Page 7


embodiment, a “body of dreams . . .” This poet has a fine eye for details as well as larger ideas: Domingo means scrubbing our knees for Church. ‘AmA splicing our trenzas tight with ribbons, stretching our eyes into slits. Grandpa wearing his teeth. Gaspar de Alba’s poetry, for me, makes too much of her lesbian sexuality. That sex, poetry, and religion are inextricably intertwined is an old lesson, and this poet’s gifts are such that merely proclaiming her identity seems superfluous. At the same time, it is the tension inherent in this identity which provides a measure of the power underpinning the rest of her work, and there is considerable power here. MARIA HERRERA-SOBEK’S section, entitled “Naked Moon/Luna desnuda,” focuses initially on physical death, giving us a few poetic mini-remembrance portraits, but rapidly evolves into the broader contexts of culture shock, cultural death, and cultural rebirth. Lyrical as the poet is, her work remains confrontational, as when she challenges a speck of dust to: Go ahead move, speak come back from the dead beyond reaffirm my conviction that life is a speck of dust whirling in the empty sky. In other poems, she concludes that it is “no easy matter/conversing with/an absent God;’ and she chides the “blue-eyed” diety for maintaining a “house divided/by the colors of the rainbow/White Brown Black . . .” But ultimately she writes, “Lienar el universo/de interrogaciones/pedir explicaciones/a un dios muerto.” Herrera-Sobek grew up in Rio Hondo, became a biochemical researcher after college, then switched to literature in the late 1960s. Now a full professor at the University of California at Irvine, she is more scholar than poet, yet it appears that her poetry fuels the scholarship rather than the other way around. Such tough-minded lyrical poets are all too rare, as they have a tendency to devolve into merely academic versifiers. THE THIRD POET in Three Times a Woman is Sanctuary activist/Catholic journalist Demetria Martinez. Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Martinez graduated from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, held an internship at Time magazine, worked as religion writer for the Albuquerque Journal, and is a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. Martinez won first place for poetry in the 14th annual Chicano Literary Contest \(University of California 16 NOVEMBER 24, 1989 Martinez was indicted in December 1987 on charges of “aiding and abetting the entry of two Salvadoran women into the United States” while reporting on the event. The indictment was unique in two regards: First, Martinez was the first journalist to be prosecuted for working with the Sanctuary movement, and second, she had the distinction of hearing her poetry used as evidence against her. She was acquitted in August 1988. This experience necessarily concretized Martinez’s emotional and spiritual perceptions into politically hard-as-nails poetics, reminiscent of the Woody Guthrie who wrote “Deportee” or the Margaret Randall of “Women Brave in the Face of Danger.” In Demetria Martinez we have a poet whose human instincts are tortured by the idea of poverty, outraged by injustice, and very much like Thoreau aggrieved over the role her tax dollars play in the process. Yet Martinez maintains a strict control over her poetic response, making it all the more effective. She makes us personalize the violence, and take responsibility for it: “I, who have loved you,/paid for those bullets,/paid for helicopters above Morazdn .” she writes in “North American Woman’s Lament.” In “To Keep Back the Cold,” we witness poverty so extreme neither science nor the Salvation Army holds an answer. “Old tricks are spent,” she tells us. As “unwilling inventors in an Ice Age,/ready to burn pews,” ready to question the unquestionable, Martinez asks for us: To whom do we pray? Against whom do we revolt for such sorrows as a baby frozen in a manger? I will not sing of it. I will not sing. BY HOLLY LEE WISEMAN OUT OF DALLAS Edited by Jane Roberts Wood with Donna Dysart Gormly and Sally Schrup Denton: North Texas University Press and Dallas County Community College District, 1989 196 pages, $12.95 IN THE INTRODUCTION to this collection of short stories, written by faculty and staff of the Dallas County Community College District, the editor ponders the question: What is a short story? Holly Lee Wiseman is a writer living in Montgomery Alabama. Keeping a reportorial distance in the face of de facto atrocities is not something Martinez even pretends to do, yet, ironically, the poem used in evidence against her considered just that issue: witness versus participation. “Nativity: For Two Salvadoran Women” relates how Martinez met two very pregnant refugees in Juarez, then travels north with them. As she maintains to the women: . . . I am a North American reporter, pen and notebook, the tools of my tribe, distance us . . Later she reiterates, but this time the distance is lessened: Sisters, I am no saint. Just a woman who happens to be a reporter, a reporter who happens to be a woman .. . In my country we sing of a baby in a manger, finance death squads, how to write of this shame, of the children you chose to save? As the women are driven north, Martinez envisions their babies being “summoned to Belen to be born.” This continuous comparison between the Biblical Christmas and Flight narratives and the stories of Central American refugees is a cruelly effective literary device, yet for Martinez I suspect that it is much more than a means of conveying a message. It is, rather, the message itself: Within the spectrum of Christian ideologies, there is no rational justification for turning away those whom our own national policies have deprived of homes, families, and reasonable social stability. I suspect Thoreau is applauding this eloquent and powerful voice crying for justice. She quotes Joyce Carol Oates: “Simply the sense, which the reader conveys only through the skill of his language, that something unique is being offered.” and John Updike: “A narrative is like a room on whose walls a number of false doors have been painted; while within the narrative, we have many apparent choices of exit, but when the author leads us to one particular door, we know it is the right one because it opens.” After reading this collection I was prompted to come up with my own definition. It’s a short story when you know that it’s over. With most of these, you don’t. The collection raises definitional issues in ways not contemplated by the editor’s Collegial Fiction