A POEM A DAY

I'm just happy to be here.

Category: NaPoWriMo18

10/30: GRASSHOPPERS IN THE SKY

Me? I got me 4 brothers. Corey, Brent, Jesse, Kyler. Blood-bound. I love these men with all my heart, always have, ever since the start. How lucky of me, to be both big and little brother. I used to be a bother. I used to be a small king. I used to be a pawn. I used to be a boy who knew joy was simple like falling asleep on Brent’s shoulders in the backseat of the car cause Corey always got the front. Jesse asleep on mine. Eventually Kyler on his. This is the song I recall. Sometimes the words change. Like I’m never forgetting what I’m not. Always searching for who I’ve been. You know I can count the poems where I throw the word loneliness around like a stone but truth is, I ain’t never been alone. Not truly. I was raised by boys whose names I knew only as roots, as proof of who I am or was or could be. My bruised and busted lip is a trip down memory lane. I lie awake thinking of my brothers somewhere away from me. Their faces are my history. Their names a story only I can tell. One hug from them and all my pain is resolved. I got me 4 brothers. All of us the same but all of us different. Like clouds in the sky. I know we belong together though we may precipitate with different precision. All my mother’s sons. Blood-bound. Can we pretend the light that shines in the sky is each of my brother’s reaching out to me? Our father calls us grasshoppers and I become a creature of habit, hiding in the low-grass of the past. Did you know grasshoppers can only jump forward? Never backward. Never backward. Never backward. Never backward. Never backward.

What I’m trying to tell you is: I’m blood-bound to these men like the soil our grandfathers worked in, and every day I miss them.

9/30: THE PISTACHIO SPEAKS

The shell is a fortress
(badly designed)
to protect its green king

Any shell will tell you:
it’s what’s inside that counts.

I’m counting the cracked shells
all the green hearts
living outside the bodies
they were given.

I hold myself like a soft secret
Like the portrait of a seed
that never saw the soil.

Inside, I am covered, concealed, hidden.

If any hands opened me,
if I had the choice,
If I had a voice
I’d probably run
myself into the ground
back to my roots
back to the tree
that knows my name

The man holding me now,
I see how softly he pulls me from myself

Does he know I was cultivated
for this moment?

Does he know
there is a part of me
nobody ever sees?

7/30: EATING BBQ IN LOCKHART, TEXAS (LOVE IS A LEGACY)

Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
Celebrating mine and my grandpa’s birthday
He is 77 and I am 26
We are generations apart
but my mother placed his name
between the first and the last
as if to remind me
the last thing I will ever be is
alone

Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
I travel back in time to every holiday,
summer break, church service, family
reunion or party where I would run between
the legs of nameless cousins, battling for my
mother’s and brother’s attention
Trying my best to be seen by the sea of people
floating in the sea of love that is my family’s legacy

Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
I am inside a palace of smoke
where every person holds a spark
in their heart
Love is a legacy we keep ablaze
in the way we say mijo,
in the way we say mija,

I see my niece crawl across the wood floors
where my Grandpa Caballero once stood
Leading me by hand into the heart of the smoke
Oak burning like an orchestra of ash

Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
The world is crowded with everyone who knows my name
I am surrounded by bluebonnets and brisket
I am somewhere I am supposed to be
In this place where I found my face
in the hard heat
in the warmth of a ritual

Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
I understand the meaning of a place
that stays the same while you are busy changing
Watching the smoke drift, I am drawn to
how it
comes
how it
goes
how it
moves
how it
knows
to come back
home.

6/30: YOUR HAND ON A COUNTRY ROAD IN A LIGHTNING SHOW

On the darkest country road, I touch your hand in the dark
to remind my wandering mind
of what it feels like to be held while lightning
surrounds the sky the same way my arms do
around you when we sleep together and my breathing
slows down the same way storm clouds move in the sky
Something inside of me is forming
The sky’s bright siren is a warning signal
And where we are going, I have nothing left to fear
It is April and all the flowers laugh in the distance
as my car speeds past rolling hills of bluebonnets
I’m reaching through every reason I have to stay
And your hand anchors me to the Earth like a law
I will always follow. I only know
it took years to see
the possibility of not being alone

Whenever the clouds swallow the lightning,
I know you are my waiting horizon
I know you are the light that stays
I know you are the hand that reaches back

On the darkest country road, I interrogate the fate of my heart
Is this the place we start anew?

I look over to you in awe as lightning circles your face
Songs fill the space between us, music rolls in the clouds

And we listen
as the car carries us forward
together

5/30: ODE TO THE OLDEST I’VE EVER BEEN

I left the bar after one drink to roast squash and sweet potatoes. On the drive home, I talk to my girlfriend on the phone and hold the story of her day in my head. My bed is proud to announce I’m sleeping through the night. The calendar on my phone reminds me to look ahead. Oh the beauty of a budget. Student loans make me feel less alone. Meeting deadlines make me feel alive. Oh, to organize my socks and not find a single one missing. The joy of being together. Oh, electricity of cancelled plans. Right now, I am building a sanctuary of borrowed time. My plans for the future include fresh bread and compassion. Every day another lesson. Every day another guess. Every day another mess. Another year passes, and the mirror holds who I am with who I was. Tracing the lines on my face I arrive at different places. Oh, how the love I have to give covers the ground like pollen. If anger ever enters my bloodstream, I catch and release like a trapped bee. Calling my mother, I ask about my brothers. I watch from afar. The joy of being together. Oh, to be a witness to my own troubles. Life unravels and I turn my heart into a shovel. If I have a question, I ask it. If I know the truth, I tell it. I don’t know when all my pants will fit again. I’m learning the principle of infinite consequences. I was told a poem is a seed. So I praise what is still growing.

4/30: JESSI OPENS HER MOUTH

Jessi opens her mouth and language becomes a kite she is learning to fly
Language is in the wind and she holds a string in the sky
but all her words are untethered, sound orbits meaning
while meaning meanders along without a voice to
call out its name. She is still learning to speak, and I am still learning
to listen.

It is impossible to translate a sound with no name
But every day, her mouth is a chorus,
full of refrains
stains
growing tooth-pains.

Jessi opens her mouth all the time and when she does,
She speaks the language of refried beans
She speaks the same language a tortilla does
A voice hand-made by the recipe in our blood
She Speaks the same language as caldo
A calming flood of flavor that holds our hearts in its hands
Jessi belongs to a legacy of language only she can claim

The women in my family all have voices that command,
voices that understand, voices that float in the sky, water
the soil, light the fire, and carry the prayer, voices that exist
to say I am here, I am here, I am here.

Jessi opens her mouth and all the birds draw near
Every flower in my grandmother’s green house sneaks out
and the garden shouts out a song only Jessi can sing
My brother, Jessi’s father, watches his baby girl sleep
in silence. Her body rises like a slow tide, waiting
to crash against the shore of any world brave enough
to silence her.

2/30: EVERYONE’S IN LOVE WITH ME

What I wanted was
a reason
not to be alone

We’ve all been lonely
and surrounded
Isolated but invited
Caught up inside the idea
of our eternal hurt
rummaging
through past rejections
like record collections we keep
for the company of our misery.

I’m not sure I’ve mastered survival
but hand to my mama’s bible,
I can’t stop smiling.

When I dream, sometimes
everyone’s in love with me
As if by design

What I want most days is to agree without analysis
To pretend
the world isn’t on a mission
to break my heart
What I want most days is for
love to be enough

And it is.

How, each morning, strings of light slice
and move through the trees to get to me,
I cannot say—
But when I awake, the woman next to me
is in love with me

As if by design.

1/30: SO SOME VULTURES HOLD A WAKE IN THE SKY OF MY MIND BUT I DO NOT GET EATEN ALIVE (THIS TIME)

“I wish I could tell you this story without being in it.”
– Michael Rosen, from Gaslighting in Several Parts

In the spirit of honesty, I think I’m finally ready to talk about it. Driving down I-10, the Texas sun writes the constitution of the sky. In my mind, another sky awaits my fate. On the side of the road, the colorless carnival or carcasses steal the bluebonnet joy of Spring as if grief ever had a season where it did not bloom. The song I’m singing is not exactly a prayer. In the air, a Committee of Vultures rise bright above the montage of Oak trees. As for me, I’m trying to raise my voice in this dungeon where I am. I spy a reason for living where death is a sanctuary. Death is a kettle. Death is the horizon above our eyes, where vultures circle the dead like a black Ferris Wheel alight in the sky. Whoever killed the monsters in my head left the meat on my memories. I’m waiting for the Committee to decide my fate. I’m curious if, each time I revisit the past, a vulture takes flight? My friend Michael reminds me there are stories I wish I could tell without being part of them. That I can’t just drown the past in a lavender bath. When the vultures of my mind finally swoop down to the ground, their bodies are furious and free. I’m not so sure I can say the same for myself. What I’m trying to say is, I’ve never buried the memories that kept me suffering and alive. What I’m trying to say is, there are vultures in the sky of my mind. Aren’t my memories a carcass by another name? I have a million stories where I am not the hero nor worth saving. Trauma tells but does not teach. Please don’t tell the vultures I’m here—all alone in my head, rotten and writhing—like I’m waiting for some bird in the sky to eat the idea of me like an elegy waits on the other side of my wake. Every day, I hold a wake for who I was and who I could have been. When the boy inside me lost his innocence, it was a life sentence. Sometimes I thank God I am not him. Why must I be a witness to my horrible history? The Bluebonnets come alive every Spring because it is a ritual. When someone dies, the family displays the body like a shadow everyone can all touch. A goodbye ritual. A wake. Have you ever seen group of vultures feed on a carcass together? A goodbye ritual. A wake. Ever confuse mythology for biology? It is a mistake to think every god-forsaken trauma entrenched memory is something we cannot help but inherit. What I mean is, driving down I-10 and seeing the vultures patrol the sky, I realized it is a blessing to know there is another creature who only survives on suffering alone. But in the spirit of honesty, I only have time for joy. Spring brings so many things back to life, I can’t help but smile at the power of wildflowers. I’m too sensitive not to smile at the sunshine. Even if there are shadows in the sky, I still choose to try. In the spirit of honesty, this song I’m singing is a prayer. I say, raise your voice in this dungeon where I am and a laugh blooms on cue from the woman I love. And I cannot allow myself to be destroyed.