From Queen’s fourth album, A Night at the Opera, the song epitomized my father’s fascination with automobiles.

Yearly, around Presidents’ Day, I share a memory from my childhood to commemorate my father’s life on the anniversary of his death in February 2015. He was eighty-two.

Photo of Alvaro B. Matiz posing with a 1946 Ford on the side of the road.
My father posing next to his 1946 Ford in the mid-fifties. Source: the author’s family archives.

WNEW-FM, the premier rock station in New York in the seventies, whose deejays we knew like disembodied friends, held a promotional giveaway to accompany the release of Queen’s fourth album, A Night At The Opera. I was a lucky winner, getting in the mail the LP, a t-shirt with the cover art, and two tickets to their concert at the Beacon Theatre, scheduled a few days before Valentine’s Day.

Days before the…


My essay from August 2020 gets a new life. A story I wrote for The Junction was republished yesterday at KoreanAmericanStory.org. Their mission is “documenting the Korean American experience through personal stories.” In this essay, I recall my part-time job assembling the Sunday New York Times at the Choi’s newsstand. The only change in the new version is the inclusion of a photograph from my high-school yearbook. The photo is of the school’s Math Squad, where I look the nerdy part. Here’s the original in The Junction:


A new take on Pablo Neruda’s poem

Image for post
Pablo Neruda, between book covers cited in the story. Composite by the author. Source: photo Wikipedia (Public Domain); Publisher’s book covers.

Why I decided to translate this poem: I had been reading Isabel Allende’s latest book, “A Long Petal of the Sea,” a historical novel whose title is taken from Neruda’s simile for Chile. Neruda is a key character in the book and each of the book’s chapters has an epigraph with lines from his poems. During a break from the book, I grabbed from my bookshelf a collection of Neruda’s poems, an old paperback that, from the inscription, had been a birthday gift in 1982. (Thanks, MM.)

The first poem in those yellowing pages was Enigma con una flor, which…


BOOKS I READ: A Long Petal of the Sea (2020) by Isabel Allende. A love story, the novel tracks the long lives of Victor Dalmau and Roser Bruguera, Catalonian refugees of the Spanish Civil War. Evading Franco’s dictatorship, they secure passage on the Winnipeg, a rescue ship organized by the poet, Pablo Neruda. The couple and son restart their lives in Chile, only to see their new world upended by another right-wing strongman, Pinochet.

The dynamics of class, abetted by the powerful Catholic Church, is like a musical drone underscoring the story. If you listen closely, you notice it is always there.

NB: using Medium’s shortform posts to chain my recent reads. Follow the chain; go to previous book:


BOOKS I READ: The Public Image (1968) by Muriel Spark. Annabel Christopher, a movie star living in Rome, nurtures her English Tiger-Lady public image. Her husband’s suicide, if not properly contextualized, is poised to mar her public image, permanently, if his suicide notes get out.

The dark energy lurking in Spark’s book recalls the public gaze that props up today’s influencers of the social media age, and the outrage that sinks them.

Tidbit: after reading the book, I learned that Johnny Lydon/Rotten named Public Image Ltd, his band after the Sex Pistols, after Spark’s book.

NB: trying out Medium’s shortform posts to chain my recent reads. Follow the chain; go to previous book:


BOOKS I READ: The Transit of Venus (1980) by Shirley Hazzard. The book follows Caroline and Grace, Australian orphans whose lives are capsized more than once.

A deeply layered book, with enough folds to hold atrocious characters and saints, TToV is the kind of book that you have to re-read to scrape away at the depth of Hazzard’s genius. After finishing it, I had to find essays about how others grappled with its immensity. I found a handful. Matthew Specktor is “hard-pressed to think of a better novel” (The Paris Review, 2016); and Charlotte Wood’s extraordinary essay discusses her re-readings (Sydney Review of Books, 2015).

NB: trying out Medium’s shortform posts to chain my recent reads. Follow the chain; go to previous book:


BOOKS I READ: In the Woods (2007) by Tana French. A mystery novel set in Ireland follows the work of the Murder Squad, detectives investigating the murder of a twelve-year-old ballerina.

In the Woods was recommended by a woman next to me while I was perusing a giveaway on the street. I was examining a nice edition of Papillon when she interrupted, “you’ll really like this one.” I said, “thanks,” walking away with both. She was right.

I’ve thought of making her a plant at the giveaway, the author, maybe. That would be a good storyline, the desperation of getting read. (Jan 2021)

NB: trying out Medium’s shortform posts to chain my recent reads. Follow the chain; go to previous book:


BOOKS I READ: We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think (2016) by Shirley Hazzard. A collection of Shirley Hazzard’s non-fiction in five sections, edited by Brigitta Olubas. Section two, The Expressive Word, book reviews and their writers, including Muriel Spark, Patrick White, and Iris Origo’s Leopardi, is exquisite. In the section on Public Themes, her contemporaneous putdowns of the United Nations and Kurt Waldheim, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, are damming indictments of ineffectiveness and cronyism.

The title essay is made for multiple readings, finding new nuggets at every pass, but sublime was “Canton More Far,” her weekend spy mission to Canton at age sixteen from her home in Hong Kong. (Jan 2021)

NB: trying out Medium’s shortform posts to chain my recent reads. Follow the chain; go to previous book:


BOOKS I READ: The Carrying (2018) by Ada Limón. A collection of revealing personal poems. One gets to know, intimately, Limón, her lover-cum-husband, his exes, and their dogs and horses. Rural Kentucky plays a big role. She longs to be mother, settles for her dog’s company. Her mother is featured in the standout, The Raincoat. Among other poems that sparked, Time Is On Fire was special. (Jan 2021)

NB: trying out Medium’s shortform posts to track recent reads. Follow the chain; go to previous book:

Mauricio Matiz

I write reflections—personal stories and poems—that spring from where I live, New York City, often touched by where I was born, Bogotá.

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