I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: national poetry writing month challenge


I end every phone call to my brothers and my best friends with
I love you.
No qualification, no hesitations, no reservations.
It’s a natural cadence, no need to pretend.
Seconds—it takes seconds to say I love you before a call ends.
I do it quick, and its got all the rhythm of a natural law.
I do admit, my heart jumps a bit when I say it.
There was a time when I didn’t tell my friends
I loved them. My masculinity taught me to be silent.
The shame of my youth is that I listened.
My brothers raised me then. They were boys too.
Boys raising each other. We said I love you
mainly as penance, the price my mom made us pay
for fighting each other. You’re brothers, for crying out loud!
It made sense—instead of salting the wound,
we used love as the salve. How the words
leave my mouth now! Declaration
is documentation. Tell you friends that you love them.
It deserves to be heard. Preserve the record.
What do you have to lose by speaking the truth?
Toxic masculinity leaves little room for evolution.
A text message, on the other hand, is very different.
I will write the words, but I prefer to give my voice to
the verb. I know the power of a spoken word. A phone call is a stage.
On the other end of the line is an audience that knows
the stories behind your name. Before the call ends
like a sentence you wish you could re-write, speak up.
This is what I’ve learned to do.
I end every phone call to my brothers and my best friends with
I love you.
Life has its rules. This one is mine.


To pause Netflix when /
your loved one takes a phone call /
is an act of love.

22/30: EARTH DAY 2020

“I move with the breeze in the trees /
I know that time is elastic”
– Fiona Apple, I Want You to Love Me

The world is not ending. It’s still here
for now. I agree though, its end seems
Separated from the soil,
collecting tidbits about
the coming extinction,
the fate of the Glaciers,
the disappearing honey,
flowers I cannot name,
all the forgotten scents
saying goodbye to the clean air,
leaving behind the trees,
the reality of
what’s always
And then I think
god bless
earth-made shade,
my body
alive in the cold springs,
my grandma’s voice
when her garden
is in full swing.
These little things.
How much more time
before nothing is the same?


I never had the patience for baking
Probably had something to do with
the need for precision, consistency,
the undivided attention
one must offer
for goodness to rise.
Stuck at home for over a month
I decide it is time to bake
to acquire the essentials,
what’s required,
no matter the purpose.
At Costco, I buy 25 pounds of
organic all-purpose flour.

And can I just say,
what a declaration!
A manifesto!
An incantation!
How can I be that brave?
Almighty all-purpose flour,
Show me how
I’m supposed
to know my purpose
when the future is still unknown.
Show me all the possibilities
of how I can grow.
Show me how
all my potential is
the longer I try
and rise alone.
I want to be all-purpose,
measured purpose,
cups of purpose,
pies of purpose
biscuits of purpose
ovens filled with purpose,
all of it, nothing
but beautiful
endless purpose.




Teenage me walks across an empty field on a summer day.
Nothing but God’s green, stickers, mosquitoes
and Texas heat. My shadow is a guitar solo
covered in sweat. Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. My feet travel
a rambunctious soundscape. My feet are tired
time machines. My father showed me Purple Haze.
I’m walking backwards. Is it tomorrow
or just the end of time? Either way,
I’m pressing play.
Muscle memories tied up in my hamstrings,
the chorus of the past,
a rift in space and time.
You’ve heard it before,
how the body keeps the score.
I won’t lie. I keep everything
I find important. The meaning
usually shows up when I stop
trying to find it.




Cutting squash and zucchini
I’m talking to my mom on the phone
listening to her tell me about her day
at the end of the day. I called her
because today is my grandpa’ Fred’s birthday.
He turns 79.  I was not there to celebrate you,
grandpa, like the years before, surrounded by family,
where we ate BBQ, and cake made just for us,
both April babies, blowing out candles and
laughing forever. Today, my gratitude shines through.

And yet, on this same day, I cannot find the words.
It’s been a year since my grandma passed.
Her name was Theresa.
I was not there to say goodbye.
It’s been a year since one of my best friends passed.
His name was Keaton.
I am still grieving
Not yet ready to give a voice
to that quiet monster.
This is so new.
My grief and gratitude,
sitting in the same room.
Listening to my mom
laugh over the phone,
as I ask her who
all I’m supposed to invite
to the rehearsal dinner.
I’m getting married in December
to the woman I love. I will always
choose this life. Even when I don’t have
the right words. Yeah, it’s strange
to carry so many emotions at once
But I consider it a blessing.
Never a curse.




This is a poem for Jimmy
at the Wal-Mart on Yale
who delivered groceries to my car today
and taught me a lesson for free
No one tells you what to say after you
ask someone how their day is going
And they respond with
not so good.
That happened to me today
at the Wal-Mart on Yale.
As I put the frozen pizza in my backseat,
I asked Jimmy how he was doing
and he told me it was a not so good day
Shook his head and took a breath
Explaining that everyone called in sick today
and he was 1 of 3 people handling all the groceries
answering phones all day from strangers
asking him to do his job faster
He goes onto say,
When I get in a rush and try to speed up,
I make mistakes, and I hate making mistakes.
And I want to say anything to make him feel better
I imagine the strange anger he’s had to swallow today
in the name of customer service. But mostly,
I want to thank Jimmy for his honesty
for keeping it real and not burying how he feels
just because it was inconvenient.
I want to tell him how many mistakes I’ve made
in the course of a single day, just so he knows
he isn’t alone — not today or tomorrow.
I wish it were easier to leave a bad day behind
Wish it didn’t always take up so much space.
But of course, I didn’t say any of this to Jimmy.
Not sure if would’ve changed a thing. I will say,
when Jimmy walked away, the last thing he said to me was
I hope you have a good day.


Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
Celebrating mine and my grandpa’s birthday
He is 77 and I am 26
We are generations apart
but my mother placed his name
between the first and the last
as if to remind me
the last thing I will ever be is

Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
I travel back in time to every holiday,
summer break, church service, family
reunion or party where I would run between
the legs of nameless cousins, battling for my
mother’s and brother’s attention
Trying my best to be seen by the sea of people
floating in the sea of love that is my family’s legacy

Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
I am inside a palace of smoke
where every person holds a spark
in their heart
Love is a legacy we keep ablaze
in the way we say mijo,
in the way we say mija,

I see my niece crawl across the wood floors
where my Grandpa Caballero once stood
Leading me by hand into the heart of the smoke
Oak burning like an orchestra of ash

Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
The world is crowded with everyone who knows my name
I am surrounded by bluebonnets and brisket
I am somewhere I am supposed to be
In this place where I found my face
in the hard heat
in the warmth of a ritual

Eating BBQ in Lockhart, Texas
I understand the meaning of a place
that stays the same while you are busy changing
Watching the smoke drift, I am drawn to
how it
how it
how it
how it
to come back


I left the bar after one drink to roast squash and sweet potatoes. On the drive home, I talk to my girlfriend on the phone and hold the story of her day in my head. My bed is proud to announce I’m sleeping through the night. The calendar on my phone reminds me to look ahead. Oh the beauty of a budget. Student loans make me feel less alone. Meeting deadlines make me feel alive. Oh, to organize my socks and not find a single one missing. The joy of being together. Oh, electricity of cancelled plans. Right now, I am building a sanctuary of borrowed time. My plans for the future include fresh bread and compassion. Every day another lesson. Every day another guess. Every day another mess. Another year passes, and the mirror holds who I am with who I was. Tracing the lines on my face I arrive at different places. Oh, how the love I have to give covers the ground like pollen. If anger ever enters my bloodstream, I catch and release like a trapped bee. Calling my mother, I ask about my brothers. I watch from afar. The joy of being together. Oh, to be a witness to my own troubles. Life unravels and I turn my heart into a shovel. If I have a question, I ask it. If I know the truth, I tell it. I don’t know when all my pants will fit again. I’m learning the principle of infinite consequences. I was told a poem is a seed. So I praise what is still growing.


I would like to walk in your mind barefoot
Naked, mouth open. Strange glory of the body,
I ask you protect what I neglect. Here,
your soil is asleep with secrets
I softly wake with my lips. Strange glory
of the dirt, what mad joy you keep alive.
The triumph of where did it go all wrong
Fills the vaulted ceilings of your feelings
Like slow water in a dance hall. Last call
Comes like the last straw and I grab your hand
Like quicksand. Hear me with your whole body.
The secret entrance to our secret selves
Once had a key, but where did we leave it?