Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

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.

 

14/30: IN RAINY APRIL

After Robert Bly

For Adela 

In rainy April, the Aloe Vera outside my window is unstoppable.
You lay your head across my chest like a path of magnolia leaves.
We turn into each other’s body and rearrange the soft grey light.
I have no choice but to adore the green eyes sleeping next to me.
I want you to know I chose loving you over losing you.

The light in my chest casts a shadow across your name and I know.
My path leads me back to you like groundwater returning to the sky.
The two of us tell time by counting the freckles between us.
You are the breathgiving woman who makes my heart sing all my favorite songs.
And for as long as you want, I will sing a song of joy.

In rainy April, I kiss you like a season I never want to forget.
The light coming down between the trees leads me back to you.
A laugh travels down your lip and I plant it like a seed.
I run my finger down your spine like a sentence I want to read.
Our bodies choose to bloom against each other.
I hold you like the clouds hold rainwater, and I do not let go.

13/30: THERE IS A VULTURE WHO SLEEPS IN THE SAME TREES AS MY MEMORIES

I didn’t see the body on the ground, only the vulture’s mouth.
Isn’t it miraculous, that the smell of blood is a dinner bell for
some birds in the sky?

Anywhere can become a grave
even the morning asphalt
still wet with dew with, still swallowing pollen
like dirt over the casket.

I awoke to find a wake
I awoke to ask myself,
Does the vulture ever
celebrate the life
that did not last?
None of this is by mistake,
by happen stance, by chance.

A thousand things die inside me every-day
A cell survives and thrives, only to say goodbye.
A memory is dead, then comes back to life.
Hair leaves. Skin regenerates. A thought grows
into a sentence and the sentence goes back
into the soil. Like oil in the dirt, I resurrect each
of my feelings like fossil fuel. With so much life
and death, I become breathless in my own body.

There is a vulture who sleeps in the same
trees as my memories,
There is a vulture who lives
in the sky of my mind
I do not know its name
Only its appetite
I think of my thoughts
as inconvenient prey
decaying on the side of the road
with flesh still on the bone
How do I grieve
what I want to leave
without becoming
an elegy?
There is a vulture waiting to descend
Ready to pick up the pieces
I leave behind on the endless
highways of my mind
But this time,
I drive past the past
I celebrate the still-living
I forgive what I cannot fix
I pray for another sky
I bury the scraps
I say a prayer, and
I do not die.

 

12/30: I AM TRYING TO FISH MY VOICE OUT OF THE RIVER

I am trying
to fish my voice
out of the river

I am trying to fish
my voice out of
the river

I am trying to fish my voice
out of the river

I am
trying
to fish
my voice
out of
the river

And I am never finished

I am trying to fish my voice
out of the river with hands
cast like a net,
open and yet—

I found my voice running
into itself
like a lost current
inside
a river of silence

I am trying
to fish my voice
out of the river of silence
running through my mind

I am trying
to take my own advice

I am trying
to see myself
in the light of day where all I do is
celebrate the arc of my pain,
and watch my boomerang smile
skip across the water
before it finds your arms
in the dark.

I am trying
to reel my voice back
inside my throat so
the truth can stampede
through my teeth like
low hanging Oak trees
swaying ever so
it’s almost impossible to know
whether my voice
is the fruit on the tree
or the water beneath.

11/30: THE PATH OF SOMEONE SEEKING LOVE (AND TACOS)

“Tell me about your life since I last saw you.” I asked.
“There are no great mysteries to tell. My path is always the same and I do everything I can to follow it in a dignified way.”
“What is your path?”
“The path of someone seeking love”
He hesitated for a moment, fiddling with the near-empty bottle.
“And love’s path is really complicated,” he concluded.

– Paulo Coelho, “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept”

Standing outside El Taqueria Palomo, I hold a taco in my hand on a Wednesday night
beneath a sky that is not falling, beneath a sky whose moon knows to call my name when
the darkness stays a little too long. Am I wrong to think the universe is speaking to me?

You may not assign meaning to every moment, and I understand your resistance. I guess
I’m just tired of believing there is no significance to the seconds that pass and the seconds that last.
I’m not talking about destiny. Though, I do believe we have one. As I speak, white rose petals leap before my eyes, falling to the ground until they become someone else’s footprint.

What I’m saying is, the path you lead is half the battle.
What I’m saying is, the path you leave behind is a line in a poem the universe wrote
when you thought you were alone.