I'm just happy to be here.


Will my niece ever love a man like me?

If I think about
the answer
If I hope
the answer
is no—then I want her to know why.

Jessi, mija, I am your uncle but before I am a man
I am a boy I am a mistake I am untrue I am a lie
I am a forgery I am a horror story I am a sorry
sorry man, a forged boy, a museum of memories
spoiling in the corner like stories stuck in time-out

I am a mistake
I keep making.

In the sixth grade, puberty arrived. So did desire.
So, so, so
many fires forged this foolish faith,
and mija, I cannot apologize
for the stubborn smoke of my secrets. But I will
explain myself
to you.

I did not
want to be a Mexican boy with the Spanish name
but Mexican girls,
like you, wanted me the way I was.
Knowing this, I hid
this new affection for soft cajeta eyes.
I lied about my longing. I did not give
it a name. I grew secrets in silence.
Intimacy did not speak unless spoken to.
Eleven years old, under the wooden desks
of my world geography class,
I sit next to a girl with eyes like yours
She speaks Spanish to me like a secret
She knows I cannot keep
When no one is looking,
my right hand storms
the unfamiliar shores of her new world skin,
and this new land does not feel new,
Because our blood flows from the same running river of remembering
Because our grandmothers speak Spanish in their kitchens when cooking
Because our mothers threw chanclas in the backseat to beat us
Because our skin jumped at the sun like the gritos of our tios
Because my name told them I was a lit saint candle in their hallway—

Weeks later, when confronted by my peers
All I can do is lie
about the first time
a Mexican girl
held me wordlessly
in the dark, pretending
hands never melted
like honey
across hot sopapillas.

As a rule, I learned,
to be a cruel boy,
you must deny what you feel.
I trapped the truth in me like a dead tree.
Years later, when other men ask me
if I would ever date a Latina,
I’d say, I don’t date Mexican women.
I’d say, have you met my mother?
I’d say, I only stay for the food.
I’d say, does it look like I want to wake up with a knife in my back?
I thought, is this not what Mexican men do?
Disguising vulnerability
is a disgusting disease
I am trying to transfuse
out of my blood by talking
to you,

don’t let
any man hide his hands
when he holds you.

Do not love a man
who believes
he is blameless
for failing to name
the monsters he created.

Do not love a man
who preserves the past
into a personal legend
but acts like the lessons
are lost on him.

Mija, I did not mean
to be so mean.
do not love
a man like me.


shout out to the businessmen buying broken gold
shout out to the folks who kept gold after it broke
shout out to the men who hug me in public
shout out to my pops who texts me recipes
shout out to the cast iron feeding the cast of my life
shout out of your driver side window at the top of your lungs
shout out to the crescent moons marooned under my eyes
shout out to voicemails
shout out to wanting to talk to someone so much,
you call to hear their voice, only to leave your voice behind
shout out to green lights and Monday morning traffic
shout out to black tea, honey steam, and hand heat
shout out to the voice in my head and the voice in my throat
shout out to buttermilk pie breath
shout out to my lonely homies
shout out to the play station four encouraging my solitude
shout out to the service industry
shout out to the industrious servers who laugh at my jokes
shout out to my niece, Jessi Diane Caballero, J3, JD, valentine’s day baby
shout out to the bridges I did not brave
shout out to the turtles picking up shifts for Atlas
shout out to the bargain shopping hustle I inherited
shout out to the out of reach future
shout out to Sufjan Stevens curing my sorrow
shout out to the lady bugs who trust the touch of my hands
shout out to stick in the mud that is my tongue
shout out to the generous ticket stubs of love
shout out to the depressed, us champions of effortless sadness
shout out to the sunsets stunting like Shakespearean sonnets
shout out to man behind the manuscript
shout out to the mighty pens of my friends
shout out to my left palm dividing the wind like a pretend god
shout out to my students who fish their voices from the river
shout out to the promises I will die to deliver
shout out to the verdicts I reach about myself in silence
shout out to the endless shouting of shame
shout out to the dark passenger shouting to get out
shout out to the dark side of the wiry moon
shout out to the dark bark of peppered brisket
shout out to unrequited love’s lesson on risk
shout out to my happy flintstone feet, flat as a flag
shout out to the poems put on plates
shout out to complete feasts
shout out to inescapable refuge of regret
shout out to the mouth, the pink soundboard of speech
shouting out loud what I refuse to whisper.