Chicana Writer Turns Her Stormy Colorado Past Into Poetry

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<p>(Photo: Courtesy of Tracy Harmon)</p>
<p>Canon City poet Juliana Aragon Fatula</p>
Photo: Juliana Fatula - vertical
Canon City poet Juliana Aragón Fatula

Canon City poet Juliana Aragón Fatula writes about things many people would be ashamed of -- like alcoholism or abuse. Her second collection of poetry, “Red Canyon Falling on Churches,” crosses cultural boundaries to combine spirituality and myth with honesty about racism and life as a Chicana in America.

She draws from her family history, a migration from a Spanish-speaking town in New Mexico to southern Colorado, where there was promise of work. What they found was a place that punished them for not speaking English. Fatula does not shy away from writing about her own stormy past, filled with anger and depression. She balances that with images of red chiles, dancing spirits and country music.

Read three of Fatula's poems:

The River

Remember crying yourself to sleep
when Mom didn’t come home
on Christmas Eve?
Her mestiza nose,
diamond iris eyes,
red, red wine lipstick,
her ratty hair;
Mom dressed in stilettos,
her black leather jacket
with the big belt.
Her evil-honey voice
screaming with the radio,
“What ya gonna’ do
when ya get outa’ jail?
I’m gonna have some fun!”
A bottle of Bud between her legs,
cigarette smoke filling the car,
her passed out behind the wheel,
parked at The Bird Club.
Where did we hide
when she came home borracho
and whipped us for daring
to take her young ones
to swim in the river;
the river witch
waiting to drown us;
Mom waiting for us
to come out from
under the bed?
Un gato viejo, ratón tierno;
the cocoman is an old man
who likes young girls,”
Mom told us every night—
I was ten, running wild
through Duck Park,
across the train tracks,
under Black Bridge,
in the horse field,
no longer afraid
of the cocoman.
I was never as afraid
of the cocoman
as I was of Mom’s wrath,
the crosses on the back of my thighs,
the belt buckle marks on my legs . . . still.

Azteca Grain

Slabs of stone line the garden
tendrils hang heavy
ready to turn—
seeds drop
low, low, low
clusters pull the plant
onto its bloody bursting head
shears sharpened sit in lull
while amaranth,
Azteca grain,
grows lush.

Holy Bones

starless blue-black night,
la muerte dances on the grave.
not like the funky chicken dance,
more like the conga.
hips sway, the earth shakes,
the dance of the dead
down down down.
the bones bang da da bang da da bang.
el viento breezes through tired ribs.
more funny than scary.
muertos, juntos raíces,
get along when they’re dead,
porque, las calaveras
are all the same color—bone.

Reprinted from RED CANYON FALLING ON CHURCHES: POEMS by Juliana Aragón Fatula with permission of Conundrum Press, a division of Samizdat Publishing Group, LLC. Copyright (c)  Juliana Aragón Fatula, 2015.