Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: poem a day

26/30: ARS POETICA OR IF YOU ARE HUNGRY, HERE IS A POEM

Surrounded by cedar, magnolia, and oak trees
I’m standing inside a library
explaining myself to strangers, again
asking folks to walk into my poems
and sit down in the middle of
any sentence they like,
asking folks to dig in to my
heart of disaster with knife and fork,
and see how I still taste like joy.

How did I get here? Mostly?
By listening
By asking questions
By showing up
By staying
By writing
By trying
By writing
By trying

A poem isn’t a prop, a ploy, or a toy
It is a bridge
It is a seed
A poem begins and once it’s over,
it still never ends

Words, precious words, please
remember me as I am:
Lying among the tall-grass
of language
as the fire flies
ignite the next word
I am going to write
Every night
I am blinded by so much flickering light
I chase a poem across a page and
suddenly I hear my voice on stage,
or in my kitchen, or in my car,
or in the living room, or this library
where all I do is carry
the story of my life,
and ask if you’d like
a bite.

13/30: THERE IS A VULTURE WHO SLEEPS IN THE SAME TREES AS MY MEMORIES

I didn’t see the body on the ground, only the vulture’s mouth.
Isn’t it miraculous, that the smell of blood is a dinner bell for
some birds in the sky?

Anywhere can become a grave
even the morning asphalt
still wet with dew with, still swallowing pollen
like dirt over the casket.

I awoke to find a wake
I awoke to ask myself,
Does the vulture ever
celebrate the life
that did not last?
None of this is by mistake,
by happen stance, by chance.

A thousand things die inside me every-day
A cell survives and thrives, only to say goodbye.
A memory is dead, then comes back to life.
Hair leaves. Skin regenerates. A thought grows
into a sentence and the sentence goes back
into the soil. Like oil in the dirt, I resurrect each
of my feelings like fossil fuel. With so much life
and death, I become breathless in my own body.

There is a vulture who sleeps in the same
trees as my memories,
There is a vulture who lives
in the sky of my mind
I do not know its name
Only its appetite
I think of my thoughts
as inconvenient prey
decaying on the side of the road
with flesh still on the bone
How do I grieve
what I want to leave
without becoming
an elegy?
There is a vulture waiting to descend
Ready to pick up the pieces
I leave behind on the endless
highways of my mind
But this time,
I drive past the past
I celebrate the still-living
I forgive what I cannot fix
I pray for another sky
I bury the scraps
I say a prayer, and
I do not die.

 

14/30: ARS POETICA

I laugh like salsa kisses
My echo is everywhere
I talk like water goes
My voice is survival
I kiss like a cemetery holds
My mouth is a lousy mausoleum
My poems are the flowers
I bring when I forget how to sing
When the dead weeds of my deeds
need to be pulled up, a poem is a
palm in the soil. Does poetry excuse
my dirty hands? All I ever loved
was to try to help everyone, except
myself. Some mornings, the poet
pretends he is a boy again,
watching his words
escape like balloons
he wants to trade in
for hope.
If it comes down to it,
I may say yes to silence.
Most days,
I smile like my poems try to forget.
So I write to leave the door open.

12/30: WITH THE UNIVERSE AS MY WITNESS

After Anis Mojgani

I am invincible
Look at my eyes on no sleep.
My eyes on no sleep still look
you in the eyes 
My eyes on no sleep are so perfect
I’m actually never going to sleep again.
I am invincible. 

Today while walking through the hall,
me and my no sleep eyes
are seen by a pair of kind eyes. 
I am told I am always so smiley. 
I think on it: true. 
Before walking away, 
I say back: It is my gift. 
When I think of my gift, 
I no longer feel cursed.
With the universe as my witness,
I am invincible. 

When I make sweet tea, nothing goes wrong.
One morning, I woke before being told. 
When I am too tired to move
I lay my heavy legs against the floor like
a crested wave reaching the shore
after a long-traveled journey. 
I am invincible. 

Have you ever seen my butt?
It’s organic, makes all my pants panic.
It shoots for the moon and reaches for the stars
because my butt is basically a sky.
Your sky.
I am invincible.

I can make my no sleep eyes cry
if the moment means enough.
I can make any moment mean
enough, just give me the wind, 
or a line in a song, like this one:
your love belongs to everyone 
(Jose Gonzales, Open Book)
or I can look at pictures of my niece
whose cheeks look like Fredericksburg
peaches I would eat with her daddy 
both our sticky hands steady 
through the summers of our childhood
when the two of us would chase 
each other around til our sweat boiled
in the backyard of grandma’s garden
and grandpa’s shed. 
I am invincible. 
Even if my no sleep eyes are small
almonds missing their shot to blossom,
I choose this act, this scene, this line
I thought of without even thinking 
keeps my fingers moving, if I were a bird
you’d call this flying. 

I am invincible.
But I am not invulnerable
Look at the armor around my heart
Look at how many pathways a knife
like guilt could take to prove
I am not invulnerable. When I heal,
I move much too fast. Doctors don’t know
what to do, on account of, I hide the truth.

And the truth is, sometime ago,
I began to preface what I say with 
it’s okay, before the sentence could 
even begin. I reach conclusions in
which I give acceptance I did not ask
for but with reasons I now must defend.
I want to sing, I’ll do anything to be happy
(Noah and the Whales- Blue Skies)
But anything is lazy and I cannot know
the sum of my strength unless I weigh
my weaknesses. 

When I look at who I am in the mirror, I smile
before sorrow can say hello.
This is my gift. With the universe as my witness, 
I am invincible. 

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?

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. 

18/30: A POEM FOR LIZ

On the kitchen counter, I remember your hands
rolling dough for dumplings, the egg disappearing
into flour, your knuckles rolling yolk, perfect trick.
The chicken simmering in the broth next to you.
The dough, though unfinished, forms in your hands.
A single mother making dinner for her boys, and me.
Your boys, my friends, other brothers, create mischief
in the distance, shaking the plates on your walls.
Then, there is me, next to you in the kitchen, listening.
The smell of love has a noise, and you are a symphony.
It is the weekend, where boys like me escape into trees,
run down dark streets, tease the moon, spoon ice cream
until a river has formed down my wrist, licking my skin.
How wild the nights were when all I had to do was exist.
Sleep, always, a plot twist, as we tried our hardest to remove
any evidence that shows we broke our promises to you.
We spent summer afternoons diving into pools with
sandwiches in our backpacks, a snack to keep us safe.
We started camp fires and crawled rocks to jump off cliffs,
your sons, brave, me, afraid, wanting to disprove the truth
that Mexicans were natural fishes in water, but at the same time,
needing to prove I too could jump into the deep blue,
angling my body, pointing my toes, trying my best to perform
The Pencil Dive, hoping the end of me would touch the bottom
of the lake, this untouchable place I could make my own
If I just knew how to hold my breath right. Returning
was a gift I never knew how to make, only unwrap, which
is why I roam below til’ my breath billows bubbles,
sending signals above the surface like letters back home.
How you taught me to pursue without losing myself.
I did not know how to raise the boy in me like bread.
But I still remember sitting down to eat on Sunday,
my mother on her way, and me, eating Chicken and Dumplings
you made from scratch, the flour still in full bloom around
the room. I follow the steam, blow over the broth, watch my breath
turn into a lesson, a seed growing into a tree, a scared boy
growing into a man, that man, growing into me.

2/30: YOU CAN’T STEAL MY VICTORIES

Looking into the mirror,
saying to myself:

I’m here, I’m here, I’m here
and inside me are many.
I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive
and my love is plenty.

I hear hope is the a good thing,
maybe the best thing
in low volume on the television,
but I forget to believe.
Let me tell you
how I remember.

When I go to hide,
all I see are eyes
closed above the noses
of all the noses
I know and love.
We rub
our fists against
our eyelids,
rid
the blur out
our slurred visions,
the ones we try to outcast,
rearrange,
switch the shadow
with the past’s scarecrows,
even though we leave
the body
uncured in its
stupid uncertainty.

We tell ourselves,
No one owns our wild,
and it’s true,
your survival is
the only truce you
cannot break.

The best thing about today
is that
our closed eyes
open
to a better place
to a place better
than where we came.
I don’t want to feel the same.
Where have we taken each other?

Every one of my students sing
Happy Birthday to You,
the breath in their laughter
undoing all of my disasters,
a perfect chorus of wind
to carry me back like sand
moving towards the sea.
I run my hands through
the wind, then through my hair,
then do it all over again, meanwhile
my smile is a guess
you shouldn’t underestimate.
I have left
the only arms and legs
I have left
to chase the sun
before it leaves.
I have left my hands
behind for you to hold onto.

Catch me if you can

I want to yell
I want to groan
to the well of feelings I feel right about now,
this moment
where the stars, the moon, and me
are lingering along the bayou,
alone in our darkness,
harnessed in a light
that surrounds the sky
I celebrate beneath on
the anniversary of my birth.

I’ve learned
you can turn
sadness into a memory,
then you can forget it.
In my twenty-fourth year,
I’m here, I’m here, I’m here
and inside me are many.
I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive
and my love is plenty.
You can’t steal my victories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

21/30: PEABODY PEABODY JOE

Legend has it
Peabody Peabody Joe
sprung up
from the dirt
on a Sunday
and survived
on peanut butter
sandwiches
for years.

Peabody Peabody Joe
could catch
a catfish fastest
His secret bait:
Extra Crispy
Bacon.

Peabody Peabody Joe
rode a bicycle
for fifty miles
with two flat tires
but
Peabody
don’t stop
when stop
makes sense.
Peabody
was in love
maybe.
They say
Peabody Peabody Joe
never missed
a birthday,
Peabody Peabody Joe baked
a cake a day.
Peabody Joe
kept candles
in his pockets
but always
went swimming
anyway
especially
on the fourth of July
Peabody Peabody Joe isn’t American
but he is the every man
the way he
ate a steak
the way he
watched the
sunset
Peabody Joe
didn’t know any
better
Peabody Joe
had a wild mouth
but spoke slow
cause his tongue
pretty much was
peanut butter
but what are
you going to do
language is
sticky

20/30: THE FRAGRANCE INSIDE MY CHEST

I hear you say things before you say it

Translation:

I can make voices in my head.

Translation:

There are voices inside my head.

Translation:

Get out.

Translation:

You left me, why do
you refuse to give
back the key, which
doesn’t actually fit
to my heart, but that’s
not the point, the point
is what you break each
time you enter without
telling without asking
without every lasting
why don’t you ever last
why do I ask questions
I know the answer to
why am I writing a poem
with you as the only character
why have I broken the
fourth wall if there is a fourth wall

Translation:

Yesterday I broke
the wall in my head
when I walked past
a wall of flowers
all called Jasmine
and Jasmine is mine
and Jasmine is a
house-guest who
smells like forgiveness

Translation:

So that’s what the
fragrance inside
my chest is called

Translation:

I have to lie down
if I think about
the weight of what
goes unsaid in my head

Translation:

Doubt endangers salvation.

Translation:

Self-Renewal
is the second name
of Spring.