I'm just happy to be here.

25/30: SUCCESS

In high school I graduated in the top ten percent of my class,
Guaranteeing my admission into a public university tho,the
Truth is I struggled the first year, stumbled in and out my sadness
Between classes until I did not want to answer the question
Of my own doubt. Finished the year with a 2.2 GPA, decided
To double-major in English & History because words were arks,
Language became a Lark. Hear me now: I took an internship
At a global law firm working 25 hours a week while enrolled
Full-time and also working at the Gap as a sales associate selling
White women skinny jeans, folding their clothes, and earning
a dollar above minimum wage and life moved fast like overdraft
fees and drip-coffee and sleep never came when I called, only
stayed when I asked to leave my bed, and I won’t talk about love
tho its absence did crack me open like a sun on the sidewalks
I’d walk cross campus just to see if the love of my life
could choose the light behind the dark flight of my goodness,
goodness what I tried to do all the time didn’t always work out
tho failure seems far-stretched, like a hamper of dirty laundry
I let rise and fall cause I didn’t have enough quarters to wash
Myself clean, and nothing came easy tho I smiled endlessly
At the storm’s shadow, decided I’d rather dance than be doomed,
So I saw my path form like dust on hardwood, instructions for
The future got me looking for direction, cause I can’t always
Tell the lesson. Success isn’t fiction, it’s a long-distance
Relationship with your vision. Check it: It took nearly
two hundred thousand dollars and seven years to hear
the song of myself and hear music. Have I always been
an instrument? I want to be truthful without being misleading:
I cannot guarantee anything but I know I’m not supposed
To be where I am, tho I am here, tho I walked the plank
of each mistake, spent days ignoring the dual ache
of the heart, of the stomach, of the wallet, and I guess
you’d expect every success story to run like a river
leading into something bigger, but I couldn’t have done
any of this shit if it hadn’t been for decisions made
on my behalf beyond my control, for the standardized
tests I had to consume like fake bread, worrying
and waiting for my future to rise in the oven, and
nobody wants to believe this but I never stopped
writing poems, never stopped returning to the
written or spoken word, even tho I heard my words
were a detour, I still saw the finish line like a couplet
out a Shakespearean sonnet, and whatever is asked
of me, I’m on it. I had to suffer so I could say this.
All my success is a blessing my family sings, and
Look at me, smiling like a lyric they picked
Out like a bluebonnet blooming through Spring,
And tho time gave back what it took, I still look
At the man in the mirror as a bowl-cut boy who
Spent his days in the library, lying his head
Down on the carpet to read the story written
For him to read. In less than a month, I graduate
Law school with honors, and this is now my final bow,
Where I catch the rose tomatoes thrown at me like
My mother’s lipstick crashing against my cheek.
I rewrote the story written for me. Now, let’s start
From the beginning.


After Chen Chen’s poem of the same title, from When I Grow Up I Want To Be A List of Further Possibilities

With flat feet. Without mustard. With my hand in the wind on the driver’s side window. Without my grandma’s green thumb. With three degrees. Without enough sleep. With interest accruing. Without a proper bookshelf. With cold coffee on the counter. Without somebody to love. With enough love for somebody. Without hesitation. With the West Wing. With NPR Morning Edition and Steve Inskeep. Without speaking Spanish fluently. With a Spanish name. Without my brothers. With my niece, Jessi, smiling when she sleeps. With flash flood warnings. With melancholy. Without my Uncle Jesse. With the luxurious burst of bravery. With Brent in Alaska. With Grandpa’s Parkinson’s. With Cast irons. With saints for candles. With hashbrowns, extra crispy. With my hands tied. With no excuse. With loose change to spare. With a village raising me. With a tank on empty. With moments to waste. With stubborn smoke. With credit cards. With exigency. With the scarred sky. With a gold ring. Without contempt. With key lime pie in the fridge. With the war. Without peace of mind. With dawn holding my hurt in her hair. With her hurt. Without you here. With you somewhere else I wander. With mangoes I peeled in the kitchen. With self-discovery as a page I bookmark. With my father’s ship-metaphors reaching the port of my purpose. With True North. Without ego. Without jinxing joy. With Pablo Neruda. With the gulf in my gut. With my hands covered in blisters. With Marvin Gaye. With the court’s permission. With reason. With logic. With emotion. Without home. With the homies. With the church bells ringing at the top of the hour. With the train arriving in one minute. Without a passport. Without a criminal record. With a shoulder shrug. With a gym membership to the YMCA. Without enough water. With my body floating in the ravine Labor Day weekend. With enough Pilot G-2 07 pens to fix my constitution. With amendments. Without the popular vote. With my personality pushing through my socks. With letters to women who love the idea of me. With my name on the line. With no man coming back alive. With a minute to spare on the meter. Without forgiveness. With forgiveness. With me as the villain. With me as the hero. Without fear, there is no love. Without love. With love as the last word in the room. With me as the speaker. With you listening.


I would like to walk in your mind barefoot
Naked, mouth open. Strange glory of the body,
I ask you protect what I neglect. Here,
your soil is asleep with secrets
I softly wake with my lips. Strange glory
of the dirt, what mad joy you keep alive.
The triumph of where did it go all wrong
Fills the vaulted ceilings of your feelings
Like slow water in a dance hall. Last call
Comes like the last straw and I grab your hand
Like quicksand. Hear me with your whole body.
The secret entrance to our secret selves
Once had a key, but where did we leave it?