Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: national poetry month writing challenge

8/30: POEM BEGINNING WITH A LINE MY MOTHER WROTE WHEN SHE WAS FOURTEEN ON THE BACK OF HER HIGH SCHOOL PICTURE IN 1979

Please help me
understand
the things
I need to know

I am not always
who I should be

How do you know
what you know?

How do you know
when to keep going?

How do you
name your pain?

How do you
word the secrets
you keep?

I am in the middle of a story
I do not remember telling

Please help me
understand

Nobody tells you the truth
unless it’s easy

I don’t know how to say what I think
without sinking into the ground
like a seed out of a season

In my head, all the heroes are dead
But I want to re-write the ending

I keep holding on to every little thing
that has happened to me it still feels like
it is happening to me

Please help me
I wrote a list of questions with no
answer and all I want
is your voice
to be a whispering map in the madness

1/30: SO SOME VULTURES HOLD A WAKE IN THE SKY OF MY MIND BUT I DO NOT GET EATEN ALIVE (THIS TIME)

“I wish I could tell you this story without being in it.”
– Michael Rosen, from Gaslighting in Several Parts

In the spirit of honesty, I think I’m finally ready to talk about it. Driving down I-10, the Texas sun writes the constitution of the sky. In my mind, another sky awaits my fate. On the side of the road, the colorless carnival or carcasses steal the bluebonnet joy of Spring as if grief ever had a season where it did not bloom. The song I’m singing is not exactly a prayer. In the air, a Committee of Vultures rise bright above the montage of Oak trees. As for me, I’m trying to raise my voice in this dungeon where I am. I spy a reason for living where death is a sanctuary. Death is a kettle. Death is the horizon above our eyes, where vultures circle the dead like a black Ferris Wheel alight in the sky. Whoever killed the monsters in my head left the meat on my memories. I’m waiting for the Committee to decide my fate. I’m curious if, each time I revisit the past, a vulture takes flight? My friend Michael reminds me there are stories I wish I could tell without being part of them. That I can’t just drown the past in a lavender bath. When the vultures of my mind finally swoop down to the ground, their bodies are furious and free. I’m not so sure I can say the same for myself. What I’m trying to say is, I’ve never buried the memories that kept me suffering and alive. What I’m trying to say is, there are vultures in the sky of my mind. Aren’t my memories a carcass by another name? I have a million stories where I am not the hero nor worth saving. Trauma tells but does not teach. Please don’t tell the vultures I’m here—all alone in my head, rotten and writhing—like I’m waiting for some bird in the sky to eat the idea of me like an elegy waits on the other side of my wake. Every day, I hold a wake for who I was and who I could have been. When the boy inside me lost his innocence, it was a life sentence. Sometimes I thank God I am not him. Why must I be a witness to my horrible history? The Bluebonnets come alive every Spring because it is a ritual. When someone dies, the family displays the body like a shadow everyone can all touch. A goodbye ritual. A wake. Have you ever seen group of vultures feed on a carcass together? A goodbye ritual. A wake. Ever confuse mythology for biology? It is a mistake to think every god-forsaken trauma entrenched memory is something we cannot help but inherit. What I mean is, driving down I-10 and seeing the vultures patrol the sky, I realized it is a blessing to know there is another creature who only survives on suffering alone. But in the spirit of honesty, I only have time for joy. Spring brings so many things back to life, I can’t help but smile at the power of wildflowers. I’m too sensitive not to smile at the sunshine. Even if there are shadows in the sky, I still choose to try. In the spirit of honesty, this song I’m singing is a prayer. I say, raise your voice in this dungeon where I am and a laugh blooms on cue from the woman I love. And I cannot allow myself to be destroyed.

24/30: HAIBUN FOR SUNDAY

Sunday morning, light pours through the open blinds. Birds with no names play their song for me. The ball of my body unraveling. Still small, but growing. the soft white sheets my mother bought me hold my warm morning skin. Soft feet. Soft light. soft blades spinning above my head, cool air moving. 8am stillness. No sound interrupts the silence. Alarm goes off, but no need to hurry. Changing positions, I pick up my body. The first thing I do is walk through a door, a hallway, another hallway, another door. Outside. The first big breath I take happens slow. Slow enough, I am only focusing on my breath. Invisible movements. From where I stand, green pine trees overshadow the magnolia next to my house. A spider spins a web from a tree to a roof. The web is a line designed with other lines in mind. The alive lines holding onto dead things. Green journal, black pen. I grab both with my hands. A poet spins a poem from his mind. The poem is a web of lines. I write, I write, I write. The language of the living praising the dead. Walking around making sounds in my head. Wind moving the leaves. My blood moving through me. Bells designed to ring at once. Yes, I am a vessel. The depth of what I carry, less scary than before.

The world is a con-
founding web of lines I try
but never avoid. 

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.

22/30: a poem to the sun written in instagram captions OR Happy Earth Day

This isn’t a song about the moon,
or a bird, but the sun and you.
If you could only hear this moment.
The sun is a cure
Divine medicine.

I am the sun’s shine.

How many times
have I walked beneath a tree,
only to be greeted by
sweet light?
Oh, sunlight of mine,
who is always reaching, knocking
against the dark in me: yes,
this is our reminder to shine.
Yes, I have yet to love the light less.
Where the sunlight sifts through trees,
you’ll find me. I walk outside
to the welcoming air, what a perfect day.
I see the sun flickering over the horizon.
The light is a lesson I continually learn.
Even what trees do to light is wild.
Scary, isn’t it
to scatter upon touch?
Though, it must be lovely:
falling to the ground only
to find nothing missing,
the kiss of morning light.
Goodbye Sun,
the setting,
still surprised by the simplicity
of a moment that makes us stop.
In the summer, a man sits beneath
these trees, finding solace in the shade,
reads aloud to himself, to the world,
to the sun.
I see the gold in the air.
When the sun shines
on all that you do,
what other choice
do you have, but shine too?
I think the light likes me,
as in
I’m rolling solo con el sol.
juntos. I know, I know
Light grows over
my body, so when I say
I shine just by showing up
I’m really saying, look at me:
finally less alone—
all these sparks
for bones.
Now, look at me:
stripping the shadows
from sadness.
I’m lit with so much love,
the darkness
dare not disrupt.
I catch the sun
until my heart runs
with light
Oh, how the light reflects,
grows in every direction.
Again, the sun is a cure.
A setting sun kisses my face
even when I turn back,
when I do not face its face,
even when I am faceless,
when faceless turns me nameless—
I reach for it,
store the light in my cheeks.
You should watch me speak,
you should watch me
bad mouth doubt,
you should see
how I dismantle
the dark
between my teeth,
you should see
what light can do
for you and you
and you and you.

21/30: ADVICE FROM A STICKY NOTE IN MY ROOM

You haven’t failed at love
You haven’t succeeded, either.

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.

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.

10/30: THE LONG GOODBYE

we don’t want to leave, even when
we’re actually leaving, even when
returning home is the last thing
left to do, it’s not our style.
we choose to linger, stick around,
embrace again, embrace again,
our soft brown hands wrapped
around our soft brown bodies,
my grandma whispering blessings
across the back of my neck,
red lipstick stuck to my cheeks,
my aunt’s kisses,
my grandfather’s wisdom,
a bowl of tortillas
sitting in the center of the island,
an invitation to stay,
a warn place to put
your hands.
The swing set
getting closer to the sky
each time we sit next
to each other, our bodies,
old memories fitting against new stories,
I think the hardest thing to do
is leave when you don’t want to,
not always knowing
what you wish you knew.
Is it so bad to be late,
then? When the door
is such a chore to open,
let us rest in the love
we give, on the couch,
sitting outside in the backyard,
grandma’s flowers changing
colors and shape, their petals
holding onto the stem,
not wanting to leave, even when
the season has come to end.
My family,
we choose
the long goodbye
to close the distance
between us,
hug, and hug, and hug,
kiss, and kiss, and kiss,
yes, I will miss, miss, miss
all the parts about this, this, this.
My loves, my dears, the sweet names
I need to hear, that I need to see—
My family,
we all choose
the long goodbye
to make our beginnings
shorter, I’m sure of it.

LOST BODY OF A LOST BOY LOST BY

Lemon tart to start,
brass manifesto for lunch,
sunlight whispering
touch me, touch me, touch me,
though glass windows.
This life is enough, this lie is enough, is,
i.e., no, no, no
who is there to trust?
i.e., no, no, no, not who, but what,
what is there to trust?
Lost body of lost boy lost by the majesty of it all.
I know my heart, your heart
may be long winded, but
the war within has ended
all of us have won
you now have permission to
lift your heads
The war within is won.
Do you see what I see?
The gold spun sun spins
while we sit on our hands
to relearn our stillness,
even our sins sit in silence,
marveling,
silenced by the lineless pink brushed sky
speaking in another language, and this is
no good time to talk, so I am listening,
no longer lifeless, but a lightweight, as in,
I curve around the dark without so much as a sound.
Just your friendly neighborhood noiseless witness
shucking the dusk, trying to steal the miracle
of any moment slow enough to reveal itself.
Do you hear what I hear?
The voice of my dreams is a soft stream of hushed light.
I break out into a peal of commotion, like I’m in concert
with the cathedral bells downtown, performing in free-fall.
Lost body of lost boy lost by the majesty of it all.
When I think translation, I hear misunderstood.
I think misunderstood,  I see the invisible cost of loss
lure me back into conversations
where all I do is crawl beneath the
Lost body of a lost boy lost by the majesty of it all.
Is it so bad to be half-made of worry and honey?
Do not talk to me about half-truths when your mouth is full.
My mother texts me to say, mijo, you are blessed—
don’t ever question it, referring to the ways in which
I keep arriving, the path in front of me, paved by
the sleep I do not get, labored by the hands that
do not quiet, cannot quit, only furiously stick to the
changing script, shuffling papers like the spirit
of the hero following my fingertips, realigning lines
until my finger print is fine print, wishing for someone,
anyone brave enough to read the sentences I’ve written,
to bear witness to the way I have reshaped the invisible
back into instruments, until the first thing I hear is
the story of your bravest moment, when fear stopped
being so mysterious, when you yourself learned the
definition of ephemeral, how eternal things are unchanged facts,
how you are not ephemeral, not a disappearing act, not a
Lost body of a lost boy lost by the majesty of it all.
Don’t ever question that the first of you is the last
of something extravagant [synonym for generous]
opposite of meager, [your survival is never an understatement]
You can stop hiding from yourself
is the last prayer I whisper when I pass a mirror.
This is how I define radiate.
This may come as a surprise to some, but
you don’t have to hear your heart beat
to know you are alive. No, no, no—
I’m not trying to prove the truth to you.
I’m simply trying to say,
you don’t have to be afraid
of what the truth will do to you.

.