Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

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30/30: I EXIST NOT TO BE BROKEN

I make a promise to myself, and like a law, I exist not to be broken.
Though I know breaking. Whatever the reason you have for going
where you are going, I think it’s best you leave an hour before sunset.
Time the drive home with the sun’s low descent towards the horizon.
Keep going into the sky. Take the long way home like an oath to remember
how far you have come. I’m running out of time. I’m trying to show myself
the meaning behind all my tiny moments. I’m in love with the miracle of detail.
With the way I tell a story. With the way a story begins with a voice and a purpose. Keep going if you can. I’m here at the end, and I’m miles and miles past worthless.

15/30: fruit cup empanadas

Sometimes I feel like the opposite of a witness. With my own eyes, I have nothing to report. I gather memories from my grandmother’s garden. I’m holding her life in my hands and I am held captive. I am a helpless spectator. I piece the details of her life together like a bouquet unafraid of decay. Opposite of omnipresent, I rake the leaves into a pile and picture her mind the same way I picture a tree changing colors.I don’t know the consequence of missing information. I regret to inform you, I still can’t say where my ancestors came from. Show me a map, and I’d laugh at the lines defining borders but never me. If my blood has a story, then nobody ever told me the beginning. But listening to stories over the stove, I discover the fire is alive in my grandma’s eyes. Her voice a wood stove. Her love a warm home. Waiting to eat, I’m fed a story from her childhood, about fruit cup empanadas, and my grandma recites every ingredient of her memory. The recipe of the past is bound to repeat.

 

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.

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.

3/30: I’M HERE, I’M HERE, I’M HERE

I get lost listening to the rain arrive outside my window. Sunlight falls through a tree touching me and I abandon my shadow self. I pass by my reflection at intersections and praise the soil in my blood. I am a seed after the storm. Born in the heat, my heart is a sweating beast. I step outside and cannot hide. I remember every time I laid beneath the Oak trees and prayed in the shade. What I know now is, the weight of my body is proof I’m heavy enough to be tethered, that I won’t disappear. I’ve swam in the river and did not drown. I forgive the fog every time it hogs the sunset. I like to think I’m changing like the flowers in my grandmother’s greenhouse. Oh beautiful conspiracy of mud, always working like the weather. Sometimes the stillness overthrows me. Some days, I open my heart with no plans of closing.

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.

30/30: “MY HEART, I STILL BELIEVE IN GOD.”

After Shannon Leigh

Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:

I see the island
Still ahead somehow.

– From “Island” by Langston Hughes

My landlocked tongue tucks each destructive emotion
into unopened oceans where hope shipwrecked and did not return.
I have learned to stay afloat by letting the water wash away
most waves of sorrow but some waves are names
reaching for safe harbor like my lips are a lighthouse
but when the crest falls, all I do is flood inside.

Sorrow, you have made me a vessel but can I choose
what I carry?
I’m done committing to the horizon when I am hiding.
I see the island, still ahead somehow.
Not every choice is sink or swim, sink or swim, sink or swim.

Underneath this sorrow and underneath this pain is another wave
The water is so clear I see my face in the sky like another moon
Like another moon, I move the terrible tide on cue,
trying to hide my life beneath blue dreams of silence.
I drop my heart and pick it up like an anchor.
Wave of sorrow, let me follow the wind like a sail
with stories to tell.
I have no lifeboat and no flare.
My lung capacity is a catastrophe.
I hide my tongue from the tide when I know I shouldn’t.
What I choose to carry isn’t supposed to float.
For me, arriving is the same as surviving.
I came into this world, but only after water broke.
All my life I’ve carried an unopened ocean
Tasting the salt of my wounds,
I surrender to the seascape around me.
Nobody’s ever found me in the depths of my defeat.

I’ll deny this ‘til the death of me
but even when I’m sinking
I still believe in anchors.

29/30: WILL WORK FOR CHANGE, BUT FIRST LET ME SAY GRACE

Like back in the day, my Grandpa Fred fed my will to work
When I was a boy, he’d ask me to wash his truck in exchange
For his pocket change, if I was lucky, a couple of quarters
So I could break even when the ice cream man orchestrated
a symphony down the street, rushing me and my brothers
Quick feet, then we’d buy ninja turtles with gumball eyes,
Strawberry crunch if the sun whooped us good enough,
And of course, Lucas, the only Mexican candy we knew,
Licking salt off our sweaty palms like a low-key communion
Our mom didn’t have to force us to go to, and I never knew what work
was until I took the quarters and washed the car in the harsh heat,
Bringing change to the table like offering to a congregation,
Digging in our pockets like mom with her purse in Lockhart
at the Presbyterian Church, where she put us in ties and paid her tithes,
and then we’d all pray over the food in the back room where the kitchen was
and after we blessed the beans, the tortillas, the rice, the meat,
I remember how my dad gave grace, and I’d say in his voice,
good food, good meat, good god, let’s eat, and we would eat together
on plastic picnic tables and talk about family or faith or
finishing the food on our plates, and of course, I wanted to play
outside with my cousins and older brothers,
throw the football and climb the trees until one of us got enough
red-lipstick on our cheeks and dollars in our pockets from some aunt
who missed us most, and we’d all run down the street to Sonic, parading
with mis primos and my brothers to order a cherry limeade where I’d save
the cherry for my mom, or see how long it could go before I’d eat it whole.
I want to look forward into the future, and say this is what I know. Truth is,
I am a guest in my own mind. I hear my voice echo and think, I do not know
this stranger. But I cannot abandon myself like ash from the flame.
It is time I learned I am worth staying for, that I can be a thief of my sadness
But first I must master the stampede of my sins, the list of regrets
stuck on my skin Like the things I wish I knew. I want to clean my soul
like my grandpa’s truck.

I exhale in the hallway where it is dark, where I look for a spark,
where I look for a way to give grace to myself.
I know I need to change, but I’m afraid to be in charge.
I make promises to myself so I know how to break them.
I want to break the habit of making something just to break it.
I want to make a meal big enough to feed the appetite of light,
Please, let my legacy be a lesson in forgiveness.
A chance to lose and gain back your goodness,
until we give ourselves the grace we need.
I’ll go first.
Good Food
Good Meat
Good God
Let’s eat.

28/30: THE HEALER

After René Magritte’s The Healer (Le Thérapeute) (1967)

I want to reveal who I am on the inside,
But I am too tired to explain the cage.
Everything hurts less when I’m unknowable.
Two doves bless my body with white light
But once there was more time to shine.
I’m poor at small talk,
But I’ve walked a long way here.

I am the healer by the sea
I take a seat when someone is suffering.
It is hard to carry a cage,
But where would the pain go?

A body is only as useful as its secrets,
And the sky is a secret I keep
For the both of us
broken birds
humming hope

until the anatomy of melancholy
is nothing more than a curtain calling
to be pushed aside,
like the wings of sadness crashing
each sick and sadly suffering someone
into the seaside where I am now sitting.

27/30:UPON WATCHING A TRUMBONE PLAYER GO BREATHLESS

This is a sentence with a sense of urgency
let us celebrate the death of breath
like your lung’s favorite emergency

No matter the worry, hurry fam
never lose the fast food for thought.

Quick lips, decide joy
without a jury.

the last gasp is how the breath crashes
into a crest of ash

nothing good is good
until we learn it cannot last.