poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

October 30, 2008

POEM: Seattle / “She-attle” / Personified -For Blue Scholars

 

I wrote a “Shuffled!” article about some of my favorite Filipino American songs for today’s Boston Progress Radio, see http://www.bprlive.org. It includes a riff on songs by the Seattle hip-hop duo, Blue Scholars, and I promised to post my old “Seattle” poem here for them.  I wrote this poem six years ago, during a Free-Writing session facilitated by my sistahfriend, 2003 Detroit Slam Team poet Angela Jones. She instructed us to write about our hometown, using personification (giving inanimate objects human qualities). Here’s what I wrote in the 10-15 minute Detroit Summer Poetry for Social Change workshop. Maraming Salamat/endless thanks to my pamilya and Angela for the inspiration. I wish I could perform this with Blue Scholars in Seattle someday. (Geo?) Now that would be fun. 😉

Seattle / “She-attle” / Personified

(Free-write at a Detroit Summer Poetry for Social Change Workshop)

Inspired by Angela Jones, Nov. 20, 2002

© by Emily Porcincula Lawsin

“Chief Sealth”, “Sha-til”, “She-attle”, “Sea-Town”,

From the South End to Downtown – Seattle, a native part of me.

She climbs Rainier Avenue to the C.D. and the I.D.

Like a hiker on its mountain tops, raking gutters of rain

Past the Phó Noodle shops, the ghosts of Chubby & Tubby’s $4.99 Xmas Trees, and

Franklin High on an emerald night.

Her evergreen veins curl up 23rd to the heart of her hood,

Marching down MLK, formerly Empire Way,

To drum beats the FYA plays at the Black Festival, where she reigns.

She feigns summer’s SeaFair, its parade of pirates posing crooked smiles of

Thrown chocolate doubloons that couldn’t brush or floss Lake Washington clean

Despite the Hydroplane Races and Floating Bridges wrapping their legs around her,

Pushing and squeezing gas-guzzling SUVs back to their cold cul-de-sacs of suburbia.

That Queen is smart, she is.

Only giving a small hiccup during Mt. St. Helen’s violent overthrow,

Only giving a small buckle of a burp

at the quakes of the earth called Phinney Ridge.

She held that rage and anger in for 2000 years she did,

Until the Stock Market crashed, Microsoft injunctioned, Boeing went bust, and

dot.coms didn’t come no more.

The IMF brought a charade of bribes to her parade,

Trying to trade – all lies – underestimating that she knew the “WTO”

Didn’t mean “Washington’s Ticket Out”     of the rut of corporate greed.

Her strong fingers of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Avenues

Erupting in an intertwining, internationally televised spectacle

Of necessary anarchy.  Burning dumpsters –

Sweet karma for her sister city’s secret sweatshops,

Bringing Niketown to its shoeless knees.

That Emerald Queen plays smart, she is.

Hid her army of blood lines down Broadway where homophobes dread to tread,

She cruises down “The Ave” to cradle her chorale,

Whips up Wallingford to Woodland Park, setting all the zoo animals free.

Her crossed eyes of Elliot Bay and Puget Sound cries to witness the

Displacement of Asian ancestors from Jackson Street and Chinatown

For a Kingdome stadium that only ended up torn down

For damn luxury skyboxes and a retractable (read: RAINABLE) roof.

The irony of the fault lines quaking through Yesler Terrace’s Projects and

Old Skid Row streets, masquerading as Pioneer Square:

An underground over Underground Seattle.

Still, this Queen smoothes the wrinkles of her face: Aurora and Old Highway 99.

She stretches the stretch-marks of her stomach: I-5

Screeching with pride through traffic and lay-offs

Keeping the moon up all night, she dances through rocks of jazz and grunge clubs,

Holding her crown high on top of her neck of The Needle,

Standing guard on her ribcage of rusted rooftops rustling in the wind,

Claiming this green space.

This city, she is, this Queen, SHE-attle, “Sha-til”,

Seattle: my home.

*     *     *

“Joe Metro” – Song by Blue Scholars

AND because I love it and in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the Blue Scholars’ MTV video of their song “Joe Metro”. That Pinay sitting in the back could be me. And the elders could be my mom and dad. MAKIBAKA, Geo & Saba! Check it:

http://www.mtv.com/videos/blue-scholars/189605/joe-metro.jhtml#artist=1918439

Homesick.

Watch “Back Home” by Blue Scholars’ too:

http://www.mtv.com/videos/blue-scholars/166934/back-home.jhtml#artist=1918439This video brings tears to my eyes. Bring the troops home. Peace.

 

Click HERE to READ and LISTEN to my Shuffle! of my top Filipino American songs on Boston Progress Radio.

 

Click HERE to read my previous blog post: REMEMBERING UNCLE SAM BALUCAS + POEM.

 

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October 7, 2008

Remembering Uncle Sam + Poem

Remembering Uncle Sam + Poem

I lost a lot of important people in my life this last year, including my mother, who I will definitely write more about, here or elsewhere, at another time. And today, as always, I’m remembering my “Northridge/FANHS-L.A. Dad”, Uncle Sam.

It’s been exactly one year since I received the phone call from Uncle Fred Cordova about his brother, Sam Balucas, who passed away October 7, 2007, in Southern California, at the age of 75. “Uncle Sam”, as many of us called him, was a fellow Trustee and National Treasurer of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and President of the FANHS-L.A. Chapter.

I would have never survived the nine years that I lived in Los Angeles without Sam. By way of background: I had the good fortune of being raised in “SHE-attle”, Washington, a major port of entry for thousands of Filipino immigrants since the early 1900s. I grew up on the Filipino Youth Activities (FYA) Khórdobah Drill Team, the only one of its kind in the nation. The FYA Cabataán Folk Dancers started in 1957, and the FYA Drill Team followed in 1959. In the form of what I call a pioneering cultural/freedom school, the FYA was founded by Fred and Dorothy Laigo Cordova with other Seattle families. They wanted to teach their children pride in our cultural heritage at a time when racism and discrimination made it not so popular to do so. The FYA later became a United Way social service agency. As many Seattle Pinoys are, I am actually related to Auntie Dorothy by marriage (through my Floresca sisters and Ordonia cousins). Ever since I was 12 years old, Uncle Fred and Auntie Dorothy have been my mentors, then my college professors at the University of Washington, and then the officiant and godparents at my wedding. With the FYA drill team, we traveled everywhere, including Washington DC and California, where as Maharani/Team Leader, I must have briefly met Fred’s brothers, Phil Ventura and Sam Balucas.

So when I moved to UCLA for graduate school, Uncle Fred, the archivist and information specialist that he is, sent me with a care package and a list of phone numbers. He said, “These are my brothers in L.A, call them, and they will take care of you.” And take care of me, they did.

A couple of years later, when we chartered the FANHS-Los Angeles chapter in 1993, Uncle Sam served as our first chapter Treasurer. He went on to serve two terms as FANHS-LA Chapter President before he became a National Trustee/Treasurer and then was re-elected L.A. Chapter President the year before he died.

If you ever went to a FANHS Conference (held every two years), Sam, a widower, was usually the one counting the money or buying all the ladies drinks (probably so FANHS could make its quota on the bar tab). When my partner and I decided to move to the Valley to be closer to my work (CSUN) and a rental opened up one block away from Sam’s house, we jumped on the chance to live so close to him.

Whenever any students would meet Sam, or his brothers, sisters, or cousins,

Back L-R: Sam Balucas, Emily, Darline & Phil Ventura. Front: Fred & Dorothy Cordova, at FANHS Conference in Honolulu, July 1, 2006

they would be amazed at meeting a Filipino American elder that “didn’t have an accent”, because Sam was SECOND GENERATION. He and his siblings are from what we call the “Bridge Generation”, those Pinoys — Filipino Americans — born in the U.S. to the pioneers of immigrants before 1945. You can read more of Sam’s obituary HERE. Leave it to Sam to pass away during October, which FANHS established as Filipino American History Month, a nationwide observance.

Below is a poem that I wrote amidst a flood of tears on the day that Sam died. It is titled “Tale-Gating” because Uncle Sam was famous for “tail gating” and hosting huge Superbowl parties, as well as telling the funniest tales. I tried to remember all the moments I was blessed to share with him… His daughter, Sami, was kind enough to ask me to read this at the funeral last year. I will always be grateful to her and her family for sharing their dad with us.

Here’s to you, Uncle Sam. I know you’re cookin’ up a storm with my mom, Thelma, and many others in heaven. “Love you darlings.”

 

“Tale-Gating with Sam”

In Memory of Edward Samuel Balucas

August, 1932 – October 7, 2007

© by Emily P. Lawsin

“Social change begins in the kitchen.”

~ Joan May T. Cordova, 1989.

This is a poem for Uncle Sam,

who drove me up and down long and short paths,

crossing highways and building roads

to his Bridge Generation and so many more in the Southland,

the only way a Pinoy ever could: through food.

Half the time we talked about Filipino Americans,

the other half the time, he cracked jokes, or nuts, or ice,

while all the time, we talked about food,

all kinds of food: his nilaga and sinigang, his brother Phil’s mongo, and garlic rice.

Dinuguan became “did not go on”, pusit became “opposite”.

It was like growing up in Seattle again listening to his brother Fred’s jokes.

We shared recipes while driving to meetings,

cooking techniques while flying to conferences,

called each other when we found a yummy new restaurant in the Valley,

jumped in his truck to get a few fresh Tilapia fried at Seafood City market.

He showed me how to poke the eyeballs to test if the fish was still fresh,

then he screamed when its gills moved; he laughed about his fishing trips with Jerry,

asked me if my dad ate the eyeballs too. Who’s doesn’t?

One minute he explained tax forms and financial statements

and the next minute we compared grocery prices and the quality of Albertson’s meats.

We set up booths at festivals and community centers,

just so we could people-watch and tsismis.

A Santa Claus twinkle in his eye lit up his hacking laugh over a cooler at our feet,

with enough sandwiches, water, and sodas for the whole barrio.

While sharing 100 Ways to Tell You’re Filipino

and 100 ways to cook asparagus,

he talked story about growing up brown in the delta,

and the politics of water-cooler trash talk at Hughes Aircraft, many years after he retired.

He spoke proudly of his grandkids and his “girls”,

his daughters, who, whether they know it or not,

through his stories and their actions,

taught me to be a better daughter myself.

Sam was more than our President/Treasurer/Manong/Brother/Uncle/Friend/Cook/Taxman/Fisherman.

He was our Dad too,

who gave birth to a whole new generation

of Los Angeles Pinoys and definitely Pinays

who are proud to share his-story,

who bless the day we first met

in his kitchen.

I love you and will miss you, Uncle Sam,

but I know you’re saving us all a seat at the table.


October 7, 2007 – Detroit

www.emilylawsin.com

 

 

Click HERE to Read My Previous Blog Post: Podcast of Spoken Word Performance at East Meets West Show

 

 

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