Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: napowrimo

9/30: THE PISTACHIO SPEAKS

The shell is a fortress
(badly designed)
to protect its green king

Any shell will tell you:
it’s what’s inside that counts.

I’m counting the cracked shells
all the green hearts
living outside the bodies
they were given.

I hold myself like a soft secret
Like the portrait of a seed
that never saw the soil.

Inside, I am covered, concealed, hidden.

If any hands opened me,
if I had the choice,
If I had a voice
I’d probably run
myself into the ground
back to my roots
back to the tree
that knows my name

The man holding me now,
I see how softly he pulls me from myself

Does he know I was cultivated
for this moment?

Does he know
there is a part of me
nobody ever sees?

30/30: “MY HEART, I STILL BELIEVE IN GOD.”

After Shannon Leigh

Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:

I see the island
Still ahead somehow.

– From “Island” by Langston Hughes

My landlocked tongue tucks each destructive emotion
into unopened oceans where hope shipwrecked and did not return.
I have learned to stay afloat by letting the water wash away
most waves of sorrow but some waves are names
reaching for safe harbor like my lips are a lighthouse
but when the crest falls, all I do is flood inside.

Sorrow, you have made me a vessel but can I choose
what I carry?
I’m done committing to the horizon when I am hiding.
I see the island, still ahead somehow.
Not every choice is sink or swim, sink or swim, sink or swim.

Underneath this sorrow and underneath this pain is another wave
The water is so clear I see my face in the sky like another moon
Like another moon, I move the terrible tide on cue,
trying to hide my life beneath blue dreams of silence.
I drop my heart and pick it up like an anchor.
Wave of sorrow, let me follow the wind like a sail
with stories to tell.
I have no lifeboat and no flare.
My lung capacity is a catastrophe.
I hide my tongue from the tide when I know I shouldn’t.
What I choose to carry isn’t supposed to float.
For me, arriving is the same as surviving.
I came into this world, but only after water broke.
All my life I’ve carried an unopened ocean
Tasting the salt of my wounds,
I surrender to the seascape around me.
Nobody’s ever found me in the depths of my defeat.

I’ll deny this ‘til the death of me
but even when I’m sinking
I still believe in anchors.

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.

27/30: spoliation, then resurrection

I’m standing on the balcony of a high rise, 21 stories, high. The sun licks my face like bright smoke I try to chase, but when I begin, my brain spins in typical fashion, and I become a boy in my head, again, remembering my dad’s childhood home, one story, high, ceilings low, eventually, bulldozed to the ground years after my grandpa passed. Gas had snuck through the walls like a ghost wearing perfume, and it destroyed every room.

Picture this: a ghost house with a screen door, porch swing, and one million pair of saintly eyes not watching, but staring, at you like you’re trying to get into heaven, but you’re only seven. The Virgin hangs above the door, her eyes pour out like a river,

But walk through the door. Ignore the gods. It is the first door on the left.
Inside, a bald man with big hands holds a guitar and a cigarette. His essence was cinematic. He’s like a Mexican BFG, his love big, friendly, and giant.

When his memory went dark, his mind became an exploding star, erratic but catastrophically hilarious. Fact: He laughed at his own jokes. Fact: I do too! The ritual of our greeting went exactly like this: “Hey Grandpa!”, and he’d ask, “How’s ya ugly daddy?” And I never ever had a come back. His laughter billowed out the room like a ballad built with smoke, then he’d flick his guitar with his right wrist, ash his smoke, his unforgetful finger tips moving quick, much like my hands when I wrote this, and

The funny thing is, all my life, my mother looked at me and remarked, “Oh lord—you look just like your father.” And it is remarkable, how she sees the same face of the same boy who gave her her first-French kiss on the dance floor when no one was looking, the same face that faced my grandfather in the front room, with my grandma in the kitchen, stacking tortillas higher than the skyscrapers in front of me.

I remember watching her dig her hands into a bucket of flour, which I always mistook for a bucket of paint. I remember the tortilla beginning from nothing, a blank canvas becoming nourishment, and if I really think about it, she really was an artist, pounding tortillas with her fists until they looked like different phases of the moon painted against the comal sky, and I imagine, in this ghost house, my ghost grandfather, the two of us in this phantom room and me—finally ready with my comeback: “How’s my daddy’s ugly daddy?” HA! And he would erupt again, his laughter howling out the house, back into the universe.

Yes, this poem is about returning, about the indestructible ghosts inside of us, the tortillas I confused for the moon, how faces are places we return to, my grandfather’s spirit, rising high inside of me. I am learning my breath is the last thing this earth will ever inherit. I am learning how to rebuild from the blueprint in my blood. Oh, did I mention, his name was Jesús?

26/30: WHILE SHOPPING AT H-E-B

A little boy walks by the orange juice,
proceeds to shout “Dad! We NEED Orange Juice.”
A little boy walks up to me while
I confirm the integrity of the eggs,
his small voice grows beanstalk raises to my ears,
his face at my knees asking,
Are you a stranger?
I look at him, grab my eggs,
whispering back without a crack,
Yes.

Let me enjoy the mystery
I’m disappearing into the bread aisle
where everything rises, turning sharply
to look for candles, I nearly hit an older man
and I apologize, say,

Sorry Sir, I was coming in hot.

He apologizes back, adds in,
I was like that when I was your age,
I lose my breath at his sincerity,
the ever fond reminisce happening
in aisle six. But before I leave,
I say to him,

Well then, I’m in good company.

Then I abscond onto the olive oil,
soil of my growing appetite,
my absolute delight, the effortless
sweep of the wrist when I’m
cooking with rhythm,
and what are you
but another instrument?
look at all I can do with
a bottle of you?
Parts of you needing me,
me needing you, yes,
this constant need
to invite others in
has become such a gift.

When preparing to examine the apples,
an employee grabs each spoiled, rotten
apple and tosses it away, and I think
how hard of a job that can be.
Who is to say what is unworthy?
But he moves with confidence,
rubbing his hands across the
jazz apples, honey crisp, pink lady,
gala, granny smith, and he is making
my life so easy, it’s lovely. I’m so tired
of picking over the dead, of losing before
I even begin, and I am more thankful
for him than I’ve been of myself.
What’s with this strange history of mystery?
After I’m done marveling, I ask of him,
Are you tossing out all the bad apples?
He doesn’t say a word, just keeps tossing apples
and I think this has something to say about
the invisible work most people do,
the kind of effortless
that took so much effort
to perfect. I mean, to me—
this is a miracle, and honestly,
Who am I to deny the gospel
of gathering all the bad apples
which just happens to be
happening in a grocery store?

25/30: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

A word is a soundless bird with no wings
escaping
the tree of your throat, back into the forest’ soundscape,
a pummeled plumage merging
into the natural traffic of the air, invisibly
weaving,
sound into thought. Feathered letters
teaching
Yours truly how to flock symbols into sentences,
acapella fella
Banging his lips like cymbals, & like most instruments,
ignoring the tremble that follows. Listen,
Even a wind chime swoons gentle, until
a crooning feast reaching.
I am learning your favorite sounds
never actually touch the skin,
only whisper against it,
almost a missed kiss,
a bird landing on your chest the same way
words absorb breath.

Listen.

When a word is a soundless bird,
your voice begins to float next to your body,
Sound leaves the ground, letters spin ‘round,
your mouth like a carousel of consequence,
each time you speak, a soundless bird leaves,
shaking the branches
Stuck in the tree of your throat.

I’m learning the root of what I have to say
stayed inside for so long,
it forgot how to sing.
This is me remembering
tracing the root of my pain,

Listen for
the little linguistic caress,
little kiss of my breath.

Didn’t you notice
the bird on your chest?

23/30:THE SECRET TO SOFTNESS WITH AN APPEARENCE BY YOUR EX-LOVER

What is there to say?
Who here is to be trusted?
The other day,
I bought four avocados
Dinosaur skin,
I used to think to myself.
Before, while still in the store,
with great precision,
I massage my hands across the skin,
measure the mustered force
behind my pressed thumb.
Me, an ordinary produce priest
In the aisle, with my hands,
little blessings performed
for the crowd.
Upon the skin,
the armor of each
green peach told
me to wait before
breaking open
what is enclosed.
[tip: this is the secret to softness.]
Later,
I placed each
in my fridge
Waited. 
Went about the days, pledged patience.
Heard stories of sour brown insides
I wish to unlearn how to say decay.
Still, I thought of the cruel yew trees rooted in me,
all the flowers I forgot to touch.
Decomposition is a sentence
unwriting the end of the story.
When I cut into them,
each spoiled before me.
Dead green darlings—
not a one to call mine.
When my hands
touched the green mush,
the color rusted inside me,
cast a spell over,
reversed
the light’s forceless arrival,
as I feel silent waves
leave behind the color of darkness.
This day of decay
found my hands
like the end of spring,
where I watch the color cave in,
but like all things lost,
Fate had prepared me.
When the color caved in,
I knew then,
it had everything to do
with the eyes of my last lover,
who,
last winter,
who took the song of her eyes with her,
her love, also,
spoiling before me.
The rot,
believe it,
or not—
still caught
in my unwashed hands.

20/30: JOY SHUFFLES, PAIN REPEATS

Watch me create a moment.
Lonely vibrations jumping
out the bag of my bones.
Home alone as karaoke king,
my magic
stays unknown.
Rhythm is an invitation,
but
the breathing pattern of my lungs
stays undisclosed,
& all I know is
joy, like air, is unavoidable.
both carve their own space
both fill the space they make,
emptiness giving me shape,
Elation shaking my hips
French-kissing the chorus
I’m breaking all the rules.
Give me joy, give me pain.
Suffering is a slow song
everyone wants to shuffle gone.
Don’t make me the DJ.

Inside of me, a need for
suffering
repeats, repeats, repeats.
On my birthday, my shirt says
SAD SONGS, because
sad songs are my weakness,
because pain is a place too,
not unlike a dance floor, or
my forehead spinning,
skin vicious wood splitting
sweat leaps off me,
like light jumping
off disco balls,
the need to shine
craws through
the dark room of my past,
also a dance floor,
where each body
orbits like an heirloom,
beating hearts for tennis shoes,
walking through
unavoidable echoes
where hopeless is
the opposite of rhythm,
something that throws
you off by letting something
else in.
What if,
what if joy and pain
are both unavoidable
crescendos?
What if
emptiness is a shape-shifter?
Can I still kiss suffering
with a smile on my face?
I’m breaking all the rules.

12/30: REMEMBER THE RED POWER RANGER CAKE?

Never did I want to be more loved
than when my brothers slammed
their bedroom door in my face,
turning the lock, my heroes
tossing their cape off and me,
laying
against the door,
the annoying little brother
the anointed little bother, forgotten
But still, I knocked.
Can I come in? Please? I won’t say anything.
Through the door, laughter low like
our mother’s breathing, down the hall,
so low I have become smaller in the thrall
of it, so small, I don’t even have a name.
But if I am to grow big, I cannot beg.
I lift my legs into the sky of someday,
I pretend both my brothers have unlocked
the door, both their hands open, like an invitation,
like before, on my 4th birthday, when my mother
arranged the most perfect Chocolate Red Power Ranger Cake,
with four candles in the icing, I stood in the backyard,
the sound of song surrounding me, the air in my little
lungs spun the flame into dust as both my brothers
shoved my nose into the bright red icing
and I am breathlessly laughing, my mother is clapping,
the scene is spectacular, and make no mistake,
both my heart and teeth break
into a piece of cake,
listening to both my older brothers,
singing happy birthday,
saying my name,
wearing their capes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/30: HOW TO MOW THE LAWN, A RECIPE

The line is everything.
If you want to make
the perfect lawn,
it must be perfectly long.
You’ll need:
a sharp blade,
a worthy roar of an engine,
a gallon of gasoline,
not to be confused
with your heart,
different sparkplug,
your blood, red skinned spud,
the glue, running river of salsa,
otherwise known,
as fuel.

In making the line,
ask, what am I trying to say?
Take your blade,
have your way,
Little chef.
Erase each little blade,
unmake this made place,
break the grass into glass,
thyme, mint, rosemary.
Rip the handkerchiefs
of the lord, like a form of grace.
Sacrament bent to the will
of your blade, elegant dish,
the front lawn should sing
the same way a wish
leaves the mouth
forming a kiss.
Plot twist.
You’re actually writing
a poem into the earth.
Making the ground
less than, together
both your hands
pushing onward,
creation by erasure.
Me, always too busy
escaping into the landscape,
chasing
echoes of my legacy,
the soundscape of the past
brushes pass my nose,
fresh cut grass, red salsa,
tortillas sewn and rolled in velvet
language so spicy, we actually
speak in fire.