Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

24/30: WHO OPENED THE DOOR?

When we speak of medicine, what we mean is
we are waiting for a miracle to open the door

But before: let us address the Despair carried everywhere we go
Who told your hurt to come home and open the door?

On the radio, I hear if you don’t transform your pain, you will transmit it,
And what better way to explain pain than something that opens the door?

The best thing any of us can do is anticipate the eyes of our lover
when we hand over our dark, deserving hearts, and ask them to open the door.

Lead me into a room full of mirrors and I know I’ll find a way to hide
myself from the side of myself because I refuse to open the door.

I know the opposite of shame, the opposite of fear, the opposite of violence
all depends on the listener. Isn’t meaning the key we use to open the door?

When I lost my innocence, I ran out one room and into another.
My god, the child in me wants to know: who opened the door?

23/30: the laundry is still not done

It is almost midnight and the laundry is still not done. After another day of law, of living, of language, I am speechless in the twilight of my room. Shuffling across the hardwood in bare feet and flat feet, I grab my phone and choose Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue to fill my room. I sit on my bed and breathe in the Jasmine on yesterday’s wind. I open up a memory like a file folder. Pick up my dirty clothes and put them in a basket. Around my room, I feel the gentle reminder of belonging. Everything has a space or place to call home. Even my dirty socks. Even my dirty thoughts. What I lose in a day is not lost. I am practicing the art of returning. Understanding is a process. Understanding myself is a process. And what is a process but the steps we take forward? The steps we take out of the dark and into the light. I want to walk out of the mirror and hold he who does not like what he sees. In the jazz-filled cathedral that is my room I surrender to you, I surrender all my remarkable pain, I surrender grudges and grief, I surrender the habits that wreak havoc to everyone I love. Self-included. I surrender the guilt that runs like silk through my veins. I surrender this spoiled spool that loves to make a fool of me. Y’all hear that? Bill Evans on the piano. Each key is a soft prayer playing over the speaker. It is almost midnight and the laundry is still not done. I run my fingers through my hair and hang my head in the half-light. I want to get this right. Separating my laundry is a task directly linked to the past, or, the passage of time, or traveling back to the time you wore something else other than skin. All around me lies the evidence of my existence, where I’ve been and what I chose to be seen in. Of course, both me and the laundry are unfinished for a reason. It is almost midnight when I begin to write this poem in my mind. I take my time. I take every line and string it up across the paper sky. I pin word after word against the sun-shined lines. I’m trying to finish what I started, even if the laundry is still not done.

22/30: WHILE I’M HERE

And while I’m here on earth, I rejoice in its worth
Cuz freedom is free”

-Chicano Batman, Freedom is Free”

I can’t name every tree branch I ran beneath like
water under the bridge but while I’m here, let me

Rejoice in the shade outside my door. Sun pours
into my hands like water and I become the color of

Light. Sometimes I want to hold this earth close as if my
heart were a greenhouse. Yes, I want to hold whatever grows

Along the axis of my pain. I have planted seeds like
poems and I do not know if anyone is actually going to read

What I am writing, what I am holding, what I am still growing.
After a long day in the wilderness, I break bread with the balance

In all things. I lament all the bees I’ve killed without first considering
life. Breathing in the same air as the mountains, as the trees, as the river,

I am anchored to the universe, the same why a rhyme sneaks into
every verse. Like it’s supposed to be here. I am supposed to be here.

Hasn’t anyone seen me swimming in the river? Atop the red rocks,
I rock my head gently in the garden of the gods. I commune with

My own existence. Every time I feel my heart beat, I remember
the laws of my body shape every phase of civilization. Look!

Silence is everywhere the cardinal’s song has yet to go. Really
all I want is to walk outdoors for miles and still have somewhere to go.

The sky always answers what’s next. And lucky for me,
everything I see and touch is beautifully enough.

21/30: POETRY AT ROUND TOP

Bless this communion of poets who are here, alive, and listening.
As I speak, lightning writes a poem in the sky and thunder applauses.
If I am at a loss for words, it is because I found new ones, here.
A chorus of voices in the air form every step up the staircase of meaning,
and I walk into a sentence
hoping to become the darling line that defies possibility.
I am remembering the grief that guides us and the joy that binds us.
Not every poem we leave behind is a sacrifice. Some poems
are gifts meant to find a place outside the page to call home.
This I know. I am listening to the rain fall off the roof
and back to the ground, back to the roots, back to the seeds,
back to where it needs to go. But first, it must fall. Oh,
Let my poems follow the same path as the rain. Oh,
Let my poems find a home everywhere they go. Oh,
Let my poems be mine, and let my poems be yours.

20/30: IT IS TOO SOON TO SAY GOODBYE

Sometimes it’s the simple joy of standing in a circle with your best friends on a Friday night to remind us of the power of the infinite, the power of choice, the power of consequence. Life is a divine dance. I accept the invitation of every dance floor yet to call my name. So many years and small days spent counting the seconds of loneliness I almost forgot laughter. Fact of the matter is, I fed myself lie after lie until I could not get up in the morning. Perfected the habit of mourning what is still here. Thought I was a ghost disowning feeling. Thought feeling was proof and forgot truth. I wanted to leave my body and join the sky but—

It is too soon to say goodbye.

To who I was when I did not deserve the love at my door: come dance with this man who wants to kiss your salted cheeks. Let me open the door to this room where everyone is in love with you, or at least your smile. Even if you don’t show your teeth. That smirk does the lord’s work. Your joy is not a trick. Your reflection is an axe. Pick yourself up and cut down the bullshit trees. Please don’t forget. Please don’t forget. Please don’t forget. Please don’t forget, you are not helpless or heartless. I don’t know if anyone tries more than you. I don’t know if you know this, but love looks at you. How you move through crowds. How you hold onto everything that hurts you. How you hold onto everything that holds you. You, you, you, Zachary. I’m talking to you. The voice you use is a song someone loves to listen to. Your laugh is cash and every night is casino night. Your presence is ticket stub everyone keeps after the show ends. The show ends but you’re still on stage and the microphone is hot and believe it or not, everyone is listening to what you have to say.

 

19/30: BUTTER SIDE TO HEAVEN

Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us,
for the amount of garlic and butter we spread
across this loaf. This loaf is God’s to unload.
Heaven is a place so take this bread like a ticket.
Give us this bread, and lay it inside the oven,
Butter side to heaven. Butter side to sky.
Butter side to stars. Butter side to moon.
Butter side to sun. Butter side to ancestors.
I stand atop the mountain of bread and lead
this prayer alongside those who remember
why we are here: is it not to rise? is it not
to become? is it not our purpose to melt
the meaning of a moment into memory?
At the altar of the dinner table, I break bread
with my beloved. We pull apart what the
heavens held like the humans we are.
We open our mouths like saints
and taste a miracle.

18/30: WHAT A GLORIOUS FEELING, I’M HAPPY AGAIN

I used to think of happiness as a lost island
I could never inhabit whenever I was in the habit of
hating myself. What some call isolated,
others call surrounded.

Occasionally, some stranger crashes, lands in the sand
and all I can do is lift my hands, watch the smoke
drift off their body, and ask if they are surprised
at how different the sun looks from here. Everyone
is invited but no one here ever arrives together.

In my life, I am the island and the water.
Sometimes, I am all there is and all there was.
Othertimes, I see the tide that tries to move closer,
as if something was waiting in the middle of the sea
to take me back to where I never wanted to be.
Who can tell me what it’s like, there, on the other
side of the world? Back on the mainland?

From the island, I am writing this poem
to put inside a bottle to ride on the tide.
I’m not asking for an audience or a ship.
Maybe you misunderstand. I want my words
to return to me. I used to think of happiness as
a lost island, forgotten or maybe just unforgiven.
Whatever the reason, I know how I got here isn’t
always the same way back. I don’t remember
how to go back. So here I am, finding myself
on a lost island, and oh what a glorious feeling.

What a glorious feeling, to be happy again,
What a glorious feeling, to remember
I never forgot how to swim.

17/30: BREATHLESS, I READ A POEM UNDERNEATH THE POET TREE

I ask my body to move, and it moves.
I tell my legs to open their stride, and I glide in the wind.
I beg my breath to stay in control, and my life doesn’t end.

Do I need anymore evidence that I am alive?

Oh, sun. I give all my gratitude to your Tuesday evening gradient.
I repent for all the times I second-guessed your radiance.
Oh, sun. I bet all you ever wanted was a captive audience.

Sweating at sunset, I run with my head held to the sky.
The way my heart knocks against my chest, you’d think
my bones were a microphone.

The faster I move, the more pain I see in my rearview.
I’m not running out of time, I’m running through it.
With miles to go, I surrender to the sky’s invitation.
A voice whispers in the distance and it sounds like
my voice, but six seconds in the future. I’m chasing
the part of the story that has been untold for centuries.

Breathless, I become a disciple of stillness. Still,
I miss what it means to call the chaos home.
Along Buffalo Bayou trail, I catch my breath and lean against
a tree where all the leaves are poems, and
the way my heart knocked against my chest, you’d think
my bones were a microphone. I stand beneath the Poet Tree,
and read the tiny poems that hold so many voices inside.

Reading each poem to myself, I ask the words to hold me,
and they do.

16/30: A LUNCH BREAK HAIBUN ON GRATITUDE

Mid-afternoon mischief in the trees. A river of light divides the leaves. Shadows are everywhere the sun is. Downtown Houston is in a dance competition with itself. Music between the buildings. Everything is under construction, even our secret shame. On my feet is where I feel most alive. Inside Market Square Park, every smell is a spell on me. Oak and Maple guardians hold the block in balance. Cross-walk signs light up like a flame. Squirrels stealing the scene. The universe wants to be seen and so does this poem. Lunchtime longing. See the closed sidewalk? Your path has changed. I want the confidence of a building. Whoever said not every moment has a door has never walked inside my brain. Green-grey water waits for me to sail away. I say a prayer the only way I know how. Like the sky is a secret we all get to keep. Underneath trees, I find a reason to stay. I find a home alone, but alive.

Outside, I go, say:
Gratitude
is the only face of god
I know.

 

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.