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Hernan Illiscas

Dream of Life, but really of death. Complicated & endless absorbing. By Hernan Illiscas.

I’ve fallen for this Cuencan artist. He was responsible for the mural I like so much & today we went to his gallery, the first floor of his home. His wife showed us around, including some wonderful drawings on rice paper, both tender & forceful. I was too shy to ask prices. If I couldn’t afford them, my hopes would be forever dashed, & if I could, I would have to decide among so many that I liked. He also has a group of 8 murals at the Hall of Justice, right off Parque Calderon, so we trotted over there. The big picture, in each case, is striking, & the details are intricate & evocative. 

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Monday Quote

Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know. 

~ William Wilberforce, early 19th-century British politician & philanthropist who worked to abolish the slave trade


Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr: 

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.


I’m saying this to myself & to anyone who wants to listen. It’s so easy to live in the immediate — we need milk, I have a dentist appointment, hold on the phone is ringing — or to feel overwhelmed when the need is great. No excuse. We all know that but we don’t all act on our knowledge. If crisis & danger were ever clear, it is NOW.

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More details

This is a snippet of a mural on a wall outside the governor’s palace or state building. Several walls insides are covered with portraits of provincial governors (all men, no surprise) going back at least 200 years (oddly, they don’t seem to be presented in chronological order except for some grandee types clearly from 400 years ago, all the way up at the top). There’s also an abstract ceramic mural inside, in shades of the rust & pink that make up most of the roofs of Cuenca.


If I could, I would post a picture of this whole mural, which I couldn’t stand back far enough from to take complete. In it you can see a panel of Panama hats, workers, corn and other ancestral food, doves, traditional occupations, and more, much that I don’t recognize. 


Cuenca! you’ve won my heart!

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I let the clocks run down

to stop you leaving

to stop time stealing you

         goddess of longing


you ran from animal jaws

I ran to let you shiver

here in my arms

         golden with longing


sparrows impatient to fly

branches of snow-ruined trees

clocks that lifted their faces

         late and longing


we knew & let it go

we hovered away & back

we had one design


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Looking closely is the only way to make it mine. 


Much as I am enjoying Cuenca, & Ecuador, so far I have a relationship only with this bit of wall high up in the New Cathedral. 

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I could do nothing else than go in a church every day & have a great time. 


I’m doing more! Seeing Cuenca, hanging out with people, doing karate in the park, reading William Carlos Williams, I may even cook one of these days. The only hard part is remember what day it is, what I meant to do or did.  Read More 

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Monday Quote

Billy, me, Teresa, Steve. 

It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you.

~ John Updike


Perfect quote for this trip, which was largely undertaken in order to spend time with 3 of my oldest friends. Steve & I met at the last big anti-Vietnam War demonstration on April 24, 1971, and have been close ever since. We are now in Cuenca, Ecuador, spending as much time as possible with Teresa & Billy, who I haven’t seen in quite a few years. That doesn’t matter. We are connected in a primal way & there isn’t a moment of fumbling to start talking. A lot of what we talk about is how our experience together affected us—transformed us—but we also are enjoying each other’s company in the here & now. 

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The New Cathedral at dusk, from the window of my Cuenca bedroom.

Here I am! Though I left New York on Wednesday morning, we only got to Cuenca on Friday afternoon due to Willis being delayed by weather in Atlanta. Going from sea level to 8,000 feet feels a little jet laggy so only now writing. First impressions? People in Ecuador are the kindest in the world. For example, everyone has been entirely patient with my attempts at Spanish (turns out it’s not even passable, despite the studying I’ve been doing).I have never seen such open smiles. Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city that reminds me of Spain, unsurprisingly. We are staying in a gorgeous huge apartment half a block from Parque Calderon. I probably could sit in the park & do nothing else this whole trip, and have a wonderful two weeks. 



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And off I go

Packed? Pretty much. Passport? Mos def. Drink the water? Simon says don't & he's from there. Everyone else says yes. 


Am I ready? I guess so. South America, here I come! 


I'm expect to blog while I'm there but ya never know what my days will look like. 


Canda munani! (Quicha for "love ya")

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Teeth Street

This terrific little artwork was made long ago by Tim Milk. 



I lost the first one in a fight

that was all right

the gap balanced my gat-toothed grin

another couple rotted away          family trait

that was all right too           I stole from my father's grave

I donated a few to the chinese vase industry

& a chubby cherub winged another

wisdom never did strike so from 28 I was down to 17

      next to go were the canines

they withered away when I gave up eating meat

   as I grew vague & dreamy I had no further use for incisors

        my lover swallowed several in vigorous kissing

& to give better head I had the rest removed:

gone gone gone

    what you see now are pearls of great price

intricate carved scrimshaw from longdead great whales

a mouth replete with radio receivers television antennae ebony

cradles tiny camera miniature quill pen cuneiform tablet

each spot has a function disguised as a tooth:

I cook my mouth's garden in my mandible wok


1978 or 1979

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