Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: slam poetry

27/30: THE LOST CAUSE OF LONELINESS

In love, I watch you put your make-up on as the loud hum
of my longing stumbles back to the mountain I carved it from.

Outside of myself, I exit a door marked disaster, and the faster I walk,
the closer I am to your hand writing to-do lists against my unorganized skin.

I’m crossing loneliness off like it’s a lost cause. Somewhere, there is a mountain
made up of all the things I told myself I never deserved.

Each stone is a small thing, is a piece of earth bone, burrowed into the body.
Darling, I am digging my hands into the riverbed, where the soil is damp and

The current carries my secrets by the handful. The time has come for me
to forfeit myself to the fate of this moment, to throw my hands up and wait for daybreak,

Where your shoulder turns into the morning light beside my window and
I do not wait for love to say my name. I’m giving up on trying to see past the now.

I know the future of my feelings are something I cannot rewrite. I present myself to you in the darkness without a plan and without pain. What I’m saying is,

My longing used to be a locked door inside a mountain of shame. And now,
every smile you leave on my pillow is a key you carved for me, and I am in love,
And I am free.

24/30: WHO OPENED THE DOOR?

When we speak of medicine, what we mean is
we are waiting for a miracle to open the door

But before: let us address the Despair carried everywhere we go
Who told your hurt to come home and open the door?

On the radio, I hear if you don’t transform your pain, you will transmit it,
And what better way to explain pain than something that opens the door?

The best thing any of us can do is anticipate the eyes of our lover
when we hand over our dark, deserving hearts, and ask them to open the door.

Lead me into a room full of mirrors and I know I’ll find a way to hide
myself from the side of myself because I refuse to open the door.

I know the opposite of shame, the opposite of fear, the opposite of violence
all depends on the listener. Isn’t meaning the key we use to open the door?

When I lost my innocence, I ran out one room and into another.
My god, the child in me wants to know: who opened the door?

23/30: the laundry is still not done

It is almost midnight and the laundry is still not done. After another day of law, of living, of language, I am speechless in the twilight of my room. Shuffling across the hardwood in bare feet and flat feet, I grab my phone and choose Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue to fill my room. I sit on my bed and breathe in the Jasmine on yesterday’s wind. I open up a memory like a file folder. Pick up my dirty clothes and put them in a basket. Around my room, I feel the gentle reminder of belonging. Everything has a space or place to call home. Even my dirty socks. Even my dirty thoughts. What I lose in a day is not lost. I am practicing the art of returning. Understanding is a process. Understanding myself is a process. And what is a process but the steps we take forward? The steps we take out of the dark and into the light. I want to walk out of the mirror and hold he who does not like what he sees. In the jazz-filled cathedral that is my room I surrender to you, I surrender all my remarkable pain, I surrender grudges and grief, I surrender the habits that wreak havoc to everyone I love. Self-included. I surrender the guilt that runs like silk through my veins. I surrender this spoiled spool that loves to make a fool of me. Y’all hear that? Bill Evans on the piano. Each key is a soft prayer playing over the speaker. It is almost midnight and the laundry is still not done. I run my fingers through my hair and hang my head in the half-light. I want to get this right. Separating my laundry is a task directly linked to the past, or, the passage of time, or traveling back to the time you wore something else other than skin. All around me lies the evidence of my existence, where I’ve been and what I chose to be seen in. Of course, both me and the laundry are unfinished for a reason. It is almost midnight when I begin to write this poem in my mind. I take my time. I take every line and string it up across the paper sky. I pin word after word against the sun-shined lines. I’m trying to finish what I started, even if the laundry is still not done.

19/30: BUTTER SIDE TO HEAVEN

Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us,
for the amount of garlic and butter we spread
across this loaf. This loaf is God’s to unload.
Heaven is a place so take this bread like a ticket.
Give us this bread, and lay it inside the oven,
Butter side to heaven. Butter side to sky.
Butter side to stars. Butter side to moon.
Butter side to sun. Butter side to ancestors.
I stand atop the mountain of bread and lead
this prayer alongside those who remember
why we are here: is it not to rise? is it not
to become? is it not our purpose to melt
the meaning of a moment into memory?
At the altar of the dinner table, I break bread
with my beloved. We pull apart what the
heavens held like the humans we are.
We open our mouths like saints
and taste a miracle.

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.

5/30: ON SLOWING DOWN

i.

On test days, mom’s hands
woke up early enough
to build a meal

for me, three chorizo & egg tacos
tucked in foil,
please.
the foil kept the heat
alive long enough inside
our backpacks to eat on the bus.
Mom cooks in her robe,
spoon in hand,
pan on stove,
scrambled yolk.

The spoon yearns for movement,
but speed kills the scramble so mom
goes slow, her wrist
works like visible wind
moving so slow, the moment
is almost a secret. But
I see it.

ii.

it’s been said, I sprint through sentences
with a vicious lack of precision
like my speech is a track meet
except the audience
is the one out of breath
and somehow, I have no feet

it’s been said my voice is a vacuum
where syllables go missing,
where meaning is missed
mostly due to my quicksand
quips, the quivering lips I get
when the words I find are too
heavy to lift

it’s been said, I talk too fast
like my voice is reckless behind the wheel
like my thought-to-talk process
is a banana peel slip!
Witness every listener
hurt their hip against
the cautionary wind behind
each sentence I tea-cup spin.
I remember,
a woman who judged
my poem when I was 18
told me
that if I slowed down,
articulated my words
with the worth
they deserve, then
I’d be heard.
It hurt my
feelings
so I did not listen.

iii.

when I choose to read the poem in Spanish
my voice does not know how to move.
I freeze in the aisles between the letters
Just as I did as a kid, when my cousins
spoke Spanish as fast as light vanished
All I could hear was the dark shadow
Of sound I could not summon.

when I choose to read the poem in Spanish
I sit on the floor of my room with the windows open.
I call for my voice,
the slow breath rises,
not so much pronouncing
the word, but searching
for the light switch
the one my mom turns on
when she’s cooking
eggs in the morning.

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.

How A Mango Makes A Man, Again

Friends! This is a poem of mine I performed at Write About Now, a poetry organization in Houston Texas who hosts weekly open mics and poetry slams at AvantGarden.