Clara’s Corner
Clara Fraser
volume 2
issue 1
Summer 1976

“We’re going to have a double editorial page,” said Our Editor, “and we need a column. Who can write one?”

“Oh, I can,” I said airily.


The beginning is the hardest, as Marx told us; it actually follows from the conclusion. So perhaps if I start from the end, I’ll wind up at the beginning. I trust this is all perfectly clear.

So — the end. Well, like, the end was that I wrote a poem. Yes, that’s exactly what I said — a poem. The editor doesn’t know it yet, but I am already anticipating his respectful and self-restrained reflex when he discovers the awful truth. “You wrote WHAT?! We already have a poem, areal one, by a real, recognized poet, and you were supposed to do a column! Something political, about the historic significance and meaty theoretical juices and aura of excitement and high purpose of the FSP Conference! Why didn’t you?”

Because it’s too hard, that’s why. God, she knows I tried. I sat at the picnic table in the backyard, pen in hand and typewriter adjacent, and thought and thought and thought. How to telescope into 500 words (500? It takes me 1000 to order something from the Sears catalog) an experience that was the absolute pinnacle, the political arch of triumph of my entire life?

The more I mused over the beautiful Tenth Anniversary Conference and the often not-so-beautiful ten incredible years of infighting and outfighting, joy and fury, and sheer high-powered momentum of feminist rebellion and class struggle — the more I remembered, the more verbose I became in my mind. And I decided (copout?) that this was the stuff that books are made on, not columns.

The sun was hot, colorful flowers and shrubs were vividly etched against the white houses around me, planes were droning overhead. Analysis blended into reverie. I basked in the sunshine, staring straight ahead. And then something happened, something spontaneous and impulsive.

This poem happened.

centro de la raza

silhouetted in the vista from my patio

third-dimensional against a grey-blue sky streaked with silver

almost obscured by the soaring trees, the luxuriant branches in three gradations of green


the building roots there, high wide solid firm — entrenched

half-encased in shadow, mysterious and commanding

a palace? a resort perhaps, a very important government edifice, a hospital?


white walls red roof stark chimneys and windows, windows, windows

like a mediterranean chateau clinging to the misty hillside

the haze envelops it in twilight,

unutterable romance


jesus christ, clara, are you kidding? that dump?

sigh. i know what it really looks like, up front and inside ...

an old dilapidated ex-schoolhouse


but i view it from a distance

and as everybody knows that lends charm

and distortion too


still it has a living history, born of pain and defiance and the sheer imagination to DEMAND it

chicanas and chicanos won it, spoils of war, wrenched from the scared aghast gringo city council


the huge structure is a triumph, a beacon, a souvenir of struggle

a harbinger of things to come

today el centro — tomorrow el Municipal Building

why not?


there are many planes of reality

i look at it and what i see

is good and true and beautiful, like the man said


el centro de La raza

throbbing with the radiance of the revolution

• • •

And that’s the way it was, Comrade Editor, one soft summer afternoon in the life of a willing, if neophyte, columnist. Together, we have no place to go but up.