Sunday, February 17, 2008

On the Death of Raul Salinas

Here's a tribute by Able Salas on Latino USA.

On the death of poet Raul Salinas

March 17, 1934 - Feb 13, 2008

The gift that names itself today
is faith in our capacity for change —
the revolution of one soul, fanning out
like the spokes of the Sun Dance Raul
longed for but didn’t complete because
he said he would do his Sun Dance
when Leonard Peltier was free to
do his, and that didn’t happen
in his lifetime.

You could say the system — neocolonialism,
globalization, the military industrial complex,
the prison industry — is so evil
no one can soften it, and you’d be right.

But change, the revolution of humanity
insisting on justice
will not be silenced, stopped, repressed.

Raul Salinas, a poet, a reformed
convict, a man kicked out in his youth of
his home town, booted to prison, I’ve
been told for ample reason, used his time
behind bars to read, write, finish his education,
start it, formulate an agenda, La Resistencia,
a book store, cultural center, revolutionary hub,
Raul, always a gracious host, welcoming
visitors to the home he’d won back,
layer after layer, taking back his home,
homeland, the community that became
the movement he devoted his life to—
a peacemaker on the streets,
fiercely committed to justice
denied to so many —
Guadalupe torso, fist raised forever
on Vieques — stop dropping bombs here,

He became an Elder —
honed, chiseled, exactly beautiful and wise.

I am sad today.
So many artist/activists have gone
in the last decade —
Ahmos ZuBolton, Lorenzo Thomas,
Susan Lee Solar, Joanie Whitebird,
Ricardo Sanchez, Marsha Gomez,
and now Raul Salinas —
each sang a different part of the song,
spun a different part of the dream.
How to continue without them?

I always think change is possible,
that the ordeals holding us down
today, tomorrow will lessen their grip
on our lives, that the mistakes people
make early on will diminish with time,
that we will each come home, like Raul did
make peace, grow to be elders
embrace the best our souls can glean
from outrageous realities —

Sometimes it happens —

and it gives me hope, the stamina to go on,
when one of us finds his, finds her way home
when la familia opens their hearts
as wounds fall away, or not,
each person healing any way they can.

We can do this.
We can change

ourselves —
the world.

©Susan Bright 2008

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

Photo © Alan Pogue, 2000, Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Note: Poets, friends — add your words, poems in our comments section and/or send them to: Rene Valdez, If you are in Austin there is an altar for Raul at La Resistencia, at the corner of W. Annie and South First Street where you can leave notes, poems, etc.

Here is the notice Rene and the bookstore sent out:

“A Tender Warrior fell today…”

Poet and Activist Raúl Salinas, March 17, 1934-February 13, 2008.

It is with profound sadness and heartache that we inform the Austin, Texas and international community of the passing on February 13th, 2008 of raúlrsalinas.

Xicanindio elder, poet, and human rights activist raúlsalinas was the Executive Director of Red Salmon Arts and founder of Resistencia Bookstore—a literary venue and community center for aspiring writers in Austin, Texas. raúl also conducted intensive creative writing clinics locally and throughout the country with disenfranchised youth. These clinics were held in conjunction with a variety of arts organizations, correctional facilities and social service agencies. raúl’s work with various political movements earned him an international reputation as an eloquent spokesperson for justice and advocate for the challenges and struggles of youth. Through SOY (Save Our Youth) raúl reached countless marginalized young people and trained other members of the Red Salmon Arts collective to continue this invaluable work nationally. He worked extensively with the American Indian Movement and the International Indian Treaty Council. raúl was the author of four books of poetry: Viaje/Trip, East of the Freeway, Un Trip Through the Mind Jail, and Indio Trails, as well as three spoken word cds: Los Many Mundos of raulrsalinas, Beyond the BEATen Path, and Red Arc. Most recently the University of Texas Press published raulrsalinas and The Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen, a collection of his essays, newspaper articles, and letters. His last published work, an anti-war poem “Loud and Proud”, appeared in the 2007 anthology Telling Tongues: A Latin@ Anthology on Language Experience, a Calaca/Red Salmon Press publication. Since 2001 he was an adjunct professor at St. Edward’s University teaching classes in incarceration and media studies. raúlrsalinas is also the recipient of numerous awards: The Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award presented by La Causa and The Dark Souls Collective at Amherst College, Massachusetts in 2003; The Martin Luther King Jr./Cesar Chavez/Rosa Parks Visiting Professorship Award given by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 2003; The Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture in 2004; Con Tinta, a coalition of Chicana/o Latina/o cultural activists and writers honored raúl with the Veterano Writer Award in 2006, and finally the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award in 2007. He was honored this past year at a pre-opening event, AMORINDIO, held at the Mexican American Cultural Arts Center and “The Road to Austin Concert” held at Auditorium Shores. raúlrsalinas served as a beloved mentor as well to many artists, writers, and scholar-activists whom sought to make a difference beyond the academy. It was fortunate that raul received this recognition in his life and many community memorials are currently being planned in his honor. The work and struggles that raúl was so deeply committed to and was a vital part of will continue after his death.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, NO!!!! I LOVED that guy!!! Anyone know what happened? Thanks for letting me know ... I can't come tonight but will try to go by and leave something --

Mandy Mercier

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please bring my regards. I think the last time I saw him was at DeeDee
Halleck's book event in Austin.

Frieda Werden

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I regret that I am not in Austin to participate. My heart aches....

Valerie Bridgeman

"Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everybody agrees that it is old enough to know better." -- Anonymous

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sad to hear this very sad news. Love to you all.

naomi (in utah)

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you, for this


11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Susan, thanks for this. I only knew Raul Salinas by reputation but I always saw him at rallies and identified him as THE activist in Austin's Hispanic community. Your piece here really helped me to know exactly who he is and all he's done - I appreciate it.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey sister,

It was such a pleasure to see you last night. Here's the link to the blog I wrote. The poem is still gestating.

google: chicanos-chilangoides

Abel Salas

Note: This is a wonderful tribute, let me know if you have trouble finding it.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks SB, glad your're back writing again.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Susan. This will be in the Chronicle next week but not in this form. I could not make the funeral as I was (and still am) dealing with a friend in deep crisis. Still I wanted to post this on this site as well as my my own later. The first story I did on poetry in Austin was an interview with Raul for the Austin Light back in 1986. It was in honor of him that I noted vaya con dios as my sisgn off. It is something I do to this day.
Namaste. Vaya con dios

& hands play with
the weaving air
push me in
pull me
hurry, love
the deer leap
the mists dissolve
& already the moon
slips the golden bridle

& horses still tremble here
the flowers on the doorstep
candles burnt & the wax cold

a poet passes in the noise of cities
knots of laughter & sorrow
& wounds at a distance

all he wanted a hand
unlocking a door
passing a light

words like justice
hope peace
truth or

what holds
hand in

a nod

hold this
in your heart
a voice of thunder

speaking for the voiceless
for the light imprisoned in fear
opening & opening even thru death

go there even now
& witness

courage gives
for love

© 2008 Richard Lance Williams for raulsalinas: a voice fiercely tender never to be stilled

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this remembrance. I did not know he had passed, and feel the
loss also. What a beautiful tribute to him, and to his predecessors.


7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My prayers are with Raul and his family.

Dios te bendiga Raul Salinas, God Bless Raul Salinas.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hola Susan, I read these poems at raúlsalinas' funeral in Austin, shortly after u left. Was great to see u again. ¡Abrazos! -- Nephtalí de Leon, poet


(to raúltapónsalinas)

© by Nephtalí

in the urban city jungle
west side san anto,
austin city migrant
forever renegade
your bato loco journey
was a cross-cultural parade
shaman of the corridors of hunger
down under the walls
like Huntsville, Leavenworth and Soledad
chicano universities of broken-down despair
mind jail trips to pull at your hair…

literary bato ché guevara like
chicano charlie brown chasing a kite
mythic phoenix quetzalcoatl like
rising from the ashes rising from the dust
mighty power pen with the ink of your mind
slaying dragons fierce no armor could pierce
except your keen intellect which could dissect
the mean ugly machine
which you knew was obscene…

magic mover of the hunger in our soul
you took our heart and yearnings
and you filled it with gold
helping chabalitos and grown ups stay the course
showing how the legend of aztlán was real
nobody could doubt that you had the force

like the time you and ricardo and lalo
bailed me out of a stinking juarez jail
so I could read at the university of el paso
and the time we did a canto in lubbock
how you transformed the pathways of aztlán
into the yellow brick road of aztec gold
we knew it was so true from the days of old…

beat-like duende with pigtails in your hair
carrying loving wailing prison-jazzy-blues
in your guarache-tennis shoes, indio de la raza
strange inhabitant of the earth
no wonder they call us aliens
raúlsalinas just got off a ufo!

when shall we see the likes of you
when will these magical times
to be writ down in a book
when giants
walked the earth
teaching pulling teasing roaring
at us lesser human beings
talking about tortillas and our pinto beans
each bite was more like a volume of love
a workshop of registered knowledge
tapón was our walking chicano college
willing to teach but never to preach…

traveling wanderer in the wasteland u.s.a.
how you left so many dreams and hopes
and words you left for us to cope
you were that lighthouse in the darkness bright
to turn our migrant steps from wrong to right!

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a second poem from Nephtalí

Tripping with raultapónsalinas

© by Nephtalí

It was the time of raza
waking up under who knows what city roof
in poverty infested beauty scenes
barrios full of hurting love
raza waking up in prison walls
hunger gnawing at the soul
light so long extinguished gasped
crowds leaped upon the dancehall of hope
seduced by wild accordion tunes…

the American dream
was an indio nightmare
no innocent sheep to count
but chiva, the tecato needle-fix
was just around the corner playing tricks
monkey devil on your back
no way to hide your tracks
train coming down
on the poor side of town….
wooo woooo

you hurt so bad she looked so good
they cut the light, family out of food
how can society be so cruel
raza won’t be everybody’s fool

social rebels struck back
full of monkey-devil tracks
nothing crazy about our batos locos
they were just kinda insane
trying to remember their name
been pushed so far, feathered and tarred
raza barrios and the man were really at war!

so the magic word was born
in the school yards of scorn
life so cold society’s toilet bowls
perversely named
correctional faciliteees ,
America’s biggest industryyy
by default, Chicano Universityyys…

lovers, mothers, fathers, children,
daughters and sons
had their hearts torn out – their bodies were burned
from which the phoenix pages of our books
came to be born…

from the hovel of shame of poverty’s lane
from the ugly spit of prison guards
from the broken doors of enterprise
from the cobwebs of the prisons and the bars

from this unpromising mix of America’s pricks
the eagle and the jaguar spirit rise
and raza speech came on the scene
angry, and lusting to be free

giants behind bars broke their chains
Ricardo Sánchez with a scream
Canto y Grito mi Liberación
Ricardo Mora with a vision and a dream
eyes burning tears from hours staring
at the solar inspiration which he titled The Black Sun…

raúl tapón salínas
like a pig-tailed imp in the dark
lighthouse duende of the backtrails of art
chained Chicano Dante kicked into hell
tripping psychedelic journeys tortured ways of men
rises from the underworld to pen
classic prison wail – a trip through the mind jail

complex barrio bato, human colcha cholo
sewn together from the pieces of his mind
parte cucaracho, amerindio pachuco
chicano beat from his trenzas to his feet
loving raza like a grandmother sweet
hating decadence oppression and defeat
human contrast with an intellectual gift
raps you with his tonguee-blues into a mellow high euphoria
his resistance is your own Chicano gloria…

running from the demons of his trip he rushes to Seattle,
1970’s upon us, we’re trailing San Francisco Pocho Ché carnales
Gato, Roberto-Vargas Nica, Victor Hernandez Cruz
mission district madhouse crucible of art
sacra´s daring solo flight pilots
getting airborne or trying their damned best
on world war II airplanes made of New Mexico clay
the RCAF, Royal Chicano Air Force, suspect of the C.I.A.

poets, painters, muralists, vagabond writers meeting, moving,
tripping on the stages of Aztlán, Cantos in Chicago, Los Angeles,
Berkeley’s La Peña, Stanford, Lubbock, El Paso, Phoenix, Corpitos, San Anto, Austin, tapón is now joined by a caravan of voices like Carmen, Lorna Dee, Dorinda, Lalo, Burciaga, Montalvo, Trine Sánchez, and Montoya…

tapón, beat-like existential poet, raúlsalínas chases gallinas
in Mexico’s maquiladoras, trips with Indio Leonard Peltier,
works on caravans, cares about kids gives them bananas
arms them with a vision to deal with their mañanas
and reams of poetry-blues from “resistencia bookstore”
while he reminesces about the pan the panadero sold on Sunday rounds
¡pan! ¡pan! cuernitos, marranitos, polvorones, regalitos... ¡Pan!
and his Pachuco mind recalls el indio Isidro López sounds
Lydia Mendoza and the archoolie record trips,
he’s got his own Chicano beat
he’s hip, he’s on, he’s caught the magic of your mind
he don’t leave nothing behind this seminal bard
from the first moment he left to wander beyond prison yards

this cool indio yaqui taura-mara primo de Geronimo
chicano wizard shaman bato tripster, pachuco del ostión
la oreja born, san quilmas cured, pure bred cuerda, bato neta
lowrider digging, making, sculpting classic verse
beyond Chaucer, beyond Cervantes, beyond tortilla flat
you could say this bato loco really knows where it’s at
raultapónsalinas! – and he don’t even wear a hat!
cool existentiual gato, ay te wacho cucaracho,
al rato!

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Song for Autumn Sun AKA raúlrsalinas

You live in every trenza, piedra de turquesa
Silver hoop or bebop, hip-hop poetry flow
You caught me falling so many years ago
Fed me tacos from Dos Hermanos and a
Steady diet of revolutionary literature to go
Long before Chiapas or Oaxaca or Juarez
You made us aware, taught us non-stop
With first hand witness chronicles like
Burnished stones from Pine Ridge and Big
Mountain and Seattle, walks in Palestine and
Guerrero and Managua with a broomstick
And a box where we kept the press on type
For flyers on the fly in the face of literary
Action in East Austin cantinas like a wheel
With you as the hub and your adopted sons
And daughters the red salmon spawn, the
Spokes who radiated into the world with
A vision gleaned at your side, at book fairs
Where you translated for Ernesto Cardenal,
Excommunicated for daring to expound a
Theology of liberation and a life long love
For Marilyn Monroe in an epic poem you
Delivered en ingles on a stage in San Anto
Because the Sandinista priest would have
no other in your stead while I looked on with
pride and met a Curbstone poet alongside an
El Chuco exile who both wrote of bad boy
Histories and their need to live again in the steps
Of an ex-pinto poet known on my hometown streets
As Lil Roy or Tapon. You brought me along to so
Many tables and talks for a decade as a gung-ho
Resistencia acolyte. Painting walls at Jovitas
And rooftop bookstore signs when the old guard
Brown Berets grew exasperated and weary of
A young loose cannon who didn't listen and thought
He knew it all. You filled my soul with books and
A blistering critique of any left wing politics that had
No room for love or dancing like a South Texas
Polka at Aztlan Café where another brother in a
Black Emiliano Zapata playera played pisadas on
A Hoehner accordion and reminisced over platos
De carne guisada and bottles of Corona with lime
You were always there y por eso me cuesta aceptar
tu ausencia and my heart goes out to Lila because I
Was her son too, adopted for a moment when you
Came home and knew you would live out your days
I wrote liner notes and fought to become the destiny
You always foretold, a storyteller, cronista in the maw
Of a prison complex recovery, a struggle against
Injustice like the optimism you shared with a smile
The blues line and the jazz riffs spilling unchecked
Into every conversation or regañada you gave with
Love like the virgen tattooed on your chest and the
Caldito at Little Mexico in a Southside bivouac
You were the unwilling general, a laconic alternative
To the machista crew who sent me to you when no
School would do, delivered me to internal rhyme
And verse so sublime. You saved my life and didn't
Ask for a dime. I spoke up and let them all know
A firme vato, atole y con ganas who led me to light
When all I knew was rachazo and flight had ridden
Forth on a rainbow slide to Mictlan borne on Ehecatl
Winds in a chill despedida con truenos y gotas de una
Lluvia como reconicimiento de la resurrecion inevitable
The rebirth of poetry and song, the floricanto you gave
When you selflessly shared the palabra final on the
Floor and into the sky when mindjail trips were just
An introduction to the philosophy that made us whole
And helped us to ply the wordlinger trade as an offering
Like an altar for el maestro who lives on in the fire or
Amber like an ode to the warrior who enlightened us all.

Able Salas

10:14 AM  
Blogger longtimehoggie said...

Raul Salinas was an inspiration to many. For the students at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, his visit led to a renewed enlightenment of our roots and purpose for living. Salinas will be missed. He was special. Era unico en este mundo y va a ser dificil seguir en sus pasos. Adios amigo. Adios Don Raul. Adios maestro.

8:28 AM  

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