Monday, June 22, 2009


Alfredo Ramos Martinez once painted my family on an old newspaper.

If you look closely at the back of my great-grandfather’s poncho as he stands above his kneeling wife and six children, before the Lady of Guadalupe, you will see written in the classified section:
I will take less than half for my…”

And the words are lost in the shadows, until they pick back up with:

“the rest to the bank receiver.”

Ramos Martinez also painted a portrait of a magnolia flower that now hangs on Nicky’s wall in Coronado. The blue hovering on the edge of the wedding dress petals is a Mexican stained-glass moon with the light of forty suns shining through it.

In the Black Rock Desert the woman made of scrap metal rested on her knees, her arms outstretched, palms to the sky, and held the cream colored moon in her hands, like an offering of magnolia flowers.

Magnolia. The name cannot be said enough. I can imagine it as the name of my daughter. We could call her Maggie for short.

Magnolia. The trees are a bunchy mess of heavy, coriaceous leaves. A half-drunk, potbellied iguana with an underside mottled in dried tobacco spit. Grasped in its many claws are the prehistoric grenades that are its seedpods.

And the flowers. The flowers. The magnolia is one of the world’s first angiosperms, which literally translates to “clothed seed.” And to mark this transition from cone to flower was to mark the great marriage between plants and insects.

And it was for this most momentous occasion that the magnolia tree was first unveiled, each flower a Spanish bride dancing in a windstorm.

Just as some are called to roses, and others to war, I, on the brittle, yellowing newspaper of my heart, have painted a magnolia flower. It is a reminder of an old way. A billowing bride, an unborn daughter, a grandmother I never knew in a skirt of Mexican stained-glass.

For if the world had not already thought of magnolia trees, I surely would have dreamt them up.

September 2007
Lagunitas, CA

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