“Lillac” by Luz Aguirre

from West Trade Review, Spring 2018, Vol. 9

Luz Aguirre graduated with a B.A. in English and creative writing from the University of Southern California. Her short story, “Entropy: A Brief History of the Undoing of the Universe,” won the Virginia C. Middleton prize for best fiction in her graduating class. She is currently a lawyer and lives in Los Angeles with her wife (Susan), their daughter (Eva), and their dog (Pablo Pavlov).



By Luz Aguirre

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

they asked so they could assign

the proper agent to frisk you.

A miniature metal detector  passed

over your miniature body, scanned

for tiny guns and tiny box cutters.

You were eight months old,

getting tested for explosives,

and swabs of your hands, diaper, and bottles

dropped into a machine that mulled over

an unthinkable possibility: what if

you are a baby terrorist? Or a baby mule,

smuggling, scheming, paid in black market

breastmilk. What’s the going rate?

What are you hiding? Funny story,

the world you were born into.

I am trying to adopt you. The clerk wants me to explain,

in some bullshit declaration, your paternity, why

your mothers didn’t use a clinic to have you.

What is there to explain? You were conceived in love,

the space between suffering and joy, the unthinkable

thing machines cannot calculate and no doctor gave us.

How can I explain father-shaped silhouettes,

how I am your mother, too?

My eyes witnessed my wife, your mother, shuddering,

with all the pain creation demands, my hands

distracted her, calmed her, danced her, drove

her, held her, every day for a decade through

every dream and dread and as they had never

held anyone else before, woman about to fall

out of the world, caught you, girl falling into it,

cut you loose, named and bathed and dressed you—

not his eyes, not his hands, not his wife.

Yet you have, perhaps, his eyes, kind and free,

perhaps his gentle hands, unfurled easily, hiding

nothing. Perhaps they are your mother’s,

or perhaps even mine, mystery of a nurtured

likeness. I can’t tell any more

than I can tell by looking at a cloud

which mountains gave it wisp.

My family used to say “Blood

is thicker than water.” I am afraid: am I water

to you? When the world sees you with me, does it see water?

Does it want blood? Most days I know: you are my daughter.

Most days are whole days we believe in things,

warm shocks and echoes, wedding days suddenly

ours, or your birthday—you, suddenly ours!—days

holding live wires in tangled bundles, as many

as our arms could carry, no place to put them,

their natural containers plastered over long ago .

This is the deepest secret: blood isn’t the measure.

When you are old enough to weather heartbreak,

I will tell you how it felt, at last, to tire of denying

the moon, which dares remain even when no one

looks at it, then, after all that, to be asked why

not? over and over, and still not know how

to answer. When you are old enough

to weather heartbreak, I will show you

a YouTube video, in a museum,

where our country gurgles:

“Fuck you, fag-gots!”

“Jews will not replace us!” and “White

lives matter!” As if they don’t already.

Smiling and chanting and burning. So funny.

Today the sun was completely eclipsed.

We gawked at something we see every day

hiding furiously behind the other thing we see every day.

It is enough to sear corneas, to drive a seeing person mad.

Now that you are here I’m better at applying sunblock.

I never really had to use it. I burned once,

when I was eight years old, and spent a whole day in water

and desert sun. Once, your mother and I went to Mexico

and she asked me to help her with her back. Broken

windshield wipers would have done better. She was seared,

badly, other than the outline of my lazy hand, in negative.

I didn’t know what it was like to have white skin. I still don’t.

With you I won’t take any chances.

When we leave the house you are smeared,

every square inch, in sunblock. I wait. Let it absorb.

Cover. It is the only invisible shield I can give you.

Let it be thick. Let it work. Skin is a sorry shield. Beyond

sunburns I wonder: will you know the world as a white person

or not? Either way I hope you know you’re always enough.

Nobody has to burn, nothing has to bleed, to make that true.

Months ago all of Los Angeles and New York

shouted into an open wound: “Love, not hate,

makes America great!!!” The wound is:

hate made America, which was conceived in a bucket

of sick and avarice, in the space between suffering

and worse suffering, dark unthinkable machinations,

pain no doctor takes away. The wound is a place

where pastors forget what they were about to say.

When I was a baby my parents made a bronze

cast of my foot: fat, severed, out of context,

like a ghastly enclosure to a ransom note,

except heavy, resistant to time, memento

of the least important part of me. It looks dirtier

every year. They keep it in a box next to a dry black stone

in a ziplock bag that was my cord, another strange fossil.

Perhaps I’m being unfair—this means something

to them, but I have always hated bronze statues,

especially that one. First I think they are real people

then I realize they are not people and non-people

are so terrifying. The day after Charlottesville

your mother and I watched a musical.

Each of us in the audience that day was trying

to relearn something honest and obscure,

that we used to know how to do, that our bodies

might still know in spite of us. Each of us

was fumbling in the dark for something

that fell somewhere, trying to imagine

what it looked like and what it was called,

privately thumbing along shallow grooves

of memories, like being called “improbable,”

a word I didn’t know I needed, like the hour

I first believed, when history seemed an unbroken

record—when all of time was fresh pressed vinyl, ours

to remix at leisure—when everything alive was a beating

expanse, a pastel horizon, ours to conquer at will.

Leaving I thought about the future

when this musical goes the way of all before it

performed in homogenous high schools, recast

awkwardly, back into alabaster, marble, plaster,

when whole belief systems break down

into insipid memes, and tweets shrink

to grunts and farts. Somebody sing

to us. Somebody sing Amazing Grace

or Get Ur Freak On to us. Oh my darling —

Can you blame us for that dark, bronze ache?

This is the real America, we sobbed and sighed,

remember, remember, the fourth of

November 2008.

November 2016

Was the cruellest month.

But you were born, a lilac.

I’ll put that in my declaration.

A prayer for the broken hearted:

Please—banish all the bronze

to museums! Take them all down

in the streets. Hide them!

Behind a wall that gets ten feet higher

every time we get mad, behind a moat

of molten glass, stew of detritus, stocked

chock full of crocodiles; lock them

up behind barbed wire and columns

of looming Klan robes nobody

dares touch; circle them with all

the semiautomatics we can afford;

give them hell and lash and threat

and death, and more blood, for good

measure; papier-mâché them with spit

and ticker tape, phony arrest warrants,

torn up holy books salted from neglect

and abuse; make them futile piñatas,

filled with bronze and more stupid

bronze, that we can hit forever and never beat;

bomb them til they glow; bomb them some more;

cover them with diseased blankets; make them listen

to talk radio while water drips on their heads;

dump them beneath dead barely-buzzing

neon, toxic trash bags of shorn hair,

and stacks of bodies we were so afraid of.

Next to a dumb blank bronze plaque to explain.

And extraordinary people like you

will say, after they have become ordinary

people like me (people with one gray hair

and too many emails): what happened?

The non-people smirk: nothing

Please lock our wild phobias in cases

in a place where children go on bleak

field trips and politicians can whisper solemnly

into microphones NEVER AGAIN.

May the world NEVER FORGET

how to forget. May President Barabbas

get his due. May the full moon never come

to bring out our beast selves against our will.

May our will triumph and triumph and triumph

and triumph until we are so fucking tired of triumph.

May the world know the old Roman peace

of shouting into open wounds. May the world

go back to where it came from!

May the world fuck all the way off.

As if it won’t already.

I have 1,778 photos and 134 videos on my phone,

from the last five months alone. Nearly all

are of you.  I took them so that I won’t forget

what happened — But I also took them to capture

all I see in you I’d already forgotten:

how to be shameless and unafraid,

how to find joy in water and mud,

how not to care whether people like you

or are like you, how to laugh

at mistakes, eat when you are hungry,

how to let yourself want, let

yourself everything, let time

fold into itself, and forgive

space for turning into ether

against your will. I want

to remember those things.

The other night I put you to bed,

and you held my fingers while you fell asleep.

When I started to pull away you held on tighter

so I stayed. Your mother also does this —

when we hold hands like no one is looking

and I start to pull away, because somebody

looks, or it is time to get up for the day,

or from fear, or shame, or for no reason,

she holds on tighter, even asleep, until I stay.

It is the most reassuring reflex.

We can’t always hold on, little cloud,

we can’t always be holdable. But to try

not to pull away or hide, not to live

dying, and do the hard

lonely work of holding —

I want to remember those things.

I have no videos or photos of when

you learned how to play peek-a-boo.

You watched me hide and disappear, reappear

just as suddenly, from behind lazy hands

that can’t shield you from a goddamn

thing, eclipsing, closeting, closing, opening.

Before you knew how to play, I think you used to forget

I was there. Now you remember. And once you learned

how doubt could recede and return

like a wave, pushed and pulled by a paper moon,

leaving behind fresh mud of hope,

which remains, improbably, after

centuries of constant lash

by an apathetic tide, anticipating

the next return of the sun, of God,

You laughed so hard.

It is a very funny story

one I want to remember.


Excerpt of Interview with Photographer Karina Juarez

from West Trade Review, Spring 2018, Vol. 9 © 2018 West Trade Review

For full interview see West Trade Review, Spring 2018, Vol. 9


Hormiguero (from the series “Acciones de Recordar) Oaxaca, Mexico 2012

Karina Juárez (b. 1987) is currently enrolled at the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM) as an art history major, and also leads Errante Laboratorio, a virtual space of investigation and diffusion of contemporary photographers. She has received training at the Manuel Álvarez Bravo Photographic center and the San Agustín Arts Center (CaSA), and was a fellow in the Young Creators of the National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA) in photography in the 2011 and 2014 editions. She has received a number of honors and inclusions, including honorific mention in the Contest of Contemporary Photography of Mexico (2012) and the Eight Biennial Puebla de los Ángeles 2011. Her work has been featured in numerous collective and solo exhibitions in Mexico, Belgium, Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Germany, Honduras, and France. 



WTR: Does your work relate to those previous life experiences in any way? What does it mean to be a photographer for you?
KJ:  My work all the time is in relation to my life, with the fears, the obsessions and with the memories of the past years and of what I am living.  For me to be a creator means that every day can be different, to be able to escape a bit from reality while I am building that other world that I want to be looked at. And also, it is a commitment.

WTR: Did you choose the photograph or does it chose you? When did you start calling yourself a photographer and visual artist and what motivated you to do it?
KJ:  I think I was looking for something, although I was not sure of what.   I had a kind of anguish to say things, so when I started taking pictures it was really wonderful because I could finally put the ideas I had into images.  Although all the time I’ve had a kind of love-hate with photography, I’ve also had long periods in which I have not been able to produce anything, but in the end the anguish comes again with everything that I cannot contain in life, and I start to take pictures again.

WTR: Is your work influenced by other visual artists? Which artists do you respect or admire the most? Do you feel that your work is similar to theirs in some way?
 Yes, my work has been definitely influenced by many photographers in several periods, and some have been my teachers, not only of photography but of life. Mary Ellen Mark was one of them.  She is someone who helped me believe in the strength that my work could have and that I had to keep on producing, but above all, being honest with what I was doing.
Per Bak Jense is a Danish photographer who came to give a workshop in Oaxaca. I lived there in those years. My vision of photography changed completely after that encounter.  One of the exercises that he would assign to us was to make a self-portrait.  That was the first time that I did that. After looking at myself in
that self-portrait, where my head was placed inside a bubble, everything changed. He brought his books and when I saw them, I knew that I wanted to do that. They were images that seemed to contain nostalgia, but at the same time they were very powerful. From that moment I sought for my photos to contain that kind of strength, as if it were a pause, a kind of respite.  I hope one day my work will become similar, not in form but in what it contains and in what it provokes.
WTR: What motivates you to create? Do you ever have moments when you are not satisfied with your abilities or face creativity blocks? How do you deal with those moments?
  I have blockages all the time, but, above all, my insecurities about my work do not allow me to move forward when I think too much about what follows or about the expectations of the  work. It is necessary to allow the work to take its own path.  I constantly go back to my first images. I think there I find answers to move forward although I also have a series of processes that allow me to move ahead and not paralyze myself. I always look for fears, untold stories, news, and dreams. Those allow me to have a subject with which to work.


Excerpt of Interview with Artist Carlos Estevez

from Spring 2017, Vol. 8 ©2017 West Trade Review

for full interview see Vol. 8, 2017 West Trade Review   http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html


Carlos Estévez’s work, which spans more than 30 years, explores the complex relationship between man and the universe, and reflects his lifelong passion for creating art with a philosophical profile. Estévez masterfully weaves themes of the human experience, history, culture and anatomy, resulting in work that is both mythical and surrealist in nature. His recent installation, Bottles to the Sea, is an intricate, complex project exploring communication in the form of a message from the artist to an unknown person in an unpredictable place and time.

Carlos Estévez (1969) was born in Havana, Cuba and currently lives and works in Miami. His education began at the Escuela Elemental de Artes Plásticas, continued at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, and was completed at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana in 1992, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts. His work in painting, drawing, sculpture and installations has received international praise, notably the Grand Prize in the First Salon of Contemporary Cuban Art in 1995. He has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions at prestigious institutions such as the Fine Art Museum in Havana, Cuba, The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, and the Center of Contemporary Art in New Orleans, Louisiana. His works may also be found in public and private collections worldwide, including the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, The Ludwig Forum in Aachen, Germany, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida.



WTR: One noticeable feature of your work is what appears to be energy centers within human anatomy that resemble chakras.  Was that your intention or was there another motive for their use?

CE:  For me the human body is like a map. But a map is the representation of a place and also is a place itself. I think maps are a very accurate metaphor of the human soul. We have a body; but what we are as individuals is inside us: invisible, unreachable. The chakras are points of energy. I use them in my work as important points of the body in a symbolic way.

WTR:  There appears to be a tension in your work between the organic and the non-organic (i.e., the machine), what do you hope to accomplish through such tension?

CE: My intention is to create a metaphor between the relationship of nature with that of the machine. The universe has a structure as everything else has inside the universe. Humans make inventions based on the observation of nature. We reproduce the mechanisms and create planes, ships, cars, telephones, etc. From my point of view, there is not tension, it is an attempt of integration, to create harmony.

WTR: Each of your works is amazingly detailed, whether it is the geometric shapes within a work, the use of interconnecting lines, texture, and hue.  In general, could you describe your creative process and your intention behind it?

CE: My process is similar to the process of the alchemists. They were looking for the formula to make gold, and what they found instead was knowledge. My goal is to find the knowledge. I want to translate my experiences in life into images and share them with other people. The work I do reflexes my inner world, and it has to be done with all the complexity that this process requires. That is why it need to be very detailed. Everything single element is important: the background images, colors, textures, lines and the title.

WTR:  A critic once remarked that you have been influenced by Kant and Nietzsche.  Would you say their philosophical leanings have influenced your creativity in some way?  How do you take their concept of morality and transfer it into art?

CE:  Of course, my work is influenced by my readings, including philosophy. However, I don’t transfer any concept to my art intentionally. It doesn’t work that way. I read a book and I use it as fuel for my brain.  For instance, the philosophy of Kant is very complex. He creates his own concepts and his own system of ideas. What I got from reading his work could be far from his original intentions. I do my own interpretation and this becomes the inspiration for my work. I never know exactly what, how, and when it is going to happen, but one day an image appears that is connected with something I’ve read.

WTR:  You have noted before that your art explores man’s mission or purpose in the universe.  Are you suggesting that art is man’s best tool for understanding existential questions?

CE:  My obsession is to discover the meaning of life. Why are we here in this universe? This transcendental answer can perhaps never be answered, or perhaps it has so many different answers. One thing is for sure, neither science nor history can contain the human knowledge that art so deeply achieves.

“Sunlight Has Blistered the Clear-Coating on My Car’s Hood” by Jesse DeLong

from Spring 2017 Issue, Vol. 8
for other poems, see http://www.westtradereview.com/subscription.html
Jessed DeLong teaches composition and literature at Southern University. His work has appeared in Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, American Letters and Commentary, Indiana Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Typo, as well as the anthologies Best New Poets 2011 and Feast: Poetry and Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner. His chapbooks, Tearings, and Other Poems and Earthwards, were released by Curly Head Press.
Sunlight has Blistered the Clear-Coating on My Car’s Hood
Piloting the lawnmower,
the neighbor maws grass
clippings, which the
egrets, white as a snow rarely
to fall in Louisiana, buoy over, circling,
swelling downward, scouring
for feed: grasshoppers, lizards,
ripe insects,
a feast.
The heat holds it at a distance, this beauty.
The mind, too, holds it in—this thrashing
of the mower, this scattering of the terrified,
this hunger & preying
of the birds. No symbol, here, this is natural. The order
(The mind makes
a distinction—four rainbow-
flared, transparent wings, a straw-like
blue body, ah, a dragonfly—& moves on.)
of nature & human culture are zero sum. See,
(Civilization makes a distinction—if we let fall
these seeds in this dirt, here, ah, wheat—
& moves on.)
sugarcanes bristle the road. & so on
the sky, blue because its humanity’s
most bearable spectrum—
of what the light looks like,
a tower of smoke
unholy. Oh, no. Oh, yes, brown & grey
& alive.

Excerpt of Interview with Artist Julie Heffernan

from Spring 2016 West Trade Review 

©2016 West Trade Review

For full interview, see Spring 2016, Vol. 7, West Trade Review




Self Portrait as Boy in Flight by Julie Heffernan



Related image



WTR: Describe your process for painting; where do you get your ideas? How do you start? Do you complete several studies before actually putting paint on the final canvas? How long does a typical painting take you to finish? Do you paint with show themes in mind, or do you just paint and then assemble the work for shows?

JH: I start a painting with a faint image in mind and make a transparent wash. I don’t do preliminary drawings, but I do wait for an image to well up before I start working. I move

things around in the painting and make a thousand changes until patterns and shapes emerge that interest me and say something about the subject matter. It’s only then that I think about finish.

My work came into its own after I had been painting for a number of years –maybe I had had enough of those accidents that teach us so much. I was on a Fullbright in West Berlin and painting all day every day, working my way madly through a multitude of ideas and painting problems. I was working in a sardonic Neo-Expressionist mode, making paintings about the fecklessness of humankind, and doing a lot of them. For some reason, one night, after I’d painted all daylong and, exhausted, had gone to lie down for a bit I began to notice, suddenly, a stream of imagery welling up in my mind’s eye. These pictures appeared to me like film stills and each was fascinating, like somebody else’s movie in my mind; not daydreams or memories or anything familiar like that. I wanted to look more closely at those images and know them better: the best way to do that seemed to be by painting them. I taught myself a different way of painting in order to make these pictures as clear on the outside as they were to me on the inside. If there were such a thing as a core of creativity within me, this image-streaming seemed to point the way, so I threw out that entire sardonic body of work I’d been making, which now seemed superficial to me.

Over time I continue to use that method of conjuring to figure out problems in my work. The process functions in a way akin to what happens in an epiphany. You identify a problem and you seek an answer to it; you get frustrated and, with a sense of despair, give up and go take a bath, or a nap or a walk—something that relaxes you. Here’s where interesting things start to happen. In a theta wave state, the alert but relaxed brain tells the pre-frontal cortex to go into action and search the entire brain for a solution to the problem. When the answer is found gamma particles line up, as if incandescent, and we have an answer. I wake up with a newly configured image in mind that is some interesting combination of those half-formed ideas I’d been flirting with before, now reformed by the subconscious into something much more germane and complex in meaning.

Recently my concerns about the environment have become the subject of my work, imagining what a hotter world might look like, how we might adapt, where and how we might live. But the deeper content of the work is never clear to me until I’m inside the painting, where it will then show me what I really care about.

WTR: Can artists truly make anything original? How?

JH:  Is a dream original? Yes and no. There’s the ‘new’ to each individual, but that’s always relative. What’s original is the new combination of things aligned with a fresh perspective that allows me to see things I’ve known in a way I hadn’t before. Spilled paint wasn’t new to Pollock – he just noticed how beautiful the drips on his studio floor were (as most artists do) and took them seriously. I don’t worry about originality – I don’t think any serious artist does. It cannot be the first thing on your mind when you go into the studio, or you wouldn’t be able to work; and if it’s the last thing you think about when you leave the studio you

probably weren’t working hard enough. I think most of us just want to notice more, make things that surprise us, that we can get pulled into, like a gambit or a hike through unknown territory. It has to feel new and urgent, but original? – I don’t think it’s up to artists to worry about that.