I'm just happy to be here.


I can’t name the powers,
flowers, fish, or dishes
that give me pause, nor
the colors that draw
my breath short, and
I can’t really explain
how the sweet air
in my lungs hung me out to dry,
like a fish fried above the surface.
All I know is the voice in my head whispering
Worth it.

When I grow speechless at the earth,
my closed jaw opens on command,
until the whole world is just
a wish list I hold in my hand.
One of my students once asked,
Do we breathe in spirits?
And I want to expose
the family photo albums
developing in my throat
each time I think of home.
Hence, the guisada groan
roaming like ghosts in my
dimly lit respiratory system.
But I never told her that.
All I can think about is
All that surrounds me,
the day in which I drown,
the day in which I sound
out each syllable of my love,
with a mouthful of mud,
muddled by longing,
my lovely heart, muddied.
the sound of what I want
has always been
a flood underwater,
both the cause and the effect
of the wannabe blue in my blood.

How unfair is it
that I care this much?
What would it mean if I stopped
following the shiny shimmer of
a body I can hardly see?
What would it mean if I stopped
seeing myself in my body?
What would it mean if I stopped
my body from seeing itself?
The bathwater in my veins is the only way
I can say what I mean without disappearing.
Anchor for sentences, I’m swimming
deeper than any meaning you meant.
Yes, I have two fins, both called
I’m standing inside an aquarium
where a tower of fishes
kiss the glass, the glass kisses back,
everyone around is speaking
too loud to see the mystery before me:
the scales move like wet feathers,
I relearn
as a silent endeavor
this room has
seashells for ceilings,
my ears
peel back
sounds without me even looking,
until I find
the first wave I touched,
brushing my palm
against the simple foam.
This is when I learned to let
my touch roam,
when I knew my hands could not grow
the bones it needed, so I retreated
back towards my my father,
who brought me to the
edge of the Pacific,
when my
mother was still his wife,
when his love was won,
when our lives were one.

I forget
the color of the sea
has always been
the color of defeat.
When asked,
it’s true:
my favorite color
is the blues,
the feelings you can’t choose,
a song with the lyrics knocked loose.
Yes, the blues
aint nothing
but a good man feeling bad,
but am I good man?
Right now,
I’m eating a meal,
inside an aquarium,
drinking red wine
inside a glass
where my stained lips
kiss the brim like a gift.
I believe
a moment is most vast
when you stop trying to make it last.
The crevice of a moment
is the only river I follow.
Just because the water is hollow
does not mean you have to follow.
No, borrow its soft unbroken bones,
Slip into it like a leak, like a stone,
like a rock, like a ring, like your fingers
are flowers walking through the door of Spring.
In front of me, a man with love
in his sea drops to one knee,
slips a ring onto his beloved,
his lips ripple a promise,
all his true words
turned into a school of fish,
love again, is, the teacher,
my heart again, is, the lesson,
When my mother consoled me as a boy,
she would hold me close, and say,
I forget you’re such a sensitive boy, mijo.
I relearn
each time I vanish
off the face of someone else’s planet,
when somehow, I still appear,
letting fear go like a balloon,
reimagining the boy
whose softness
is his sword,
like instead of seeing
the bags under my eyes,
maybe, I disguise myself
with crescent moons,
pulling the tide from sea
and back to me
each time I think of my
father leaving,
or the spirits breathing in me,
or  disappearing beneath the surface,
me, and my two fins—

14/30: G-E-N-E

In the third grade, I beat Paul Veray
in the Spelling Bee Championship
inside the gymnasium at Gattis Elementary.
The word was Gene, and instead he spelled
J-E-A-N, didn’t even misspell the word,
just mistook Jean for Gene, misplaced the n
confused the the g for a j, and the a for an e,
Paul, I’m sorry.
Both language and genetics can be awfully tricky

It is a homophone
Homo: Meaning Sam
Phone: Meaning Voice
When two or more words have the same voice,
but different bodies.
We were studying them all semester
and if I knew anything at the age of eight,
it was how to be two things at once,
you know,
how to sound the same but come from a different place,
I did not need language to teach me such a trick
I knew how to be the sound of what you thought,
and yet, to mean more than what you meant.

short for genetic,
as in the kinetic energy moving through your blood
with so much potential,
the flood of who you will be
is breaking the levy,
the flood of what who were
has finally run out of room.
Inside of me, genes reach back to grab me,
like the hot sun of my mothers tempered tongue
My blood bubbling like caldo,
slowly, the confusion let’s go,
My body is a homophone
for the people that live in me
I am my own cast, my own show
But the voice, it is the same,
like your favorite song,
the best parts of me never change.

I talk to strangers,
I am my mother’s tongue
trying to learn their names
When I am tired,
I am my fathers nine iron,
still swinging
When I am sad
I am my grandfather’s
hushed prayers when
saying grace,
lifting myself up with
the word,
the word of someone
of God of language
I am my own god of language,
rewriting the alphabet with
the genes I keep receiving
I am re-made, turning into
another, becoming myself
through others, discovering
the recipes of my identity
by tracing
what stays the same.
My voice is not a choice,
when someone walks into my home
I open my arms like
both my grandmothers
open the fridge of their hearts,
the potential energy of a meal
is made kinetic,
your genes are prophetic,
how can the blood in you
not be poetic?
When I think I want to quit,
I am my both my grandfather’s
turning bricks into houses,
My friends ask for my advice,
the only voice I hear is my
mother, my father,
the chorus blurring
into a script I’ve always been written in.
When I need to work harder,
I become my brother’s
double-shift hustle,
the cross-over sweat
until I am nothing but net, and
the need to serve moves through
me like a migrant looking for
a field to put his feet in.
I used to think
my body was a family
I was too afraid to raise,
but my family raised
my body,
stirred my voice
like a sentence until it was finished,
until it was the same sound
as those who came before me.