|Two Prose Poems
Dinuguan (Pork Blood Stew)
1 pound pork, diced
2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 pound pork liver, diced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup vinegar
12 ounces pork blood (The blood makes this dish look black.)
2 teaspoons sugar
3 jalapeño peppers
Mixing the blood of pigs, cows, chickens, fish, squid, shrimp, clams, turkeys, lambs, ducks, crabs, goats, rabbits, geese, quails, pheasants, squabs, frogs, turtles, sharks, alligators, and other animals that I don’t remember eating or don’t know I’ve eaten, my veins also mingle the blood of:
a thrice-married Doña descended from Andalucian shepherds
her sons--a piano teacher and a train inspector in Manila
silk and porcelain traders from Fukien
Tagalog revolutionaries and traitors
Catholic heretics and fanatics
2 pounds chicken
12 large shrimp
12 large clams
1 pound pork butt
1/4 pound ham
1 chorizo de Bilbao
1/4 pound salt pork
½ teaspoon oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons oil
6 cups water
2 large onions, sliced
2 cups white rice, washed and drained
8 ounces tomato sauce
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon saffron
1 large green pepper, cut into strips
1 large red bell pepper
½ cup peas
Doña Romana Arguelles Villaseñor
shepherds in Cadiz
claimed to be related to Reina Ysabel la Católica
on a secret government mission?
“muy alta y de personalidad”
a pair of bracelets, multi-colored strings of beads
two or three husbands?
died 1895 (age 79)
my great-great-great grandmother
Maybe she was thrown out by her family for being a slut or a mystic, for eloping with a gambler or a goatherd, for seducing or being seduced by a priest, for being a lesbian. Maybe she was sent to a distant colony with a pension because she knew too much. Maybe she fled to the Philippines to escape a sadistic father with big hands, the unbearable virginity of a nun, an absinthe-maddened husband, a claustrophobic love, a bloody secret, a crime (sedition? murder? possession of a clitoris?). Maybe she was a mercurial adventurer who liked the way “Las Islas Filipinas” rolled off her tongue. Maybe she was hysterical, consumptive, syphilitic, and a doctor (perhaps a disgruntled paramour, perhaps bribed by her weary, secretive, callous family) dispatched her to a tropical climate. Maybe she was spiteful, flouting her family’s pretensions by consorting with mercenaries and criminals in a colonial backwater. Maybe she was a feminist who knew she’d have more power as a Spaniard in the Philippines than as a woman in Spain. Maybe altruistic or romantic notions impelled her to convert, enlighten, or emulate savages. Maybe she was a spy sent by the crown to infiltrate revolutionary conspiracies. Maybe she was a colonist’s widow, forced to live in Manila because her measly pension couldn’t even feed a rat’s ass in Madrid. Maybe she pursued a dream or was chased by a vengeful ghost halfway round the world. Maybe she was a retired whore, an almost-saint, a dumb racist, a bold but stifled artist. What did she put in her paella? Did she develop a taste for dinuguan? What was she like in bed? Who gave her those colored bracelets? What memories comforted or assailed her on her deathbed? We don’t even know if she was married to two or three men, though the family genealogist opted for two, because “multiple marriages have a dirty or malicious connotation, and I would not like that to be imputed to our revered Mamá Grande who did not deserve to be so maligned.” Who was she - my tall great-great-great grandmother, Doña Romana Arguelles Villaseñor? Who shall I become one hundred years after I die? What shattered relics will inspire the wild conjectures of future imaginists?
Spanking the Monkey
- Even monkeys don't do that, the invisible priest hissed through the confessional grill.
At the time, he was too naive to question the priest's knowledge of primates.
- Bless me father for I have sinned . . . Nobody told him that masturbating was a sin. The little pamphlets - a bad confession was a passport to hell - that scrupulously listed venial and mortal sins didn't mention it either. But as soon as he learned how to masturbate, he knew without a doubt - this exquisite pleasure must be a sin.
Nailing a calendar to the door of his room, he marked black X's on the days when he defied temptation. By some subtle reasoning - Catholicism's impossibilities made him ingenious - he included the days when he touched himself but was able to stop short of coming. Sometimes he managed to marshal as many as three successive X's - a stupendous achievement for a horny teenage boy--but still not good enough to receive the bland white Body of Christ on his tongue two Sundays in a row. (It was too mortifying to confess the same sin--did he have any others?)
Carlos Reyes lives in Berkeley where he divides his time between writing and teaching modern literature. Excerpts from his first book, MAZEMAPPING, will be published this year in an anthology of fragmentary writing from Impassio Press. He is now working on a book of photographs and mostly nonnarrative prose (working title: A LIFE IN HABITS). He still doesn't know how to answer the question, "What is your book about?"