A POEM A DAY

I'm just happy to be here.

9/30: THE UNIVERSE DOESN’T WANT ME TO RAKE MY LEAVES, I THINK

The amount of leaves in my front yard
has to be a cosmic message about
the passage of time and what happens
when we aren’t paying attention,
or at least a graduate thesis
on the ghost of gravity
pulling the invisible strings from
Somewhere High Up Above
the sprawling Oak trees that line
my little street.
Or maybe it’s a divine display of
the Inevitable, meant to remind me
that the changing of seasons requires a
kind of a blind faith. I know these leaves
have to go somewhere, but they’ll
never go back home, no matter the proximity
to its roots. A rotten truth. I used to think the soil kept
its secrets—but the ground keeps only
what it wants to. Maybe I’m thinking too much.
I can’t be the only one who has steadfast beliefs
in the trees,  or in the things
one cannot possibly conceive. What seems like
a thousand leaves fall and each one of them
is a setting sun, taking its light back from the sky
and spinning gracefully through the very air
I breathe, the same air in my lungs used
to read between the lines of some daily poem the universe wrote,
hoping I was paying attention to the smallest of details— Like the blue jay, for example,
that swooped into the afternoon shade
of the tree as a black cat unwinds in its fallen
leaves beneath—and I see the lesson in plain view.

8/30: I FEEL JUST LIKE AN OPEN BOOK

This is the part where I ask more of myself.
I can think of a thousand reasons why,
but all I need is one.
Seven days ago, under the Houston springtime sunshine,
I turned twenty-nine and like clockwork,
I examined every year before it.
There’s a story being told even when we
already know what happened. Working backwards,
I see the extraordinary timing of what I lost
and what I gained. I think of the word
Serendipity and hesitate to summarize
my character development with something
as powerful and simple
as fate. I could have sworn I made a choice
and it was the choosing that carried me
forward. What comes to mind is Current
As in force, as in direction, as in the bodies
of water I swam through to reach solid ground.
The past is filled with poems—
ones I wrote, ones I read, ones I heard, and ones I kept
on repeat in my head.
I go back to fixed points in time and look
for the reasons I tried so hard to be understood.
I look at my life like lines in a poem, as if
I crafted myself with the intention of rhythm.
The good news and bad news is I still
want to be understood. And is there anything more
romantic? The instinct in me wants to write
but I digress, but the truth is, I’m right where I want to be, even
If I need more time than I expect. What the winter
taught me was that I am still
a work in progress, even if the love I lost
returned to me like the words to
my favorite song.
And isn’t that what really matters?
All around me, Spring makes it music too
and I worship the small moments
of my meaning. Where I come from is not just one place.
I’m scattered like a vibration, possessed by
the energy of imagination. I could begin a story,
but it would just take me to another.

7/30: HOW MAKING A ROUX IS LIKE LEARNING TO LOVING YOURSELF

Over the stove,
I stir the pot of what I hope
will become the foundation
of something beautiful

It takes time
for the fire
to travel through
every particle
of flour and oil

I give thanks to my wrist
for the gift of
consistent movement

My mind’s eye
mesmerized by the
merry-go-round
of sounds and colors

The roux changes
by the second
evolving into
who it’s supposed to be—

And what about me?

I’m afraid of my own alchemy.

Who knows how much time
it takes to change
The roux asks me to wait,
says it’s on its way
And somehow
I find the patience I refused to give myself
Yesterday.

When the roux doesn’t burn,
when the color of my imagination
paints itself across the Dutch oven,
I smile to myself, proud with purpose
In love with who I just was,
telling myself,
all this time was worth it—

and that has to be enough.

6/30: ONLY MY FEAR IS FLUENT

I wish speaking Spanish was like making tortillas
Something I could do after watching
my grandmas hands from afar
before trying to form the dough in my own

Was it ever supposed to be easy?


How much time
do I give
a language to rise within?

After years of studying,
I tried leaving my voice
in the bowl on the kitchen counter
of my childhood.

Nothing changed.

How can one language
carry the sounds of
belonging
and
envy?

I’ve asked every question
asked of me
By Spanish-speaking folks
who demand to know
Why hasn’t Spanish
rose within me
like the ancestral
promise of my name?

I have the answers:

I spent my whole life
biting the guilt on my tongue
And now,
only my fear is fluent.

5/30: ODE TO SELF DOUBT

I hear you
talking shit.
I see you
in the comment section
of my greatness
Taking up all the space in the room
of my possibilities
As a person
As a poet
As a lawyer
As a husband
As a son.
You never want me to become.
Every day
I see your face
imitating my own,
wearing a crown
of What ifs
Doubt, your majesty,
You are the King of What Ifs!
The opposite of optimism
The opposite of me
Yet you only exist because of me.

But you know,
your voice is the loudest
only because I let it be?
You’re a failed plot, fool.
I’m the proof
Regina Spektor
sang it best
I’m the hero of this story /
Don’t need to be saved

Doubt you’d understand.
This story is mine.
I do the saving,
The swooping in,
The super hero landing!
Like any good antagonist,
you are the reason
I never quit
Arch-nemesis,
I will take every opportunity
to prove you wrong in this old song-and-dance.
Shit-talking self-doubt,
I hear you yammerin’
I know what you’re about.
But if this were show and tell?
I’d be the hammer,
and you’d be the nail.

4/30: I NEVER WANT TO SAY GOODBYE

Easter Sunday
in Red Oak, Texas
A family celebrates
its faith

Cascarones
contain a congregation
of confetti

My grandparents
are also my godparents
Adela and I are blessed
in the Sunday shade
of Pine and Oak alters

The sun swims
across the
Blue stained glass
windows
holding life
under the sea

Red dirt and
green grass
surround us
like the past.
The bloom of
a bluebonnet
reminds us all
where we come from.

Without a word
I offer
a thousand smiles
to the sky
in between
slices
of pecan pie—

I never want
to say goodbye.

3/30 – THE CATS MEOW

For the 4 stray black cats Adela and I take care of, Shado, Rogue, Lil Mama, and Chicago

We listen to the sounds of morning
before our coffee
brews the momentum we need to
leap out of bed
The morning storms our senses
Fine-tuning our attention
that always seems divided between
our dreams and newsfeeds

We listen  
Through the windows
over the morning train
over the growl of the neighbor’s leaf blower
over the chirping birds
over the howl of too many alarms
for the cats’ meow—
the simple plea of feed me, human—
has now become the call of duty
I answer.
Ah, nothing like a day that begins
with responsibility
But is love really any different?

Adela opens the backdoor in a sing-song
Her audience sings back
A gentle harmony
A little chorus
composed by
The memory of trust
and
The permission of touch
The cats rush towards the hand that feeds,
Their bright eyes in the soft morning light
Impatient but adorable
And this is how it is
for now.
We listen for the cats to meow
It’s no secret really
Just a fraction of a second
A tiny crevice of a moment
A little pause in this play of life
Where there is a need
and we meet it.

2/30: IF YOU CAN BELIEVE IT, IT’S FRIDAY, AGAIN (A BIRTHDAY POEM)

I feel it now: there’s a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it
All my becoming has needed me
My looking ripens things
And they come toward me, to meet and be met.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of a Monastic Life

I write a poem every year for my birthday
I never know what I’m going to say until I say it
I never know who I’m going to be until I see him
I read between the lines like meaning has a mirror
but it changes every year. 
The art of explaining myself to myself 
is never what it seems to be.
I’m not losing or changing my definitions 
There’s just more meaning to give
the longer I live. 

I know nothing has ever been real without my beholding it


Someone
behold this poem 
until it is real and becoming
like the first days of Spring.

I feel it now, 

the power that slept like a seed
between the wild roots of my being.
It takes time to become who you said you’d be.
There’s a birthday candle on the table
A small fire, my breath, and wishing for what’s next,
My big brother Brent writes in my annual birthday text
	
	You’re as vital as a plant providing oxygen 
	during photosynthesis

One day they will study the biology of a brother’s love.
Oh brother. Oh words—
the gifts that give shape to my world.

I’m reading all the words
coming towards me, to meet and be met
like the words of a song. 

Every year, I’m awestruck
at my unprecedented luck 
in knowing I am loved.
The language of this love puts the poems in my blood.
Oh, the words in my blood are brave and here to stay.

On the day I came into this earth,
I ask the universe with all my earthly yearning
Give me more love than my body can stand.
When the lovebirds sing, tell them I’m listening and singing too.
I’m singing a prayer like a birthday wish, 
the only one I know 
the only I say every year:
Gratitude is the only face of god I know.
If there’s still time, I’ll show you.

1/30: Spirit of My Silence

I wrote more e-mails than poems in the last year.
Now, before the first day of April,
My wife runs her fingers through my hair
Like a rosary
and the spirit of my silence
leaves my body like a phantom
Outside my window,
A single wind chime makes the kind of music
With its body
that I’ve been searching for my whole life

Listen here.

Every sound on Sidney street is a revival
of more reasons to live
Light pools somewhere and everywhere
Stairways to forgiveness
I forget the fate of human kind for one second
A Houston sun cracks every tree
free from darkness
Laughter falls like pollen
The sidewalk
asks me to read another poem
by Ross Gay
and before the end of the day,
I am alight and awestruck
at my luck
at my love
blasting from the speakers
the sound system of spring
a karaoke of divine timing
I mean so many things when I say
I am looking for joy
today and always
The latest and last map of my heart starts with
my 4 year old niece coming to visit me,
Jessi demands we sit outside and take in
the beautiful view
Outside my front door
Where the black cats I’ve come to love run
Faster than the neighborhood
Children can rake the leaves
of their youth
Come on, let’s go.
And so we do
And so it goes
A blue-jay swoops and the train whizzes
Into action
Tejano music grooves
fuses with the smoke
from oak or mesquite
I want to speak the commotion
into a sentence or a lyric
And tell you this is all I know.
The locomotion is a promise made
for giving my attention
to something else besides my e-mail.
This poem is an engine
loud enough
to drown the things I lost
and remind me what I found
I invite the wind of a moment
Into my home
The horizon is a stone’s throw away
from who I was yesterday
By now, I know what I’m here on earth for:

The consequence of living is clear
Time rewinds every time a poem appears.

30/30: AFTER 16 YEARS OF WRITING POETRY, I’VE LEARNED

The poem can wait.
Living is the first draft to master.
Sitting down to write comes later.
A poem happens out of order,
When the door is ajar and the
Muse is asking what is for dinner.
Whether the stove is on depends
how much fire you can walk through.
Memories are sleeping, hungry giants.
You decide what stays, what goes.
The point is—
you have a purpose,
long after the poem is finished,
long before the poem began.