A POEM A DAY

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: national poetry writing month

16/30: LATELY (With Lyrics from THE BREEZE by DR. DOG)

The goal has been to be less hard on myself. More faith in the small things, like my ability to drink water every day. Go easy on the guilt. Stop using anger like an anchor. Rise out of my resentment like the steam on my morning coffee. Trust my gut. Lean into hope like I’m hard wired to shine. Even belief need some kind a battery, a circuitry of possibilities. Grace isn’t just what we say before a meal is served. Think of it as a song. I’m trying to remember the words. I need to be kinder to myself. Some days are harder than others. That is the hardest part. Are there dark parts to your mind?/ Hidden secrets left behind?/ where no one ever goes / But everybody knows? / It’s all right.

13/30: – HOUSTON, WE HAVE A POEM

Written for the 51st Anniversary of the Apollo 13 Mission

On the radio,
I hear the voice of a man
who was meant to land on the Moon
but never did.

It is the 51st anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission
Commander Jim Lovell speaks
with both his feet on the Earth
He remembers the sound of an explosion
though he didn’t know, nor did the crew,
that an oxygen tank just blew
after igniting in the middle of space
Over 200,000 miles from home.
If there was ever a reason to scream
into the black void of space-time-eternity,
this was surely it.

Everything went wrong at the right time.
Yet what struck me like a shooting star
was not the immediate sense of doom
but instead what
Commander Lovell said
That he had to stay positive
if he wanted to survive
Positivity is what makes a team work
200,000 miles away from home

3 men lost the moon
lost water, lost light
lost all supplies of life
A miracle didn’t save them
Teamwork did
positivity
became the gravity
and isn’t staying positive
another form of faith?

I didn’t know this before
but I now I do
NASA named the Apollo 13 spacecraft
Odyssey
An epic poem
about one man’s faith
in returning home.

12/30: – WATCHING THE WEST WING WITH MY WIFE

For Adela, 4 months into our marriage

After a long day,
we watch reruns of The West Wing
And make up songs about each other during
the theme song. This episode, it’s your turn.
Next episode, it’s mine. We spent the day
as lawyers, and finished it as two people
in love. I smile at you in the soft light inside
our very first house together. By the time
I finish this poem, the episode is over
and the next one begins. Season 3,
Episode 6. Jed and Abby
bicker over a disappointing homily,
something about the misunderstood
meaning of Ephesians 5:21-33. Adela,
the faithful catholic she is, laughs
from across the room. I Google
the bible verse and smirk to myself.
The words read like a neon sign:

Husbands, love your wives…

10/30:  ON SAYING I LOVE YOU TO YOUR FRIENDS BEFORE THE CALL ENDS

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.

9/30: THE UNIVERSE DOESN’T WANT ME TO RAKE MY LEAVES, I THINK

The amount of leaves in my front yard
has to be a cosmic message about
the passage of time and what happens
when we aren’t paying attention,
or at least a graduate thesis
on the ghost of gravity
pulling the invisible strings from
Somewhere High Up Above
the sprawling Oak trees that line
my little street.
Or maybe it’s a divine display of
the Inevitable, meant to remind me
that the changing of seasons requires a
kind of a blind faith. I know these leaves
have to go somewhere, but they’ll
never go back home, no matter the proximity
to its roots. A rotten truth. I used to think the soil kept
its secrets—but the ground keeps only
what it wants to. Maybe I’m thinking too much.
I can’t be the only one who has steadfast beliefs
in the trees,  or in the things
one cannot possibly conceive. What seems like
a thousand leaves fall and each one of them
is a setting sun, taking its light back from the sky
and spinning gracefully through the very air
I breathe, the same air in my lungs used
to read between the lines of some daily poem the universe wrote,
hoping I was paying attention to the smallest of details— Like the blue jay, for example,
that swooped into the afternoon shade
of the tree as a black cat unwinds in its fallen
leaves beneath—and I see the lesson in plain view.

8/30: I FEEL JUST LIKE AN OPEN BOOK

This is the part where I ask more of myself.
I can think of a thousand reasons why,
but all I need is one.
Seven days ago, under the Houston springtime sunshine,
I turned twenty-nine and like clockwork,
I examined every year before it.
There’s a story being told even when we
already know what happened. Working backwards,
I see the extraordinary timing of what I lost
and what I gained. I think of the word
Serendipity and hesitate to summarize
my character development with something
as powerful and simple
as fate. I could have sworn I made a choice
and it was the choosing that carried me
forward. What comes to mind is Current
As in force, as in direction, as in the bodies
of water I swam through to reach solid ground.
The past is filled with poems—
ones I wrote, ones I read, ones I heard, and ones I kept
on repeat in my head.
I go back to fixed points in time and look
for the reasons I tried so hard to be understood.
I look at my life like lines in a poem, as if
I crafted myself with the intention of rhythm.
The good news and bad news is I still
want to be understood. And is there anything more
romantic? The instinct in me wants to write
but I digress, but the truth is, I’m right where I want to be, even
If I need more time than I expect. What the winter
taught me was that I am still
a work in progress, even if the love I lost
returned to me like the words to
my favorite song.
And isn’t that what really matters?
All around me, Spring makes it music too
and I worship the small moments
of my meaning. Where I come from is not just one place.
I’m scattered like a vibration, possessed by
the energy of imagination. I could begin a story,
but it would just take me to another.

7/30: HOW MAKING A ROUX IS LIKE LEARNING TO LOVING YOURSELF

Over the stove,
I stir the pot of what I hope
will become the foundation
of something beautiful

It takes time
for the fire
to travel through
every particle
of flour and oil

I give thanks to my wrist
for the gift of
consistent movement

My mind’s eye
mesmerized by the
merry-go-round
of sounds and colors

The roux changes
by the second
evolving into
who it’s supposed to be—

And what about me?

I’m afraid of my own alchemy.

Who knows how much time
it takes to change
The roux asks me to wait,
says it’s on its way
And somehow
I find the patience I refused to give myself
Yesterday.

When the roux doesn’t burn,
when the color of my imagination
paints itself across the Dutch oven,
I smile to myself, proud with purpose
In love with who I just was,
telling myself,
all this time was worth it—

and that has to be enough.

6/30: ONLY MY FEAR IS FLUENT

I wish speaking Spanish was like making tortillas
Something I could do after watching
my grandmas hands from afar
before trying to form the dough in my own

Was it ever supposed to be easy?


How much time
do I give
a language to rise within?

After years of studying,
I tried leaving my voice
in the bowl on the kitchen counter
of my childhood.

Nothing changed.

How can one language
carry the sounds of
belonging
and
envy?

I’ve asked every question
asked of me
By Spanish-speaking folks
who demand to know
Why hasn’t Spanish
rose within me
like the ancestral
promise of my name?

I have the answers:

I spent my whole life
biting the guilt on my tongue
And now,
only my fear is fluent.

3/30 – THE CATS MEOW

For the 4 stray black cats Adela and I take care of, Shado, Rogue, Lil Mama, and Chicago

We listen to the sounds of morning
before our coffee
brews the momentum we need to
leap out of bed
The morning storms our senses
Fine-tuning our attention
that always seems divided between
our dreams and newsfeeds

We listen  
Through the windows
over the morning train
over the growl of the neighbor’s leaf blower
over the chirping birds
over the howl of too many alarms
for the cats’ meow—
the simple plea of feed me, human—
has now become the call of duty
I answer.
Ah, nothing like a day that begins
with responsibility
But is love really any different?

Adela opens the backdoor in a sing-song
Her audience sings back
A gentle harmony
A little chorus
composed by
The memory of trust
and
The permission of touch
The cats rush towards the hand that feeds,
Their bright eyes in the soft morning light
Impatient but adorable
And this is how it is
for now.
We listen for the cats to meow
It’s no secret really
Just a fraction of a second
A tiny crevice of a moment
A little pause in this play of life
Where there is a need
and we meet it.

2/30: IF YOU CAN BELIEVE IT, IT’S FRIDAY, AGAIN (A BIRTHDAY POEM)

I feel it now: there’s a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it
All my becoming has needed me
My looking ripens things
And they come toward me, to meet and be met.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of a Monastic Life

I write a poem every year for my birthday
I never know what I’m going to say until I say it
I never know who I’m going to be until I see him
I read between the lines like meaning has a mirror
but it changes every year. 
The art of explaining myself to myself 
is never what it seems to be.
I’m not losing or changing my definitions 
There’s just more meaning to give
the longer I live. 

I know nothing has ever been real without my beholding it


Someone
behold this poem 
until it is real and becoming
like the first days of Spring.

I feel it now, 

the power that slept like a seed
between the wild roots of my being.
It takes time to become who you said you’d be.
There’s a birthday candle on the table
A small fire, my breath, and wishing for what’s next,
My big brother Brent writes in my annual birthday text
	
	You’re as vital as a plant providing oxygen 
	during photosynthesis

One day they will study the biology of a brother’s love.
Oh brother. Oh words—
the gifts that give shape to my world.

I’m reading all the words
coming towards me, to meet and be met
like the words of a song. 

Every year, I’m awestruck
at my unprecedented luck 
in knowing I am loved.
The language of this love puts the poems in my blood.
Oh, the words in my blood are brave and here to stay.

On the day I came into this earth,
I ask the universe with all my earthly yearning
Give me more love than my body can stand.
When the lovebirds sing, tell them I’m listening and singing too.
I’m singing a prayer like a birthday wish, 
the only one I know 
the only I say every year:
Gratitude is the only face of god I know.
If there’s still time, I’ll show you.