Sunday, October 12, 2008

going North for Winter

winds scoured the earth
rains followed their fierce footfalls
floods drenched deep drank towns

ancestors sent signs
rounding out nature's warnings
with storytellers

oracles in bones
shells rocks and seeds read in them
those stories of life

worth living fully
free from the fear of losing
not bullied by want

leaves are turning birds
flying south for the winter
we Heyokas north

©Odilia Galván Rodríguez, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Poet and a Patriot

Chris Matthews 1946 - 2008

A Poet and A Patriot - Chris Matthews

I borrowed this picture, hope that's alright, I love it because it so captures Chris' beautiful smile and his eyes - the window to the soul of someone who loved life even as crazy as it can get sometimes.

Chris was a quintessential friend, someone you'd want to have in your corner in the good times and especially in the bad. He always had time to listen to people, a great trait for an owner of an Irish pub! But even before that, when I first met Chris in 1978 and he reminded me of a lot of those "bad boys" I'd grown up with on the south side of Chicago - who had a veneer of toughness but inside were big-hearted like their ancestors who as tribal peoples knew the importance of family, and like their dedicated steel mill working fathers, or factory working moms - he impressed me with his ability to be kind and to listen.

Chris understood about allies, not only about how the poor and people of color needed to unite but all people in the United States who believe in the struggle for equality and social justice. When we met I had just left the United Farm Workers Union and was working in the library of a K-3 Bi-lingual/Multicultural School in Watsonville. I was also active in Santa Cruz County politics, especially in south county, which is where I lived at the time and because it was wrought with the same problems all farmworker communities face and I wanted to continue to make a difference.

Chris lived in Watsonville too, in a home that he and TECHO, a group designed to help low-income people build their own homes in a collective setting, built. In January 1979, then-Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the County Board of Supervisors to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Supervisor Cecil Smith Jr. that is when Chris asked me to serve in an advisory capacity to him and his aides. In 1986 I moved to the Bay Area and we only saw each other on my occasional trips to Santa Cruz. The few times I did drop in to see him we never tired of talking about the "good old days" and of current events.

I am linking several other articles to this blog that tell more of Chris' life, but the most important thing I can tell you about Chris Matthews is that he was a person who counted, who made a difference in his 61 years on the planet. He was definitely a Poet and a Patriot but he was also much more: a loving father, husband, playwright, actor, activist and an ally and friend to all those who cared to dig beyond what they saw with their eyes to see the fiercely shining spirit that was Chris.

You will be sorely missed hermano.

Hasta la Victoria Siempre!


The Poet and the Patriot Irish Pub

Remembering Ernesto 'Che' Guevara

Thursday 9 October, 2008

Yesterday was the 41st anniversary of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's death, Iba 'e, and as I was looking for this letter to republish here I learned the shocking news of the death of an old friend of mine, Chris Matthews, owner of the Poet and Patriot Pub, long time social justice activist, and former member of the County Board of Supervisors in Santa Cruz, California. It is befitting that I would receive the news on the anniversary of the passing of one of my heroes, as Chris too was a person whom I always admired as a forthright person who said what he thought, who cared deeply for others, and stood for what is right with little thought of how it might effect him. I will write more on Chris' life in another post but for now here are Che's words in his farewell letter to his comrade Fidel Castro Ruz.

The words of Che, in his many reflections throughout his short life are almost like a channeling of the things that we are experiencing today as the world goes into this phase of great upheaval and change.

paz y r/evolucion!


"Year of Agriculture"
Havana, April 1, 1965
At this moment I remember many things -- when I met you in Maria Antonia's house, when you suggested my coming, all the tensions involved in the preparations.
One day they asked who should be notified in case of death, and the real possibility of that fact affected us all. Later we knew that it was true, that in revolution one wins or dies (if it is a real one). Many comrades fell along the way to victory.
Today everything is less dramatic, because we are more mature. But the fact is repeated. I feel that I have fulfilled the part of my duty that tied me to the Cuban Revolution in its territory, and I say good-bye to you, the comrades, your people, who are already mine.
I formally renounce my positions in the national leadership of the party, my post as minister, my rank of major, and my Cuban citizenship. Nothing legal binds me to Cuba. The only ties are of another nature -- those which cannot be broken as appointments can.
Recalling my past life, I believe I have worked with sufficient honor and dedication to consolidate the revolutionary triumph. My only serious failing was not having confided more in you from the first moments in the Sierra Maestra, and not having understood quickly enough your qualities as a leader and a revolutionary.
I have lived magnificent days, and I felt at your side the pride of belonging to our people in the brilliant yet sad days of the Caribbean crisis.
Seldom has a statesman been more brilliant than you in those days. I am also proud of having followed you without hesitation, identified with your way of thinking and of seeing and appraising dangers and principles. Other nations of the world call for my modest efforts. I can do that which is denied you because of your responsibility as the head of Cuba, and the time has come for us to part.
I want it known that I do it with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow: I leave here the purest of my hopes as a builder, and the dearest of those I love. And I leave a people who received me as a son. That wounds me deeply. I carry to new battlefronts the faith that you taught me, the revolutionary spirit of my people, the feeling of fulfilling the most sacred of duties: to fight against imperialism wherever it may be. This comforts and heals the deepest wounds.
I state once more that I free Cuba from any responsibility, except that which stems from its example. If my final hour finds me under other skies, my last thought will be of this people and especially of you. I am thankful for your teaching, your example, and I will try to be faithful to the final consequences of my acts.
I have always been identified with the foreign policy of our revolution, and I will continue to be. Wherever I am, I will feel the responsibility of being a Cuban revolutionary, and as such I shall behave. I am not sorry that I leave my children and my wife nothing material. I am happy it is that way. I ask nothing for them, as I know the state will provide enough for their expenses and education.
I would like to say much to you and to our people, but I feel it is not necessary. Words cannot express what I would want them to, and I don't think it's worth while to banter phrases.

Hasta la victoria siempre. ¡Patria o Muerte!

I embrace you with all my revolutionary fervor.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Havana hurricane journal pages

Havana hurricane journal pages

yo soñe la Habana
con una nueva cara
toda pintadita
como una novia
saliendo con su primer pretendiente
radiante con una esperanza
de gran amor

I dreamed Havana
with a new face
all made up
like a sweetheart
going out on her first date
radiant with hope
for a grand love

Sunday 7 September

All last night and all day today the television continues to broadcast all the civil defense plans to save lives first and then secure material holdings such as foodstuffs, hospitals, homes, schools, workplaces etc. There will be no work or school until the danger is passed.

Hurricane Ike is threatening to hit Guantanamo first and then it looks as though it will sweep across the entire island until it crosses us and goes back out into the gulf or heads towards the Atlantic. It's predicted to hit areas than no hurricanes have ever touched on the island and places that haven't seen a hurricane since long before the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, and unfortunately it will most probably hit places like Pinar del Rio and La Isla de la Juventud that were just devastated only 8 or so days ago. Places like Granma, Holguin, and Las Tunas that are not used to these threats are fastening down their cities and getting ready for what will be unleashed.

Everyone here is battening down the hatches too, we brought in the stove from the outside kitchen and put it into the tiny indoor kitchen. We bought some food, we were low since we haven't been here for two months, and other provisions like candles and have filled up lots of plastic bottles with fresh drinking water. People all over the neighborhood are cutting down branches, nailing and tying down anything that could fly into windows or doors or cause major damage. People are putting X's of tape over their windows, buying candles, food and preparing for the worst. People seem very calm but definitely determined to not be caught off guard. The neighborhood CDR (Committee in Defense of the Revolution) has organized who will stay inside and guard the grammar school on the corner and workers of the different markets in the area have secured their work places.

I thought Angel was going to bring the dogs inside but he says they have their secure area in the outdoor kitchen. My god daughter who is here from California, and who's never been in a hurricane says that when she gets back home she is going to tell her spoiled dog Pepsi, the next time he does something naughty like pee in the house, that he should be glad he wasn't born in Cuba where dogs don't even get to come in during a natural disaster! To which I thought yes, here most people do not have the luxury to treat their dogs like people and at the same time I feel worried for Johnny and Casey our dachshund and stafford but I am sure if the storm gets too bad Angel will let them inside...

I want Gavilan to get here safely he is supposed to arrive tomorrow and the way things are looking he will be stuck in Mexico, and who knows for how long. He is coming with Charley so they can keep each other company until this storm blows over.

8 September

Getting ready for the passing of Hurricane Ike. It's passed Guantanamo, Santiago, Holguin, Las Tunas, Granma, Camnaguey and it's headed towards Sancti Espiritu, and Santa Clara before heading here...

According to the news bulletins it should be hitting Havana anytime in the early eveing. Gavilan's plane takes off from SFO tonight and he's scheduled to arrive in the p.m. tomorrow but that looks impossible now, I just hope that the damage here is mild compared to other places so that he will not get stuck for too many days in Mexico. I just want him to call so that he can call mom and let her know we are okay here...

We are in official hurricane alert - the highest. I already mentioned the things we did to get prepared... the winds and water have already begun. Next the electricity will go and hopefully the gas won't be shut off but we brought in the small propane tank and have a hose to hook the stove up to it-just in case. I'm going to make tea even though it is hotter than heck in here.

My nerves are jangly.

9 September

consuming darkness
pierced by howling..winds blind birds
lashing night with rain

fierce machete winds
lashing dark green the drenched streets
deep quiet howling

modern noises cut
void of electricity
buzzing bees broken


All night the wind whipped the dark green canopy of trees on streets drowned by the hurricane droning past with its blades of sharpened wind. Sleep was illusive and fear gripped me deep in my guts low enough to seem non-existent, but there all the same, like when one has to be up early so as not to miss an important event or a flight, there is anxiety while at the same time one has to act against the preoccupation or the fear of that thing happening that is undesirable. I slept but it was not a worthy sleep.

The windows seemed they would rattle out of their frames and the streets filled with murky waters coming in ropes, too fast to be drunk by the street's drainage system.

I am worried about my son.

Iyawo Ibis called this a.m., the phone is still working, we talked to Orbelito for about 20 minutes which is incredible for a child that is not even three years old yet and he got very angry when his grandmother tried to take the phone from him. He was talking about a crocodile, Nemo, spaghetti, batman etc. He is talking like crazy and even says, "oye" and "coño", words he hears from the adults no doubt. When he said "oye!" to me I said, "Love, my name is madrina, not "oye". So then he said "madrina" and kept jabbering away, very everyday in the middle of this disaster. They still have electricity over in their neighborhood and Ibis gave us more details on the sad news about Celia and Abel Hart Santa Maria's fatal car accident on Sunday night. What a terrible tragedy and loss two young people with a lot to offer this country. How strange - I was supposed to finish a translation of one of her articles that Walter gave me before I left Mexico, now it will have to wait until this is over and I can get to a working computer.

Ibis also tells us that Ike is going to pass Pinar Del Rio at around 11 a.m. so the heaviest rains and winds should hit us then...

Hawk was to have arrived today, I just hope he calls.

Angel has made some coffee, I can smell it brewing in there, I should get out of this bed. I was listening to an audio book, "Killing Che" and it makes me hate the cia - even more than I already did - if that is possible...
10 September

Wet, windy, still no electricity. Talked to Walter about the death of Celia Hart and her brother it happened on Sunday night. A State funeral was held in their honor on Monday, so sad. Walter says to go over to JR to work if I want. I still have Celia's article to finish. Apparently Arlene performed the official eulogy since she studied with both of them. Both Celia and Abel leave children. I remember when I was little I always thought that mothers couldn't die when their children were young, of course at the time I didn't know that my own grandmother died when dad was only 5 and her other three children were 10, 8 and 7! Death is inevitable but its affects ripple out hard and long in some cases.

Doesn't look like they will open the airport today.

bright clothes on wash ropes
strung from battered balconies

hoping for no rain

troubled waters churn

agitated sky kicking

up a new windstorm

new rains drown the crops

weakened by the savage winds

that thin  the peoples  hope

reportando de la isla de las posibilidades