Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: spilled ink

30/30: I EXIST NOT TO BE BROKEN

I make a promise to myself, and like a law, I exist not to be broken.
Though I know breaking. Whatever the reason you have for going
where you are going, I think it’s best you leave an hour before sunset.
Time the drive home with the sun’s low descent towards the horizon.
Keep going into the sky. Take the long way home like an oath to remember
how far you have come. I’m running out of time. I’m trying to show myself
the meaning behind all my tiny moments. I’m in love with the miracle of detail.
With the way I tell a story. With the way a story begins with a voice and a purpose. Keep going if you can. I’m here at the end, and I’m miles and miles past worthless.

29/30: A POEM FOR JESSI

Jessi,
bird of my heart,
monkey in my bed,
giraffe of my dreams,
you sing to me in your
baby-talk, in your
gimme-dat clap, in your
nap-time nuh-uh cry,
oh my Jessi, you are everything
you are supposed to be. Right now,
you are shouting for the sky as the
swing-set in the park down the street
from my house brings you closer to the
moon, the stars, the sun, each one: all shining
for you. This is what the light does: it tells us
to reach, to look up, to swing into our shadows
so that darkness will not ask for this dance.
Even now, the Oak trees see you becoming one
with yourself, and I am helplessly in awe at the
call of your voice, the raw power of your smile,
and how I wish you could stay a little while longer.
In this swing, your joy sings me a song. I watch you
rejoice in the shade, alive and singing, here with me.

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.

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.

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.

20/30: IT IS TOO SOON TO SAY GOODBYE

Sometimes it’s the simple joy of standing in a circle with your best friends on a Friday night to remind us of the power of the infinite, the power of choice, the power of consequence. Life is a divine dance. I accept the invitation of every dance floor yet to call my name. So many years and small days spent counting the seconds of loneliness I almost forgot laughter. Fact of the matter is, I fed myself lie after lie until I could not get up in the morning. Perfected the habit of mourning what is still here. Thought I was a ghost disowning feeling. Thought feeling was proof and forgot truth. I wanted to leave my body and join the sky but—

It is too soon to say goodbye.

To who I was when I did not deserve the love at my door: come dance with this man who wants to kiss your salted cheeks. Let me open the door to this room where everyone is in love with you, or at least your smile. Even if you don’t show your teeth. That smirk does the lord’s work. Your joy is not a trick. Your reflection is an axe. Pick yourself up and cut down the bullshit trees. Please don’t forget. Please don’t forget. Please don’t forget. Please don’t forget, you are not helpless or heartless. I don’t know if anyone tries more than you. I don’t know if you know this, but love looks at you. How you move through crowds. How you hold onto everything that hurts you. How you hold onto everything that holds you. You, you, you, Zachary. I’m talking to you. The voice you use is a song someone loves to listen to. Your laugh is cash and every night is casino night. Your presence is ticket stub everyone keeps after the show ends. The show ends but you’re still on stage and the microphone is hot and believe it or not, everyone is listening to what you have to say.

 

20/30: BIG MAC

I meet a guy at the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Belfort and Gessner who says his name is Mac, but people call him Big Mac, so Big Mac asks what I’m about and what I do while we both stood in the parking lot after discussing the cooking failures caused by empty propane tanks, laughing off backyard disasters when I finally tell him I’m about to finish law school, and how I’m almost a lawyer, and that’s when he stops me, that’s when interrupts my sentence like a cloud passing over the sun, and he says no you are a lawyer, you have to say it, for it to be true. Put it out there. Big Mac pulls the doubt out my mouth like a spare thread on the sleeve of my dreams, and I unravel into my grocery bags and both my hands are carrying my gratitude for this afternoon’s agent of kindness reminding me to let the good word be heard, and we shake hands and part ways like old friends, and once I return to my car, I rejoice in who I’ve become, how the world is run by none of us but we all choose to participate in fate, even when I’m late to the learning, life delivers me from my mistakes, and this is a lesson I take home with me Thursday afternoon like a ticket stub I keep on the wall in my room

17/30: LOVE BETTER

“Therefore, dear sir, love your solitude
and bear with sweet-sounding lamentation
the suffering it causes you.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Dear Zachary, sir—I need you to love better.
Dear sir, I need you to love better and mean it.
You can start with me, and all the sweet-sounding
suffering I cause you. This isn’t advice.
I love watching you try, but what good is
showing up, if you do not follow through
with who you wish to become?
Apart from me, you are another and I am other.
As if we exist in separate dimensions.
Am I a place you go but do not mention?
Dear Zachary, together, have we not walked
through shame like confetti and cascarones
underneath pink evenings? Have you forgot
the wilderness of your childhood, the backwards
deliverance of our innocence? We passed the time
like a jar of fireflies at dusk, opening the closed
jar to see how far we could see trace the fading
light. Each time you proposed an exit strategy to
get out of your head, who was your canary?
What if I told you it is not possible to love
someone until you love me? All the pain
in our heart is instructive. Isn’t that what
you call precedent. Would it please you
if I gave my argument with authority?
Because I know how you hate the past,
And yet, you protect your agony, unequivocally
too stubborn to learn the errors of your ways
And I know this weighs on you. I can feel
the slow puddle of your blood form when
you refuse to participate. Dear sir, please,
I am not an exit strategy. I am an invitation.
My only wish for you is to receive what
I give without leaving me behind. Remember
how it feels to stumble through the unfinished
plot of what is lost and what is gained? I know
you need me most when it rains and the air
changes instantly, announcing to the world
what is here and what is to come, the same way
you wish you could change back into the man
you wrote about once before you became an
island, stranded in the sand of your fears.
I hear you talk to yourself when you refuse
to use your voice. I know all your tricks.
In the mirror, when we visit each other,
Your eyes trace our body in the dim light.
Dear sir, don’t you see the space I give
is empty for a reason?

29/30: THE BRICKS WE KISS WITH

If my mouth has a roof, then my tongue is a one story house. If my tongue is a one story house, then I must’ve built this house from the ground up. Must’ve poured wet cement like saliva each time I stepped on a stage. Must’ve been my way of building a home with the sheen of spit shining between the gap in my two front teeth, my two strongest bones. But this tongue is a soft home built in the long heat.

When I was young, my voice must’ve churned pieces of earth with water, and nothing or no one told me I was becoming stronger than concrete just by speaking. No, my tongue is not a hard house. But even silence can turn a soft home violent. I’ve seen silence become broken glass, a window smashed without reason. I want to speak without destroying. Even still, my hands have sometimes been hammers, even if my teeth refuse to be nails. Never in my life laid a foundation with my own two hands. Only spoke and spoke and spoke.

But let me tell you what I know about construction, about the Mexican men who stand on the skeletons they build, drinking cold beer in the afternoon, soon saying goodbye to the empires they’ve built. Kings of Creation. The sweat of their pride shining like the spit off my lips when my tongue lifts. And for a moment, their hot hands are not hammers, just hands, and their hands simply hold a cold promise like smoke in the lungs of the sky. Thinking of what I’ve held, I know

I’ve never laid a foundation, but I trust in the structures that refuse to sway. I know of the proud bodies we cling to, the flesh we confuse for walls that refuse to crumble, and how Mexican women were refuges for me as a boy, teaching me how to secure, how to stay, how to feed everything but the hurt. Sometimes, my mother would dig her teeth into my skin until I could see the imprint. My grandma too. The love in their mouth building a home in my bones, laying a foundation with each time she’d say, You are mine. Don’t you get it? My tongue is a home

I have inherited. The imprint, the scar tissue, the lessons—these are the bricks they lick their lips with, and this is the beginning of my tongue’s existence. A house I didn’t even mean to build. I must’ve learned to pour cement because I was searching for more, because there is always room for more, even if we have to build it back from scratch.

I take it all back. I am done with destroying, done with escaping, done with defiance. Because if my tongue is a house, then what are words, after all, but guests? And if words are guests, then all of this empty space makes sense. I’m not alone. I’m just waiting. Building suspense. The emptiness has a purpose. I am remembering all the guests I’ve let in, both those who did not want to stay, and all the ones that did. After all—

aren’t the names of our stories our favorite words anyway? This house is not meant for me. What I’ve confused for emptiness is just a room for you, precious guests. Here, take my breath. Here is my bed, a place to rest your head.

My tongue is a house, and at night, all the words are asleep. Sometimes, eight, or ten to a bed. Their feet opposite their heads, like me as a boy crowding in with my brothers and cousins, our little tongues little houses that were built with kisses and bricks. My tongue is a home, which means, I finally finished what I started. You, all my guests, are family. Come, come, come inside. The pleasure is mine. Meanwhile,

Outside, in the springtime silence, my friend Michael, opens his tongue like a house, separates his hair with his hands like a curtain letting light in, when he tells me of his travels in India, the places he’s been, the people that fed him, the houses he entered with invitation, the stories he stepped into, and when he was through, he looked at me, and whispered — In India, they told me, the guest is God. And isn’t it just like God, to take your breath with a word?

30/30: FAITH IS A DARING EXPERIENCE

We had a catholic service
for my Uncle Jesse’s funeral.
And I was a pall bearer,
which means I carried his body
which means I carried his casket
which means he really did kill himself
which means he really did want to leave
and I felt weak in my strength.
But the priest who spoke at the ceremony,
did so about the soul, about its longings,
how death perplexes, but faith persists.
Actually, I believe his exact words were,
“Faith is a daring experience.”