Sunday, August 16, 2015

Drifting Swallows: Hirundinidae of the Mind

Drifting Swallows: Hirundinidae of the Mind
By Armando Ortiz
If I were to choose a bird to become, then a migrating swallow would be the choice. They shoot through the air, as I climb the old Culver City stairs dirt trail, and bring back scenes of things I once saw. These passerine birds travel and wander from north to south during winter, spring, and fall moving according to natures’ cycle of seasons, making one wonder where we fit in this enormous circle of life.

I see Hirundinidae travel high across the lavender sage sky, towards the eastern horizon that’s splashed with hibiscus. Flying, flapping its wings, like the hands of a gypsy belly dancer, a silhouette of black hands swaying in midair, swirling like the martins I saw in China; gliding and diving fast, inches above the edge of hills and slopes, centimeters from the surface of Weiming Lake, catching food, and eating tiny insects. Making Buddhist hand poses that passed me bye, and became the hands of Chinese sword dancers- invisible limbs gliding toward unknown trajectories, manipulating themselves and maneuvering toward their destination.

All I do is hike along the trail on this barren Los Angeles hill, where wild grass has turned golden, and diving birds that brush their breast against the long narrow leaves with pointed beak to the heavens. Ivory bellied cliff swallows with rust colored throats, like a four fingered hand making a W that slashes the edges of the dried desert grass, manicuring the mounds, and wicking away tiny locust that jump out of the bristles of golden wheat. Starting from some imaginary peak above the highest point of the hill, and freely letting gravity take hold- like a roller coaster that goes down that steep fall stomach touching your throat. Diving into a dense fog of humanity with feathers being at its control, and nimbly swimming through the wind like Kamikaze divers. Swerving down a winding road like a wild skateboarder, in absolute control of its moves. Yet all that moves are my legs that fight against gravity with every rise and push of the knee.

They continue to pass me bye, flapping, scissor shaped bodies that cut the onshore breeze that moves east as the sun slumbers down the horizon. The silhouette of these migratory birds, black against the red coral sky, dancing in the air and ceremoniously waving at the sun as it sinks down, becoming shadow puppets that are alive, saying goodbye to day-time. But there is more to be told, because on a trip to the Northwest, it was blue martins and green swallows that I saw. Glimmering martins wearing lapis lazuli that kept circling around me as I walked toward Jimi Hendrix’s grave. I even had the chance to record this very miracle, where royal purple was the main color of the flowers growing along the edge of his memorial, and strokes of shimmering indigo were the birds that flew around the granite pillars, performing a midday light show welcoming this southern visitor.

Along that same trip, I saw smaller versions of these swallows, but green was their garb, a green that was closer to emerald or maybe metallic green, but not as deep and dark as a quetzal- a shimmering metallic green. They probably spend their time diving between the plateaus of Oregon and Washington the wide Columbia River gorge. Sidewinding like a roller coaster through the air, free to move anywhere opposite to where the summer winds go, and maybe occasionally swooping down to get a sip of water. I’ve only advanced a few feet, trudging up the hill slowly reaching the top, to see the skyline, and these migratory birds compel my mind, involuntarily springing forth memories that become one endless connection between past and present. These tree swallows are quite a wonder making you think if it’s bad to be envious of such a wanderer. If even for a second I could be- then I’d tilt my wings on an angle and let the force of the wind take me up, drifting with the jet streams of time, and then, maybe then, I’d reach the top of the highest mountain.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Rolling: Short Piece

By Armando Ortiz
A ball bounced and floated like a soap bubble,
yellow as the bright sun was the tumbling sphere,
along a path it randomly made on the golden grass,

Behind it was a child of three that trailed behind,
zigzagging with every fragile step and ecstatic laughter
moving like the tumbleweed that rolls along the desert wild. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Nazi Literature in the Americas: Book Review

Nazi Literature in the Americas

Nazi Literature in the Americas: Book Review
by Armando Ortiz
Roberto Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas details the lives of various characters in the writing scenes of North and South America, and Europe which are vast expanses like the continents themselves, with writers here and there, between valleys and deserts, high up in the mountains or by the coast, free to go wherever they want or locked up in a prison cell. They support themselves at the grassroots level and become “known” in the local communities that can be found in their perspective countries; though under two competing powers or ideologies that seems to loom over the novel itself like mountains that begin to spread their shadows hours before sunset arrives. On one side you have the U.S. supported right wing governments, and on the other side Communism, with many of the writers found in the book being sympathetic to Nazi ideology. Ironically the very same right wing military and government structures that were supported by the US are what nurtured those scribes.
In the novel, we have individuals that set up outside soccer stadiums and sell their self-funded publications. Others create magazines while in prison, while others simply copy the writings of murky and obscure writers and make a living off their backs. Some publish simple pamphlets that create a “buzz” during the first few weeks, but do not last the test of time or the long awaited reception for a chapbook eventually dies out. Some, limit their printing to a few copies due to capital constraints or because they prefer to distribute their works to a select few.
Roberto Bolano
Bolano’s world parallels the real world where to succeed as a novelist or poet one needs an audience, and to acquire a following is not as difficult as it would appear to be, yet to get that larger audience Bolano’s writers seem to have ideologies that appeal to those with more power and money. There is a hint that the superstructures that currently exist in the writing scene are quasi conservative, but not as extreme as the writers found in Nazi Literature. Their writings, naturally, come embedded with their anti-Semitic, anti-Black and anti-non-European thoughts. Hence, a lot of the writers found in this novel are Nazi sympathizers or artists supported by conservative right wing governments or benefactors, which complements the ideologies that people in power and government embraced during the 20th century and even up to the present. This perspective becomes more poignant when Bolano reveals to the reader how some of the countries where these writers could be found were really going through military and government changes, and left wing political thinkers and sympathizers were being sent away to prisons or being killed. The mysterious and dangerous Hoffman that is found in Bolano’s book is supported by the Pinochett regime, while at the same time European colonies continue to exist in places like Bolivia, Ecuador and even in Mexico.
These sympathizers help the writers disappear and reappear in different parts of the world. One might have been born in a small suburb of Brazil yet end up in a gangster hideout in the streets of Chicago or at the same time be a right wing artist that took it too far thinking they represented the Avant-garde artist of their country, and their new art dimension would be found in mutilated bodies; as what happened during World War Two with Japanese occupation of China; and somehow ends up in a small European town. That is not to say that in Japan the photos of mutilated female bodies or the pictures of Chinese men’s heads being sliced off were considered art, but nonetheless were captured through the lenses of a camera and made it to newspaper publications for many to see. Furthermore it has been shown that there were numerous German war criminals that after World War Two ended escaped to countries like Brazil and Argentina to live secluded lives for many years. What makes ideas and art thrive at times is not only what those with capital find appealing, but also how the public is able to consume those ideas the process that they take part in when they are in taking not only a writer’s thoughts but also an artist’s image or work of art.
What Bolano presents to us are not imagined scenarios, but things that have happened and could easily happen again with people that have a persistent itch to write, who have extreme values, see the world in their own peculiar way, and under the right circumstances might very well rise up to power and become leaders, like Hitler, who also happened to have written a book. On the other hand there are writers that have become established and have garnered the respect of their peers. Nonetheless, one cannot forget that Bolano’s other message is that a writer writes, and to engage in that solitary journey brings innumerable obstacles, and this fact is what everyone that dives into writing full time will face.
When you step back from Bolano’s book and look carefully at the scope of the writers that exist today and have existed, one sees that all of them are characters as well personalities, with individual ideologies, and struggles which might range from endemic alcoholism to drug addiction, from quasi new age religious hippy to simply being solitary writers that wish to have no contact with society or once again they might be on a different mindset and maybe do not mind the limelight of society. Furthermore, Bolano’s characters, though famous and known in varying circles, have yet to reach the levels that other established writers in North and South America, and Europe have reached, which in a way makes the reader wonder how insulated those literary structures are and the criteria that they have in accepting a writer as a writer. In Bolano’s universe we find people that create and are very independent that despite their downfalls and character peculiarities are able to swim in the waters of language and carve a niche within their perspective cultures through the written words of English or Spanish.
In addition, Roberto Bolano lets the reader know that to write is to expose oneself to the world, and even if one makes an chooses to engage in forgery, one’s true nature will spring forward for the readers to see. Although a writer may exist in a vacuum, they too need a readership to continue to work on their craft, and it’s the readers who also find a storyteller’s thoughts and ideas provocative and appealing. Hence, both writer and audience create a dynamic state of flux where the writer is a product of his environment, and when he exposes that to the world the readers find an affinity to it, and in the process continue to feed the fire to thoughts, becoming the endless impetus to the continuity of language in its written form.
Despite what one may think of the existing superstructure of writing, the ways books are published, acquiring agents that help one publish, and the many existing writing clubs that are found across the Americas, there is never one way to go about distributing one’s thoughts, because there is a multiplicity of ways to go about doing that. Nevertheless, Bolano shows that even when the established writing world has turned its back on these writers, they continue to write and keep writing because their internal flame continues to flicker. His characters create their own blue print and become published, and despite their lack of fame they continue to wrestle with word and pen. This makes one wonder on the number of clubs and associations that exist in a specific geographic area and what they represent or symbolize in the larger picture of being a writer and publishing one’s work. By reading the biographies of these imagines people one cannot avoid feeling challenged by them and their sheer will to write.
Finally, Roberto creates this alternate world within a very real and historic world, and yet in the back of one’s mind, one begins to accept the plausibility that these characters might be real, because his ideas and writing absorb the reader into his literary world. Bolano’s work is incredibly unique because his characters have grittiness and are resourceful when it comes to disseminating their stories, showing what the secret to being a writer in real life is, which is to write, to write, and to write some more. If one wants to write then write, and distribute these thoughts in whatever way one thinks is best, creating a following, using any medium to spread these written works, but keep in mind that there will always be others that are also engaging in this wild and crazy endeavor who might very well be going through similar struggles, but have very different perspective of the world.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Zzyzx Anniversary: Short Piece

Zzyzx Anniversary
By Armando Ortiz
On Zzyzx road- one year more,
writing to move farther than before,
shooting for the stars with lyrical arrows,
attempting to make a mythical ladder
that takes us to legendary lands of lore.

With song and word we get closer to that place, where
words last longer than the first sound of yonder,
making ink-wash paintings of meanings and dream,
hoping these humble writings last a bit longer,
and continue to move along that endless shore.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gustav Klimt: Time and Magical Illusions

Gustav Klimt: Time and Magical Illusions
by Armando Ortiz
Gustav Klimt made magical paintings. The bright color combinations are executed in such a manner that they are emblematic of the ever present. The master pieces remind the onlooker of life’s dissipating moment that escapes our hands like water. Klimt’s creations nonetheless flow in a timeless river where rocks are suspended by the currents of nature. To see them, is to be transported into a world that continues to exist, the works being a wormhole into the anxieties and dreams of the living artist, that stands observing his patient models, and evergreen landscapes, making representations of that instance, where flickering hearts mirror the flames inside through the eyes of living goddesses.
Pleasure and sensuality are brushed onto a canvas that makes up a woman’s profile. Her eyes, closed, remembering that instance of past time where a warm embrace seemed to last longer than seconds with eyes, closed, covering that sunshine as her tears become gold smears.  Time and life, so invaluable, amazingly unchained, as tiny bean shoots that unroll after breaking through the earth, depicting youth in peach colored tones, and age in a darkening pale beige. Forever drifting in an ocean of imaginations, all eyes changing its point of view, an ever changing perspective of bodies that continue to live standing through the ages. Refinement being found in a delicate smile and a nod of ecstasy discovered through interior light. Even in a perfectly sealed beaker, we are swept by the tick-tocking clock of the universe, with rich and poor succumbing to the same fate, mass and matter, disintegrating, returning to where it all starts the stars, becoming magic illusions.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sacred Time: Short Piece

Sacred Time
Armando Ortiz

Life is not the holy moment; at best this mundane time becomes a break into the extraordinary, where eureka is hollered after years of mistakes. Nirvana is only the waking of eyes, where for a life time your pupils are pried wide, and blindly live every second that passes, thinking that life is forever.

This dream is only here for a moment, just as a rose bush drops petalls, and sakuras that are released from branches. Our Mother’s hand slowly opens, letting tiny birds take flight, while Father’s arm swings, to sow seed into the air that becomes a cloud of butterflies floating on bye.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Love and Hate: Five Pieces

Love and Hate: Five Pieces
I love you like party time,
as the sun goes down, and
bed sheets cover us to hide
what we imbibe.

I hate you like the emotional isolation
that is felt when beside me you cry,
shedding those tears
through the night.

I love you like party time
that’s when its Friday at midnight,
and though tired I fight the urge to sleep
keeping on the mild cool light.

I love you like dark chocolate chili
that is sold in the old markets
of towns found in between green valleys
where on deserted imaginary lands
abuelitas wearing aprons
carry those delicious goblets
on dry baskets, and covered
in golden maize husks.

I hate you like clammy handshakes
that leave that water residue on the skin
as a sign that time has come to say goodbye
like eyes that splash you with darkness
with abysmal irises of black unknowns.