Friday, October 07, 2005

Purple My Heart

purple my heart
at nine years old
watching the man I love more
than anyone in the world
sitting in the blue-red light
coming through
the picture window
holding in his strong hands
the case
that held
all he had to show
for all those hundreds
he’d taken
that brought him countless
sleepless nights
or in and out
of the other side
night sweats
the wake up
with violet faces
of his ghost sickness

purple the heart
my father won in Korea
trophy case shattered and split
dried seeds of blood
on still clenched fist
all his medals torn apart
ripped and wrinkled ribbons
resting on splintered glass
meaningless medalions
tossed aside in disgust
repeating over and over
I did this for what?

purple the oath
loyalty my father pledged
his life
to defend his country
from the Reds
but after all was said
the faces who looked up
from the charred field of death
his big guns had buried them in
mirrored back faces of kin
who claimed him more
than the racist white-man did
when he returned from Korea

purple the smoke of
burning cedar and sage
of lavender oil rubbed
deep into head, chest
hands and feet
elders predicted
there was not enough
their medicine could do
no amount of ceremony
could wash away
that much blood
the sickness would have to fade
like the signs
of fire, flood or earthquake
with the years
he’d have to pray
away the madness
await his destiny

purple the sorrow cloth
lining his coffin
covering the mirrors
after his death
rain through
street lamp glow
the sunset
ripple clouds
amaranthine, amethyst
heliotrope, lavender
lilacs, lupines, irises, crocuses
dried flowers on a heroes grave

purple the night light
through my window
candles in the dark

© Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Dedicated to Warriors and Saints ~ Maferefun Orunmila on his Day October 4

Los Otros

four Cuban medicine men
in a '57 Chevy
smoking up Calle 23
dressed crisp and
spotless in their whites
from Kangol caps to leather shoes

they are knights shining through the
centuries like the Templars or Masons
men with their society intact
secrets sharp as their blue steel edged knives
used in killing to perfection for the sake of mankind
those winged and the four legged creatures
who give their lives so that we might live

in a city teeming with ghosts
host to all sorts of unknowing
folks who come for the rum without the coke, rumba and
places they believe are filled with only the finest tobacco
smoke but are actually haunted rooms where the living and dead coexist
sometimes tryst on the same plane especially before a rainstorm
when Oya's horse's tail whips up the wind and

corpse dust comes flying freely out the gates of Colon cemetery
through Havana streets covering heads of the unsuspecting
with a possible unwanted phantom for company then believe they got
sick from the ice cubes in some club since they wouldn't even think
to drink the water

Baba lou aye had worn torn legs like C's dad
thick tree branches gnarled and scarred
not by disease but by bullets and shrapnel
marks of countless battles fought and won
laughing in deaths' face since before
he could rightly be called a man and
I couldn't keep my eyes off them
as he laid there struggling for one more
of life's breaths
so he could smoke his last one in bed
at the Oakland Veteran's hospital
those last days were the worst
before his warrior-self finally lost
that last offensive
being something beyond his control

©Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Migratory Birds: New and Noted Poems, 2002

photo from

Saturday, October 01, 2005

From The Heart

This is a picture of hurricane Katrina, I don't know who took it but it is awesome. If you did take this picture please let me know so that I can give you credit, you deserve it!

I have been whirling around southern Califas for the past week since Angel left for Havana. Hawk and I dropped him off at the TJ airport last Friday night. I don't know what he found when he arrived, it's been months since he's been home. I imagine everything will be as it should be -- the dogs, Casey, Yon, and Johnny were fine last we heard and the apartment as well.

What I miss most is hearing Angel's voice, his voice steadies me. His morning prayers at 7:30 am before he leaves for English and computer classes every weekday nudge me from sleep. I hear him even now some mornings but this is in my dreams and not him there standing firmly in the shrine praying.

He says that in order for the Creator to hear us we must pray out loud, from the heart. Prayers must not be rushed or said just to say them. Praying for others must be even more heartfelt. De Akokan - From the Heart.

I think of all the prayers I learned in Catholic school as a child, I remember saying them at mass and during penance after confession. I remember learning how to say the Rosary, though I don't remember it now. But what I do remember is that prayers always were said low in whispers like a low humming or buzzing.

Today one of Angel's godchildren called to say her daughter is in trouble and she wants counsel on how to deal with her. She is a rebellious 20 something year old who is at risk of failing out in her last semester at the University. I tell her that he is not reachable now, the phone is still not connected in the apartment and that while I have sent him e-mail apparently he's been unable to check in. I ask her what I can do she asks that I pray for her and her child and asks me when I think she should talk to her, she is so angry, she tells me. I say not to worry that I will pray for them and that I'll get back to her with more advice as soon as possible.

I pray. I stand at the shrine and pray whispering at first then louder in a clear voice, I pray from my heart. I pray for this mother having a difficult time relating to her angry daughter, asking for help. I think of when I was an angry daughter and wonder if my mother ever asked for prayers, or help with me.

I think of all the prayers we have all said lately for all the people dying in Iraq, for all the people who passed away or survived Katrina and now Rita. I think of all the prayers we say daily and wonder how many we say from the heart instead of from the head. I wonder how many of us know the difference.

I got a wonderful chance to spend time with my nephew from Chicago at my nieces home who lives in LA, on my way back up to the Bay Area. It was a memorable time, from baking with my two youngest nieces to talking music, art, life and politics with their parents and others of the 20 something-year-old people in my famila. As always, they give me hope and lots of love.

I look at this picture of Katrina and think of what someone said today on the radio - that if Katrina had a last name it would be Bush. I think if the aftermath of Katrina had a last name it would be dubbed Bush.

I still call on everyone who happens to read this to continue to pray for the survivors of Katrina and Rita, and if you can do something to help even if you already have, please do so.

I also call on everyone to pray from the heart for an end to war.

War is not healthy for people or other living things...Ase O!

© 2005