Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: childhood

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?

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: I REMEMBER

I never ran faster
than when running home from the bus stop,
my unstoppable brown legs
reaching for the ground like rain dropping,
the cascade of my my bent knees and flat feet
led me down the street and like the mouth of a river—
you can trace my tongue and find every beginning.

In elementary school, when we lived close enough to
take the bus from school to home, I remember very well
waiting in line, my tiny body melting in the heat like
the ice cream cone I would hopefully eat if I caught
the ice cream truck in my neighborhood with just
enough change in my pocket. The rarity of money never
sparing me from what I want.

I remember standing there, unafraid of the ride home,
because I always had a book to read.
Yes, I was the kid who read books on the bus
following the aftermath of another school day
where rule after rule, my bus mates and I were told what to do,
and now, it was my choice.

In the in-between, from now and then,
from home and here, I would unzip my backpack
like a present I am gifting myself,
and would search for the earmarked page
I bent merely hours earlier so I wouldn’t forget where I’ve been.

On the bus, nothing is louder than the ruckus of adolescence
pouring out from children, their smoldering throats,
loud as a forest fire carrying smoke and me quiet as ash.
I mean, we’re talking mostly madness, and all of it,
the chaos, the voices, the bus driver’s directions misdirected
like a broken compass. I knew where I was going.
There, back row, window seat, sunlight so I can see.
I sat, hands fit perfectly beneath the body of work I have just opened.

In my head, it was so quiet, I would step into myself
like an empty room, door unlocked with plenty of space
to hear myself think. How lovely it felt,
to turn on one voice in my head then turn off the rest?

I think then, I could have never imagined the quiet
without the chaos of sound crashing into me, my small body
with my bowl cut hair, as I sat next to the window,
where the best sunlight could be seen, where the darkness
would find me reading a book aloud, my proud mouth
alight with sound, round as the sun and the moon, round
as the whole world, and I didn’t know if anyone ever heard
me unfold a story on my lips, the sentences I kept repeating
until I knew what each word meant. I know the echoes
we create do not always say our name. But,
language meant so much to me, that when I read my books
on the bus, I did not worry about what was next,
could think less of the empty house I was running to
once off the bus, where I would eventually arrive by myself,
searching through the stacked shelves of my head,
shifting words in and out of my then growing mouth.
Yes, I am still a river running on like sentences too long to finish.
Yes, all my brothers are still elsewhere and out there
Yes, I am all alone with voices I cannot help but call my own.
No, I refuse to to give in to helplessness.
Yes, I wish this was a sustainable system of living.
Nowadays, the chaos is less cryptic.
But the story still isn’t finished.

18/30: A POEM FOR LIZ

On the kitchen counter, I remember your hands
rolling dough for dumplings, the egg disappearing
into flour, your knuckles rolling yolk, perfect trick.
The chicken simmering in the broth next to you.
The dough, though unfinished, forms in your hands.
A single mother making dinner for her boys, and me.
Your boys, my friends, other brothers, create mischief
in the distance, shaking the plates on your walls.
Then, there is me, next to you in the kitchen, listening.
The smell of love has a noise, and you are a symphony.
It is the weekend, where boys like me escape into trees,
run down dark streets, tease the moon, spoon ice cream
until a river has formed down my wrist, licking my skin.
How wild the nights were when all I had to do was exist.
Sleep, always, a plot twist, as we tried our hardest to remove
any evidence that shows we broke our promises to you.
We spent summer afternoons diving into pools with
sandwiches in our backpacks, a snack to keep us safe.
We started camp fires and crawled rocks to jump off cliffs,
your sons, brave, me, afraid, wanting to disprove the truth
that Mexicans were natural fishes in water, but at the same time,
needing to prove I too could jump into the deep blue,
angling my body, pointing my toes, trying my best to perform
The Pencil Dive, hoping the end of me would touch the bottom
of the lake, this untouchable place I could make my own
If I just knew how to hold my breath right. Returning
was a gift I never knew how to make, only unwrap, which
is why I roam below til’ my breath billows bubbles,
sending signals above the surface like letters back home.
How you taught me to pursue without losing myself.
I did not know how to raise the boy in me like bread.
But I still remember sitting down to eat on Sunday,
my mother on her way, and me, eating Chicken and Dumplings
you made from scratch, the flour still in full bloom around
the room. I follow the steam, blow over the broth, watch my breath
turn into a lesson, a seed growing into a tree, a scared boy
growing into a man, that man, growing into me.