A Death in the Family: Francisco X Alarcón

longing and authenticity
francisco mariposa by maya
francisco mariposa by maya


Francisco X. Alarcón let go of his body January 15. His passing is moving me very much. I am finishing drawings on our latest book together. A book of days. I look at spending the next few months very intimately sitting with Francisco as the arte unfolds. I am so sad.

I find myself thinking of his partner of 28 years. I keep thinking of their home. Their arte, their space, their colors, their feel. Less than a year ago I was sitting there interviewing Francisco. I keep thinking of the books and the vision he and I were beginning to conjure. Francisco had responded in his most-wonderful-Francisco-way to my call to create LGBT children’s books by QOC. He wrote a poem. He envisioned a book.

Francisco was incredibly enthusiastic about children’s books. Like me he led a double creative life. In one a radical queer poet activist, in the other a multicultural children’s book author. I have always believed people like me and Francisco are exactly who kids need to come into contact with and our coming into our children’s book queerness together seemed beyond awesome. It would cast a queer light on our other 5 books together and as artists it would serve to unite our individual visions and work. This is powerful stuff. In so many directions. “The personal is political”, as another QOC activist/author knew and wrote. Audre Lorde.

This brings me back to crying. Francisco has dropped the body. I miss him. I want him here. I want to keep playing. I want to change the world. I want him by my side. I know death. I am familiar with it. I do not fight death. So my longing is very noticeable to me. My tears taste different than I thought they would. My tears are strong and full. These are not the tears for a colleague or collaborator. These are the tears reserved for family.

And there it is.

Queer family. I found myself intuitively calling Francisco ‘Papa’ this last month. Not a paternal vibe but ‘papa’ in a queer sense. His voice. His words. His presence. His enthusiasm. His daring. His life. Respeto. Queer family is those people who hold a foundation for us when there is none. Those people in our lives, close or community, near or far, who create connection, reflection. I see Francisco’s presence and poetry fulfilling the role as a queer shaman in our community. Speaker to the queers and the children. Speaker to our Mexica memories. Francisco is family.

Crying. I am missing the world where Francisco stayed and we made multicultural LGBTQ children’s books together. I want to know those books. I want to hold those books. I want to see those books move in the world and cast rainbows in a million directions. I feel longing and sadness.

A woman, who taught my heart many things, Harriet Rohmer, (visionary and founder of Children’s Book Press) partnered me with Francisco years ago. After a number of books and playing in schools together, I told Harriet that I understood why. There was a resonance of vision between us. Francisco, his self, his vision, his way, was a relief to me in so many ways. I could relax. I could just be. Queer. Chicana. Mamiearth. Spirit. Poet. Artist. Oh Papa.

When I found out about Francisco’s death, I took a long hot bath. My form of meditation. I saw him, caught between the pages, ancestors everywhere. Orienting himself to himself without physical form. I know you are here. I know you are eternal. I know you are the 5th direction now. I know.

But in the knowing I also know,

I am in the time of longing. I make room for it and trust that death provides a path. Each step has value. Thank you so much Francisco for coming and Being. For bringing me joy and books, for playing with me, even for so many tears of love

and for the longing.

1/24/16 (my birthday)

Friday his family laid Francisco’s body to rest in mamiearth. In the week before his sister shared that he never used periods at the end of his poems because his life was his poem. The period would signify the end. In my imagination I saw Francisco himself as his final period, his body the last punctuation as it entered mamiearth.

I know his voice and his spirit press far beyond this period. There is no mistake. He is here. He is everywhere. I feel his spirit loosening my tongue, strengthening my heart, preparing my legs and arms for the next dance. I let the feelings move slowly and steadily. I will stay with the longing until it is spent. Until I am new.

I will stay with the longing too because I will miss him in a different way when it has passed. And I’m not ready for that yet.

The drawings for our book are folded up under my writing this now. I am getting closer to working on them again.

In preparation I imagine my heart like an empty chair, an open place for Francisco to join me as I draw and paint, create and pray into our book. I know he will be with me more than ever for this one.

And I know he will be with me as I continue our work together and create the books I began dreaming with him.






  1. Oh my sweet sister, the gift of Love has wrapped in it sorrow.. We all must enter into that place as we dance in the exuberance of Love. To morn is to care, to be here in this place, to feel, to have known and still know and share all the greatness of brotherhood, sisterhood. God rest your dear friend Francisco. Even though you knew not his departure, you lived together every moment fulfilled with laughter, creativity, and pure celebration of life. I know my love ones help guide me, speak to me, support me here on earth. They are free, dancing with the clouds by day and stars by night, free from pain, free to be..Francisco is dancing… May God comfort you, may you know my prayers surround you as you breathe his love. Prayers upon his family..we must morn because we appreciate the full life he lived, is living??✍?

  2. Gracias!!! Merci!!!Modupe’!!!Gratitude!!!Moved to delicious sad tears that needed inspiration to free flow my own grieving, thank you Shamama Maya deep medicine artist Cura many bows and dance twirls mi familia tu!!! Your work reaches back and heals my gender queer child! Hijole’ so many thanks!
    Francisco so much deep love, an offrenda from mi corazon for your liberation work of beauty and Mexican elegance in the arts of story, poem and queerness. When two Shamans meet and dance we receive their medicine gifts! Gracias a los dos! Carino, Tupili aka Lea

  3. Lorena MoralesEllis

    Gracias Francisco por compartir tu gran talento con nuestros estudiantes, comunidades, familias y maestros en todo California. Que descanse en paz y tu legado aún vivirá en nuestros salones.

    Con mucho respeto,
    L MoralesEllis

  4. Pingback: Remembering Francisco Alarcón | Lee & Low Blog

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