Books emerging from the pandemic and earlier

June 2021 The Illustrated Fractured Fables (paperback) is live on Amazon.com

Thanks to graphic artist George Paloheimo for special help formatting to Amazon KDP’s specifications.

June 2021 Ralph’s poems

Doing Nothing: Poems before the Pandemic is in progress with editing nearly done and Ella Brown’s illustrations to be added soon. Here I’m posting a thematic table of contents, along with two poems that appear first in Self and the Other, so you can see the range and nature of Ralph’s poems. As I told David Steinberg who reviewed Tales from La Perla and The Illustrated Fractured Fables, if you really want to know Ralph, you need to read his poems. Written from when he was a young man until he died, they show themes he returned to over and over. “Wetback” and “Salt of the Earth” show him drawing on his experience living in a rural corridor used by undocumented immigrant farm workers traveling up railroad tracks and irrigation ditchbanks and on his time in migrant labor camps when picking fruit in the Pacific Northwest. The obviously Mexican-American speaker is coming to terms with being an educated Chicano from a working class background.

Thematic Table of Contents

Self and the Other

Family

Origins and Skin Color

Excursions and Alternate Realities

Experience

Paradox Pain and Choices

On Poetry

Ancient and Modern

Myths, Archetypes, Beliefs

Man and Women

Seasons

Mate

The Wetback

The wetback stands at my back door

desiring trade of labor for some food

and water, speaks a few low words

of Spanish, hoping that I understand.

At first glance he looks so young

and frail.  Baggy khaki pants fall

in folds about his shoes—dance hall

shoes scuffed loose of any color;

thin brown arms project from bright

and sporty short-sleeved shirt.

At my second glance he looks away,

looks down until I question him

in Spanish.  Startled he permits our eyes

to meet, then looks away again.

I am so shamed and angry, halted

at the barrier of his eyes.

I too, almost as Mexican as he,

and his embarrassment.

What is a man cut loose from land

and language?  Of a sudden to be colored

in the land of white?  No melting here

into the flow of buttery blondness

into the ease of the anonymous.

And yet the ease with which he puts himself

at my disposal!  So deferential,

quick to please—he calls me “sir”

and waits upon my order.

My anger grows.  I want to grab him,

shake him til his teeth are loose,

wring the servile out of him

like dirty water from a sponge.

The moment that our eyes have met

reflects my fear and my rejection.

Behind his shame I see disdain,

the look that interjects the question:

Who is it hanging loose

from homeland and from nation?

It is I must seek my ease

and hope for his acceptance.

And all the while he stands

and waits on my command.

The Salt of the Earth

Behold, like wild asses in the desert they go forth to their toil, seeking prey in the wilderness as food for their children. . . .They go about naked, without clothing, hungry they carry the sheaves; the tread the winepresses, but suffer thirst.

                                                                                      –The Prophet Isaiah

We always knew we were the bearers and givers,

that we were here to be the gardeners

of Eden; we understood that well;

without our toil the fruit will fall

untended, the earth will dry, the soil blow

in grey-brown clouds,

the garden turn to wilderness.

And Jesus called us blessed,

we who bleed in sweat to wet this earth,

our mother, who will wrap us

in our shrouds.

And you, he told that always

you would have us with you,

the hordes, the multitudes, the crowds

of laboring poor.  And yet

we move among you,

creatures of your own devising—

unseen, unheard, unknown. . . .

The shy and deferential wetback

comes down the railroad tracks

seeking work and food.

I let him split some firewood,

trading for a meal.

He moves by night,

hides and sleeps in daylight,

but today has been forced out

by hunger.  His companions, caught,

have been deported.

He tells his tale,

eats, then walks on between the rails,

heading north.

In the migrant labor camp

(owned and run by Uncle Sam)

an old fruit-tramp

tells me all his woes:

gangrene in his toe,

no work, no cash, no food.

He shakes his head confused:

“What can I do. . .?”

When I return to camp that afternoon,

the old guy’s packed it up and gone.

A piece of pie with coffee

in the Chat and Chew Café

while Emilio tells me his concerns:

Brought his family up from Texas—

two sons, two daughters, and a wife—

and everybody worked all summer long

in canneries and fruit fields,

saved their pay to see them through

the lean of winter.

Last night, he says

(too rueful yet to cry)

he got drunk and lost it all

at poker.  I buy him coffee

and a piece of pie.

An old couple picking prunes

he sad-eyed, slow moving,

she everybody’s grandma.

There’s trouble with his lungs, malfunction,

and in the mornings I can hear

them strolling round the camp.

She holds his arm

while he hacks up cold obstructions,

clearing out the pipes

before the work truck comes.

It is fall and winter comes apace. . . .

We have heard and know the truth

of what we heard:

We feed and shelter, keep you clean;

we have gathered up your afterbirth,

we will lay you in your grave.

We await in brutal patience

the renewal of the Word;

we wait and on bended backs sustain

all the power and the glory

of all the kingdoms of this world.

April 2021

The Illustrated Fractured Fables

lllustrated by family and friends with an afterword by William Paul Martin, edited by Geri Rhodes with editorial assistance by Dolores Martin and Alice Beth Rhodes, and graphic design by Ella Brown:

After Ella completed the front and back covers and interior layout–dropping the illustrations into the text–in March 2020 Judith Van Gieson’s ABQ Press http://judithvangieson.com/abqpress.htm agreed to publish Fractured Fables, but the pandemic and Van Gieson’s unexpected death in January 2021 delayed publication until now. I self-published through Tomé Lane Books, and 48 Hour Books printed a first run of 100 books that I’ve been sending to illustrators, contributors, family, friends, and gradually, to bookstores and libraries. With help from graphic artists Ella Brown and Van Gieson’s free lancer George Paloheimo, I’m working on uploading the book to Amazon where I hope it will be available soon, along with Ralph’s other books. David Steinberg says his review will be published in The Albuquerque Journal this month, and I’ll add it to one by Artemis Chakerian on the Events and Book Reviews page. Holed up as I am since the pandemic, I doubt I’ll be holding any events soon. But contact me at geriraf@nmia.com if you want a copy

Early Pandemic

2020

El Caballo en la cocina: Las historias de una familia mexicana- americana

El caballo en la cocina in paper and e-book is available on Amazon and the paper version on this site. (See details below.) A new version of El caballo is available for $12, and the earlier one is half price because we found some errors that needed correcting. I don’t anticipate offering readings of El caballo because my Spanish isn’t good enough, and the translators are pretty shy, but Andrea Padilla took copies to Highlands University and hopes some of her former students who are now teachers there will consider the book for their classes. I’ve also let people on the Chicano/Chicana Studies Facebook group know the book is available in English as The Horse in the Kitchen and in Spanish.

Still, your best bet may be to buy the paperback ($12) or ebook ($1.99) on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=El+caballo+en+la+cocina&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

The Town of Tomé Land Grant in Tomé may be carrying El caballo en la cocina soon, and you can order it, as well as The Horse in the Kitchen and Tales from La Perla, here at ralphfloresbooks.com. Or contact Geri Rhodes geriraf@nmia.com.

IngramSpark takes orders from retailers: https://www.ingramcontent.com/retailers/ordering. And expanded distribution is available at KDP Amazon.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ralph-c.-father-and-ralph-m.-son.jpg
Ralph C. Flores (l), the model for the fictional narrator in The Horse in the Kitchen/El caballo en la cocina, with the author

Writing Opportunity

Farmhome manuscript: At my request, Paul Rhetts at New Mexico Book Co-op posted this notice in his NM Book News email on March 25, 2020, but more than a year later, no takers:

OPPORTUNITY FOR GROUP REVISION
Geri Rhodes has posted a manuscript that her husband Ralph Flores wrote before he died. She is offering this here to see if any Co-opers might want to join in a group revision of the story. All she asks as Ralph’s widow is that if anyone does make revisions, that she receive a copy and that Ralph gets credit for the original. If there are enough improvements, she volunteers to be the editor and if she can find a publisher, she would give authorial credit to everyone who contributes. Email her at geriraf@nmia.com if you have things to contribute to the group effort.

Editor’s note: Ralph revised this apocalyptic novel many times. Farmhome tells of the aftermath of a pandemic (which Ralph calla Mombasa) and the efforts of survivors to build a community in isolation . . . until other survivors, some hostile, come on the scene. Considering what we’ve been through in the past year, the book doesn’t seem like science fiction anymore.

Current Project 2021

And now, given lots of stay-at-home time, an edition of Ralph’s poems is in the works, as is his Moral Tales and Ruminations. Ella Brown is illustrating the poems, and our daughter Elena Flores-Tobin is co-editing Moral Tales. So stay tuned.

Pre-pandemic

2019 Tales from La Perla: A Misspent Hippie Youth


The Horse in the Kitchen: Stories of a Mexican-American Family

Originally published 2004, winner of the American Book Award 2005, reprinted 2019

More at Amazon Central Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B001KI4MTQ

and at The Historical Novel Society: https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-horse-in-the-kitchen-stories-of-a-mexican-american-family/

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