Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: latino poets

4/30: THE ANSWER

Will my niece ever love a man like me?

If I think about
the answer
If I hope
the answer
is no—then I want her to know why.

Jessi, mija, I am your uncle but before I am a man
I am a boy I am a mistake I am untrue I am a lie
I am a forgery I am a horror story I am a sorry
sorry man, a forged boy, a museum of memories
spoiling in the corner like stories stuck in time-out

I am a mistake
I keep making.

In the sixth grade, puberty arrived. So did desire.
So, so, so
many fires forged this foolish faith,
and mija, I cannot apologize
for the stubborn smoke of my secrets. But I will
explain myself
to you.

I did not
want to be a Mexican boy with the Spanish name
but Mexican girls,
like you, wanted me the way I was.
Knowing this, I hid
this new affection for soft cajeta eyes.
I lied about my longing. I did not give
it a name. I grew secrets in silence.
Intimacy did not speak unless spoken to.
Eleven years old, under the wooden desks
of my world geography class,
I sit next to a girl with eyes like yours
She speaks Spanish to me like a secret
She knows I cannot keep
When no one is looking,
my right hand storms
the unfamiliar shores of her new world skin,
and this new land does not feel new,
Because our blood flows from the same running river of remembering
Because our grandmothers speak Spanish in their kitchens when cooking
Because our mothers threw chanclas in the backseat to beat us
Because our skin jumped at the sun like the gritos of our tios
Because my name told them I was a lit saint candle in their hallway—

Weeks later, when confronted by my peers
All I can do is lie
about the first time
a Mexican girl
held me wordlessly
in the dark, pretending
our
hands never melted
like honey
across hot sopapillas.

As a rule, I learned,
to be a cruel boy,
you must deny what you feel.
I trapped the truth in me like a dead tree.
Years later, when other men ask me
if I would ever date a Latina,
I’d say, I don’t date Mexican women.
I’d say, have you met my mother?
I’d say, I only stay for the food.
I’d say, does it look like I want to wake up with a knife in my back?
I thought, is this not what Mexican men do?
Disguising vulnerability
is a disgusting disease
I am trying to transfuse
out of my blood by talking
to you,

Jessi—
don’t let
any man hide his hands
when he holds you.

Do not love a man
who believes
he is blameless
for failing to name
the monsters he created.

Do not love a man
who preserves the past
into a personal legend
but acts like the lessons
are lost on him.

Mija, I did not mean
to be so mean.
Please,
do not love
a man like me.

17/30: SOMEHOW, I KEEP ON LOVING

You don’t walk into the wind, you walk against it
Contrary to the spellbound leaf, thrown around,
lifted up and taken away, unlike you, feet on ground.

Resilient soothsayer, rhythm—with your steps—maker,
Who let the concrete spin the balls of my feet? Ink-blot.
I tip-toe across a puddle and jot down the reflection

The questions I seek are answers in another form.

The wind wants to win but you have legs better than wings.
The rain wants to destroy but all it does is cleanse.
The elements want to touch you then leave, so they do.

But I am tired of losing. Watch me get caught in the rain
with my umbrella hands, malfunctioning inside buildings
I’ve built in my head, opening up, like disbelief in bad luck,

Nothing can hurt me. Not the rain, the gust, rusted lust.
On the highway, a man on a motorcycle zooms past the rest of us
while the storm is rife with hubris, my Uber driver, Asif,

Turns back to me to say, He does not love his life. And for once,
these words do not apply to me. Because I love my life. Yup,
sure do. Sometimes, when no one is looking, I yawp. Foolish talk.

Chalk-teeth. Don’t care if the words will last. I need to speak.
Taking care of my weaknesses like baby teeth, I pull the truth
out of me the same way a knot is untied. Clumsy wrists. Tight-lips.

Walking downtown, I am the furthest from being a leaf.
No, I love my life too much. Exorbitant. Joy, Flood-like.
The last thing I ever want to say will most likely be a

Run-on sentence, chasing the next thought like a promise
I told you’d I keep. Man of my word. I turn sadness into sweet tea.
Have you heard the one about misery? We all need company.

At Phoenicia, one of the chefs and I are friends.
He asks me to call him Abibi. Abibi calls me Cousin-Brother.
He thinks I’m Lebanese, and when I correct him, he says

Lo siento. Then, another time, Adios, Cousin-Brother. Language lessons.
On Sunday, Fi Amanullah, Cousin-Brother. When I ask what he means, he replies
Allah will protect you, then hands me warm shawarma, and I reply,

I’m gonna need all the help I can get it, and it’s true. I take my food, exit,
only to walk against the wind, now knowing, my body is protected.
Nothing about me spellbound or in disbelief. Contrary to the leaf.

8/30: THE HANGINGS WILL BEGIN AND LIGHTNING WILL FLASH FROM THE WHITE MAN’S HANDS

Bloodshot.

Everywhere
I look
my eyes burn

The wrong light
emanates and no one wants
to collect the leftover darkness,
bear the ungraceful grasp of grief.

What came first,
the dark dance of a bullet or
the finger that pulled it?
No, let’s try that again.

What came first,
the dark dance of a bullet
or a State Sanctioned game of
musical graves?

Violence is not invisible
is not random
it is a resilient and
rhythmic institution.

If a police officer
kills
kills
kills
kills
kills
kills
with no one
around to see
did his gun make a sound?
Probably not.
Probably got muffled
by the other
bang
the lightning
backdrop of fire
flashing

What do I do with
this hive of fury?

A headline last month read:
“Black Man’s Body Found Hanging From Tree in Mississippi”
Another one declares
“All 43 Missing Mexican Students Are Dead”
Another one reads
“Somali Militants Kill 147 at Kenyan University”

I read and weep.
I read and weep.
I read and weep.
It is too loud in my head
But every time I wish to escape,
I cannot help but feel like a coward
too afraid to scour this dark interior
to wed anger with effort,
so I swallow my tongue,
let my mouth go numb,
because while I am alive,
how does one ever
protect the dead?

& this is the riddle of dread.