Friday, June 14, 2013


From Al-Khemia Poetica6-13-13:

"Alden Marin and Enrique Gonzales - Gonzales Avenue poets' The Problem with Oxnard"

by Marie Lecrivain

The Problem with Oxnard, a small (literally) chapbook of poems by Alden Marin and Enrique Gonzales – Gonzales Avenue poets – presents a conundrum of sorts. Google the phrase “the problem with Oxnard,” and in the top three Internet searches is the comment “a small city with big problems.”

Manifestos can come in any form – big, small, bombastic, unassuming. The cover, an image of a strawberry (one of the Ventura County's more popular crops), with an insert of the title, is intriguing in its simplicity. Oxnard packs a punch, with no apologies. The introduction explains, as many people are wont to forget, that Oxnard used to be part of what was once Mexico (or, Azteca, according to the authors). Anyone who has driven up the California Coast, or Route 126, will no doubt remember that the landscape is populated with fruit stands, and, in the warmer part of the year, with migrant workers who harvest the produce. The poets, whose roots go deep into the soil of Oxnard itself, invite the reader to experience the dichotomy that is Oxnard, with their straightforward and 'staccato' verse.

Oxnard contains seven poems, which seems a bit on the skimpy side, however, each little poem captures accurately, and beautifully, the sinister weirdness of living in a place millions obliviously travel through every year. The first poem, “Detour Use Gonzales,” tells the story of life's goals being detoured, by circumstance, class oppression, and diminished expectations. From there, the poems spell out the alienation, and, the discrimination, migrant workers, and their children, have faced/still face in land that once belonged to their ancestors.

The overall tone of the poems in Oxnard are strong, and, infused with the dignity of the migrant workers the authors extol; that's what saves this little gem of a book from the falling into the ponderous whirlpool of angry political poetry.

The Problem With Oxnard successfully documents what most Californians prefer to forget; the sins of history cannot be concealed by the sweet smell of (agricultural/retail) commerce. Poets like Alden and Enrique will always remember, and that is necessary.

Read the full review here:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012



There was a time
before we came
to Gonzales Avenue
that the world
was all promise –
now years later, we live
in small, expensive boxes
pay rent to an owner
we don’t know
and speak quietly
to our neighbors
the seasons offer
little by way of change
and on holidays
we hang our piñatas
make meals for
family friends and
relatives who visit
from Mexico. They
smile, share our
occasional joy and
berries; and do not
understand our
frustration. But the
sign on Rice Ave.
near our street says
it all – “DETOUR
and indeed we have
detoured to a place
less than certain
under such blue skies
with fields of abundance
we often ask ourselves,
“Have we been used?”
Only our time here
will bear witness. Maybe
you can ask our children.


Clouds in the fields
of our youth – another
drop of blood...
another berry bush
to pick, another fence
to disdain for what
it keeps in – and out;
This is not my land
This is not my fruit
But I pick it anyway
For the people
who employ me
In those tall, cold
buildings on the horizon –
And yes, this is
my sweat, upon
years of toil
As my father did
But I cannot drink it
as much as it pours
And I sometimes
remain hungry, in spite
of the bounty...
and often, thirsty.


As we look out
Over the land, this land –
the land we manage
and harvest with our hands
we know it is not our earth
but that of men, with
strange children, who live
far away – their names
are on the paper that pays us –
but they never come
to these bountiful, dirty
beautiful acres we work
and have for years where we
hear our brown children cry
for beans and rice...never
the strawberries, kale
asparagus and flowers we pick –
and send to unknown tribes –
but the meager food of
an honest people who
are simply seeking
a better day.


Sam’s Club, Walmart,
VONS. These venues
are not ours up on the
corner where we gather
to shop. Get the necessary
ingredients to make ends
meet. TGI Fridays, Quizno
Subs, OfficeMax, and Best
Buy near the Hometown
Buffet. Not anywhere
we would choose. But
these in our “land
of opportunity” are
our options.


The same star
on one side
of the sky –
then another;
emerald with
blue glints
over Oxnard –
appearing red
and orange
above the unlit
darkness of Highway 1 –
a scattering of them
to the south, to match
Palos Verdes’ jumble
of jewels... confusing
how these myriad
points of light
owe so little
to our world.


It was the day
that never came, for us –
People passing who might wave –
or stopping in their haste
to shake our strawberry-stained hands
And say, “Thank you for all you gave...”
But here we are
In the midst of this stark
And moody landscape
Raked by the west wind –
The Oxnard plain
With tractors still at dusk;
Agricultural terrain
You can smell the fertilizer
And strawberry scent
Thick – like a fruity musk
Then, there are
The intersections, some
With blaring, thumping cars
Others, pictures
Of total emptiness
Only tumbleweeds
In late spring
Cartwheel across
And the flower fields
Stretch to other horizons
Past which migrant workers
Have turned in, hearthside
For the night; tomorrow
At the first light of dawn
We, clad in bright
shawls and sweaters
Will reappear and gather
Like true monuments to this
And other farm towns
And the idle passersby
Will have no way
To understand
Our grit and stick-to-it-ivness
And family ties
Though they feature
our manicured blossoms
As their centerpieces
And on our fruits and greens
And vegetables
they survive…


Thunderous guns
Along the forgotten fields
That feed this land –
I spill my coffee
And it makes sense;
A stain in the shape
Of half America
Dirt under my nails
Like the forgotten lines
Of some country –
A horizon that begs
With blue
A culture biting
Like feral dogs might
If not fed; bones
By the side
Of the highway
Bleached in a hundred
Seasons of sun
Doesn’t anyone see them?

(c) 2012 by Alden Marin and Enrique Gonzales


We have been ignored for decades by a juggernaut culture. Flown over by planes. Driven over by freeways.

We feed your children in the supermarket. Our fingers are worn by the white man’s appetite.

But now we have been called upon by the Gods of Acculturation to remember all that has been plowed under in the furrows.

You say there are skyscrapers in Oxnard, but there are only two.

Our town is misnamed after an Englishman. It should be Hispania. It should be Mexicoland. Azteca!

Feel our desire of willingness in your feet and hands; the gnaw of hunger that makes our children cry.

See the man in the very eucalyptus shadows.

We are the people who work the hardest for the least.

Our verse is staccato, like the act our people endure of picking the berries.

From these baskets of fruit we enter your consciousness – your bloodstream!

You can smell it in the fertilizer. In the fog that rolls in from the Channel Islands. In the berry fields as you pass them on the freeway. The heavenly scent of God’s fruit on the auto route.

This cornucopia of plenty is yours America, yes – but it is ours too!

The problem with Oxnard is that YOU are missing. Come as Cabrillo did, as Vizcaíno, as de Anza....

There is no time like now. There is no place like Oxnard.

(c) 2012 by Alden Marin and Enrique Gonzales


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