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East French Press: Poetry Power Hour

by East French Press

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1.
I sat there in the back of my grandmothers faded blue dodge colt. Questions surfacing in my mind. We were heading to the bay that day to go out fishing on my uncle Bruce’s boat, my cousin Steve sitting in the front seat and I finally mustered you the courage to break the silence, too many unanswered questions and knowing that the elephant which resides in my family room was the death of my mother and the manor of which she had passed. As a child growing up I had always asked and continued to ask and ask...... What happened to my mother? Always getting the same answer, it was a go to brush off where said adult would tell me she passed in an accident, my child followed by my adolescent mind asking myself, what kind of accident? A car, a plane, a train, a hit and run, and I knew at that moment at the CA age of 15 I was ready for the truth. I pushed my grandmother to tell me. To tell me as we sat in that damn little car on the waterfront. To this day I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to bring me up to speed, to tell me the whole god damn mess of it while the tears streamed down her cheeks, down my cheeks, down Steve’s cheeks, and a chapter was closed, and I was changed forever and believed in the grace and the courage of pure honesty. I found out that my mother had taken her own life by sticking a shotgun in her mouth. And on that day in that beat up blue colt, the summer sun shimmering off that clean blue water of the Delaware River i would be forever grateful for the strength my grandmother had ,to tell me the truth about her own daughter.
2.
wedding vows. when the riches come and the riches go will you still be the one to let me know that you love me and over the sound of the ink screaming from the page I’m thinking of you silently.
3.
A List of Things That Slowly Kill Me Glazed donuts, daffodils, black licorice, Mold on the ceiling, the shame of once being illiterate, Hydrogen cyanide in apple seeds and arsenic in the White rice that my mom cooks is killing me and her, Migraines, Advil, diabetes, Hemingway, Joyce, Dickens, Austen, Me now & me 4 years ago (call it wisdom, cynicism, or utter stupidity), Poetry, law, love, raw lust, loss (or is it just change?), Freeway lanes, a lifetime of being an immigrant, of being the Only one who mispronounces “Caesar” but quickly learns how to sound American, being in love with love that lovingly loves love for the sake of loving is killing me, Scorpion flies, centipedes, the unnecessary things, suffering before It is necessary, egomaniacs, the know-it-alls, Big Brother, watery ketchup Are all killing me. My mom’s cancer, Dollar Tree, $4.99 for coconut water at Gelson’s, Burning my hand when I cook oatmeal, self-help gurus, those Profiting from the misery of others & Things that go rotten (milk, peaches, eggs, people’s promises and intentions) They are all killing me
4.
UNHINGED Crisa Valadez Awoken at dawn by the harsh glow of the sun playing in the shadows of my room Refracting shapes haunt me with lingering thoughts, leaving me in contemplative quandaries about things beyond mortal control. I’ve stopped counting the hours, slipping into routine normalcy, forgetting what it all even means. In another life things could be different, in the old life, they were. Or were they? I’ll never forget how those days felt; the oxygen being sucked from my lungs, disintegrating at the thought of the public, using a wall of sound to block out the crippling dialogue of white noise in my own head. Fear of the marketplace‚ has never felt so familiar. Every day a new story breaks, urging us all into insufferable chaos. The line between informed and paranoid seems to blur so easily. Mandates become mine fields for those without malady. Humanity grows heavy in the weight of each new day. A chorus of anxious voices drone in and out as the mirror reflects a disparate visage with each passing morning. Shielded faces and concealed hands proceed across unincorporated territories, devoid of all accustomed touch. A new world order beckons. Descending into tender oblivion has never felt so unprecedented, yet the horizon is visible still. We remain grasping at the threads that once held us all together, and though they are sparse in our current state, we must not unravel.
5.
The last, laced sip. I peer through windows, to observe movement; the slice of knives and lips to touch. An orange silhouette of rigid and dark branches, intertwines with the reflection of my heated eyes. A jagged red outlines your limbs, reminding me of the woman I am. As I peer through kitchens, I learn about tongues which taste like salty tomatoes. Breath like wet lavender and wine, I learn when the words are lost. Watching you, watching me, I become a shattered memory. A crystalized version of myself is never silent, it screams in languages of deep tension and unimaginable light. It waits for you to shake.
6.
Piece Mountain As I am here standing on my falling pieces. I look back and see that I must face the ending. All that can be is done, doing its part and I become the person that is burning. Could I ever focus on the lines and spaces that silently build the unseen bridges? Disguised to blind us, hiding in time, trying to keep from falling on the building in the sky. If ever to go back and pick up the pieces would ever be standing on endless traces watching the world go by.
7.
S.A.P. SOCIALISTS AGAINST PACIFISM A manifesto for this organization can be found on the shelves of a library in the remote town of Infinity, Texas. Along side another obscure volume, “What’s A Tax Return, Daddy?” The Librarian, a Ms. Murray, enlightened me on the unpredictability of library etiquette. Just as books are stolen from the shelves, others are added surreptitiously. The author of both volumes was quite likely a local, Hieronymus Dash. One of the few patrons Ms. Murray could recall who appeared considerably lighter when departing. His shelf meanderings required an edit resulting in the discovery of the works. I traveled out to Mr. Dash’s farm which was a multitude of acres bordering Infinity and more scrub land. The ubiquitous “No Trespassing “ and “Never Mind The Dog Beware Of Owner” signs were noticeably absent, deintensifying miles of dirt road. Mrs. Dash greeted me with aplomb and a wave. Invited me on her porch to sit. Mr Dash was undoubtedly the instigator sought but, he soon died after completing his life work. One of his last acts was depositing his books in the Infinity town library hoping someone, somewhere hereabouts would read them.
8.
A GodDamn Poem Leaning on some ever corroding focal point Sitting next to one god or another I see the wine stained shirt of some friend bouncing on happy frightened little feet my way Some new deal made through whispers got lead legged skulls a’ moovin on somewhere Back of hand slaps with slip surprises go unnoticed until boss man comes around with a woman-hated stench and a snarl that could kill a gator good time He thinks this land is his Moon jockeyed house cats get their kicks however they want buster Feel free to fuck right back off the way you came Celebrated new losing streaks start in backyard barbie que meditation fits I see you have some answers Come - let me beat you into hate with my side eye
9.
The Tripartite Being as the Revelation of a Need for a Supernatural Being — after Niyi Osundare's "The Leader and the Led" The spirit stakes its claim as the owner of man, But the flesh flags its power over man, in the air Like a linesman to an off-sided footballer. The soul echoes its right to be lord o'er man, But the spirit points to its unreliability & restlessness, while men slept. The flesh reclaims its position as man’s coverage, But the spirit rebukes it for its vulnerability & goalless end; “The flesh is an evil matchmaker, Betrothing man to asmodi & bacchus, Consuming the world with itself in a lustful fire,” It said, in-between mouthfuls of anger. “But the soul is the first accommodator of filth, Getting down with women in the laboratory of its heart, & giving commands to the flesh to carry-out.” The flesh retorted, rending its throat in audibility. The flesh, too filthy, The spirit, too spirited, The soul, too solely. "Our need calls for a Supernatural Being." Proclaims, the spirit man. "Compassionate, yet dreadful; Perfect, yet meek — high, yet lowly; A little bit of a king, A little bit of a servant: One who can lease himself for man to occupy, Yet would only occupy where man leases for him.” Flourish Joshua
10.
July You like cornflower blue houses. And I fall in love so easily, with everything. I don’t know what my face said but it said something, or at least that’s what Clare said. She would sell herself to an empire of rats if it meant that she would be loved and adored forever. There was an exchange, an acceptance of desire. We sat mostly in silence, crumbling over jelly on toast. Overthinking things over, I opened the Arts Week II newspaper to the first page to study it with purpose. Or maybe that’s just how I imagined looking while reeling about the night before. I watched an older lady approach the coffee stand wearing a Celine jacket, and subsequently the barista explained the offerings of a café as if the lady had never visited one before. As if they are not all the same. I passed my judgments and gave up on the paper. We are looking a little differently these days, a little more aged. People like to keep their wounds, and the gravity of their sad vibrations can pull you down over time. I’m thinking about how it all felt so serious, so severe. Fields of cotton and I could love you forever until the end of my life. When I got home, I swept the front porch and washed it down with hyssop. No one the wiser.
11.
In-Between Gauntly scarce Elegantly delicate Vast geometry Depends who you ask Stacked facets Unstack Sideways, all around and in between Open spectation It’s the only way to see there is no single pinpoint, no amalgamation A figment What you get unless you’re willing to confess So what you see becomes something else, no less Duplicitous? Multiplicity is truth Like a hundred angled mirrors Quantum fields Ad infinity Infimum Subatomic Mutable Morpheus amorphous What you see is no such thing It’s but a mere reality
12.
Conversation With The Capital Campaign Priest I believe in God. But not in priests. —Cleofas Vigil, Aztlán: An Anthology of Mexican-American Literature Priest: En el nombre del padre, el hijo y el espíritu santo... ¿Qué pasó, padre? Have you tapped all the pueblos for every last dime so now you go around sticking your hands in the pockets of the corporate commissaries? Priest: Let us pray, oremos... ¿Dónde estabas, padre? I was hoping to find God in your sermons, instead I found your coffee mug in the boardroom. Priest: El señor es mi pastor, nada me falta... ¿Quién sabe, padre? Perhaps we could interrogate one of your fellow card-carrying members of the viewshed vultures. Priest: Gather us in the lost and forsaken... Contéstanos, padre. Those of the very bones you stand upon to make your holy bones holy. Priest: This mass has ended, go in peace to love and serve the Lord... Bendíganos, padre. On Cedar Street There lives a man on Cedar Street hunched over an all-black mint condition nineteen forty-two Royal typewriter with clean lines written on cream vellum paper, like this: A stranger is no more than a man estranged. Danger is no more than the range between painted highway lane markers and twisted barbed wire fence posts, howling wind slicing metal face plates at a hundred and twenty miles an hour.
13.
Insurance Claim Adjuster I could see her eyes change, that once were filled with curiosity and intrigue quickly became sorrow as disappointment. Her gaze was met by my look of question. “What’s wrong? What happened? Is everything alright?” I asked with genuine concern. “It’s just---” she began while trying to hold back her tears. “It’s just that you’ve changed, you’re not the insurance claims adjuster that I once knew.” She paused and briefly looked away. “And I’m not sure if I like this new version of you?” Hmmmmm. New version of myself? I thought, trying to figure out what she could be talking about. I had to be very careful about what I said next. I admit I had changed over the years but who hasn’t? There’s no way a rational person would believe that a thirty-something is similar to a self decades earlier. That can’t be it though. Perhaps it’s because my hair got thinner or that I’d put on a few pounds, but nothing unexpected for a man who’s metabolism has slowed steadily since college. Trying not to come off insincere or unconcerned, I tried to buy some time to think by saying: “Oh. Well, I’m awfully sorry. Was there an exact moment or event that made you feel this way? Maybe I could explain a little if you helped me out.” I could see her searching for the words as I myself couldn’t put my finger on. Could she be talking about the time I said reggae music was garbage? No, that’s not it, because that’s obviously a true statement, thinking as I scratched my chin. Or maybe it’s because I forgot to pay some toll road fees and those bills went to a collection agency which caused my credit score to drop slightly. That’s not it either, no one knew about those bills. Then suddenly I had an Eureka moment. Actually saying, “Eureka!” As I throw my finger into the air, as if I just discovered alternating currents. “I’m not the insurance claims adjuster that you once knew because I don’t know who the fuck you are and I’ve never been an Insurance Claims Adjuster.” I said, proudly. She rolled her eyes so hard that I thought they might get stuck. Then you got up and sat on the other side of the Golden Corral.
14.
TIMEWORM WORM WORLDS Julianne Ramos As Death and Stillness peers around all corners of the Timeworn Worm Worlds, the depths of the credulous mind’s eye dances once more. The Eyes sparkle over and above, burning in curiosity, yet frozen from wasted above. Is this Stillness a reminder of a grander scale to ascend -- into this web--together--as one? Or ... Is Death sharing with us another weird spiral dance -- to reveal the real--realize--be Alive? Both sound like fun. These Times have surely worn my eyes as spectacles, even like goggles to swim. An aligned gaze into the infinite mirrors of Life because in the end, Life continually wins.
15.
Years of suffer stricken sounds Think talk begs for blood So we laugh our shouts in whispers Burning ourselves brilliantly Abashing ancient alphabets Ancestrally abandoned Time tired tongues That touch of yours Disconnect and Bury Reignite and Destroy Reveries go a glowing Made my world shake Taught my skin to stare and dream romantically angst ridden Down the throat of life Come clear reborn Navels built nations Gone clean revolt Nations guilt navels Years confused by sound My army of veins that one day will surrender Overtures of dirt arranged in connection When motherly ventricles meet newborn capillaries in free speech lung gardens Last thought tongues taste on and on Dreaming underneath my bed She moves thoughts of rebirth Through my mattress of death In my room is where I want to be Plotting with Lenin and Trotsky while Kerouac reads aloud and Burroughs types out our impending doom I listen to Nietzsche and Camus kiss absurdity with their debates on god and then Sartre and de Beauvoir share a kiss just before shades of blue Drown out my existential dilemmas. Between the action and the anger Unreflective behavior Defy and fail better Casual pressure Between the ego and the anger Being and time Fell-lurking went I Desires repressed! Casual pressure Desires repressed by our censorship named desire! Casual pressure If thy accident will I just might remember From one to the other Action transforms anger The appearance of disorder is nothing more than the freeing of our collective nervous energy God ran over my bicycle in the driveway…on purpose. Someday I’ll write myself into that eternal passion play and we can wrap her heart in our skin and pretend like one day we won’t have to die These thoughts of rebirth loiter far beneath human conventions as yesterday’s disguise fades a comatose burnt blue blackened seven seas of ultimate destruction If I die before I wake Leave me be For today is only a dream Sometimes the sound of my voice makes the confusing part of me want to puke but laughter takes shape with death announced by radio and our predawn kisses taste unaware like Chicago snowstorm windowsill ashtrays so hush hush goes our politically pardoned smoke because that shit singing Jesus is an early voter sticker showoff god bullying cosmic fuck and my laughter took its funny form and when I tell you that I think you’re weird and that I’m crazy about you your eyes glow and grow diametrically and your fascinatingly dumb blonde hair blankets my love for you in your soon to come dark victory
16.
Tend at the beginning of spring I tried 6 times to grow a tomato I sprouted 6 seedlings then let them wilt I laid a tomato slice in a different pot and it crusted up in the soil finally I traded money for a little plant and set it on the way out the door where I remembered to water it all summer and it grew and it gave me good tomatoes which I picked and ate immediately, no recipe but “eat this tomato” you bake a pie and then you’re like “don’t mess up my pie!” or like you have to take a picture of it before the plaited crust turns into a bolus in someone’s gross throat but then with peaches I’m like, going ahead to chop these up these most beautiful careful intricate things in the world or just slamming the juicy corrugation of an orange against the plastic juicer, hurry hurry before they fall off the tree and rot I was going to end the poem back there after telling you about the tomatoes, but now I want to tell you a sin I redacted from an earlier version; not that of complicating the wholeness of fruit (like a Pharisee, perfecting the perfect) but a sin against stewardship; that I let the tree dry up, and let its spicy leaf and stalk go yellow, go brittle neglected that last tomato into a little striving ornament abandoned, adopted by rain
17.
Somewhere  in the soft digital space between a clouded blanket and one of your filtered memories floats an angel  you once wrapped your arms around. She stays guarded kept behind a screen you press your fingertips to a screen some dare to tap at. This tap is hollow only making sound to the voyeur yet presence somehow known. In the dreamscape of rocks-turned-cumulus caramel-shifted-ivory the announcement of arrivals  differs only slightly -  fluorescent organs rise from the angel’s bosom and as gravity sets in they pile neatly below for all to count  yet immediately forget. In that soft digital space now wedged between a cousin’s 9 month old son and an advertisement for moisture wicking socks floats the angel  you once wrapped your arms around. She’s draped in nothing now least from what you can tell. You wonder what it would feel like to slip a hand  across the warmth of her softly lit shoulder to press your thumbs  deep into her back. Instead your right thumb stops taps twice knocking at her stare behind protective glass. You hold her gaze  while sliding her up and away to that invisible, digital space wondering Is it lonely there?
18.
Fake Smile “I have to pee.” I whispered to my cousin, Beatriz. Shhh, she hushed me. “I can’t hold it anymore. How long do we have to hide? Don’t you think he will be passing out soon?” Then from the far side of the hacienda, we heard him bellow for her again. “No, no! He’ll find us and beat me. Please, Trini, just urinate in the corner of the room. I’ll clean it tomorrow. I promise we can leave the room in an hour or two, once he falls asleep.” There was a terror in her pleading eyes, so I tiptoed across the room, lifted my dress and squatted down to relieve myself. Thinking back on that day made me sad, several years passed, and I didn’t want to be sad today. It was my wedding day, after all. Yet, here we are in the same hacienda being treated by the same drunkard, my cousin’s husband. Amidst all the congratulations to Reymundo and I from our family, people praising Beatriz’s husband for his generosity in hosting our wedding, I could hear their sneers, “You know what they say about how they met, Alfonso and Beatriz, right?” “Was this before or after Beatriz’s father died?” Someone would hiss. “Oh, this was after he passed away, and the son had gambled them all into poverty. Anyway, like I was saying, after Beatriz’s mother went crazy and father died, Beatriz had to take care of her mother all alone, and one day as they were walking back from town down the caliche road to their home, Alfonso, who had at this point asked Beatriz to marry him several times but was denied each time, kidnapped her.” Guests gasped, quickly followed by a shush from the story teller, and fake smiles as I passed. How would Reymundo treat me in America once away from everyone I’ve ever known? Standing in the hacienda scared again, I want to hide as we did that day years ago, but this time because I will leave soon and face a new unknown with my handsome, hardworking new husband who I met only 8 months ago. Living in America only seems like a dream. All I can do is stand here, cheeks wearing a mask. It is my turn to give a fake smile. Hysteria “Vieja, vente” He was calling his “old woman” over in the next room. We were only in our thirties. I knew he meant it as a term of endearment to lighten the mood, but I was frightened. What I’d find in the next room, they all told me it would help, but whenever my brother, Miguel, came out of his sessions, all the spirits inside him were quiet even his own; he becomes like a walking corpse. “Trine” I can’t delay. They’re waiting. The men expect it of me. There is no saying no. Hysteria they call it. The anxiety pools inside me as a well gets pulled from, but there is no one to help me drink the water; so I sit with my mouth open, the water goes in through my mouth and out through my eyes. My husband avoids the well because it is caused by his many yells. He apologizes later, hoping I understand, “Work is tremendously stressful. Passed up again because I’m Mexican.” She had to hear him explain as he reached for her hand once his anger subsided. “Trine, vente ya.” Reality now snapping me back to the looming present. My name is Maria Trinidad, Mary Trinity, so everyone calls me Trine for short. I go by my middle name because where I come from you could throw a stone and hit three other people with my first name. It’s because we are all suppose to emulate the Virgin Mary - the perfect daughter, wife and mother all in one woman. “Trinidad.” His voice changed. Anger was not far. A thought occurs to me - however impatient men get, though, no one calls them hysterical. Reymundo, rey de mi mundo, mi marido me llama. I walk through the door and catch static as I pass the men carrying out my schizophrenic brother, Miguel, who usually constantly mumbled under his breath, now so eerily quiet. “They say this new treatment works wonders, Trine. It’s called electroshock therapy.”

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released April 25, 2021

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