Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tim & Elizabeth's Las Cruces Letter

Letter to Ed Whitfield (1914-1970) Circa 1940, Whitfield Transportation, Las Cruces

Dear Ed,

We see you frozen there in black and white

hands in pockets hat cocked forward shoulders back

striking a pose for the camera with all the confidence

of a movie star on a sparse set, patches of snow, the tiny house

you’ve left behind as you stepped out of the depression

into the driver’s seat of a three-quarter ton truck willing to haul

anything from blocks of ice to manure to Hal Cox’s cows for a fee.

That was the beginning. There you were—you

and your truck and the lines that stretch out

like spokes from the hub of Las Cruces

wheels all spinning from your conception

in the modest office beside the Amador Hotel that once

sheltered more than a few politicians with their pants down

on the main street that turned to dirt just past the neon Cork and Bottle

heading to Alamogordo. You were to come a long way—to Horatio

Alger a fleet of 900 semis, tankers, cement mixers—from that first bus

on the dirt road from town to A&M. How could you know deregulation

would bring independents running roughshod over your territory like

Billy the Kid? A modest man you wouldn’t stand to hear le jefe from your drivers

who showed the same solidarity when teamsters threatened. Now

your office is gone. Bank of America squats on the block. The terminal remains

as Whitfield Center next to the Community of Hope for those with none. El Paseo

is a generic sprawl of Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Mickey D’s, Burger King, where you can have it anyway but your way. Be happy with your dream there on the plain,

the snow shrinking around you. The picture you stepped out of now faded,

the world an empty frame. Be happy also we now sit atop the mesa overlooking

the valley where interstate runs along river, tiny trucks as steady

as the Rio Grande.

Elizabeth & Tim

Peter's Poetic Map

Interactive Map:

View One, Last Cruces in a larger map

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Poem to LC by Megan Wong & Larry Gittings

Addressed to Home

I must say I love to chew on the sharp
broken edge of you—a sweet sherry
pool at sunset—and then pretend to fall
off the edge of your small table name
and never come home. You know I tried
to leave you once, spent a year confused
and licking at the foot of some other
mountain, then came home determined
to impose naked breasts upon you
with your women of tears and dirt,
your women irrevocably tethered to drowning
their children, always wringing their hands
into stories.

A book reads over the speakers,
miles pass, at least the rivers, canyons
will sooth with beauty an unreachable wonder
of rock and bush till the checkpoint

only 3 exits, 3 miles, 30 minutes to misunderstood
war occupied by mixed traditions, lamented
expectations overcome by learned art,
infused with luscious tastes

Traded for pennies on the dollar
Tender arms, a bosom, enrapture my soul
Transform the trips down—

Now a journey home
I have run far, laid over continents immortalized
with history and grandeur, but I adore

your names of streets, the washboard bus stop
at the corner of Nacho and Arroyo Seco.
Inflations of those other experiences
disclose your value, Las Cruces, and though I’ve tried
to leave my skin by prostituting your names,

everyone identifies with the dry ditch here,
the layer of caliché that powders up
in the dry months until even the infants learn
there is nothing more to drink from you
without falling into despair or lust.

First Collective Poem from Megan, Heather, Floydd, & Michelle

What remains
Walk along these cobbles
drag yourself from
point to point in this well lit fort
know you are a transient
here for the now
and your now is simply
perception’s point -
look close
search for the air
breathed by
Pat Garrett
or Billy the Kid
or the Apache
whose land
is whose land
is whom
what remains
these stones
these brush strokes
to be filled in by tourist
I went to the plaza to see
but no one remembers -
the signs tell me things
but they are out of time
Things that reflect light
are left over
I do not know what these spaces are made of
What materials go into a place
this place
What refuse was buried here
before our truth is scratched
What can be seen clearly in the shot
is what was never there
it is our time,
haunted by your idea of image
conflated with
my need
to ascribe


Las Cruces then the state
police, thin line up the rocky
gravel, the footsteps slow meander
past your white letter, your slow people
with their almost present
speech that races back down
the path, out the back door and out of town,
the big houses, the piling on of
whistles, low crescendos—
does it hurt to climax
at the edge of everything,
on the one slope the small sounds
of bugs, insects light on the rocks,
lights of the stadium, the roars
of tiny trees and further
to the low military-square housing
of graduate students, small
creeping academia; on the other,
the loud crunch of feet, the slope
shiny and angular like the sunlight
caught at its most expensive
angle, the million dollar views
are hidden so well behind the talk
almost heard in your windy
vocals. The ones who come here?
Hipsters, camel-backed sandals
without cars, cyclists too exhilarated
by the quiet to force a loud sound
where there isn’t any; the ones
who say they’ll get beyond that horizon
one day; and those who maintain
the neat white of your serif flag.

Organ Mountains

Heather Frankland

When my friend came to visit, she was looking at clouds
the wide-stretched land mimicking the mountain peaks
except not so hard and pointy.

They look like some place you’d like to be.
They look like some place you want
to put in your mouth and swish.

Heavy clouds shadow clouds drenched.
If we stay close enough, will we feel their tension—
their mountain-like aspiration?

I let them climb onto my tongue and
bustle down my throat—
I breathe deeply so that I won’t choke.

The land is dry and solid
but the sky promises sincerity.
It promises as we stand here by the welcome sign
a bleached out butterfly on our camera lens,
wads of tissue crammed in our jeans,
and silver car coated with dust
and wayward pebbles.

Dear Las Cruces,

I am trying to tread lightly, as the pendulum is swung in to full on hate right now. From your drivers who have never learned to merge, to the hoodrats who found a cottage industry in burglarizing me, to the Midwesterners who retire here and complain that this ain’t Kansas, to your simple inability to pave a road in a timely fashion or to even have nice things. I should go easy, it’s hard living in the shadow of bigger cities, forever overshown by El Paso or Albuquerque. Red headed step child of New Mexico cities, you were never Santa Fe, but you were expected to absorb it’s washouts, gray ponytails and excessive turquoise, forever withering at El Patio and telling stories about Canyon Road. Or all the California Cash-outs, recreating far-off, mystical lands with those magical names, like Receda, or Riverside, sometimes even the vaunted Pasadena, whispered in solemn tones. Colonization never stopped, it just switched poles, the East Mesa is trying so hard, so hard. It’s a lot to ask, Las Cruces, to have that missile base out there, lobbing death, practice throws only, shutting down at least one egress point. If there is one thing crazy girlfriends and the Bush Administration have taught me, it is this, ALWAYS HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY, which for you, must mean, what? What are you running from Las Cruces? Gentrification sucks, but so do all the falling apart neighborhoods knee deep in Bud Light cans, dirty diapers and the tatters of Dallas Cowboys paraphernalia. How do you manage, Las Cruces? Look at the Wal-Mart bag blown on to the stalk of the Yucca. Do you know what we call that? The Official Flag of Las Cruces, a cruel joke, and sometimes I feel a little bad. You are trying so hard. There’s only so much you can do. Land Developed all to hell, legislated from afar, trading one vendido city council for another, different money always from outside, funneled into that Maquiladora looking City Hall you just built. But you always just stand there, just absorbing, absorbing. How much can you take, Las Cruces? When do you reach the critical point? Will it be synthesis, or will it be a complete melt down? Is there some Philosopher’s Stone you seek to turn this filthy lead into funky gold? When will you stop declaring war on fun, stop crusading against youth culture? It seemed easier in the old days, Pat Garrett, Billy The Kid, the Clantons, hell, you could shoot your way out of trouble, it seemed back then. But back then, a man could have a drink in a decent bar in peace. Don’t even get me started on THAT, Las Cruces. The riddle of bullets, though, is where to start, or, where to end, it’s a question best not asked, these are alleged to be civilized times, despite the lack of drinking establishments. Yes, Las Cruces, I empathize, I see you, pulled in all directions, trying to be all things to a sundry bunch of assholes. I do not envy you. No, not at all, and every time I pull out my topo maps of you, it is full on lust. Not just a faint stirring in the heart, straight up slobbering, stallion in heat lust. The contour lines, I trace with my fingers, pack some sandwiches and water in my back pack and strike out for whatever colorfully named feature strikes my fancy. Yes, Las Cruces, this is my deal, my thing, for you. If I had but a time machine and a mule, I could see it all, before they screwed it up.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010


From Valerie and myself:

Robert Rome & Valerie Auger, Esq.
21 October 2010
ENGL 535
Dual Collaboration Epistle

You are blur Rosa, often, running from van to door, trailed as wisps the long black tangles of your daughter’s wails, your curled or frizzed bleached tresses. The broken trampoline smashed into the small square of your front yard has several brown bodies angling up and towards its thin grey veneer, and they have hands waving in arcs towards Valerie and myself, as we sip beer on the porch, looking out onto the summits and pits that form El Paso.

Your Mother gathers the bodies from the tramp with a thick red plastic broom into the small beige bungalow, sardined with three generations of women, girls, boys, but no men. And the sky varies itself in a diminishing of cerulean into a thin pine line that contours the Franklin Mountains’ upper topography, as we sip beer.

Straight up from your house, near the peak of the Franklins, the half-acre stretch of illuminated pentagonal lines forming the Lone Star beacon of the city, hovers. And we notice all of its lights are there, and the shine of which doesn’t seem to quite reach your roof, but does stain into our porch.

Arizona Avenue, the thread of asphalt that runs in between our houses, from this low point, rises three blocks away, past the half-way house, up to a high-lying foot hill of the Franklins. From this vantage one still sees the dominant light of The Star, but also looks down upon the valley, upon the sprawl of hacienda, tienda, and cluttered bars greased in the corners with ash, sand, and plastic. Here also, is a long fine flat mural of El Paso landscape, painted in primary colors. The mural is romance of rolling mountains, mesquite, cacti – an altogether very clean desert. It lacks the swirling spray paint signatures which tinsel the backs of our houses, and storm canals.

We both trace ourselves, and El Paso, back again, to the bone blue windows of your house, where you are cramming your ass which is crammed itself into thin denim into the front seat of your slick black asp mini-van. Your curls darkened by water, and the insisting shampoo presents a green presence into us. You drive away, alone, away from this.

In a while, we know, your little brother Cesar will come to us asking the difference between metamorphic and sedimentary, and Angel, the younger, will be at his hip, quiet and shy, but grinning all the same, in his slow manner. We won’t speak of your dead husband, or your father stranded in real estate of Guatemala, your mother inside tailoring the clothes of others, your drug mule conviction, your affair with Tony two houses down, the mysterious Jeep which appeared in front of your house one day that Cesar said was his, your daughter pressed against the front window pane. But we will talk with Cesar about sediment, and erosion. And compression.

It seems to us that El Paso is a colluvium of sediment washed down from these two extremes of summit. The star on the Franklins leads away from this, and towards the Eden of a mural; their communication is not a human one. But here on the porch, playing darts now with Cesar and Angel, El Paso begins to take a knowable shape for us, and it is a comfort, in the eroding confluence of unattainable ideals.

So we would love to go to the pumpkin patch with everyone, and select our own round hard fruits. And our porch is an excellent ground to push our hands into the pungent damp pulp, and separate out the seeds; while Cesar explains the difference, to us, between things we don’t know the words for.

first collaboration

Patrick Clark, Seth Wilson,
Roberts Houghton &Rome
28 October 2010
ENGL 535
Week 1 Collaboration

Luggage: 4 Arrivals La Frontera

I. Woven Plastic and Daggers
Thick mangrove and cypress knees, crossing the Atchaffalya basin, black waters thick with their own desire, I drifted into a sleep. My head a soft rattle on the hermetic windows of the cross country GreyHound. I wanted to wake up on the moon.
I came to within something more vast than I could have imagined. Everything was a variation on beige, punctuated by circles of deep green, almost like orphans the Mesquite trees of the Texas hill country avoided intimacy. I remember thinking how something could live in an ocean of daggering sand, cruel and emaciated. I felt empty of the humidity and thick narcotics of the Delta. I felt exposed. The passengers on the bus had changed as well, as if we had crossed some line during my sleep, a line that changed color, but also something else. Backpacks and duffles were replaced with inventive grocery sacks, and woven plastic threads of red, green, various blues, and yellows. These rode in laps and between feet calloused and exposed in plastic sandals. Why all this plastic? It was everywhere. Cloth had become plastic, black into poured copper. White fused and isolated. English, and southern twang Spanish. The sounds of the passengers eddied around my head, and I began to lull in this language of confusion, and incomprehension.
It was like this for miles of desert, until the bus rolled slowly to stop on the edge of the highway. Two men, stern and blanketed in green and aggression boarded. Stopping at each passenger, exchanging papers and phrases. People, some of them, were waving mint colored sheets, folded and dirt creased. People were looking around, at each other, away from others, no one’s gaze settled on me. One of the men in green nodded at me, and I raised my eyebrows. Let me see your bag he said, he said more through his steel eyes than his mouth. I motioned towards my bed roll, upright between my legs. I was hoping he wouldn’t take my knife, the one my grandfather had lifted from a dead German’s hand during the war. It had and eagle or something on the handle. Or the small bag of weed I had hidden in my sock.
After the two Border Agents had made their way through the alley of people in transit, one of them shouted something I didn’t know, later I would recall this and know he had said vamonos. Three men with rolls similar to mine rose as steady and habitually as the sun. They left with the agents behind them. The bus continued on, and no one was talking. I had no idea what had happened.
II. Kissing the Cactus
Las Cruces greeted me with snow
the first time we met.
She greeted me with a vagabond
outside of my motel room
who waited in the cold for me to get up
so that I could buy him breakfast—
to the consternation of the waitress at the diner
who told me I wasn’t the first to get taken in by that fool.

The second time we met
she sent a swarm of bees to intercept me
outside of El Paso. I mostly killed them with my windshield
except for two who came in through the window
and made me take an impromptu pit stop.

Undeterred, I stayed, rented an apartment,
formed a neighborly bond with a man who’s
pride and joy is a near exact replica of The General Lee.

Soon she killed my car
and now in the mornings she’s been greeting me
with quail coveys, goat-heads, and colorful bus stop sun-ups,
then ending the day with an uphill trek behind the Pic Quick
through the bedrooms of wayward old men who spend most nights
drinking, chatting, and urinating on cacti—
so I guess things could be worse.

If I had to describe this town
in one word I’d say: aquarium.
Sometimes I feel like a fish here,
and not in a bad way, but
sometimes I feel a giant peering at me
from behind the Organ Mountains,
and sometimes I want to hide from her
in a skull or a miniature treasure chest,
or maybe in The General Lee,
but I don’t, because I’d miss the scenery.

I hear that here and there are roadrunners
though I haven’t seen one yet,
but I have seen those quail, and I did steal a cactus
so I guess things could be worse.

III. Las Cruces, NM

In a year, I’ve seen
more rainbows than I’ve seen dust
storms and black people

At times, my reflection—on
Pine-sol mopped floors or
in Windexed mirrors—confirms it’s only me in Walmart.

Right now, I stand with
arms stretched out between Taco
Bell and organic

My palms are damp from
their ‘beef’’ they dish out—sister-
in-law and brother, Virgin Mary and God the Father

This Friday night, I
smell sweet scents of heaviness
from her hair I sniff

and inhale more air and steadily
like how lungs, oxygen, and music charm
King Cobras to dance, her heavy pepper-minty fragrance
draws me out of bachelorhood

This season, the sun
overcooks the redness of mosquito
bites, which heightens cancer

I have a high tolerance for all three cancers:
Mosquito as a cancer: they spit Southern plasma out like how
grandmas spit out tobacco chew into a government-issued
silver can of peanut butter
Skin as a cancer: Sun exhausts itself by trying to burn
a skin that has already been burnt alive, dead, in closed spaces, and
in nature, coliseums, metropolitans, and skyscrapers
Summer as a cancer: Las Cruces, NM’s heat has nothing on
Grandma cooking lima beans and collard greens, pig feet for my
father and pork chops for the rest of the family, buttered creamy macaroni and cheese
for everybody, honey-dipped biscuits—plus the added sugar grandma
commands me to splash into her leaven for the children because
grandma doesn’t believe in a child’s necessity of candy, Uncle Ben’s rice—I prefer
with butter but others add sugar, and the lemonades, Kool-Aids, sweet teas, beers,
wine-coolers, pops, and water pitchers all cool grandma’s kitchen but,
with the heat from her kitchen, the southern humidity, the summer heat, and at least
one family feud, we all breathe indifferently to prevent creating more friction
in order to lessen the heat as chemo lessens the weight of cancer.

IV. Land of Enchantment Blues

I was twelve when I first visited Las Cruces, rather, Mesilla, because it was a historical place to go, which to me, meant, it looked like they hadn’t gotten around to tearing anything down in awhile. It was always Mesilla Valley This, Mesilla Valley that, they were always having wine festivals and jazz festivals and art festivals, so much snooty shit I almost hit the roof every time I heard the name. I will say this about Mesilla, or Cruces, of wherever it was my parents drug me that day, at least the damned light didn’t fall so hard on you, hard and yellow and like a wall just coming down all day and giving you headaches and nosebleeds. Who needs that shit? No, New Mexico light was soft, it just sort of settled down on you. At least that was alright. I didn’t get the Indian stuff, I mean, we beat them right? And now they make all these beaded things in China and we pretend to like it. Really, come on. But it’s historic, everyone would say. I’m fifteen now and this doesn’t impress me one bit. The McDonalds on the way out of town doesn’t make it better either. But there’s history here. Hell, there’s history at home, 100 years worth of plowing it over in the same rows year after year. My grandma says the Texas Rangers used to have a camp where my High School is, and they used to tear-ass around shooting bandits and hanging horse thieves. Can you believe they built a High School on top of that? And here, all these adobe buildings, where people have probably been selling old lady clothes and Indian Jewelry since whenever. That’s history right there, only the boring survives to live another day. At least they still have the Billy The Kid store. Now that’s historical. But they shot him. God, another turquoise bracelet store, someone shoot me, please. I can’t take anymore history.