Manic D Press (2003), $13.95
Aficionados of San Francisco's spoken-word scene will know Molotov Mouths, a verbally incendiary band of activists-slash-poets who have been regaling local audiences with their brand of political poem-raps during the reign of George II. The poems and short prose pieces that make up this collection are not likely to appeal to people who actually like the suburban-angst type of poetry that is the staple diet of, say, The New Yorker. As Molotov Mouther George Tirado recently told a radio interviewer, "We drop political bombs."
A few of the pieces are also artistic bombs, in which rhetoric and cliché triumph over content, but the book as a whole is fresh, passionate, and revolutionary, albeit without promoting any particular dogma.
Set largely in the Mission District, the stories and poems are about drug addiction, transgender sex, anti-war protesting, Latin American death squads, gentrification, disability discrimination, and other capitalist depredations. These works are unified by the strong foundation of human compassion that runs through them, forming the material for the righteous rage that leaps off the page in places.
In Tirado's poem "Silent Friend," the poet asks a dead friend if Death's personality was frightening. "Were his eyes soft and kind?/ Did he hug you? or touch you?/ Did he wipe the sweat from your forehead?/ Such a private moment to be shared by someone/ who did not even know you."
Josiah Luis Alderete's streaming prose "Don Miguel" portrays a proletarian cook in a taqueria who has worked 9,733 lunch shifts. He stands back where "the faucets drip and the pots boil and the fryers fry don miguel's got tiny eyeballs stuffed full with miles and miles slickback jetblack hairstyles and a smooth profile taken right off a bullfighting velvet painting, a brown forehead full of sayings that'll probably take me years to really figure out and even if the devil were burning his feet he'd still wave buenos dias to you."
Housing activist James Tracy is at his best in his poems "Pressure," about a polite panhandler, and "Some of Our Best Friends Are Cannibals," a mockery of the anti-affirmative action movement. And Dani Montgomery's poem about strife-torn Belfast says it all: "nights molotov cocktails shriek over the razor wire/ hurled by unseen hands/ mornings the kids brush their teeth/ and eat cold cereal in the kitchen./ this is the ordinariness of war:/ a mother sweeps broken glass off the pavement/ calling be careful as her children march to school."