CirculatinG

While young, we stood tall against each other
Without knowing we were mountains.

Now grown, we stand alone, though
Betraying surfaces like fountains.

Mounting finite time and space,
We turn into the earth again,

The way knowledge turns to wisdom,
Only to become unknown again.

J.T.

This poem is dedicated to every brother, friend and neighbor gone too soon from our communities.

EPISODE 29 – MATT SEDILLO, PART II

In our twenty-ninth episode, listeners are treated to the second part of our interview with Matt Sedillo, for which Sedillo reads some poems right out of the pages of the new Mowing Leaves of Grass from Flowersong Press. We also talk about Matt’s writing process over ten years since Arizona’s disgraceful SB 1070 bill, or the ghost of Jim Crow for Brown communities in the Southwest, as well as the city of Los Angeles’s larger connection to Arizona and the Southwest generally as a “battleground” against racist policies; the Occupy Wall street movement versus the work of groups such as Black Lives Matter today, and more is also discussed. A truly one-of-a-kind session for listeners.

J.T.

EPISODE 28 – MATT SEDILLO, PART I

In our twenty-eighth episode, listeners hear part one of a two-part interview with Matt Sedillo, a former National Slam Poet from Los Angeles and author of the new Mowing Leaves of Grass, an anthology of poetry that reads like an indictment of U.S. race relations, critiquing its expansionist ideologies over two-and-a-half centuries as well as the political wasteland of the last four years under Trump. I also ask Matt on his thoughts about the Chicano movement in Los Angeles, Walt Whitman’s role in advocating for the Mexican-American “war,” and special places for him in the city of L.A. A truly fun session for listeners, especially the Spoken Word lovers out there.

J.T.

blossoming branch of tree against blue sky

Tunisia Nelson: Standing in Remembrance of Mary Lee

Standing in remembrance of Mary Lee
I TIP her hat with pride
Red as Bold & Courageous
Strong as she Identified

The true definition of what it means to be…
A Woman after God’s own heart
The pillar of this family
Proverbs 31 in human form

To know her was to love her, if not to envy her kind, subtle ways
She owned SWAG before it was even a thing
She created the Formation, you hope & dream
To be anything like Mary Lee
A conqueror of much

She is a survivor of more than you will ever know
Her faith made it seem as if she towered, despite her petite frame
Cancer couldn’t take her and the devil couldn’t break her

She made a mean peach cobbler!
The kind you are willing to sneak in the kitchen, eat up,
And get a whooping for.

A sacrificer of much
In a pinch she knew just what to do
Head High, Speaking Her mind,

For ALL that, and more, Grandma,
I tip YOUR hat to YOU!

TN

Tunisia Nelson is a writer, born in Los Angeles but raised in Bakersfield, CA and currently residing in Moreno Valley, CA. She is a VONA Alum and has published poems in the Eunoia Review, Iō Literary Journal, and Refractions, an online literary journal. She received a BA in Psychology from Cal Poly Pomona, and an MSW from Cal State Long Beach. Tunisia dedicates this poem to her grandmother, one of the most faithful and prayerful women she was blessed to have known, who also made the best peach cobbler, hands down, and who loved her family with every fiber in her. Her memory deserves to live on and this poem is paying her homage, letting her know she is so very missed.

EPISODE 21 – SILVER LAKE IS SUSPECT

In our twenty-first episode, we hop on the Zoom call with DJ Swish, a long-time local and East Hollywood aficionado. We discuss Cahuenga Public Library’s special, though sometimes unnoticed status in the community, news of Silver Lake’s recent Police Violence Memorial being taken down, the boundaries between Silver Lake and East Hollywood and their effect on the latter, and more of L.A. facts and fiction. A very special session for listeners.

J.T.

Brothers

Used to be inseparable. Just two kids from two cities along campus ground together.

Used to philosophize and riddle and debate as if no issue in our midst couldn’t diffuse.

Used to reflect on our classes together. Mutual friends. Romances. Foreign policy. No end.

Broke down habits. Responses to each other. Prism of our minds. That’s what homies were.

What being alive was.

Remember our deliberations on these grounds together:

Maximum profit by maximum strain,

Watching it unfurl across the world around us in lanes.

Student debt. Police. Prison policy.

Fast food. Oldies. Air in our pockets.

Worn out rooms another night. But, the unity.

Except never would have expected walls to build around us as they did,

Somewhere along the way the strain got the best of us.

Perhaps the best of me,

Perhaps the best of you.

Now memory flutters wailing past Los Angeles,

Slave patrol still hovering.

People still coughing up on the sidewalk

While still more profits margin.

Turning the corner,

A brother hobbling along the street asks if I know

Where he can find a pookie,

Nah’.”

It’s been ten summers since we first spoke the rage.

Before another ten go by, I hope to find you again

If only to break free from this rift with you.

One between two

J.T.

The book cover for Mike the Poet's Letters to My City, published in 2019

Letters To My City (2019)

Through a tremendous last couple of weeks between the Los Angeles Review of Books workshop, the new Los Cuentos Book Club, and more for your truly, I just finished Mike the Poet’s L.A.’s Letters to My City. By the turn of the final page, I both see it and hear it. Sonsken’s ‘letters’ are not just prose, but also songs from the heart to all comers. Most of all, they’re a tribute to those who’ve been here, as Sonsken shows no fear celebrating L.A.’s Black, Indigenous, Asian, Native & Latinx roots. His book can thus be though of as an invitation for all poets, writers, and anyone interested in uplifting this city and keeping its history sacred to tag along for the ride.

Sonsken’s writing also consistently understands that he’s not the guiding hand, but that his is one led by the voices of others, those around him to uncover or pay heed to the roots. Sonsken’s work therefore comes off as a round-table discussion, a gathering of minds from across L.A., but abundant especially with folks from the South and East sides, as well as with folks from less discussed “L.A.” like Long Beach, Oxnard and even Cerritos and the OC. It is a call for Los Angeles’s artists and all creators to come together with major respect to the city, to the communities, for the stories, which form the heartbeat of this sometimes totally cruel, sometimes surreal town. Los Cuentos sees this, and I look forward to passing Mike’s book along to the next generation of historians with major visions for our city.

Towards the end the book also leads to more questions. For one, I found myself reflecting on reparations awarded to Japanese-Americans in Los Angeles who faced internment. In a closing vignette on Little Tokyo’s history and a Buddhist temple in the area Mike writes:

A key component of Japanese religion and culture is the idea of ancestor veneration, essentially the idea of gratitude to your family and specifically appreciating one’s ancestors.

I thought then of the enslaved, and those whose lives were uprooted and taken by genocide and U.S. imperialism. I seriously wondered: where is the discussion in L.A. on reparations for African-American, Native, and also Mexican bodies? These are our ancestors, and there are more, in and even beyond America. I believe Sonsken would agree for a need to come together and discuss it, and that, at least in L.A., his book is certainly one way to start.

J.T.