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Author focuses on dark stories from within (Audio)

By Carolina Astrain
April 22, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated April 22, 2013 at 11:23 p.m.


• WHAT: Tim Z. Hernandez, American Book Review Spring Reading Series

• WHEN: Noon Thursday

• WHERE: Alcorn Auditorium, the University of Houston-Victoria, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

• COST: Free, open to the public


• "Skin Tax" (2004)

• "Breathing, In Dust" (2010)

• "Culture of Flow" (2012)

• "Natural Takeover of Small Things" (2013)

• "Manana Means Heaven," coming fall 2013



My Name is Hernandez

It means descendent of Hernan Cortez.

Said Spaniard, who slayed Moctezuma

and a nation of ore,

occupied the territories

known since as Southwest. Enslaved captives

who stewed in venemous marches of mud and thicket,

forced to shoulder slabs of glass shard obsidian,

pummel the soft gold wading in unknown depths

drown for the nugget

tear tule from the root, mule the rotund

mounds of clay up mountain crags, named for Gods

with uncollected debts,

to shape indestructible pylons of new empire rising,

  • Though I am not this dramatic by any means.

I watch television in my boxer shorts,

eat sardines from the can, breathe on my children's faces

just to watch them shriek.

My name is Hernandez.

My father is a field worker. Every sugar beet

you've ever eaten he's shorn away what threatened to destroy it.

When I was born he wore me on his back

while slouching over a short-handled hoe

in the monsoon plains of five Wyoming summers.

There is too much time for memory to be accurate.

My father's worked since the day of his conception.

A shoe-shined boy in the parlors of south Tejas.

The adobe tiles were relics

from days of indentured servitude. Earthen red

clay shingles the boy destroyed with rifle.

Mesquite is what he recalls mostly.

And how the chicharra's song is a quantum thread

between this life and that.

I see him now, behind the wheel of a rig,

hazardous materials, head a snow-capped

slab of insidious worry. Illuminated by the coo

of a grandson,

the most fragile ammonite coiled in the shape

of his quavering hand.


Are you a relative or friend of any the deceased passengers from the 1948 Los Gatos plane crash? Contact author Tim Z. Hernandez at He wants to talk to you about his project on the accident.

From bugs and grapevines to following his Mexican-American heritage's historical paths, author and performance artist Tim Z. Hernandez likes to focus on the stories from within.

The California native will be reading Thursday from his collection of poetry at the University of Houston-Victoria.

His writing is dark with a dash of entertaining cynicism mixed in with a dollop of hope.

In "Natural Takeover of Small Things," released in 2013, the word "tendril" appears sporadically throughout Hernandez's collection of poems.

"Where I live, we're surrounded by grape fields, by vineyards," Hernandez said. "It's something that whenever I think of home there are few images ... that really capture the essence of this place than like a grapevine tendril."

In "Two Girls," Hernandez captures an essence of innocence in his writing about two young girls squatting to pee outside in public, oblivious to a swarm of maggots and a rotting squirrel carcass nearby.

The poems ends with, "How simple those times when one could expose their thighs to pee beneath the open eye of sky and not fear what lies beyond the fence."

Although Hernandez ends his short poem on an uplifting, nostalgic note, a tinge of danger trails.

"It's meant to be funny and kind of playful, and at the same time, it's pretty intense," Hernandez said.

Although he claims no idols, Hernandez said he regards Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," as his poetic inspiration.

In his writing, Hernandez covers environmental themes, and his poetry leaves readers with their ears pressed to the ground.

"Cooked Tongue" parallels the preparation of lengua - a Mexican taco cuisine typically made of cooked cow tongue - with the bullfrogs and night noises of the swamps of east central Fresno.

Since he's taken a break from teaching, the author said he's been working on a project about the famous 1948 plane crash in Los Gatos Canyon near Fresno.

The crash resulted in 32 deaths, including the lives of 28 Mexican nationals who were being deported.

During his trip to South Texas and UHV this week, Hernandez said he hopes to meet some of the living relatives of the Mexican nationals he suspects live in the Bay City area.

The event inspired Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman to write the song, "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee Song)," which has been sung by several folk artists since.

After his grandfather passed away, Hernandez said he's started to record everybody he interviews after using the technique to capture his grandfather's stories during the last three years of his life.

"That's something I've continued to do in my writing," Hernandez said. "Just recording people and listening to people's stories."

Since he became a father four years ago, Hernandez said, he's become more motivated now than ever to produce more work.

"Writing became more urgent," Hernandez said. "I've never been more productive."



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