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Welcome, José Angel Araguz!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you José Angel Araguz, whose poetry collection we say Yes way before you is due out next spring. 

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 

 

 

The Author

José Angel Araguz’s most recent collection is An Empty Pot’s Darkness (Airlie Press). His poetry, creative nonfiction, and book reviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Poetry International, The Acentos Review, and Oxidant | Engine among other places. He blogs at The Friday Influence. José is an Assistant Professor at Suffolk University where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of Salamander and is also a faculty member of the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program.

 

 

 

On Writing we say Yes way before you

The core of this manuscript came out of my reactions to the 2016 presidential election. The rise of Trump and his followers took a lot of folks by surprise; the way in which the systemic racism and class inequality that underlie our country made itself more and more unignorable also took a lot of folks by surprise. But not the marginalized. There was a growing dread pervading the conversations I had with friends and family that year that things weren’t going to end well. I became fascinated by how casual people talked about politics as if it weren’t tied to traumas and people’s lived experiences. The surprise people felt afterward mirrored the fact that there are different Americas, some more privileged and shuttered than the ones I live in. And while people continued to make “Cheeto-man” jokes, I got quieter, lost interrogating nuances and wounds. On a form and craft level, these poems are informed by my preoccupation with lists in poems. At times, the meditation is direct; at other times it is just the general act of cataloguing and naming that holds fascination. That there are things in our respective personal histories we can take stock of and point to, and yet other things we can’t, things which we can only speculate after and guess at. How the latter absence is an unanswerable space we stand before as incomplete facts.

 


Excerpts

 

American Studies

                        November 22, 2016 

My wife tells me of reading the Dear
America books as a child, those stories told
via the diaries of young women who lived

during difficult times in American history. In these
stories filled with suffering were the facts behind
the suffering. Her favorite involved the RMS Titanic,
 
the unsinkable ship that sank. I ask if
trying to imagine what it looked like was
what captivated, and she says no, says only
 
one book led to another, until she realized
she could never see it nor accept it.  
 
*
 
After the election, my friend explains he feels
he could manage here, but not his children.
He explains he spoke to their school director,
 
who comforted by talking about police presence. But
if there’s police, he asks, before anything happens,
what will happen when something does? American algebra:
 
Everything is x until proven y. Dear America,
if x represents what my friend feels thinking
about the police, what language do you imagine
 
he worries his children speaking publicly, and what
language are we speaking now? Show your work.
 
*
 
Another friend writes: Here’s a verse I think
about a lot: And maybe the mirror of
the world will clear once again – She shares
 
she’s been sick since the election, as I’ve
been. I imagine our voices trying to commiserate
between coughs. In physics, energy can neither be
 
created nor destroyed. What American physics happens here
as I read and hear her voice behind
the verse she sent? Are you, dear America,
 
afraid as I am that our faces will
no longer be there when the mirror clears?
 


En la colonia I cannot find

I dream in a house filled with winter,
a house always between stages. My tía,
in the country where I am a child,
watches as her dream house develops:
 
walls of cardboard and wood planks
make way for cinderblocks; doors
to each room go from bedsheets
to knobbed, solid doors; the floor
 
remains dirt long past childhood,
past when I stayed there, long into
the stories I hear of deals made
with narcos to keep safe the house
 
I used to dream in. Her house different
each year I slept there, memories
now different colors, the bottoms of
my feet the color of the earth
 
I walk across feeling winter, each
small step picking up more of the earth.
My tía paces, wanting more for herself,
each step as dark as mine. In dreams,
 
we talk in the same house I try to place
years later on a map of Matamoros:
not the crowded colonias near the bridges,
nor the populated, street-lined center
 
nor the blocked-off Zona Industrial.
My eye veers further down dark swaths
of map, unmarked and undeveloped,
one road straight into the open fields
 
and ranches of makeshift shacks
and shacks shifting, made into
the country we find ourselves
dreaming in now. We counsel
 
each other in Spanish and English,
say we did not know, no sabiamos,
what the country would be like,
nor what would happen there.
 
We walk amidst changing walls,
our steps marking the path,
and the path marking our soles,
the earth molding to where
 
I relive nights of winter,
of not knowing
this is the nature of longing,
of faith, of not being satisfied.