Introduction to Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines:
The Borders That Divide Us Are the Places We Find Each Other
Descansos–resting places–the roadside shrines we pass on highways and rural roads, are small monuments that announce the place and moment of a stranger’s demise. They mark an untold and mysterious history of the deceased; and they hold a story of the person left behind who built the shrine, and returns on anniversaries to re-arrange the plastic flowers and apply whitewash. These shrines bind the leaver and the left and hold the stories that brought them together. We zoom by these monuments at seventy miles per hour, perhaps notice, perhaps catch a name and a date and feel an uncomfortable sense of sadness. Perhaps we contemplate the fragility of our own fate for a second and slow down. Then the descansos, and their stories, disappear in our rear view mirror.
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines are meditations on how strangers meet in unlikely places and move on with a new perspective of their place in the world. A hitch hiker feasts on roadkill with a hobo on the plains and discovers the cosmos. Raven, the great trickster of the First Nations, finds flight on high tension power lines and breaks the treaty between the new nations of Canada and the U.S. A Mexican-American Border Patrol officer arrests a mojado–a wetback–and is asked a question which makes him confront his own history. A soldier returns from Iraq, his navigation system out of whack, and meditates on the fate of his tumbler pigeon. Then they move on, leaving small shrines, quiet celebrations of the chance encounters that changed their direction.
Mark Lyons is co-director of the Philadelphia Storytelling Project, which uses digital storytelling in their work with teens and adult learners in summer workshops, computer courses and ESL classes. Participants write stories or interview others about their immigrant experience, record, edit and mix their stories, and create short audio stories. He also does workshops with teachers on doing community oral histories. He is the co-editor of Espejos y Ventanas / Mirrors and Windows, Oral Histories of Mexican Farmworkers and Their Families, which is published in Spanish and English. He developed a theater piece from the stories in the book, which was performed by local people at the Border Book Festival in New Mexico.
He has worked in the Latino community for the last twenty five years, as a health worker and community organizer. For eight years he was the director of the Farmworkers Health and Safety Institute, a consortium of grass-roots organizations in the U.S. and the Caribbean. The Institute trained farmworkers to use theater and other popular education methods to train other farmworkers concerning health and safety issues such as pesticides, field sanitation, housing, drinking water, HIV/AIDS and workers’ rights. He also worked for several years in a community health center, as a provider and health planner.
Mark’s collection of short stories, Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines, was published by Wild River Books in 2014. It was chosen as a Kirkus Reviews Book of the Year. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, is a recipient of Pennsylvania Council of the Arts fellowships for 2003 and 2009, and the J.P. McGrath Memorial Award from Whetstone Magazine. In addition, one of Mark’s stories was performed at the Writing Aloud Literary Series at the Interact Theater in Philadelphia.
ARTICLES BY MARK LYONS
Dreams and Nightmares: Notes from the Editor, working with Liliana Velasquez
Dreams and Nightmares/Sueños y Pesadillas
The Ecuadorians of Upper Darby
Espejos y Ventanas / Mirrors and Windows: Nuestras Historias en Español
Espejos y Ventanas / Mirrors and Windows: Our Stories in English
My Power Ranger Had One Leg: The Open Borders Youth Radio Project
The Youth Radio Project: Transcripts of Audio Stories
Welcome to Open Borders
Wild River Books
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines – Arnold’s Roadside Café: Route 80, North Platte
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines – Holy Roller
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines: Security Risk
A Celebration of Shrines
Introduction to Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines: The Borders That Divide Us Are the Places We Find Each Other
Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines: Tlaxcala Red