San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee named Alejandro Murguía the city’s sixth poet laureate Thursday.
“I am thrilled to announce Alejandro Murguía as the new San Francisco poet laureate, a position that exemplifies San Francisco’s rich literary history and tradition,” Lee said in prepared remarks at the kickoff for the third International Poetry Festival in Kerouac Alley. “Murguía, who founded the Mission Cultural Center, has been a champion of many local authors, artists, poets as well as a great contributor to the literary community in the city.”
If Murguía has his way, the Board of Supervisors might follow up roll call with a haiku at its next weekly meeting. The professor of Latino/Latina studies at San Francisco State University said he thinks city workers including elected officials, police officers and firefighters should participate in a poetry workshop.
“Everyone in the city could address each other with the greatest of salutations, which is ‘poeta’” Murguía said, referring to the Spanish word for poet. “I’m serious.”
Murguía, 62, came to San Francisco from Los Angeles in the early 1970s and never left.
“I came here precisely because it has such a vibrant poetic scene,” he said. “San Francisco is the city of poets.”
We’re not sure how many politicians will go for the poetry lessons, but Murguía has other ideas too. He hopes to establish a poetry festival for children and an international poetry event with Barcelona, San Francisco’s sister city.
The city will pay Murguía a $5,000 stipend for his two-year term, according to City Librarian Luis Herrera. The poet laureate’s duties include delivering an inaugural address at the library, participating in community-based poetry events with communities and the library, and giving a reading at Litquake in October.
“I’m not deceived that this is an honor strictly for me, I understand and accept it as an honor for my community in the Mission District and the Latino community,” he said.
Three Poems by Alejandro Murguia
Big Girls Don’t Cry
I warned you it’d be hard
Loving a man whose pockets
Flap empty of change
One who works under cars
Yet wants to squeeze your waist
With iron hands
Someone who absent five months
Shows up without calling, just appears
On your porch, rings your doorbell
And wants all of you-
Now, this instant, as if he owned
You on the hallway carpet
Or the kitchen table, who smokes
Cohibas when he’s talking
And spits them out when he’s done
A man that doesn’t know how to lose
Won’t take no and yes is dangerous
A rouge, a scoundrel, a pirate
Who still sleeps with his ex-wife
But calls you his muñeca
Then leaves at dawn a fugitive
Without a word because
You said you were a big girl
Knew what you were getting into
I warned you it’d be rough
Now come here and kiss me.
What matters is the particulars
the precise meaning in your words
–I love the specificity of detail.
I remember January drenched
with lemon blossoms
your hip pressing mine
a certain desperation in your smile.
Years later the memories still arouse
the sassy diction of your walk
your leather jacket
but I didn’t surrender
till you snapped open the red umbrella
no butterflies flew out
but I like to think they did.
I can’t deny the bridge lights
prismed in your eyes
had something to do with it
how your black seamed stockings
flowed like crazy punctuation
to my hand prints on your ass
the profane unction of our act
holy when performed by lovers
your happy cry and my sad laughter
twined in a wax calendar
your whispered vow before an altar
of hummingbirds and paper corazones
–I will never leave you.
Minor details of our bruised affair.
The anklet with my name
in what drawer do you keep it?
The Poet Recalls His First Reading
Riding home from celebrating
my first book compadre riding shotgun
our lids heavy with poems and tequila
in beat up sports car
crawling towards Bernal Heights
dawn a spider with a thousand legs of light
flashing triple strobes
angry no doubt at Latinos
riding around this hour of morn
instead of heading to work
pulled us over
Compadre and I exchanged glances
as other encounters with billy clubs
handcuffs and broken ribs surfaced from
our suddenly awake memories
Without license, nor proof of birth
I proved my name by reciting a poem
while badge 8601 followed along in my proud book
digging my rhymes
After my impromptu reading
8601 returned to patrol car
while I winked at compadre thinking
we’re cool with the heat so I never saw ol’ 8601
slide up my window like a snake and jam the 357 magnum
to my temple the barrel cold as a pinpoint of ice
I could feel the gun trembling in his hand
As his words pressed through lips tighter
Than a chicken butt-You’ve a red warrant.
Move and I’ll blow your fucking head off.
I slanted my eyes at him and replied
–Be cool. I’m not that bad a poet.