blackmail press 29
Luis J. Rodriguez

In Your Enigma - Ilinca Höpfner
In Your Enigma - Ilinca Höpfner
Luis J. Rodriguez has emerged as one of the leading Chicano writers in the United States with fourteen nationally published books in memoir, fiction, nonfiction, children's literature, and poetry.  Luis' poetry has won a Paterson Poetry Book Award, Poetry Center Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award, and "Foreword" magazine's Silver Book Award, among others.  His two children's books have won a Patterson Young Adult Book Award, two "Skipping Stones" Honor Award, and a Parent's Choice Book Award, among others.

Luis has spent thirty years conducting workshops, readings, and talks in prisons, juvenile facilities, homeless shelters, migrant camps, universities, public and private schools, conferences, Native American reservations, and men's retreats throughout the United States.  He has also traveled to Canada, Europe, Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, South America, and Japan doing similar work among disaffected populations.

His newest book is "It Calls You Back: An Odyssey through Love, Addictions, Revolution & Healing," to be published by Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster in the fall of 2011.


My Name's Not Rodriguez

My name's not Rodriguez.
It is a sigh of climbing feet,
the lather of gold lust,
the slave masters religion
with crippled hands gripping greed's tail.
My name's not Rodriguez.
It's an Indian mother's noiseless cry,
a warrior's saliva on arrow tip, a jaguar's claw,
a woman's enticing contours on volcanic rock.
My real name's the ash of memory from burned trees.
It's the three-year-old child wandering in the plain
and shot by U.S. Calvary in the Sand Creek massacre.
I'm a Geronimo's yell into the canyons of the old ones.
I'm the Comanche scout; the Raramuri shaman
in soiled bandanna running in the wretched rain.
I'm called Rodriguez and my tears leave rivers of salt.
I'm Rodriguez and my skin dries on the bones.
I'm Rodriguez and a diseased laughter enters the pores.
I'm Rodriguez and my father's insanity
blocks every passageway,
scorching the walls of every dwelling.
My name's not Rodriguez; it's a fiber in the wind,
it's what oceans have immersed,
it's what's graceful and sublime over the top of peaks,
what grows red in desert sands.
It's the crawling life, the watery breaths between ledges.
It's taut drum and peyote dance.
It's the brew from fermented heartaches.
Don't call me Rodriguez unless you mean peon and sod carrier,
unless you mean slayer of truths and deep-sixer of hopes.
Unless you mean forget and then die.
My name_s the black-hooded 9mm-wielding child in all our alleys.
I'm death row monk. The eight-year-old gum seller
in city bars and taco shops.
I'm unlicensed, uninsured, unregulated, and unforgiven.
I'm free and therefore hungry.
Call me Rodriguez and bleed in shame.
Call me Rodriguez and forget your own name.
Call me Rodriguez and see if I whisper in your ear,
mouth stained with bitter wine.

75 Years Exiled in the Country of Reason

(For American Revolutionary Nelson Peery on his 75th Birthday)

You have known roads as Langston remembers
rivers, as water flows through the cracked
earth, as the rust and dust settles into a steel mill's lament.
You have known roads, hoboing, then laying down bricks,
plumbing level the offices and homes of a brick-lined America.
Rain drenched, the roads stretch across the years.
Once you showed me the structures in New York City
that you mortared to life, and I thought about how
you also laid down stones for paths of learning,
paths of struggle , how you built a road inside me.

And the roads stretch on.

For more than 25 years, I have sought your counsel.
In you, dwell the graveled voices of a fractured century,
In you, echo the cries of hod carriers, mud mixers, melters and smelters,
In you, the song of resistance never dies,
In you, the sunlight behind the dark clouds of racial injustice breaks through,
In you, the callused palm heralding healing forms a firmer grip,
In you, the storms to quench the intractable fires of class warfare forever rages.

For 75 years you exiled yourself into the country of reason.

Here is where I have found residence:
In the road-stretched lines of your face,
in the father-love of your embrace,
while a world crumbles around its own madness,
and dwindles behind its calculated indignities
and tortured logics.
Here, next to you, where knowledge
is an exploding bullet, I found home.

You are my most enduring and endearing teacher.

So Nelson, as you looked into my suicide eyes so long ago,
as you found the life breaking out of this deadened soul,
as you took in this young slave and madman,
whose only vision came through the rifled bore of a gun,
you showed me this is not the way things have to be.

I believed because you believed.

Since then my life has been broken in two:
Before Nelson and after Nelson.
Since then I have tried and failed, oh so often,
to emulate your spirit, your ways of knowing,
your patience and poetry. I had no other way to go.
And our love is the love of the same thing,
the rule of the eyes, ideas, and visions
of this martyred truth: Things don't have to be this way.

Now I have discovered the courage within
my own courage, to trace the poetry you expressed
inside my own expression.
Everything you have learned, anyone can learn,
you always said. Slow down, think, study.
Don't die until you have something to live for.

You believe because I believe.

Twenty-five years ago, when we first met in a simple house
in the cauldron called Watts,
I handed myself over to revolution
and have bled blossoms ever since.
I gave myself over to justice
in the brick-walled imaginations that dared to dream
a different dream.
For this I thank you, Nelson,
from where the red flag unfurls

and the road stretches on.

My Nature Is Hunger

There were many Aztec feminine energies associated with earth and fertility. The main deity was known as Toci, but she was also called Tonantzin, Teteo Innan, Coatlicue, Cihuacoatl, Itzpapalotl, and Tlazolteotl. She was the great conceiver, the principle behind regeneration, birth and rebirth. She was also represented as the opposite concepts of decay and death, the taker of life ; from the earth, to the earth. In one of her many manifestations, this power was known as Tlaltecuhtli, a frog-like earth monster with many eyes and many mouths at her joints. In this aspect, her nature was hunger, a devouring deity, eater of hearts and of souls.

Anyway, don't come close.
I'm not harmless. I'm the ground swallowing.
I'm grass of thorns, insatiable dirt,
with green claws of vines and shrubbery.
My moss-furred tongue pulls you into entrails of roots and seeds.
I'm gaping petals like slimy smiles,
taking you in, deeper and tighter,
filling me with a phallic spear of flesh.
My many mouths are many cervixes.
My corpse is a garden, covered in earth skin
with toes as mountains, a terrain of stone eyes
and watery grimaces. Enter here and die.
Leave and be born.
Every burrow, every crevice, every dank cave,
is an eternal vagina that sucks, shapes and also shuns.
Outside me burst new life. Inside, a smothering death.
Out of my severed body, the world has bloomed.
Man of woman. Woman of woman.
So come, and get folded
by these coral fingers,
into my arms made of forests,
nuzzled by the music of my breath.
My eyes open toward the sky, where man and woman
eclipse into god, and a priest, in someone else's skin,
opens you up to be taken by me ; fearful Mother, terrible Mother,
nurturer that caresses you,
and with a blink, shreds your flesh beneath moonless night.