El Mango Entero #2
Monday on a Wednesday. Let's get it...
What’s up good people,
It’s José Olivarez aka back with another Monday Newsletter. I know it’s Tuesday and I know it’s late on Tuesday depending on where you’re at, but yesterday was a day off and today was today. I’ll get more consistent as we go.
You may have also noticed that the Monday Newsletter has a new name: El Mango Entero. The name comes courtesy of Gloria Valadez who reports that Southpole was a look in her high school days, too, but she was more of an Ecko girl. I always wanted to be an Ecko boy, but I think Ecko was slightly more expensive than Southpole at River Oaks Mall. Side note: A lot of you reported that Southpole was popular in your various parts of the United States. That makes me happy. Shout out to Southpole. I hope they sponsor this newsletter one day. 👀
The Monday newsletter will be called El Mango Entero from now on. I like this name because I love mango (duh) and because the Monday newsletter really is about delivering el mango entero. Not just a slice. Skin and all. So bienvenidos and thank you again to Gloria for the name.
Trigger Warning, Content Warning: the next section reflects on grief and the corona virus.
I don’t want to pretend that I have all the answers. I don’t. Like you, I saw the image above from The New York Times shared across social media networks. Describing the image, Tom Bodkin, chief creative officer of The New York Times said, the all-type front page was appealing because it “would be hugely dramatic.” The image is dramatic. It is a wall of text. When I look at this image, I am also struck by the phrase “Continued on Page 12” which further signifies how devastating the last few months have been. This front cover isn’t enough to hold the thousand names and obituaries and lives. And the thousand lives they chose is only 1/100th of the people who have died so far.
When I look at the cover at the cover for the New York Times Sunday edition, I am reminded of Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Facing It.” “Facing It” takes places as the speaker, a Vietnam War Veteran, faces the Vietnam War Memorial. Here is the poem:
My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way—the stone lets me go.
I turn that way—I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.
The New York Times cover reminds me of this poem because the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC shares some characteristics with the New York Times cover image. They both use a minimalist aesthetic. The Vietnam War Memorial is composed of walls of names and the New York Times is creating a wall of text.
The lines that catch me tonight are: “I turn/ this way—the stone lets me go./ I turn that way—I'm inside” —the speaker in Komunyakaa’s poem is looking at the memorial and depending on the way they turn, they don’t just see their reflection, they feel like they are inside the memorial itself. As if the memorial could hold all the souls inscribed on the black granite. And maybe it can.
It catches me tonight because tonight I am an overflowing pitcher of grief. So many days during this disaster— and let’s be clear that this is a human disaster made worse by incompetent and cruel government officials— have felt akin to Komunyakaa’s lines. If I turn this way, I can be almost okay. The grief will let go. And if I turn this way, I am once again consumed.
Tonight, I came across a song from a student of mine who died almost six years ago. Just like that, I am overflowing. These artworks don’t help me process my grief. They help me face it. To look at my grief and acknowledge it in all of its various textures.
What artworks are speaking to you? What allows you to grieve? Tell me in the comments.
What I’m Reading: DEATH TO THE BULLSHIT ARTISTS OF SOUTH TEXAS by Fernando A. Flores. I love this book. It’s a collection of short stories and every short story is about a different band. I’m also reading dream life with eloisa. Subscribe to that!
What I’m Watching: I’m excited for Ramy to return. I’m still watching Naruto.
What I’m Listening To: still Bad Bunny
What I’m Playing: big news in the Pokemon department. For the first time ever, I completed my pokedex. 400 pokemon seen/ 400 pokemon caught. What should I play next?
I’m reading with Aria Aber and Rick Barot for Brooklyn Poets on Thursday night. It’s free and you can register here.
I’m speaking at my ten year college reunion this weekend. I’ll let y’all know how it goes next week.
That’s it for this special early Wednesday edition of El Mango Entero. We’ll be back on Friday with Mexican Heaven. Will I be late? Hopefully not.
Remember that I am always accepting questions for the newsletter. And I am also accepting nominations for the Friday Mexican Heaven Issues. Leave a comment or send me an email.