The 'process notes' pieces were originally solicited by Maw Shein Win as addendum to her teaching particular poems and poetry collections for various workshops and classes. This process note by Lourdes Figueroa is part of her curriculum for her class at the University of San Francisco in their MFA in Writing Program.
Process Note by Lourdes Figueroa for the Chapbook Vuelta-to revolt, to return, to revoltijo, to revolución, to transform.
Process note as lung to throat/ to tongue to spit/to river currents to poem/ as an inclination toward the overwhelming quest of what the gut wants/ a cascade of thought/ as if we are/ the rio/ & the rio ends & begins her mouth at the mouth of the ocean
was it? that we were seeking the prodigal language?
as soon as the wet of the mouth became text
where exactly did the mystery begin?
2020 right before the pandemic became a pandemic I began writing in pieces
fragments at a time in the same way my mind seems
to fumble with the memory of world entering me these days
I could jot down a note or two I would
I had started to lose motivation for my committed writing hours
I found find myself walking Polk Street all the way to her end/ to the ocean/ over and over again/witnessing a world shut down & become an unveiling of sorts/ things got more & more quiet — it seemed apocalyptic — in my world
I say my world bc the world had already been ending somewhere else
so I would linger with what was ruminating in my intestines as I went up
down the street passing the Tenderloin passing Nob Hill trying to language it/ some way
to find myself in memories of hot summers of la pisca or an empty
I would get home only to be able to read a line or a stanza of a poem
from whomever poet was in my heart that day
I would mumble & murmur to myself up & down the street or while washing dishes or looking at the bamboo moving with the breeze outside my apartment window watching day become night & night become day
did this over & over again day after day sometimes I couldn't even conjure
the memory of alfalfa in my nostrils
there would be a lump in my throat/ thinking of my mother working all shifts at the clinic in Woodland/all the un named brown & black bodies piling around you & I
& sometimes there would be nothing/nothing in me or in us
Vuelta began/after spring became summer
she began as a commitment to the poem/ the very act of being verb/ she becoming
a sort of a voluptuous garden that I was watering & eating from/ her legs wide open
the intention was to come home/to lay my head b/w her legs/ her hand on the back of my head/ her fingers deep in my hair/ my most ancient & truest form
Vuelta was a womxn where I knew I could lovingly come to/ take off my clothes for her/sit on her lap/ satisfy her & leave her be/only to day dream about the lip gloss on her lips/her soft axila smell on my body when I was away from her
looked forward to her nightly daily at dawn in the 3am/ she was all mine/
her lovely hips & lips/her kind miel colored eyes/she was sacred in all the ways I couldn't foretell/it was like I was bending down/picking up dirt naming her earth asking her
¿que somos? ¿porque es asi? ¿porque todo fue así?
was she kissing all my horrific parts? everything I thought had decayed
she nibbling at my chest
see the poem is warm & raw
in the same way when we severed heads & turned them
toward the body so they could see themselves right before
they closed their eyes to die
& like river currents tend to do/ follow each other one after the other disappearing into one another/I would follow the sway of her torso/ the line & sound leading me to the next/ each informing the previous & what was to come next/she all the while sucking on my earlobe/ like every revolution & all the left over letters the lovers left as they walked away toward the sun set
all these love notes are all sorts of attempts toward a collective memory
hands are small/ a little smaller than mine/her pinky resembles mine/I wonder
how many womxn she has held
how many did it take to unravel in the erotic? how long did it take for the erotic to unravel you for you to say I love you
bc the erotic reveals the primordial mystery
the poem is deeply personal like everything else/ deeply erotic when it all begins to enter/she was all Lilith flowers w/ moist tips
the longest time we thought we were confusing the body w/the poem but all along it was poem
that new it was body
breaking the fourth wall making us all be so intimate
as I write these notes to you/ about how Vuelta was an attempt to make the
longest love poem/like the rest of godxxs verbs/ a reincarnation of all the
poets over & over again/an act of remembrance when in fact el rio remembers
nothing/I am realizing that this is why you are so holy/ like land sea &
bc you see the form of this poem began at your first attempts
to utter figuring the twist of lip & tap of tongue to form speak
& as I write this there is a loop on repeat/ it repeats itself in the same way all text that never was song & all song that was never text/ a Fibonacci of sorts I grab verse from this & that poem mostly leftovers from the fogginess of a dream that I thought I once wrote
see the poem mumbles to herself
she is a loop that watches herself beginning at the same place
we doom & save ourselves
bc she has gone on forever
I'm big on using your own sound/ that which comes from your deepest insides/sweet sounds from our breathing chests/the communities that built our tongues — to language
I celebrate the vernacular & that which is considered imperfect 'english' or whatever 'imperfect' language it may be so long it is the colloquial/ so long as it is the we in the eye
I celebrate the spelling of a word as one hears it & speaks it/the phonetics of the lung to world to outer to inner to outer is uniquely you & also a uniquely form of 'we' (meaning all of those that taught you to put your sound into words)
things of sweet sounds from our breathing chests demand to be read out loud
& Vuelta repeats to herself
las vueltas de tu corazón/las voy a poner
en la plaza del pueblo para que sepamos
que el cuerpo es el pueblo/aquí la hora de amar
the poem in its most raw form is the body humping/ by that I mean the entirety of everything that has made us has brought us to this point where we have the capacity to articulate & point our mouths towards the mystery however dark or light it is — the entire cuerpo that is the cosmos — everything in us & outside of us is articulating thy self
behalf of love:
because the idea of poem reflects onto itself like the light that glistens on a spider web in an old migrant camp room at magic hour & disappears into the body of a people, it does what it does regardless of the language, asking what's this? what's life? which one is this one?
In La Kech, I say unto you my dear beloved.
the thing is you turned left passed the corner where the blue casita was/ I couldn't see you once you were in the alleyway/ the street was cobblestones & the night a full moon exhaling a fog of sorts/ but I could still hear your footsteps/your high heels echoing lonely/ & suddenly the corner was curls of cigarette smoke/ but everything was a Lilith flower at that point & the night breeze was wet
en el fondo del mar/todo se escuchaba igual cuando estabamos adentro del utero
I covered your skin with delicate assuming breath like the kind that fogs around like bees do
around a very sweet bloom
poem ends as soft as it began--"
from Langston Hughes' Weary Blues
Lourdes Figueroa is an oral chicanx queer poet. Her poems are a dialogue of her lived experience when her family worked in el azadón in Yolo County. The words el azadón are used by the ones who work in the fields — the work of tilling the soil under the blistering sun. Lourdes has worked in the Bay Area as a family case manager serving immigrant families, domestic violence survivor advocate, housing advocate, interpreter, translator, & community organizer. She is the author of the chapbooks Ruidos = To Learn Speak, & most recent Vuelta with Nomadic Press. Lourdes is a recipient of the Nomadic Press Literary Award in Poetry selected by emeritus SF poet laureate Kim Shuck. Her poem Pieces from Yolotl was nominated for a Pushcart Prize 2022 by Quiet Lightning.
Lourdes continues to channel the poem in long form through the body. Every act of word is sacred — sacred movement— an extension from the very cosmos that continue to form our lungs, our throats, our vagus nerve. The act of poem is more ancient than we realize, it is within our very being that finally has the capacity to ask — what is this thing that asks what's this? what's life? To work with the poem is to be in the very act of reclamation that we belong to each other. Lourdes' poem wobbles alongside the axis of pachama's tongue & the solar praxis of the heart. Attempting to offer a series of revelations of a morphed transcendent love that occurs after the horrific, the brutal. Excavating from the personal— growing up in small towns in California as her family migrated from town to town to work en el azadón, Lourdes seeks to offer a mirror of love gazing back at us— remaking certain Mexican folklore entities that were used to haunt us in our youth & deities to our queer likeness. Specifically drawing from Aztec, Mayan Deities, & the song of Mesopotamian priestess Enheduanna she embraces the prodigal tongue— the deep wound it took for you to arrive.
The work is constantly in movement, it is the stink of el azadón, the queer in el azadón, the femicides worldwide, it has everything to do with the food we all eat, our madre tierra, everything to do with la x on our bodies and el nopal on our foreheads. Quite honestly it is a life in poems in constant conversation with each other. Like the descendants of the nopal, they are the ancient un/remembered human heart. What inspired her to write was and is survival. Lourdes lives and works in Oakland/Ohlone unceded tierra. A native of limbo nation, Lourdes continues to believe in your lung and your throat.
Social Media Handles & where to buy chapbook:
Purchase Vuelta @: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781955239400/vuelta.aspx
@ Las Marimachas de LaBahia
Link Tree: https://linktr.ee/lfigueroa1980
Maw Shein Win’s most recent poetry collection is Storage Unit for the Spirit House (Omnidawn) which was nominated for the Northern California Book Award in Poetry, longlisted for the PEN America Open Book Award, and shortlisted for CALIBA’s Golden Poppy Award for Poetry. Win's previous collections include Invisible Gifts (Manic D Press) and two chapbooks Ruins of a glittering palace (SPA) and Score and Bone (Nomadic Press). Win’s Process Note Series features poets and their process. She is the inaugural poet laureate of El Cerrito, CA and teaches poetry in the MFA Program at the University of San Francisco. Win often collaborates with visual artists, musicians, and other writers and was recently selected as a 2023 YBCA 100 Honoree. Along with Dawn Angelicca Barcelona and Mary Volmer, she is a co-founder of Maker, Mentor, Muse, a new literary community. mawsheinwin.com