Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 198 of the 365 Days of Blogging

The author, Dane F. Baylis


As promised, for the next several days I will be featuring some of the incredible poets who have appeared in ASKEW POETRY JOURNAL, Issue #14. As they say in baseball, at the top of the order, our first batter will be F. Albert Salinas. Albert, as he goes by, is an intense, passionate voice with all the music and pain that is associated with Latin culture in this country. I have no doubt you will enjoy this selection and will see far more of him in the future. Albert's poem "MOSCAS" will be seen here as the featured article for three days and then archived in the YOUR WORK/YOUR LOVE section of this blog.


F. Albert Salinas

Photo by D.F. Baylis.

By F. Albert Salinas

Cholitas with blue eye shadow and Aqua Net hairdos
threw chingasos— tore each other’s clothes off
for everyone in the barrio to see. A nipple
the size of the small tortillas my grandma made
with left over flour flopped out from under a yellow tube-top.
The girl with the gold cross necklace retaliated and
two quarts of café con leche spilled out of a black bra.
There were sharp smacking sounds like the ones my grandma
made working masse for tamales Christmas Eve. It was summer.
Tiny beads of sweat gathered on the dim mustache
of the girl with coarse hair on her arms.

Their perfumes covered the smell of garbage collected
in the sidewalk gutter. They bit into smooth shoulders.
Mascara smeared onto the others’ skin, brown lipstick
onto each others’ necks. A Vans tennis shoe flipped off
one of the girl’s feet as she stumbled back.
She stayed on the ground with her open hand out
in front of her face to keep the other girl away.
One of her earrings was torn out of her ear, and
she heaved for air, panted.

I’d seen my mother lying in front of my father on the floor
in this same defense and then I remembered what it felt like
when I wanted to melt into the ground rather than be hit again,
so I reached out to help the girl up from the ground,
but all she did was cover her exposure with her forearm.
Someone from behind told me to stay out of it,
so I backed away and for a moment I wished
I had never seen her nakedness.


Dane F. Baylis
Before you start throwing dictionaries and spelling guides at me, I meant the title the way I wrote it. Why? Because there are times when an author's voice is referred to as their presence, or bearing in the context and landscape of their work. This is something all writers struggle to find and define.
What is voice, presence, or bearing? Well, I know what it wasn't. At age seventeen, I hand-carried my first manuscript of poetry into the hallowed halls of Little, Brown, and Co. About a month later, I received my manuscript back with a note thanking me and rejecting the submission. Their advice was that, "When you find a style and voice authentically your own please try again."
Today, I can look back at that time and honestly say that what I had produced was a mash of Ferlinghetti, Corso, and Ginsberg. Then, I was still baffled as to what had gone wrong. These were very popular poets and, not diminishing Whitman as godhead, my idols. I had steeped myself in their syntax and passions and exuded it through every pore. Unfortunately, they had beaten me to it.
It took me years of work, reams of paper, piles of pencils, and gallons of bad wine, worse food, and abysmal accommodations to begin to sound like me. Mostly what it took was some deep soul searching and then trying to write things that would get in touch with other people's souls. It was when I stopped being "profound" and, to paraphrase Hemingway, sat down at the typer and bled, that I started to find those connections.
My narratives tend to be more gritty than pretty and that's okay because it is what I am. It's the emotions that are important. The ones that are couched in a particular scene and language that may be foreign to the reader, but speak a common tongue. Even when I am writing a total fiction, it is informed by the feelings I have about characters, actions, and consequence. These are things I spend time with until I know how I have felt or would truly feel in similar straits, deep beneath the rationale of author.
This is the "authenticity" the editor at Little, Brown, and Co. had pointed me toward. But I still haven't found a definitive reference or guide on the subject. It is different for everyone who searches for it and not in anyway universal to those hearing it. If you strive long enough, you may, or may not, find it. If you do, then you will leave parts of yourself scattered about the world in other people's minds and souls. The greatest compliment is when you write something so utterly personal that another voice can echo it in their own words and you know it as yours. Then you have touched another in a magical way. If you find this presence, then husband it well because it can be squandered even faster than it is earned.
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
Want to follow or subscribe to this blog? There are gadgets for that on the right side of the page. You can leave comments in the form below. I can be reached directly at dbaylis805@gmail.com . You can also find links to some of the sites I visit from time to time on the right. I'm also looking for submissions to the Your Work/Your Love page. Authors retain all rights.
Dane F. Baylis

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