are you embarrassed because I’m twenty-four years older, tell me the truth, Javier.” Xochiquetzal faced la mar as she asked. She couldn’t bear to look at him, yet she had to know. The truth.

“Look at me, Xochitzalita, look at me right now.” The softness of his voice held an edge of command. She heard the steel in his voice, and it soothed her. The man rose to meet her. Equal.

She met his eyes. He x-rayed her soul. Where have I seen those eyes? she asked herself, I’ve seen them before.

Javier stood up so suddenly, she almost knocked her wine glass over in surprise. “I’ve missed this,” he murmured, kneeling next to her. He kissed her deeply, sucking her breath away, his soft, full lips, his hands firmly around her back, holding her to him, refusing her efforts to pull away.

So she surrendered. To his sweet, caliente, unrelenting kiss. His unyielding, tender  hands on her back, holding her to him. In public. And she didn’t care that people were staring.

Slowly he pulled away, keeping his eyes on her, still kneeling. “Does that answer your question, mi locita?” He smiled shamelessly into her eyes, her ripening womb, as soft applause reached their ears, and people went back to their dinners.

“Mamacita,” she laughed, tears filling her eyes. “You’re the first man, in my life, to meet my gaze,” she whispered.

“Quieres mas vino?” a waiter asked, smiling down at them. He filled their glasses to the brim.

“As I was telling you on the beach when we met, when I forced you to talk to me,” Javier smiled mischievously, making her wet, making her want him this moment, now, again, now. “I feel I’ve known you before, another life. I wasn’t just saying that as a, tu sabes, a pick-up line. Something about your eyes, Xochitzalita.”

She thought of the flash of dream she was trying to remember- I’ll find it in my dream journals, almost as old as him, she reminded herself. “I think I’ve dreamt you, so I know the feeling, yes something about your eyes, tu hermoso, tan malo ojos…your beautiful, very wicked eyes.” Xochiquetzal looked directly into them (Most men turn away, most men…), and saw they held the candle’s flame right in their dark centers. “And don’t you dare leap up and kiss me again,” she laughed.

“I’ll try not to, Xochitzalita,” Javier smiled threateningly.

Three young, handsome waiters appeared with a large piece of chocolate cake with one candle burning. Am I in fregado paradise? she wondered. Am I on the same fregado planet, Earth? And where do they find all this eye candy ayyy… They began to sing, “Happy birthday to you…” in their lovely Spanglish, and Javier joined them, laughing at her surprise. “Blow it out, senorita, blow it out, make a wish, esta momento,” the waiters urged her.

Xochiquetzal was momentarily frozen to the spot, each young, handsome face laughing, urging her to blow out the candle- and Javier’s face was the most handsome of all, his. The knowledge it held. The play. She looked into his young/ancient eyes and blew out the single flame. In that flame, she knew him centuries ago; if only she could remember the dream. You will, she told herself, in your dream journals, maybe in the last one, yes.

“Que bien, feliz cumpleanos, happy birthday,” the waiters said in unison (in their beautiful, sexy Spanglish voices), as one took the dinner plates away, the second poured them coffee with a full shot of kahlua, and the third sliced the cake in half, serving them both. Javier gave the third waiter some pesos, “Por todos, gracias.”

“How do you know I love kahlua in my coffee? How do you know I love chocolate cake? And how did you tell them to do this wonderful thing…” she began to weep, with joy/sorrow/joy.

“I know pues todo, everything, Xochitzalita, and if you start crying I’m going to have to kiss you again.” He threatened to stand, placing his palms on the table to push himself up. Smiling.

“Don’t you dare, Javier, no more applause from my fellow diners…”

Instead, he stood up, leaned over to reach her lips with his, licking her slowly, softly, making her wet, making her want him. Now.

“Vaya el cuarto!…Go to your room!” someone yelled to much laughter, and then another, louder round of applause. Then someone gave a grito (a loud, Mexican cry of joy and sorrow that sends shivers up a human’s spine), and Javier gave one in return to more laughter. “Cuarto cuarto cuarto cuarto,” they sang in unsion.

This is the deepest play.

Finally, as they stood up to leave- after another coffee and kahlua, some creamy flan, two more vino tintos for Javier- a round of gritos pierced the air. A man shouted, “El regalo de cumpleanos para la senorita…The birthday gift for the young woman!” to loud laughter. (Young woman, Xochiquetzal smiled…maybe I do look in my forties, Javier in his mid-late thirties, young woman, she kept smiling.) “Regalo regalo regalo regalo…” voices echoed with play. Before Javier could join in with his grito, come-back, Xochiquetzal ran away, down the steps toward la mar. Loud male whoops followed her, laughter.

“How do they know he’s my gift?” she began to laugh.

“Correle, hombre, se fue…Run, man, she’s gone!” Everyone laughing, echoing, “Correle, correle, correle, correle…” Then she heard a piercing grito- “Javier, I bet, oh my Goddess,” Xochiquetzal couldn’t help giggling like a senorita. “Senorita,” she sighed, walking into the warm, erotic, moon-filled waves. They reached her ankles, her knees, finally her blissful fifty-eight-year-old thighs, as she pulled the already short bandeau-style, black with fuchsia, beach dress, higher (made in Bali, her favorite place on Earth). The wet warmth of la mar soothed her; cooler than the day but still warm, and a sudden night breeze licked her flesh, lovely.

Suddenly she wanted to give a grito to la mar, to the night sky, the stars raining down their ancient light, the erotic, full moon that bathed her, everyone, in her translucent, glowing, pregnant path.

Javier grabbed her from behind so forcefully she cried out. He put his lips on her neck, kissing her hard, then softly like small butterflies landing one by one. “Don’t run away from me, Xochitzalita, you know I’ll always find you.” His voice was soft, firm, playful. She felt his swelling, his man’s warmth. His gift, el regalo.

“But I want to run away…”

“Porque, mi Xochitzalita, tan mala…”

“So you can find me, Javier.”

He slowly turned her around to face him, grinding himself into her, her mouth finding his, his tongue finding hers. “I’ll always find you, Xochitzalita,” he murmured, and then a large, moon-filled wave covered them. Laughing, spitting la mar, she opened her mouth wide and gave a grito to the Mexican night.   “Mamacita, que pasa?” Javier laughed, picking her up in his strong, boyish arms. El doctorcito. The healer.

Yes oh yes this is the deepest play, el regalo.

A bottle of chilled champagne waited in a sweating, metal bucket, surrounded by sliced mangoes, papayas, pineapples. And a plate of chocolate truffles, hand-made in the hotel kitchen. Someone had turned on the lamp that Xochiquetzal’s deep purple, fringed, traveling shawl was wrapped around. It glowed its soft, purple light that made her feel at home anywhere she traveled in the world.

“How did you get them to do this, how?” she laughed with delight.

“I’m an upper class Mexican doctor at home in his own country,” he smiled so confidently. That unwavering confidence that wouldn’t let her ignore him as she tried to on the beach, at first. She was taken aback by his response, for a moment- her innate aversion to any class system (the ‘all men are created equal’ theory she’d heard all her life in the USA, but rarely saw in daily living, politics, the news). Here was this man, this thirty-four-year-old Mexican doctor, simply saying the truth… upper class and at home in his own country.

“I guess you know, from your travels to my country, el otro lado (the other side), that I have a hard time with any class system.”

“Xochitzalita, in Mexico you are automatically upper class.” Javier popped the cork smoothly. “But I know estas una pochita del otro lado, you can’t help it,” he laughed.

“A Yaqui Indian pochita,” she shot back.

“Ayy, estas una India tambien, que bien, you’re my pochita Yaqui.” He gave an intimate version of his more public grito, pouring her a glass of champagne. “Dame la boca…Give me your mouth,” Javier commanded, kissing her. “El regalo,” he murmured into her open mouth.

“And how do all those Mexicans know you, regalo regalo regalo?” Her voice was jagged, her breath catching on his soft lips, his words, “El regalo.”

Another intimate grito; it went right up her spine, the kundalini, from her lotus on fire. This guy makes me wet, want him, with a grito, his soft mouth, tongue, the words, el regalo- I’m road kill, she sighed inwardly. Foreboding and delight in equal measure, and she knew…You can’t pick your gift, your gift picks you, el regalo.

“We’re all Mexicans at home in our own country, Xochitzalita, this is how we play, it was in our honor, this new love.” Javier paused, looking into her eyes. “In this moment, right now, I’m so happy, I love you,” he said in English. He waited, then said, “Tell me you love me, Xochitzalita.”

She was shocked, she wasn’t ready to say those words…I love you.

“Tell me you love me, Xochitzalita.” His gaze was unwavering. He waited. And what she saw at the center of his dark pools of endless curiosity, wonder: faith. The kind she’d had at thirty-four; to believe. In the impossible.

“In this moment, this very moment, right now, I love you,” she whispered, tears filling her fifty-eight-year-old eyes of new wonder.

“Ayy Xochitzalita, besa me, un besito, un regalo,” he laughed softly. “Did you see those pobrecito, confused gringos, yet I think they enjoyed it, the Natives enacting some strange ritual, now for el prescripcion…”

“I want more champagne, some mangoes, those truffles, por favor,” she giggled.

“You want champagne more than this?” He softly, so slowly, grazed his wet tongue over the inside of her lips. “A woman’s labia, her lips, so similar, let me lick tu mango, mi amor,” he smiled playfully, intimately.

“You’d better stop that…”

“Que…What?”

“Your words make me want you, what in el fregado are you doing to me, el regalo, gritos, mangoes y mas…”

“Primero el prescripcion, then el regalo, and yes I can make you want me with my words, just with my words, Xochitzalita, y mi lengua…my tongue.” Javier gently lowered her black bandeau top with the fuchsia flowers, and slowly kissed her breasts, each one, butterflies landing, covering her, making her wild. New.

This is the deepest play, el regalo, the gift.

She lit the large, cinnamon scented candle she’d bought in the hotel shop with two, huge bottles of water, chocolate bars, cartons of juice, for in-room-emergencies. They didn’t offer room service as the resort was all-inclusive, but they had the store. How did he get them to deliver the champagne feast? she wondered, with fresh pleasure, as she watched him sleep. “Hermoso hombre sonando en mi cama…beautiful man dreaming in my bed,” she whispered. How does he know how to make love to my clitoris, like an old lover, an experienced lover, an upper class Mexican doctor at home in his own country, yes… Xochiquetzal smiled at the peace in his open, dreaming face.

She’d begged him to stop, she wasn’t capable of one more orgasm, she’d fly apart, she’d cease to exist as flesh and blood, she’d become random pleasure bliss molecules merging with sea air moon light star light his breath, he’d breathe her in… Is this how it is when you leave your body, when you die, does everyone simply breathe you in? she wondered, deeply wondered, as her body pulsed with its own strange and private joy, separate from her persistent rational self, yet claiming her for its own. The body, spirit, soul. One blissful human being. That moment. That very moment. As she gazed at his open, dreaming face- his lips wet, parted, as though he wanted to tell her his dreams.

They dreamt in separate bodies, separate dreams, but they dreamt suspended in the same sky, the same timeless sky, where their souls simply knew each other. Timeless. They laughed as shooting stars pierced their dreaming bodies, as they remembered their endless preparation for death, for birth, always death, birth. Endless curiosity. Endless wonder. They dreamt. Side by side. His leg wrapped around her hip. Her arm flung over his chest, his heart. That pulsed. With life. Her heart. That pulsed. With life. El regalo, the gift. Endless wonder. They laughed. Suspended in the same timeless sky. Where their souls simply knew. Each other. Timeless.

Was this the deepest play? Yes

XochiquetzalI speak to a beautiful man with no words, only a stream of light flows from my mouth and he understands. He opens his mouth, a stream of light,  and I understand. Joy.

JavierI fly across the impossible ocean to meet my love, I can’t reach her, her long blonde hair hides her from me. I return to my own country. To dark haired women. Or I will. Die. Again. To the light. I see the light. A wise woman. Give birth to me, I’ve held so much death.

She woke up to him inside her, so gently, from behind, stroking her gently, his arms, his hands, holding her to him as though she might try to escape, but she had no desire to escape. No Desire. To escape. They made love without words, only sounds of joy, ecstasy, searing pain/pleasure, as though in a dream.

“Let’s go to town, I don’t think I can bear to face our fan club,” Xochiquetzal laughed from somewhere so deep inside her body, her still pulsing womb- a place she’d forgotten to remember, until now.

Javier frowned with disapproval, and for a moment she thought he was serious until he smiled at her.  The smile of the boy in the man, beautiful. As he watched sunlight fill the room, her eyes, he felt happy like a boy on a summer morning with a day of play in his wide open hands. “I have to warn you, my truck is a disaster, I clean it out once a month maybe. My car I save for formal occasions, my truck es para jugar…for play.”

El Nino Doctorcito and his toy cars and trucks, of course, she smiled at him. “I don’t care if we go by burro, I just want to go to a strange place for desayuno… breakfast, walk around like tourists…”

“My truck is a burro,” he laughed softly. “And you can be the pochita tourist, I’ll be your Mexican guide,” he murmured, kissing her, making her wet in spite of herself.

“No, I mean it, no, you’ll have to roll me around in a fucking wheel chair, Javier, I’m not kidding, no, no, I mean it…”

They walked to the end of the resort’s beach where his burro waited, and she laughed when she saw his teenage burro full of dents, scratches. Proof of many joyful, and probably muy loco, adventures. When he opened the door for her, a machete fell to the ground, as well as beer, juice and water containers. She leapt backwards, laughing. “What in el fregado is a machete doing in your burro, Javier, ayyy Diosa y Dios tambien!”

“I told you it was a disaster,” he smiled happily. “Every Mexican travels with one, just like the gabachos travel with their pistolas. At least ours is hand to hand combat, mi pochita Yaqui.”

“Woman hacked to death in Vallarta by insane physician!” Xochiquetzal stood, watching him pick up all the cans and bottles, placing them in a large plastic bag in the back of his burro. He slid the large machete under her seat, smoothly.

“Here, it’s your weapon in case your lips drive me absolutely insane,” Javier said in a serious tone, his eyes conveying concern for her safety. There didn’t seem to be any shocks in his burro, which made her laugh out loud with irrational joy. And he laughed with her.

“I have one more day, Xochitzalita, then I’m expected back in the Emergency.”

“Only tomorrow?”

“I’ll come to see you in San Miguel at the end of the month, te juro…I promise… if I can stand it to the end of the month that is. You’d better get the machete to protect yourself, I think I’m going insane right now.”

She gazed at his face, his mouth, as he said this, and her joy didn’t leave her. Then she kissed him, meeting his tongue with her own, quickly. “Maybe you need your machete, doctorcito, maybe I’m going insane,” Xochiquetzal laughed. Like she used to laugh so long ago.

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www.almaluzvillanueva.com

Alma Luz Villanueva’s fourth, newest novel is Song of the Golden Scorpion. Eighth book of poetry, Gracias, to be published in 2014. Teaches at Antioch University’s MFA in creative writing program, Los Angeles. Lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the past eight years.

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October.

courage, Guest Posts, healing

I Sleep With My Buck Knife.

January 27, 2014

By Alma Luz Villanueva

It all began with my full-blood Yaqui Indian grandmother, Mamacita, from Sonora, Mexico, who raised me in San Francisco. I was five years old and used to the living situation being mainly her and I; with my mother going to work, coming home late after playing piano bar (her second job). She was a trained classical pianist, but as she put it, she could also swing. My mother, Lydia, was a young Mexican woman during the racist 1950s, playing piano in a bar to a bunch of drunk men. I can’t even imagine, but with her out-going, playful personality she enjoyed the attention, and the tips. And so, my uncle from Mexico was visiting- a judge. My other uncle was a professor. They both went to university, but their sister, Mamacita, stayed at home with her curandera/healer mother, and trained as a curandera, midwife. My great-grandmother, Isidra, owned a boarding house and a laundry, and was known as a curandera. She was married five times (all of this pretty rare for the late 1800s, Mexico), and her favorite saying was, “Each time a better man!” The matriarchal line in my family bred strong, rebellious women, it seems. That Yaqui Indian blood.

The visiting uncle played a game with me- he’d begin to quote a song, “Luna, luna, come la tuna, hecha la cascara y come la tuna!…Moon, moon, eat the fig, peel the rind, eat the fig!” When he’d catch my five year old self, he’d tickle me until I screamed and cried. I hated it and now I realize he was also touching me all over my little body. Mamacita would come and rescue me, telling him to leave me alone; that I didn’t like the game, stop it. Then I would hear the song, “Luna, luna, come la tuna…” He was very huge and fat, and I dreaded those big, fat hands tickling me, touching me. “…hecha la cascara,” so I ran to the large dining room table covered with a tablecloth, which was my secret hiding place. I kept all of my art supplies there: crayons, paper, coloring book, my baby scissors. His big, fat hand reached for me, “…y come la tuna!” I was ready. I stabbed him with my baby scissors.

My mother, Lydia, took me once to the bar where she played the piano at night. She sat me in a booth with a coke and a sandwich. I was around seven, taking in the darkness of the bar, mostly men. I remember thinking it smelled really bad and there were no windows. Mamacita always had an open window for the wind in our apartment, as we were on the second floor. I watched my mother walk to the piano, a light shining on her black hair, making it sparkle, and her red lipstick smiled. I used to wake up, at that age, to her playing beautiful music on our rented piano. My favorite, Moonlight Sonata, she told me. I used to love to sneak up and watch her because her face was so peaceful, not rushed, worried, angry. In the dark bar, full of men, she began to play Moonlight Sonata and they began to yell things at her. She said, “This is for my daughter, then I’ll play whatever you want.” So they shut up and she played, and some of them clapped and yelled. She was peaceful for those moments, and then she played something fast and her red lipstick smiled but I knew she’d rather play her morning songs. During the day she was a medical secretary and once in a while she had a doctor boyfriend, but no one married her. She was a hot tamale. Who played Moonlight Sonata. Trained as a classical pianist by her minister father; Lydia played for church services. But she was still a hot tamale.

When I was ten she married an Irish guy who sang My Wild Irish Rose whenever he got really drunk after payday. I didn’t live with her because he was so mean, abusive. My grandmother and I lived in a room with a little kitchen, but it was home because she always had her altar, fresh flowers, pan dulce still warm from the corner store, in the Mission, San Francisco. My mother was pregnant. He was drunk. I was visiting. He locked me in the bedroom; the door made of glass panels. I heard and saw everything. He began to beat her, ripping her clothes off, her huge belly exposed. She screamed like a woman fighting for herself, and her child, as he started to choke her. The wise voice (I call it) said, “If you don’t do something, you will always remember this.” I was a skinny ten year old, but I thought I was tough, beating up boys who called me ‘spic, dirty Indian’ (they saw my grandmother). The girls wouldn’t talk to me, but the boys tried to bully me, and I beat their asses up, laughing. I remember. So I put my skinny fist through the glass, not one scratch, opened the door, grabbed his favorite marble ash tray and knocked him out. I was really trying to kill him and as my mother ran to him, worried he was dead, the wise voice said, “Look well.”  It was after midnight. I put all of my stuff in a paper bag and left, taking three buses to my aunt’s place in the projects. My grandmother was staying there for a few days. I think of one of my four children out at midnight in the city, taking three buses to safety, and I’m reminded of that ten year old’s courage. Mamacita used to say, “Tienes coraje, niña…You have courage, child.”

When my first two children were three and one, we lived in the worst projects in San Francisco. I was eighteen and fully aware of the nightly dangers. My Jamaican neighbor told me, “Girl, you never be out there bringing in your wash after the sun goes down, they be raping women here every damn night.” I rigged up an alarm system with empty cans on the window sill downstairs. The bedrooms were upstairs and I slept with my biggest butcher knife. The cans crashed to the cement floor. My babies continued to sleep. I slid down the stairs, knife in hand, and saw a hand reaching through my window. I stabbed it, blood, scream, gone. I called the police, they came, and one of them returned demanding to be let in. I refused. I stayed on my couch all night facing the broken window, waiting for the cop’s hand to come through.

Fast forward to the high Sierras where I lived for five years in my mid-thirties, giving birth to my fourth child. My youngest, beloved son.  During the summer months I backpacked out with friends to the most beautiful, glacier lakes. Once in a while I went by myself, with my wolf dog, Zeke, a true companion. My oldest son gave me a Buck Knife for my birthday, telling me, “Carry this with you for bears or whatever, Mom.” And I did, strapping it to my belt. I put it under my sleeping bag pillow, touching its leather casing once in a while, Zeke curled at my feet, aware. During the night I’d climb up to the Mother Rock, as my friends and I called her, taking my sleeping bag with me to sleep in one of her crevices. It felt like a cradle. The stars floated in the wide, silent lake, as earth/sky held me. This was the first place I felt no fear to be outside, alone, in spite of bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes. If they harmed you it was for self-defense or plain old hunger; there was no cruelty involved. This was the first place I heard the silence and the sound of the sun rising, a deep hum.

I remember my seventh grade gym teacher telling us girls, “If you’re ever attacked, don’t fight back, you’ll get hurt worse, maybe killed.” I remember how angry that made me, but I didn’t say anything, to the teacher. Later I told my best friend, “I’d rather die than be raped, so I’m fighting back, fuck that shit.” She laughed, thought I was being funny. Before I moved to the Sierras, I took kung fu lessons from a five foot woman from China, June, in Santa Cruz, California. She always paired me up with the biggest man in the class to do the exercises with. I finally asked her, after three classes, to be paired with another woman. June looked at me, smiling, pointing to him, “That’s you, inside.” Later she taught me killing blows for a week, just her and I. I’ve traveled to many places by myself and her lessons make feel a little safer, as I don’t pack my Buck Knife for Paris, for example. I do pack my Swiss Army Knife, so maybe I could open a bottle of wine to calm down an attacker (haha).

Now I live in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, by myself (with its challenges, a woman alone), returning to teach and visit family, friends. My Buck Knife rests on my night table, its handle poking out of the leather case. When I stabbed my pervert uncle, his huge hand reaching for my five year old self, I drew blood. He yelled angrily as my grandmother ran into the room, and I ran to hide behind her skirt. “Give her to me, look what she’s done! Give her to me!” (This is all in Spanish.) “I told you to leave her alone! Now you will!” “She’ll be a bruja like you, is that what you want?”

I felt her body quiver, with silent laughter, as I held onto her skirt tightly. He never followed me with that song again during his last days, and I stayed close to my grandmother. If she had given me to him, I would not have become who I am. A woman who sleeps with her Buck Knife, and a woman who would use it if I had to. That gym teacher was wrong- fight back. As June said, while teaching me killing blows, “You and I, we are eagles.” We are whole human beings, willing to fight for our lives, and willing to love so deeply. Those we choose to touch us.

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www.almaluzvillanueva.com

Alma Luz Villanueva’s fourth, newest novel is Song of the Golden Scorpion. Eighth book of poetry, Gracias, to be published in 2014. Teaches at Antioch University’s MFA in creative writing program, Los Angeles. Lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the past eight years.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. She will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October.

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