Sunday, October 7, 2012

  Vanishing Love

On a gum wrapper
Rides a fading love note
Towards the sewer…
 © 2012 jjméndez

Sunday, September 30, 2012

 Haiku for Autumn

Orange-yellow leaves
Flutter good-byes as they drop
From their mother-tree
 © 2012 jjméndez

Friday, June 1, 2012

Eduardo Galeano: ..."When underdeveloped countries are called "developing" countries, it's a way of saying they are like children -- growing, developing. And it's a lie. They are underdeveloped because more powerful countries are growing at their expense. Third World underdevelopment is a consequence of First World development, and not a stage toward it. That was the main argument of Open Veins. The history of wealth and the history of poverty are closely intertwined." --from an interview with The Atlantic.

En 1492, los nativos descubrieron que eran indios,
descubrieron que vivían en América
descubrieron que estaban desnudos,
descubrieron que existía el pecado,
descubrieron que debían obediencia a un rey
y a una reina de otro mundo y aun dios de otro cielo.
Y que ese dios había inventado la culpa y el vestido
y había mandado que fuera quemado vivo
quien adorara al sol y a la luna y la tierra
y a la lluvia que la moja.

Eduardo Galeano.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I was just a coming-of-age teenager growing up in the Near-West Side of Chicago  when the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention took place...  In retrospect and light of the NATO 2012, it seems that politics and greed don't change much while tactics to subdue and silence people remain pretty much the same...

There We Were
           jj Méndez

Days of Rage
Crisscrossing the nation
Daily media frenzy over ’68
Chicago Democratic Convention

The world was not watching
18th and Throop Streets
Corner where time stood still

Hopeful coming-of-age camaradas
Hands in their bottomless pockets
Future uncertain and hanging loose
Just waiting… just hoping…

                                 Just hanging in the corner…

Chapters in the Annals
Of Undocumented History
Were being written…

                                 And nobody noticed...

Chicago’s Finest
Making their rounds
Their motto: Serve and Protect
Strictly professional (so they’d say)

Decisions were made –on the spot—
Purpose:  create some local excitement
Justify Pigotry’s authority

                                    And no one said a word…

Suspicion –always the excuse
Humiliation the expected reaction
All for a good laugh, of course
At the expense of unsuspecting fresh meat

                                     And the show would go on…

Spreading of legs and bashing of hands
Billy clubs up the innocent’s buttocks
Bodies against graffiti-filled walls

Unwilling eyes passing through
Confirming the search for fictional
Guns and drugs and alcohol

                                     And no one took note…

Anger flared up
Wise guys in the squad
Taken for a ride

                                     And no one took note…
                  There We Were…

© Joel Mendez 2009

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Walked leagues.  Worked tirelessly.  Deported today.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Urban Cog

          Urban Cog

Twilight.  Crack of dawn.
The city yawns and wiggles
Her dew-covered slippery jaws

The avenue is hollow and silent.
Street lights sigh deeply shutting their eyes
To fuse with the vanishing stars

Serene and slippery as a panther,
Darkness waits on the ledge
Of the double pane window
Expecting the final surrender of

The working class prostrate in bed.
Their dreams now on their final act
Preclude the end and hijack the birth of…

                                       Another bright day.

© 2012  jjméndez 

Saturday, April 7, 2012


         Brown Soldier Down

There will be no need to recite the names
Of his father, sisters, or brothers
Or of grandparents, uncles, or aunts

No need to mention the leg that broke
When he fell off the mesquite tree
Or the arm that splintered when he slipped in the arroyo

No need to recall the bolt of lightening that
Charred the tool shed when he was barely ten
Or the joyful grin when he caught his first catfish

And even though his face has been erased by
The predictable roadside bomb,
There will be no need for time-tested maternal instincts

No need for any expensive DNA analyses
No need for detailed dental x-ray photographs
Or any other useless scientific confirmations

No need to utter a single word
She’ll know that he has come home when
She sees engraved in the back of his dog tags

The name of his first dog…

Only then she’ll know he has finally come home to stay. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In Memoriam: Maxwell Street

   In Memoriam: Maxwell Street
                           by jjméndez

On litter-covered empty lots 
Dented fifty gallon garbage drums
Stand proud and tall like strategically
Positioned pawns. They belch and cough
Glowing cinders and implied smoke signals 
Into a bustling Maxwell Street

The foggy scent of crackling firewood,
(A miscellany of burning skeletal remains)
Once fancy tables, rocking chairs
And sofa beds, now woos the sweet
Aromas of grilled onions, fat-fried
Pork chops, Mustard-splattered Polish
Sausages and hot dogs… all dressed in
Pickled relish and the obligatory greasy fries.

This wanderlust of smells works its way
Into unsuspecting runny noses leading
Ever-vigilant onlookers in search of
Bargains in the crowded storefronts,
Sidewalk tents, and makeshift corner stands
Filled with neatly folded second-hand
Blue collar shirts and khaki pants,
Pimp oil, bedroom trinkets and
Worn-out bar room artifacts…

Black, Brown and White hawking eyes in
Grubby faces avidly scan the stacks of goods
For lost treasures among piles upon piles
Of Plumber’s tools and carpenters’ glues,
Faded lamps and dining table sets
Crooked forks and ornate spoons
Workman’s shoes and unusual screws,
Rusty nails, fishing lines, tangled nets,
Tell-tale hooks and worn-out pocket knives…

Thirsty winos, bums, pimps, and ladies
Of the night seem to beg onlookers
To stop and listen to lifelong stories
Engraved in the cuts and bruises
They all commonly display…

The busty Gypsy women in low-cut blouses
Luring men –of all ages— into dark hallways
Leading to nebulous up-the-stairs spaces
Saturated with a musty incense that embraces
Giggling Gypsy girls eagerly awaiting
To try out their fortune-telling talents,
Tricks of the trade, and other games of prey.

The chunky Indian lady dressed
In feathers and power amulets brandishes
Her tattooed ten foot boa constrictor
Slithering around her sweaty neck
Like a precious necklace juxtaposing
Her flowery grease-stained undulating dress.

The tall leathery Blackman
With the rooster on his head
Walking gaily down the street
Relishing the stares he gets from
Bug-eyed Black and Mexican boys dressed
In worn-out pants and shrunken T-shirts as
Much younger sibs with fingers clenched to
Mothers’ hands kick up dirt and trash
With their ragged little shoes…

The cacophony of loudspeaker vibes
Interlacing MLK’s I have a Dream and
JFK’s Ask Not Inaugural Address with
Dusty melodies of sweet soul oldies
And Norteño Spanish lyrics doused with
Bajo sexto and acordeón.  And (we can’t forget)
The strumming steel guitar and hollow
Sounds of the beating broken drum and snare
Of skinny bluesmen in their tattered suits
Tapping on the ground with their faded Stacy
Adams and scuffed patent leather shoes…

The raspy voice of the wine-scented
Woman flaunting gaily a dusty wig;
Her neck enveloped in a hot pink scarf
Hanging low –way, way, low— to her knobby knees
As if covering her stained-stiff miniskirt
And unraveling fishnet stockings wrapped
Around her wiry lower limbs.  Oh, but she sings!

She sings the blues like no one else could.
Pouring out her heart and setting the mood out there
In the busy street for those that care to listen
To the pains and joys of the good life
She once lived and now gone too soon…

The final stop –always a treat for me—
At México Lindo.  An oasis
Of familiar kitchen sights
And home-spun smells.  Fresh tortillas,
Luscious salsas, steaming barbacoa,
Succulent carnitas, kickass Jalapeños,
Rice and beans, and crunchy chicharrones;
The kind of place where a homemade meal
Never failed to appeal to a hungry mouth
In need of the delights of sumptuous
Tacos and endless cups of freshly
Brewed Café con leche

Contrary to what’s commonly believed
(Whenever I describe this scene)
This vignette is not a dream
It’s a living memory
Of a bustling Maxwell Street --a
Long-lasting part of me.

So, Mayor Daley and accomplices--
Including UIC-- I say to you:
While you have done away
With what once was the pride
Of Chi-Town’s Near Westside,
Maxwell Street remains forever in my heart
I shall not forget…
                         I shall not forget…

    (no matter how you called it)

Jewtown!  La Garra!  14th and Halsted!


(photos courtesy of  Tom Smith, Maxwell Street Blues, 2004)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

English Only, 1959

           English Only, 1959
            (Lengua Madre)
                          jj méndez
Native Tex-Mex child, you tried so hard to
Keep her a secret when you stepped into the rank
And file of the yellow wood board schoolhouse
                    (Where “No Spanish” was the rule)

For so long you kept her
Hidden in the chambers
Of your throbbing throat where she
Laid en silencio like a dormant spore.

Every now and then she would
Grab and interject your English Only
Vocal chords and sound off in lively tones
Of chiles en vinagre --rich with flavor, filled with fire!
                    (Well worth the five slashes on your hands)

She hissed like Quetzalcoatl yearning to be
Recognized and swelled like a peacock
Dressed in emerald feathers… flaunting
Her brilliant ancient roots of jade obsidian
Daggers and carmine Spanish banners…
                      (Royal symbols of your mestizaje)

Your wise mamá would advise:  M’ijo, recuerda,
 Somos gente de razón.   Out there, you must
Do what it takes to get your thoughts across
¡Pero en esta casa, cristiano se habla y ya!

And today…
In spite of the chronic hatred and resentment,
Your lengua madre still oscillates inside
Of you –Aquí, dentro de tu corazón, and blooms
Beside with you –embolden and self-assured

I wonder now…
What would you be without your mother tongue today?
One more drop of blood in the melting pot?
I think not.  You are what you are
Meant to be
                And you can thank your mamá for your Lengua Madre.

© 2012  jjméndez  
Painting by Violeta Rendón, 2012
Restaurant sign posted in San Antonio, Texas in the the early 1960's

Literati Boricua: We Are All Librotraficantes: On the Banning of Books in Tucson, Arizona

Literati Boricua: We Are All Librotraficantes: On the Banning of Books in Tucson, Arizona

Friday, February 10, 2012


by jjméndez

deep sleep,
the dream
I was
woke me...

I could
not close
my wide
shut eyes
and now
the dream
I was
is no
where to
be found...

I tossed
and turned
and saw
the light
the moon,
the stars,
and all
things dark
and dim...

Now, the
in the
dream I
was in
to tell
me who
I re-
ally Am

© 2012  jjméndez