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Radha Says

The final collection by award-winning poet Reetika Vazirani, published by Drunken Boat.

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Annotations of contemporary poetry edited by Lisa Russ Spaar, published by Drunken Boat.


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This morning, I sat in my room with the blinds drawn trying to summon my duende. In DB’s Spring 2002 issue, Reb Livingston wrote a piece on the many interpretations of duende. But after an hour of freaking myself out — the blinds in my room are metallic and hefty, meaning that they do a pretty darned good job of keeping out the light — nothing emerged: not a single goblin (the academic interpretation), not a shred of inspiration (Federico Garcia Lorca’s favored interpretation).

Lorca may have been fascinated with inspiration because of its intangibility. In his eyes, the concept of inspiration could have been a relative of death — a much larger intangibility. Ms. Livingston writes that death was part of Lorca’s life: when his younger brother died, the image of the brother in his casket was so seared that it would become a poetic motif. Later, Lorca struggled with a third intangibility: sexuality. For a while, he tried to convince himself that he liked women (“the great sacrifice of semen” — classic) until he realized that, for him, men were the real deal. (You go, honey.)

I think I’ve got a lot in common with good ol’ Lorca. (Would he approve of me referring to him so informally? And what is the Spanish colloquial equivalent of “good ol'”?) I am similarly afflicted by a struggle between my erotic and spiritual selves. For example, take Sex and the City, a show that I greatly admire. (Don’t judge.) It is absolutely one of my favorite shows. Those women are my heroes. But I am probably more of a prude than even Charlotte York… my point is that I sometimes feel guilty about my erotic self, and at times, I wonder if that guilt is simply just a self-defeating result of trying to live up to unrealistic spiritual ideals.

Death has dogged me since 2005. That summer, the abdominal pains were fleeting. But when they struck, they were so terrible that I would sit hunched over trying to breathe them away, like I was pregnant. By fall, I couldn’t even defecate. It turned out that I had a blood clot in my stomach, and by the time that diagnosis was made, my abdomen was basically cement. The agony was excruciating. I would blank out and see…


No angels, no saints. Nothing. As a lifelong Catholic and the son of a young mother who enjoyed taking me to horror movies when I was barely out of elementary school, I had expected to see signs and wonders. After my surgery, release, and eventual recovery, I came away from the experience believing that I was as unworthy in death as I had been in life.

Inspiration and the mysteries of death elude me. I’m not sure how successful Lorca was with his romances, but men have alluded me as well. Someone superstitious (like my mom) probably would not have approved of me sitting here in the dark trying to summon a goblin, even if the goblin was inspiration, a muse. Someone superstitious might think that I was dangerously toying with dark forces. Despite what you might think about a mother taking her little kid to watch horror movies, I actually enjoyed the experience. It was a unique way of spending quality time with my mom, and even more importantly, I actually came away quite emboldened, not scared. Take those Ring movies, for example. (I prefer the two American remakes.) There wouldn’t be so many problems if only someone had sat down with the dead little girl and had a real conversation with her. You know what I mean? Just take her aside and say, “All right, dead girl. What’s up?” Sure, she might try and kill you with her terrifying supernatural ways, but at that point, if she refuses to hold a civilized conversation, you go into self-defense mode and mimic as much Krav Maga as you can muster. Problem solved. This morning, had some terrifying force emerged, I would have been scared for a moment — fear is a natural biological reaction, after all — before I offered either conversation or dished out some Krav Maga.

These days, the world is in such turmoil that we don’t have the patience to deal with intangibles. March, unfortunately, is not going out like a lamb. The U.S. has rain storms on both coasts, and the health care debate certainly did not come to a quiet resolution. Jobs are elusive, and so is happiness. The new Wild West is life itself. All the old ways have suddenly lost their meaning. Anything goes. Having trouble summoning your muse? Yank him out of the ether and smack him around a few times.

By Joe Ramelo, Social Media Assistant.

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Published Mar 31, 2010 - Comments Off on Come out, come out wherever you are

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