Chico-based Book Press Publishes Cuban Writers

Disconnect Book Cover

by Leslie Layton

In her spare time, whenever that is, Professor Sara Cooper has taken on the modest task of building a footbridge between two nations with icy relations. Cuba is far closer to the U.S. mainland than any of the Hawaiian Islands, but to most Americans, far more a mystery.

The footbridge is a non-profit book press, Cubanabooks, which Cooper launched in May 2010. Cubanabooks today released its second book in this country, a bilingual edition of “Disconnect” — in Spanish “Desencuentro” — by Cuba’s popular Nancy Alonso. Without Cubanabooks, Alonso’s short-story compilation probably wouldn’t have made it across the Florida Straits. read more

Water Dome Poetry of Place

For Jazzi

snazzy peaches,
I am so far and with you

from those shards of sunlight on icy fields
on cycling mornings that must be getting colder,
from here it is hard to believe that they exist:
landscapes away, I can try to imagine
the smokiness in the air and the stars after six,
the persimmons in the market and the dry mouths they leave behind,
the seasoned almonds on the kitchen tables: orange cinnamon, coffee, honey and lemon,

or highway and
barbed wire and
flattened yellow grasses under slices of metal

but I lost your body here:
slow walk straight back deep breaths and I thought I had healed
on a misty evening, around cobblestones sinking in dirty water
we were hand-in-hand, coming from the Turkish bath
an old woman in an apron leaned against her doorway and told me I was beautiful — read more

see slideshow Occupy Chico State

slideshow by Erik Aguilar

CSUC Grad Awaits ICE Decision

Victor Escobar

photo courtesy of Victor Escobar

by Leslie Layton
Dec. 1, 2011 update: Escobar said today that his case will be reviewed at some apparently undetermined time, and a Dec. 7 deadline for leaving the country has been lifted.

On May 19, 2009, Victor Escobar completed paperwork for graduation from Chico State and rented the gown that for many years he had dreamt of donning. Then he headed for his family’s home in Redding.

Escobar was a political science major who would graduate as a member of the student honor society. But he would never don the rented gown nor walk the stage with his class; his trip back to Redding would commence a two-and-a-half year ordeal that is now, for better or worse, on the brink of some kind of resolution, even if it’s perhaps tentative. read more

Boat Under the Orange Tree Poetry of Place

Under the orange trees,
he turned to me and said,
scratch that, all things are beautiful

could he feel
the kitchen table under my elbows,
the taut muscles of my father’s face
tendons like fists, then ropes
the wince, the rocking motion,
what an ugly thing
war is

fingering the dullness.
leaves of an olive tree,
a skirt that swallows dust,
a lime in a girl’s mouth,
skin stinging under fingernails
in the dives of birds over the orchard,
do I not love the world enough?

she is taking a little break from herself now.
her shadow has left the house now,
she cannot
hurt bodies
without it.
standing on a rooftop in Rabat,
she knows her shadow is the fog
fossilizing the city by evening read more

Sacred Poetry of Place

I. Indigo

Paint your city indigo
and place it at the heel of the mountains,
at the edge of the rainforest

Name it
for the twin peaks like horns,
or for a saint,
and pave it with cobblestone

Make a quiet
and a silky
fog lift
and a sun that will

to reflect
whitewashed indigo
like the freshwater of the lakes in Chiapas

Build a place for prayer
on a hill overlooking the city
a mosque, or a raft
and climb or glide, but do not swim
when you hear the call to prayer —

sometimes a marriage procession,
or the voice of the muezzin,
or a dancing boy and his tambourine read more