We at Puerto del Sol are ecstatic to launch our new literary series, Voz, with the brilliant work of Suzi F. Garcia!
Each month, Voz will spotlight a Latinx author and their work in an effort to combat the institutionalized silence that is still perpetuated within many public and private circles. This is a place for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art of those in liminal spaces. This is our multimodal space and we will unapologetically fill it.
A DREAM, A GALE
I was the middle, where the southern and northern winds met, where the house still stood, an inexact center. I was torn apart at the last moment, Dorothy, and my joints unhinged. The wind was a violence that whipped my hair, and when I settled, did not get all the right parts. My hand has never moved like the water again. A freckle on my nose I’d not seen before. This was not a condemnation; I fell, blessed. I prism in Oz, blur borders, become stateless.
I started for California, made a stop at the first place there was water. I received word that there was no gold left in Hollywood, not for me, not for you.
Dorothy, it doesn’t matter; we can go full burlesque if you want, a show in Vegas every night until you’re ready to return to Oz. There are lights on the strip too, Dorothy, and if we have enough pisco, I’m pretty sure we can find a rainbow somewhere along the way.
THE AIR IS COLD IN THE CHURCH THIS
I am running out of reasons
to wake up, but rituals
are the only sure things we have left:
A kneeling on the floor, an emerald
where the cross should be. I’m close
to discovery— braided hair,
just the right amount
of Cholula in the air, and listen
to Mariah Carey on a loop.
If she can’t bring me
transcendence, then who can?
I count the bricks I walk, keep
an apple on the front porch. I avoid
trees, Dorothy, seek electricity
in the plains during a thunderstorm.
When we are in Oz, we are not
wolfgirl not pumpkingirl not Munchkingirl
not browngirl not countrygirl we are
girl. Girl. girlgirl. Mira, we are essence
there & any moment we could even turn witch.
Or we can percolate behind walls, become
Chinadollgirl, our skin brittling porcelain
in our sleep, our shoes fusing to our bodies:
careful, careful— we could break
at any moment. Everyone around us must step
in our presence; everyone everyone, clear
a path, everyone everyone, step back.
The breath they hold will sound like reverence
but it will be fear. Is there a difference? After
all, you can bring everyone you love to Oz,
but you cannot make them wear heels.
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS
I leave sugar cookies, arroz con pato,
hamburgesas, and stolen candy on the open
windowsill. I leave a white dress, boots
for marching, sharp toed and high, pink lacing,
heels that hit, spurs for rhythm. I light another candle,
Dorothy, I set the forest on fire if you can hear these words:
Most gracious of Ozma’s advocates,
famed for your miracles, do not
regard the lack of those who call on
you. Dorothy, glorious, whose eyes
gazed upon the glowing green and
do not burn, we beg of you your
favor. Dorothy, perfect imitator of
Ozma: be our protector, our patron,
our advocate under the rainbow as
you are above. Dorothy, attentive to
those who invoke thee, we ask for
your blessing, for your strength.
Dorothy, send us the wind, send us
the witch, Dorothy, send us a land,
dangerous and new.
SURVIVING ON GAS FUMES & J-LO BEATS FOR WEEKS
At times, I believe it is only adrenaline that propels
my car forward, and I procced on the idea of promised
land alone. I cannot go up, so I move sideways, push
dimensions. The air shimmers,
yellow lines dot dot blur heat,
my voice is raw, I stick out my tongue
in the mirror, an oyster, pale, dying
out of water. Has my body had enough? I am
assemblage, put me together...
last week I met a collective of riot grrls
who think they’ve tapped into something
in the moon (I read all about it in the brochures
with a young girl in pigtails smiling
from the cover). The light there is just a reflection though,
and it becomes civilization instead, but
when they describe the twist they feel just behind
the breast bone—
it almost feels real to me.
There is no way to get what we had back, when
we had hope. Instead, what’s left
is this back-and-forth, except
only half that. What’s left is the idea
that it could have been, and if I let that go,
I know it won’t change anything really, except you and me and feelings I never knew on any version of this earth, just a bit of that idea of hands clasped in fear and purity and something that smells like rain on hay. If I let these ideas go, you will eat and sleep and no one will ever wake you too early again.
And who would it hurt? I’ll build
a house on the Louisiana swamp,
maybe learn how to write songs
on the fiddle, calluses on my fingers,
Un cafesito con Suzi
VOZ: There's some intense, forced transformation going on in these poems. In "A Dream, A Gale" it's looked at as a blessing, a falling, though it leads to the line "My hand has never moved like the water again." Then in "Identity," that transformation instills residual power: "The breath they hold will sound like reverence but it will be fear." Even in "Surviving on Gas Fumes," it leads to the line "I am assemblage, put me together." Why is it that forces that exist are consistently at odds with what the individual already is, or tries to be? I feel this resonates with how many of us are ending 2017.
Suzi: Yeah, it’s based a lot in the idea of continual evolution as individuals, moving forward and the idea that we’re never static, that we’re continuously moving. This series is particularly influenced by The Wizard of Oz, the idea of being separated from our own fantasy life, and how to kind of evolve as we move forward on this life. Let me think of a better way to say it… how we move forward versus how we kind of see ourselves moving forward in the fantasy which is Oz. And these relationship that we make with, I think particularly, literary figures. Growing up, for me, Dorothy was a major literary figure that I connected with and kinda saw on this lesbian continuum. So, it’s how we could kinda move forward when those figures are static, but we are not static, and we can’t live within those figures any longer. If that makes sense. I think that it has a lot to do with the interiority that we often live when we’re at those stages of evolution where we’re feeling one way inside but then we can’t quite see those things come to fruition. Or when they do come to fruition they’re almost moments for both ourselves and people surrounding us who are close to us that see us change or come into our own. They can be those moments.
VOZ: Thinking of the academic world, along with this idea of transformations, forced or otherwise, and its treatment of people of color, is it possible that we do have to actively view our trauma as transformation in order to make sense of what is left of us? I’m thinking about this because I got caught on this line: " rituals are the only sure things we have left."
SUZI: Yeah, I think that there’s a lot. I’m really influenced by theorists like Richard Dyer and Stuart Hall who really think about how whiteness and race both. Stuart Hall is a Black academic who thinks a lot more about people of color, whereas Dyer tries to interrogate whiteness and in doing so he can’t avoid and he doesn’t try to avoid, discussing people of color. So I think that I’m really influenced by those scholars to think about how we can also engage in with women of color and people of color generally growing up without figures to see ourselves as, so then we have to rely on these small moments that kinda got us through those times when we had to take something and transform it back into something that we see. And yeah I think ritual is part of that and I think ritual is also part of a mental illness discussion. So this is a really long series and there’s a lot of suicidal ideation throughout. It really engages with ideas of how we have to rely on rituals to get through mental illness and how then the rituals become part that itself. Like, anxiety manifests in rituals, but at the same time it’s rituals that get us through our days. For me, it can be putting on makeup. It’s a ritual that helps me get through my days, but also my anxiety might manifest in things like pulling my hair or tapping, you know what I mean? It goes both ways where rituals can keep us in place, but they can also become manifestations of those mental illness moments.
VOZ: And we can see that with Dorothy. As the series progresses we’ve got her in mentionings or being addressed, but then in the second to last poem, “Dia de Los Muertos” which is kinda like the peak of this anxiety, and we’ve got essentially this prayer for/to Dorothy who as become something else entirely.
SUZI: Right. Yeah. Like I said, I knew a lot about the Oz mythology because I read all the books. When I was a child I was really engaged in the whole series, and that includes the films. In the second film, Dorothy is actually in a mental institution. This is not the Judy Garland film, obviously, but this is the movie Return to Oz. She’s in a mental institution and they’re threatening her with electric shocks when she escapes. I think that helped me to think about my own mental illness and how to engage with that here, but also there’s this holiness to the idea of these literary figures that we would read when we were growing up. And it’s not just Dorothy, but also Anne of Greene Gables, Little Women, Little House on the Prairie: these kinds of idealized women who were both white and in a different time period. They were all very different, the 20s, the 30s, the 40s. Little House on the Prairie was during the 1800s. So it’s all these time periods when we’re supposed to see these idealized versions of women and this idealization that comes with these characters. It’s, I think, really important to our relationships to them as literary characters. Like, how we wanted to see ourselves described in some ways, and so then how to enact our relationship with them. I think that was what at stake here. Oz has this weird hierarchy in it itself that I think plays into that as well. There is a queen of Oz who is Ozma and NOT Dorothy in the books. And Dorothy is just, like, her favorite person. Ozma is just always described as this beacon of goodness and beauty at all times. Which then makes Dorothy play almost the Christ-like figure in comparison to Ozma. So, you can pray to Dorothy or you can pray to Ozma, but Dorothy would the more accessible one the way Mary or the saints are more accessible than god. You might have your own personal saint and that would kind of be more of a Dorothy role.
Suzi F. Garcia is the daughter of an immigrant and holds an MFA in Poetry with minors in Gender Studies and Screen Cultures. She is an Editor at Noemi Press and a screener for the poetry section of The Nation. She is a CantoMundo fellow, a representative for the Latinx Caucus, and a Macondista. Her writing can be found in Vinyl, Fence, The Offing, and more. Find her at @SuziG on Twitter or at www.SuziFGarcia.com