Voices from the American Land

E. A. “Tony” Mares

Tony Mares who wrote Rio de Mi Corazon died January 30, 2015.
Tony was the gentlest of men and one who loved language, beauty and nature but not more than he loved justice for the poor and dispossessed.  As a child Tony Mares loved to play and swim along the Rio Grande.  His children too walked the river's banks accompanied by a father who taught them to, in his words, listen to the river breathe the land.  Tony had faith in the mystery of nature.  We are part of nature, he wrote, in the stardust of our bones and flesh and in the oceans we carry within our bodies.  Our very lives, after all, are rivers that flow to an unknown sea. —Renny Golden

In memory of Tony Mares: Tony and the Rio Grande, by Renny Golden

Tony Mares

E. A. “Tony” Mares, PhD, was a poet, historian, essayist, and fiction writer. His books include: The Unicorn Poem & Flowers and Songs of Sorrow West End Press); With the Eyes of a Raptor (Wings Press); and translations of Spanish poet Ángel González, (Wings Press, 2007). He co-authored, with Tomás Atencio and Miguel Montiel, Resolana: Emerging Chicano Dialogues on Community and Globalization (University of Arizona Press, 2009). His book of poetry, Conversations I Never Had With Patrociño Barela, was published in Fall, 2010 by University of New Mexico Press. Río del Corazón was launched at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque April 1, 2011. Click for details

Congratulations to Voices author E.A. “Tony” Mares, whose poems from
Río del Corazón were accepted for publication in the Spanish journal Rane.

Tony's work takes us to the golden earth and its peoples, their songs never erased only carried further out by the “river of flowers / the river of names.” Mares has blessed our ancestors and all around with his cantos of wisdom and universe-brilliance. Majestic. — Juan Felipe Herrera

Illustrator Frank McCulloch
was born in Gallup, NM, and received his BA from UNM, MA from NM Highlands University and MFA from Instituto Allende in Mexico. Awards include the Governor’s Award in the Arts, and grants from National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities. He also performs with his band, Frank McCulloch y Su Amigos, keeping old New Mexican folk songs alive.

Illustration by Frank McCulloch

Cover Illustration by Frank McCulloch.

Rio Grande: The Enduring River

Tony Mares’ calm spirit matches the Rio Grande’s slow and elegant ride beneath the jade shadows darkening the mud banks of his city. As a boy, Tony listened and the river spoke: roared through snow-gashed gorges, shook its tambourine laugh over Questa rocks, whispered its rippling song further south past gold weeds and pink brush. Summer after summer the boy listened; he played beneath the emerald-palmed cottonwoods. His children played, too. Now he follows her from Creede’s swift currents, past the swirling waters above Cochiti, on to the Bosque del Apache where snow geese fill the wetland’s shallows.

He invokes her ancient names as he accompanies her meandering through pecan orchards, fields of onions, chile, corn, cotton ever rolling toward the ocean; laments her choked song, a receptacle of garbage, silencing the silver-fluted run. Tony reclaims her pristine hour when Pueblo peoples blessed the river’s nourishing force and spirit; when Popé fought for land and river; when Tiguex resisted those who would conquer and draw bloodlines, borders, and land/river rights.

The poet stands on a balcony in his hometown of Albuquerque and he looks out to P’osoge, flowing beneath the turtle mountains and he “sees” again the lost peoples of the river Santiago, Watche . . . other Tiwa speakers/ who rise at dawn, work the fields/of maize, chile, beans, squash,/ and harvest tarragon, /quelites and asparagus/ In the city he sees flickering shadows/ all that remain/of Chamisal, Calabacillas,/Piedras Marcadas, Alcanfor. As evening rises carretas of silence and darkness/from another age/roll across the land, Tony carries the past and it carries him. I’m reminded of poet Alberto Rios’ notion of the burden of memory: “We live in secret cities . . . Inside us, inside us.”

These poems are a lamentation and a tribute to the Rio Grande that flows from snow-capped mountains to the sea, and whose fidelity, in spite of poisonous threat, endures. Is that why the Mexicans named her Rio Bravo (Brave River) . . . or is it the blood of conquest and clutter that she carries? Tony Mares writes out of the Chicano literary tradition approaching desert and river as one who belongs. The border, the river and the desert are in his soul. I hear in his work the legacy that marked poet Ben Saenz “I was born for you. /Above, below, by you, surrounded. I wake to you at dawn.” Tony as witness will not look away from the Rio Grande’s misuse and crippling; he witnesses, too, the suffering of those who swam the river to work the lands. He joins other poets’ litany of wounds. Poet Ray Gonzalez weeps for “the fields/ of cotton and chile” destroyed by pesticides and also for the “migrant workers on the way/ to their slow death, . . . The mouth of judgment/ is a shoeless foot.”

The epiphany Tony seeks is not sudden luminosity but the heart-held hunch that the river will outlast her destruction, that her flow from mountain to sea year after year is as close as he’ll come to the eternal. Tony listens to the river breathe the land. The poet enters the river’s white water, swims with his students who will become like him/particles in the air/to become again/cloud rain mist/arroyo stream/the river flowing/forever

— Renny Golden

Renny Golden’s book of poetry, The Hour of the Furnaces, was nominated for a National Book Award; her new book of poetry, Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820–1880 (Nuevo Mexico in the 1800s), was published in 2011 by the University of New Mexico Press.

Poem by Tony Mares:

River of Names

the Keresan speakers said
the river coursing
through their land
bringing water for people,
plants, and all the animals

the Tewa speakers said
the hills and mountains
in harmony with the waters
reflecting light beyond words
as in a hall of mirrors
sky, mountain, and river
stared at river, mountain, and sky

the brash Chamuscado said
an illegal move for the Crown
but the urge to explore
the need to migrate
has its own deep laws

said the Spanish soldiers
marching north to conquer
a land always más allá
un poquito más allá

the Franciscan friars said
in heartfelt faith and awe

the river of flash floods, said
the Europeanized colonizers
trying to salvage crops and animals

everyone said, as the river
dropped swiftly, signing
its haste with white water
on its way to the distant sea

river of heart
river of hope
river of grasses
river of flowers
river of birds
river of small animals
river of dry sand
river of names
for what is nameless
río del corazón
river of heart

In memoriam: Tony Mares

Tony and the Rio Grande

He swims at times… down the Rio Grande with students who will become like him elements/particles…the river flowing forever*
Tony Mares

Some lessons are dark baptisms you didn’t seek
from a teacher who had faith.
Not in religion but in vastness that pulls us
like the river to an unknown sea.
He believed, too, in his ancestor’s land
where Mexican ghosts harvested corn and chile;
a teacher with trust in a river that carried
the story of los invisibles.

The professor was young and strong.
The great river, too.  Near sunset river’s
mud brown mirror was dappled magenta.
He said Ven mis estudiantes,
dive with me into our history deeper than books.
They swam past silver and violet eddies.
Stroke, stroke beneath lost light, a rise of stars.

The river knew him when he was three years old
how the slow waters took him down
until his father dove for his thrashing baby fish.
Like his father, the man whispered to any one
drowning, take my hand. 
by Renny Golden

*Rio del Corazon, Voices From the American Land


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