Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

27/30: spoliation, then resurrection

I’m standing on the balcony of a high rise, 21 stories, high. The sun licks my face like bright smoke I try to chase, but when I begin, my brain spins in typical fashion, and I become a boy in my head, again, remembering my dad’s childhood home, one story, high, ceilings low, eventually, bulldozed to the ground years after my grandpa passed. Gas had snuck through the walls like a ghost wearing perfume, and it destroyed every room.

Picture this: a ghost house with a screen door, porch swing, and one million pair of saintly eyes not watching, but staring, at you like you’re trying to get into heaven, but you’re only seven. The Virgin hangs above the door, her eyes pour out like a river,

But walk through the door. Ignore the gods. It is the first door on the left.
Inside, a bald man with big hands holds a guitar and a cigarette. His essence was cinematic. He’s like a Mexican BFG, his love big, friendly, and giant.

When his memory went dark, his mind became an exploding star, erratic but catastrophically hilarious. Fact: He laughed at his own jokes. Fact: I do too! The ritual of our greeting went exactly like this: “Hey Grandpa!”, and he’d ask, “How’s ya ugly daddy?” And I never ever had a come back. His laughter billowed out the room like a ballad built with smoke, then he’d flick his guitar with his right wrist, ash his smoke, his unforgetful finger tips moving quick, much like my hands when I wrote this, and

The funny thing is, all my life, my mother looked at me and remarked, “Oh lord—you look just like your father.” And it is remarkable, how she sees the same face of the same boy who gave her her first-French kiss on the dance floor when no one was looking, the same face that faced my grandfather in the front room, with my grandma in the kitchen, stacking tortillas higher than the skyscrapers in front of me.

I remember watching her dig her hands into a bucket of flour, which I always mistook for a bucket of paint. I remember the tortilla beginning from nothing, a blank canvas becoming nourishment, and if I really think about it, she really was an artist, pounding tortillas with her fists until they looked like different phases of the moon painted against the comal sky, and I imagine, in this ghost house, my ghost grandfather, the two of us in this phantom room and me—finally ready with my comeback: “How’s my daddy’s ugly daddy?” HA! And he would erupt again, his laughter howling out the house, back into the universe.

Yes, this poem is about returning, about the indestructible ghosts inside of us, the tortillas I confused for the moon, how faces are places we return to, my grandfather’s spirit, rising high inside of me. I am learning my breath is the last thing this earth will ever inherit. I am learning how to rebuild from the blueprint in my blood. Oh, did I mention, his name was Jesús?

26/30: WHILE SHOPPING AT H-E-B

A little boy walks by the orange juice,
proceeds to shout “Dad! We NEED Orange Juice.”
A little boy walks up to me while
I confirm the integrity of the eggs,
his small voice grows beanstalk raises to my ears,
his face at my knees asking,
Are you a stranger?
I look at him, grab my eggs,
whispering back without a crack,
Yes.

Let me enjoy the mystery
I’m disappearing into the bread aisle
where everything rises, turning sharply
to look for candles, I nearly hit an older man
and I apologize, say,

Sorry Sir, I was coming in hot.

He apologizes back, adds in,
I was like that when I was your age,
I lose my breath at his sincerity,
the ever fond reminisce happening
in aisle six. But before I leave,
I say to him,

Well then, I’m in good company.

Then I abscond onto the olive oil,
soil of my growing appetite,
my absolute delight, the effortless
sweep of the wrist when I’m
cooking with rhythm,
and what are you
but another instrument?
look at all I can do with
a bottle of you?
Parts of you needing me,
me needing you, yes,
this constant need
to invite others in
has become such a gift.

When preparing to examine the apples,
an employee grabs each spoiled, rotten
apple and tosses it away, and I think
how hard of a job that can be.
Who is to say what is unworthy?
But he moves with confidence,
rubbing his hands across the
jazz apples, honey crisp, pink lady,
gala, granny smith, and he is making
my life so easy, it’s lovely. I’m so tired
of picking over the dead, of losing before
I even begin, and I am more thankful
for him than I’ve been of myself.
What’s with this strange history of mystery?
After I’m done marveling, I ask of him,
Are you tossing out all the bad apples?
He doesn’t say a word, just keeps tossing apples
and I think this has something to say about
the invisible work most people do,
the kind of effortless
that took so much effort
to perfect. I mean, to me—
this is a miracle, and honestly,
Who am I to deny the gospel
of gathering all the bad apples
which just happens to be
happening in a grocery store?