Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

17/30: BREATHLESS, I READ A POEM UNDERNEATH THE POET TREE

I ask my body to move, and it moves.
I tell my legs to open their stride, and I glide in the wind.
I beg my breath to stay in control, and my life doesn’t end.

Do I need anymore evidence that I am alive?

Oh, sun. I give all my gratitude to your Tuesday evening gradient.
I repent for all the times I second-guessed your radiance.
Oh, sun. I bet all you ever wanted was a captive audience.

Sweating at sunset, I run with my head held to the sky.
The way my heart knocks against my chest, you’d think
my bones were a microphone.

The faster I move, the more pain I see in my rearview.
I’m not running out of time, I’m running through it.
With miles to go, I surrender to the sky’s invitation.
A voice whispers in the distance and it sounds like
my voice, but six seconds in the future. I’m chasing
the part of the story that has been untold for centuries.

Breathless, I become a disciple of stillness. Still,
I miss what it means to call the chaos home.
Along Buffalo Bayou trail, I catch my breath and lean against
a tree where all the leaves are poems, and
the way my heart knocked against my chest, you’d think
my bones were a microphone. I stand beneath the Poet Tree,
and read the tiny poems that hold so many voices inside.

Reading each poem to myself, I ask the words to hold me,
and they do.

16/30: A LUNCH BREAK HAIBUN ON GRATITUDE

Mid-afternoon mischief in the trees. A river of light divides the leaves. Shadows are everywhere the sun is. Downtown Houston is in a dance competition with itself. Music between the buildings. Everything is under construction, even our secret shame. On my feet is where I feel most alive. Inside Market Square Park, every smell is a spell on me. Oak and Maple guardians hold the block in balance. Cross-walk signs light up like a flame. Squirrels stealing the scene. The universe wants to be seen and so does this poem. Lunchtime longing. See the closed sidewalk? Your path has changed. I want the confidence of a building. Whoever said not every moment has a door has never walked inside my brain. Green-grey water waits for me to sail away. I say a prayer the only way I know how. Like the sky is a secret we all get to keep. Underneath trees, I find a reason to stay. I find a home alone, but alive.

Outside, I go, say:
Gratitude
is the only face of god
I know.

 

15/30: fruit cup empanadas

Sometimes I feel like the opposite of a witness. With my own eyes, I have nothing to report. I gather memories from my grandmother’s garden. I’m holding her life in my hands and I am held captive. I am a helpless spectator. I piece the details of her life together like a bouquet unafraid of decay. Opposite of omnipresent, I rake the leaves into a pile and picture her mind the same way I picture a tree changing colors.I don’t know the consequence of missing information. I regret to inform you, I still can’t say where my ancestors came from. Show me a map, and I’d laugh at the lines defining borders but never me. If my blood has a story, then nobody ever told me the beginning. But listening to stories over the stove, I discover the fire is alive in my grandma’s eyes. Her voice a wood stove. Her love a warm home. Waiting to eat, I’m fed a story from her childhood, about fruit cup empanadas, and my grandma recites every ingredient of her memory. The recipe of the past is bound to repeat.

 

14/30: IN RAINY APRIL

After Robert Bly

For Adela 

In rainy April, the Aloe Vera outside my window is unstoppable.
You lay your head across my chest like a path of magnolia leaves.
We turn into each other’s body and rearrange the soft grey light.
I have no choice but to adore the green eyes sleeping next to me.
I want you to know I chose loving you over losing you.

The light in my chest casts a shadow across your name and I know.
My path leads me back to you like groundwater returning to the sky.
The two of us tell time by counting the freckles between us.
You are the breathgiving woman who makes my heart sing all my favorite songs.
And for as long as you want, I will sing a song of joy.

In rainy April, I kiss you like a season I never want to forget.
The light coming down between the trees leads me back to you.
A laugh travels down your lip and I plant it like a seed.
I run my finger down your spine like a sentence I want to read.
Our bodies choose to bloom against each other.
I hold you like the clouds hold rainwater, and I do not let go.

13/30: THERE IS A VULTURE WHO SLEEPS IN THE SAME TREES AS MY MEMORIES

I didn’t see the body on the ground, only the vulture’s mouth.
Isn’t it miraculous, that the smell of blood is a dinner bell for
some birds in the sky?

Anywhere can become a grave
even the morning asphalt
still wet with dew with, still swallowing pollen
like dirt over the casket.

I awoke to find a wake
I awoke to ask myself,
Does the vulture ever
celebrate the life
that did not last?
None of this is by mistake,
by happen stance, by chance.

A thousand things die inside me every-day
A cell survives and thrives, only to say goodbye.
A memory is dead, then comes back to life.
Hair leaves. Skin regenerates. A thought grows
into a sentence and the sentence goes back
into the soil. Like oil in the dirt, I resurrect each
of my feelings like fossil fuel. With so much life
and death, I become breathless in my own body.

There is a vulture who sleeps in the same
trees as my memories,
There is a vulture who lives
in the sky of my mind
I do not know its name
Only its appetite
I think of my thoughts
as inconvenient prey
decaying on the side of the road
with flesh still on the bone
How do I grieve
what I want to leave
without becoming
an elegy?
There is a vulture waiting to descend
Ready to pick up the pieces
I leave behind on the endless
highways of my mind
But this time,
I drive past the past
I celebrate the still-living
I forgive what I cannot fix
I pray for another sky
I bury the scraps
I say a prayer, and
I do not die.

 

12/30: I AM TRYING TO FISH MY VOICE OUT OF THE RIVER

I am trying
to fish my voice
out of the river

I am trying to fish
my voice out of
the river

I am trying to fish my voice
out of the river

I am
trying
to fish
my voice
out of
the river

And I am never finished

I am trying to fish my voice
out of the river with hands
cast like a net,
open and yet—

I found my voice running
into itself
like a lost current
inside
a river of silence

I am trying
to fish my voice
out of the river of silence
running through my mind

I am trying
to take my own advice

I am trying
to see myself
in the light of day where all I do is
celebrate the arc of my pain,
and watch my boomerang smile
skip across the water
before it finds your arms
in the dark.

I am trying
to reel my voice back
inside my throat so
the truth can stampede
through my teeth like
low hanging Oak trees
swaying ever so
it’s almost impossible to know
whether my voice
is the fruit on the tree
or the water beneath.

11/30: THE PATH OF SOMEONE SEEKING LOVE (AND TACOS)

“Tell me about your life since I last saw you.” I asked.
“There are no great mysteries to tell. My path is always the same and I do everything I can to follow it in a dignified way.”
“What is your path?”
“The path of someone seeking love”
He hesitated for a moment, fiddling with the near-empty bottle.
“And love’s path is really complicated,” he concluded.

– Paulo Coelho, “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept”

Standing outside El Taqueria Palomo, I hold a taco in my hand on a Wednesday night
beneath a sky that is not falling, beneath a sky whose moon knows to call my name when
the darkness stays a little too long. Am I wrong to think the universe is speaking to me?

You may not assign meaning to every moment, and I understand your resistance. I guess
I’m just tired of believing there is no significance to the seconds that pass and the seconds that last.
I’m not talking about destiny. Though, I do believe we have one. As I speak, white rose petals leap before my eyes, falling to the ground until they become someone else’s footprint.

What I’m saying is, the path you lead is half the battle.
What I’m saying is, the path you leave behind is a line in a poem the universe wrote
when you thought you were alone.

10/30: GRASSHOPPERS IN THE SKY

Me? I got me 4 brothers. Corey, Brent, Jesse, Kyler. Blood-bound. I love these men with all my heart, always have, ever since the start. How lucky of me, to be both big and little brother. I used to be a bother. I used to be a small king. I used to be a pawn. I used to be a boy who knew joy was simple like falling asleep on Brent’s shoulders in the backseat of the car cause Corey always got the front. Jesse asleep on mine. Eventually Kyler on his. This is the song I recall. Sometimes the words change. Like I’m never forgetting what I’m not. Always searching for who I’ve been. You know I can count the poems where I throw the word loneliness around like a stone but truth is, I ain’t never been alone. Not truly. I was raised by boys whose names I knew only as roots, as proof of who I am or was or could be. My bruised and busted lip is a trip down memory lane. I lie awake thinking of my brothers somewhere away from me. Their faces are my history. Their names a story only I can tell. One hug from them and all my pain is resolved. I got me 4 brothers. All of us the same but all of us different. Like clouds in the sky. I know we belong together though we may precipitate with different precision. All my mother’s sons. Blood-bound. Can we pretend the light that shines in the sky is each of my brother’s reaching out to me? Our father calls us grasshoppers and I become a creature of habit, hiding in the low-grass of the past. Did you know grasshoppers can only jump forward? Never backward. Never backward. Never backward. Never backward. Never backward.

What I’m trying to tell you is: I’m blood-bound to these men like the soil our grandfathers worked in, and every day I miss them.

9/30: THE PISTACHIO SPEAKS

The shell is a fortress
(badly designed)
to protect its green king

Any shell will tell you:
it’s what’s inside that counts.

I’m counting the cracked shells
all the green hearts
living outside the bodies
they were given.

I hold myself like a soft secret
Like the portrait of a seed
that never saw the soil.

Inside, I am covered, concealed, hidden.

If any hands opened me,
if I had the choice,
If I had a voice
I’d probably run
myself into the ground
back to my roots
back to the tree
that knows my name

The man holding me now,
I see how softly he pulls me from myself

Does he know I was cultivated
for this moment?

Does he know
there is a part of me
nobody ever sees?

8/30: POEM BEGINNING WITH A LINE MY MOTHER WROTE WHEN SHE WAS FOURTEEN ON THE BACK OF HER HIGH SCHOOL PICTURE IN 1979

Please help me
understand
the things
I need to know

I am not always
who I should be

How do you know
what you know?

How do you know
when to keep going?

How do you
name your pain?

How do you
word the secrets
you keep?

I am in the middle of a story
I do not remember telling

Please help me
understand

Nobody tells you the truth
unless it’s easy

I don’t know how to say what I think
without sinking into the ground
like a seed out of a season

In my head, all the heroes are dead
But I want to re-write the ending

I keep holding on to every little thing
that has happened to me it still feels like
it is happening to me

Please help me
I wrote a list of questions with no
answer and all I want
is your voice
to be a whispering map in the madness