15/30: LA BAMBA, OR WHAT KEPT ME GOING

by Zachary Caballero

What kept me going
was not all the words I said
out loud, or in my head,
but the silence I had to
make something out of
all these years.
Where I go in my mind
is not always a hero’s quest,
believe you me.
I’m
looking for meaning
before the metamorphosis
of the past.
I know what it is to outthink
my bones, turn them into a battleground
Turn myself into a phoenix
returning to its ashes
Or a clap of thunder
walking back into the atmosphere.
What I hear in a song goes beyond
the words.

La Bamba plays over the speakers at Denny’s
2:30 a.m., Round Rock, Texas
This moment is a red velvet riot
A late night early morning breakfast romance
I am building a tower of moments
upon the ticking clocks
of lost space and lost time
a monument to this fleet
of fleeting moments
Memory is never convenient, but
the door is always open.
Ritchie Valens is a Mexican ghost
his guitar
now invisible
playing over the speakers of
this suburban Denny’s
filling the kitchens of my childhood
his voice
belongs to the lawless sky of grief
to the green grass of joy
to the air that fills my lungs
when La Bamba comes on.
A memory and a song. All of this thought
without a single word said. Thankful,
the hemisphere of this red-leather booth
is wide enough
to hold my silence
like a learned prayer
like a plea I carry
or a knife I sharpen
whenever I see the butter
on the table.