24/30: SELF-PORTRAIT WITH & WITHOUT
by Zachary Caballero
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.