A POEM A DAY

I'm just happy to be here.

Category: NaPoWriMo16

19/30: SESTINA FOR THE GOOD SAMARITAN

St. Martin Caballero also known as St. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of those in need. He usually shown in the act of cutting his cloak in half and offering a piece to a mostly-naked beggar crouched below him, who later appeared to him in a dream as Jesus Christ. Because of this, he is called on by those who need the assistance and kindness of strangers. The Saint is often referred to as the “Good Samaritan.”

The Good Samaritan just collapsed. 14 inches in 12 hours. A woman saves
her family by emptying the refrigerator, crawling inside the ice box, flood
water mocking her, but this is how one avoids death. The duty to change
is the duty of survival. A man slays his family, then himself. Give me pleasure.
I am under no illusion. I know how a thing becomes ruined in the wash, how time
thrashes like a wound in lime juice, the touch of jalapeno seed against your eyes,

As if another excuse to weep was needed. The world is greedy with my breathing, eyes
paralyzed by the damage we create, stunningly sad. Terror is honey for the bees. Who saves
the bees? The ways we kill each other. The knives we hide in our words, weapons old as time
as original as rhyme. The darkness cannot be locked up, says the bayou after the flood.
So who wants to swim in the mud of love? Our bodies drowning in pleasure,
forgetful of what we’ve lost, remembering what we’ve won. The world is afraid to change

The Good Samaritan has awoken. He anticipates needs, green thumb, tends to change
moment into miracle, sees the grief in the beggar, stares down loneliness with both eyes,
The prayer in his voice akin to the promise we give our lover, the lies we tell for pleasure.
Do not forsake the world, my love. The best is yet to come. It will get better. Time saves
the best bite for last. But, too many are swallowed whole, disappearing beneath the flood,
fishing in the mud of love. Opaque ache for bait. Tossed into the deep end. Is it time?

Your best is good enough. Your open heart is actually a gift, and now is your time.
Open it. Harvest happens first in the eyes, beginning the search for change,
Then by touch. Palms a precise kind of pull. You are not rotten because the flood
forgot to leave. Deadwood and oak, choked, but not defeated. Keep your eyes
tenacious, impatient. If the tree doesn’t have fruit, rip it up. If the world saves
itself, can I go back to bed? Look at this weather. The Good Samaritan is tired of pleasure.

I know not how to build or fix. I am not content with my fate–plate full of pleasure,
Cruel hunger, my appetite numbs. The child in me wanting seconds, my hands time-
tied, tongue lying out on the road, heirloom I’ve groomed like a cure. Pleasure kills, saves,
sends waves. Orgasms to bridge the chasm, to cross what we’ve lost off with a kiss. Change
is a strange prayer. Indifference is a virus, Please, somebody look inside my eyes
without seeing the flood.

The Good Samaritan is in love with everyone. I know the trouble before flood,
everyone’s secret is the same. We all want someone to say our name, simple pleasure,
simple song, familiar longing. Am I wrong to want kindness to blind both my eyes?
Come in, come in, come in. I’m opening my heart up like a gift, and now is your time.
Both the drowning man and the man in ecstasy throw up their hands. I refuse to change
my dance. Touch is a song in my hand. Sing with me, the Good Samaritan says, as he saves

The best part for last. Spring in his eyes. It is time
to forget the flood, cruel hunger of the sky, tongue tied to pleasure.
Alive in the love of mud. The duty to change is strange, but oh—how it saves.

18/30: A POEM FOR LIZ

On the kitchen counter, I remember your hands
rolling dough for dumplings, the egg disappearing
into flour, your knuckles rolling yolk, perfect trick.
The chicken simmering in the broth next to you.
The dough, though unfinished, forms in your hands.
A single mother making dinner for her boys, and me.
Your boys, my friends, other brothers, create mischief
in the distance, shaking the plates on your walls.
Then, there is me, next to you in the kitchen, listening.
The smell of love has a noise, and you are a symphony.
It is the weekend, where boys like me escape into trees,
run down dark streets, tease the moon, spoon ice cream
until a river has formed down my wrist, licking my skin.
How wild the nights were when all I had to do was exist.
Sleep, always, a plot twist, as we tried our hardest to remove
any evidence that shows we broke our promises to you.
We spent summer afternoons diving into pools with
sandwiches in our backpacks, a snack to keep us safe.
We started camp fires and crawled rocks to jump off cliffs,
your sons, brave, me, afraid, wanting to disprove the truth
that Mexicans were natural fishes in water, but at the same time,
needing to prove I too could jump into the deep blue,
angling my body, pointing my toes, trying my best to perform
The Pencil Dive, hoping the end of me would touch the bottom
of the lake, this untouchable place I could make my own
If I just knew how to hold my breath right. Returning
was a gift I never knew how to make, only unwrap, which
is why I roam below til’ my breath billows bubbles,
sending signals above the surface like letters back home.
How you taught me to pursue without losing myself.
I did not know how to raise the boy in me like bread.
But I still remember sitting down to eat on Sunday,
my mother on her way, and me, eating Chicken and Dumplings
you made from scratch, the flour still in full bloom around
the room. I follow the steam, blow over the broth, watch my breath
turn into a lesson, a seed growing into a tree, a scared boy
growing into a man, that man, growing into me.

17/30: SOMEHOW, I KEEP ON LOVING

You don’t walk into the wind, you walk against it
Contrary to the spellbound leaf, thrown around,
lifted up and taken away, unlike you, feet on ground.

Resilient soothsayer, rhythm—with your steps—maker,
Who let the concrete spin the balls of my feet? Ink-blot.
I tip-toe across a puddle and jot down the reflection

The questions I seek are answers in another form.

The wind wants to win but you have legs better than wings.
The rain wants to destroy but all it does is cleanse.
The elements want to touch you then leave, so they do.

But I am tired of losing. Watch me get caught in the rain
with my umbrella hands, malfunctioning inside buildings
I’ve built in my head, opening up, like disbelief in bad luck,

Nothing can hurt me. Not the rain, the gust, rusted lust.
On the highway, a man on a motorcycle zooms past the rest of us
while the storm is rife with hubris, my Uber driver, Asif,

Turns back to me to say, He does not love his life. And for once,
these words do not apply to me. Because I love my life. Yup,
sure do. Sometimes, when no one is looking, I yawp. Foolish talk.

Chalk-teeth. Don’t care if the words will last. I need to speak.
Taking care of my weaknesses like baby teeth, I pull the truth
out of me the same way a knot is untied. Clumsy wrists. Tight-lips.

Walking downtown, I am the furthest from being a leaf.
No, I love my life too much. Exorbitant. Joy, Flood-like.
The last thing I ever want to say will most likely be a

Run-on sentence, chasing the next thought like a promise
I told you’d I keep. Man of my word. I turn sadness into sweet tea.
Have you heard the one about misery? We all need company.

At Phoenicia, one of the chefs and I are friends.
He asks me to call him Abibi. Abibi calls me Cousin-Brother.
He thinks I’m Lebanese, and when I correct him, he says

Lo siento. Then, another time, Adios, Cousin-Brother. Language lessons.
On Sunday, Fi Amanullah, Cousin-Brother. When I ask what he means, he replies
Allah will protect you, then hands me warm shawarma, and I reply,

I’m gonna need all the help I can get it, and it’s true. I take my food, exit,
only to walk against the wind, now knowing, my body is protected.
Nothing about me spellbound or in disbelief. Contrary to the leaf.

16/30: I’M AT THE CONTINENTAL CLUB AND

I’ve been dancing all night.
Mighty body, light feet.
No part of me is discreet,
only well-kept, only secret.
Meaning is a recipe I keep to myself.
But tonight, I am emptying the shelves.
Forget rationing, give me irresponsibility.
Forgive the past, someone sip hard liquor.
Fear is a balloon too big for your wrist.
Your body was meant to last,
even if you crash, the crash is sweet.
Look at me, Patron Saint of Self-Pity.
I wrote a new prayer for despair.
Pray with me? Say it with me.
My hips are a spoonful of sugar
pouring moonlight into the sky.
I’m writing my own impact theory.

Strangers howl at me with their sweet teeth,
mistake me for the incandescent croon of la luna,
la luna, white balloon, silver truth, lonely ghost,
who roams above the sky it once lived beneath,
never once haunting, only reflecting its cratered longing,
wanting to return, la luna, who once belonged
to the same earth, as both you and me,
your friends, your family, all of us together
belonging to the same dirt I’ve been kicking up all night.
Everyone has their own path to follow, but tonight it is easy.
My hips are a spoonful of sugar
pouring moonlight into the sky.
The people I love who are afraid of the dark
do not have to hide, instead, watch how
My knees hurl commands to my heels,
My heels speak for my feet,
My feet reach back and forth, traveling so fast,
I’m floating above the ground, flirting with friction,
Looking at the future like a dance floor I already kissed.

15/30: MAGNIFICENCE

I can’t name the powers,
flowers, fish, or dishes
that give me pause, nor
the colors that draw
my breath short, and
I can’t really explain
how the sweet air
in my lungs hung me out to dry,
like a fish fried above the surface.
All I know is the voice in my head whispering
Worth it.

When I grow speechless at the earth,
my closed jaw opens on command,
until the whole world is just
a wish list I hold in my hand.
One of my students once asked,
Do we breathe in spirits?
And I want to expose
the family photo albums
developing in my throat
each time I think of home.
Hence, the guisada groan
roaming like ghosts in my
dimly lit respiratory system.
But I never told her that.
Instead,
All I can think about is
All that surrounds me,
the day in which I drown,
the day in which I sound
out each syllable of my love,
with a mouthful of mud,
muddled by longing,
my lovely heart, muddied.
the sound of what I want
has always been
a flood underwater,
both the cause and the effect
of the wannabe blue in my blood.

How unfair is it
that I care this much?
What would it mean if I stopped
following the shiny shimmer of
a body I can hardly see?
Rewrite.
What would it mean if I stopped
seeing myself in my body?
Rewrite.
What would it mean if I stopped
my body from seeing itself?
The bathwater in my veins is the only way
I can say what I mean without disappearing.
Anchor for sentences, I’m swimming
deeper than any meaning you meant.
Yes, I have two fins, both called
Magnificence.
I’m standing inside an aquarium
where a tower of fishes
kiss the glass, the glass kisses back,
everyone around is speaking
too loud to see the mystery before me:
how
the scales move like wet feathers,
how
I relearn
grace
as a silent endeavor
how
this room has
seashells for ceilings,
how
my ears
peel back
sounds without me even looking,
until I find
the first wave I touched,
brushing my palm
against the simple foam.
This is when I learned to let
my touch roam,
when I knew my hands could not grow
the bones it needed, so I retreated
back towards my my father,
who brought me to the
edge of the Pacific,
when my
mother was still his wife,
when his love was won,
when our lives were one.

I forget
the color of the sea
has always been
the color of defeat.
When asked,
it’s true:
my favorite color
is the blues,
the feelings you can’t choose,
a song with the lyrics knocked loose.
Yes, the blues
aint nothing
but a good man feeling bad,
but am I good man?
Right now,
I’m eating a meal,
inside an aquarium,
drinking red wine
inside a glass
where my stained lips
kiss the brim like a gift.
I believe
a moment is most vast
when you stop trying to make it last.
The crevice of a moment
is the only river I follow.
Just because the water is hollow
does not mean you have to follow.
No, borrow its soft unbroken bones,
Slip into it like a leak, like a stone,
like a rock, like a ring, like your fingers
are flowers walking through the door of Spring.
In front of me, a man with love
in his sea drops to one knee,
slips a ring onto his beloved,
his lips ripple a promise,
all his true words
turned into a school of fish,
love again, is, the teacher,
my heart again, is, the lesson,
When my mother consoled me as a boy,
she would hold me close, and say,
I forget you’re such a sensitive boy, mijo.
I relearn
vulnerability
each time I vanish
off the face of someone else’s planet,
when somehow, I still appear,
letting fear go like a balloon,
reimagining the boy
whose softness
is his sword,
like instead of seeing
the bags under my eyes,
maybe, I disguise myself
with crescent moons,
pulling the tide from sea
and back to me
each time I think of my
father leaving,
or the spirits breathing in me,
or  disappearing beneath the surface,
me, and my two fins—
Magnificence.

14/30: G-E-N-E

In the third grade, I beat Paul Veray
in the Spelling Bee Championship
inside the gymnasium at Gattis Elementary.
The word was Gene, and instead he spelled
J-E-A-N, didn’t even misspell the word,
just mistook Jean for Gene, misplaced the n
confused the the g for a j, and the a for an e,
Paul, I’m sorry.
Both language and genetics can be awfully tricky

It is a homophone
Homo: Meaning Sam
Phone: Meaning Voice
When two or more words have the same voice,
but different bodies.
We were studying them all semester
and if I knew anything at the age of eight,
it was how to be two things at once,
you know,
how to sound the same but come from a different place,
though,
I did not need language to teach me such a trick
I knew how to be the sound of what you thought,
and yet, to mean more than what you meant.

G—E-N-E,
short for genetic,
as in the kinetic energy moving through your blood
with so much potential,
the flood of who you will be
is breaking the levy,
the flood of what who were
has finally run out of room.
Inside of me, genes reach back to grab me,
like the hot sun of my mothers tempered tongue
My blood bubbling like caldo,
slowly, the confusion let’s go,
My body is a homophone
for the people that live in me
I am my own cast, my own show
But the voice, it is the same,
like your favorite song,
the best parts of me never change.

When
I talk to strangers,
I am my mother’s tongue
trying to learn their names
When I am tired,
I am my fathers nine iron,
still swinging
When I am sad
I am my grandfather’s
hushed prayers when
saying grace,
lifting myself up with
the word,
the word of someone
of God of language
I am my own god of language,
rewriting the alphabet with
the genes I keep receiving
I am re-made, turning into
another, becoming myself
through others, discovering
the recipes of my identity
by tracing
what stays the same.
My voice is not a choice,
when someone walks into my home
I open my arms like
both my grandmothers
open the fridge of their hearts,
the potential energy of a meal
is made kinetic,
your genes are prophetic,
how can the blood in you
not be poetic?
When I think I want to quit,
I am my both my grandfather’s
knuckles,
turning bricks into houses,
My friends ask for my advice,
the only voice I hear is my
mother, my father,
the chorus blurring
into a script I’ve always been written in.
When I need to work harder,
I become my brother’s
double-shift hustle,
the cross-over sweat
until I am nothing but net, and
the need to serve moves through
me like a migrant looking for
a field to put his feet in.
I used to think
my body was a family
I was too afraid to raise,
but my family raised
my body,
stirred my voice
like a sentence until it was finished,
until it was the same sound
as those who came before me.

13/30: THE FIRST TIME I DODGED DEATH

happened after I slipped and fell
into the deep end, when the water
left no room in my lungs
for me to believe in buoyancy,
or breathing.
Who thought
a three-year-old boy
at the bottom of a pool
pretending to sleep
inside his blue dream body
could not die?
My tiny body,
a broken boat,
I could not escape,
the only thing I could do
was spill over the sides of
my sunken skin.
it happened so quick,
my cries, a pathetic ripple,
lost in the blue spool
of a hot summer day.
But, I did not die.
My oldest brother
jumped in to save me,
like a prodigal fish,
returning to the current.
This is what we mean
by sink or swim.
When death skimmed
my little life like a pelican
I was inside
a body of water,
a deluge of blue
blurring the line
between breath and death
But, I did not die.
My little unsinkable heart
crafted a life raft.
My little anchored body
uplifted by hands
belonging to a blue-eyed boy,
who would not leave me behind,
though,
we
both left the bright blue abyss,
returned back to the surface,
My body now braver
thanks to the bravado
of his own diving body,
took me against his hip,
and then we went back to earth,
and the sun kissed my face,
with big yellow lips.

 

12/30: REMEMBER THE RED POWER RANGER CAKE?

Never did I want to be more loved
than when my brothers slammed
their bedroom door in my face,
turning the lock, my heroes
tossing their cape off and me,
laying
against the door,
the annoying little brother
the anointed little bother, forgotten
But still, I knocked.
Can I come in? Please? I won’t say anything.
Through the door, laughter low like
our mother’s breathing, down the hall,
so low I have become smaller in the thrall
of it, so small, I don’t even have a name.
But if I am to grow big, I cannot beg.
I lift my legs into the sky of someday,
I pretend both my brothers have unlocked
the door, both their hands open, like an invitation,
like before, on my 4th birthday, when my mother
arranged the most perfect Chocolate Red Power Ranger Cake,
with four candles in the icing, I stood in the backyard,
the sound of song surrounding me, the air in my little
lungs spun the flame into dust as both my brothers
shoved my nose into the bright red icing
and I am breathlessly laughing, my mother is clapping,
the scene is spectacular, and make no mistake,
both my heart and teeth break
into a piece of cake,
listening to both my older brothers,
singing happy birthday,
saying my name,
wearing their capes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/30: HOW TO MOW THE LAWN, A RECIPE

The line is everything.
If you want to make
the perfect lawn,
it must be perfectly long.
You’ll need:
a sharp blade,
a worthy roar of an engine,
a gallon of gasoline,
not to be confused
with your heart,
different sparkplug,
your blood, red skinned spud,
the glue, running river of salsa,
otherwise known,
as fuel.

In making the line,
ask, what am I trying to say?
Take your blade,
have your way,
Little chef.
Erase each little blade,
unmake this made place,
break the grass into glass,
thyme, mint, rosemary.
Rip the handkerchiefs
of the lord, like a form of grace.
Sacrament bent to the will
of your blade, elegant dish,
the front lawn should sing
the same way a wish
leaves the mouth
forming a kiss.
Plot twist.
You’re actually writing
a poem into the earth.
Making the ground
less than, together
both your hands
pushing onward,
creation by erasure.
Me, always too busy
escaping into the landscape,
chasing
echoes of my legacy,
the soundscape of the past
brushes pass my nose,
fresh cut grass, red salsa,
tortillas sewn and rolled in velvet
language so spicy, we actually
speak in fire.
 

 

 

10/30: THE LONG GOODBYE

we don’t want to leave, even when
we’re actually leaving, even when
returning home is the last thing
left to do, it’s not our style.
we choose to linger, stick around,
embrace again, embrace again,
our soft brown hands wrapped
around our soft brown bodies,
my grandma whispering blessings
across the back of my neck,
red lipstick stuck to my cheeks,
my aunt’s kisses,
my grandfather’s wisdom,
a bowl of tortillas
sitting in the center of the island,
an invitation to stay,
a warn place to put
your hands.
The swing set
getting closer to the sky
each time we sit next
to each other, our bodies,
old memories fitting against new stories,
I think the hardest thing to do
is leave when you don’t want to,
not always knowing
what you wish you knew.
Is it so bad to be late,
then? When the door
is such a chore to open,
let us rest in the love
we give, on the couch,
sitting outside in the backyard,
grandma’s flowers changing
colors and shape, their petals
holding onto the stem,
not wanting to leave, even when
the season has come to end.
My family,
we choose
the long goodbye
to close the distance
between us,
hug, and hug, and hug,
kiss, and kiss, and kiss,
yes, I will miss, miss, miss
all the parts about this, this, this.
My loves, my dears, the sweet names
I need to hear, that I need to see—
My family,
we all choose
the long goodbye
to make our beginnings
shorter, I’m sure of it.