Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: texas

25/30: K.I.A. OR THE FORGOTTEN WAR

For Pedro Caballero, my great-uncle, who served in the Army as a Corporal in the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, and was killed in action on March 9, 1951 in the Korean War.

I want to talk about the flag, but first,
I want to talk about the wall,
about walls,
about the way a wall
is a curious structure that defines an area
by telling me what is not allowed in.
There is a wall no longer standing
A wall that once stood in Lockhart, Texas
This is the wall of my Childhood
The wall in my grandparent’s living room
that carried the portraits of Mexican Men
in their military service uniforms and
when I speak about this wall, I mean,
these men defined the pride in my family

In Washington D.C., the Korean War Veteran Memorial is a wall
less than 2 miles away from the White House,
the same White House that wants to build a wall between the borders of my blood
History lesson: On March 9, 1951,
My great uncle Pedro Caballero was KIA
Killed-in-Action
in the war with two names:
The Korean War
and
The Forgotten War
And from what I know,
his remains were recovered
which means his body
was not forgotten
even if the war was

They say dying for your country
is the most American thing you can do
so I ask you,
If a citizen is part of their country,
does that include the blood in the soil?
If a citizen is a part of their country,
and a flag is a symbol of our country,
then every citizen is a symbol.

History lesson: On February 1946,
my great grandfather applied for, and was granted
the suspension of his deportation at the Immigration office in
Brownsville, Texas
which means: he did not break the law,
which means, my great grandfather gained a flag, but not his citizenship
which means, he gained a country, then lost his son to that same country’s war, a war nobody remembers.

Did you know the colors of the American flag have a special meaning?
Red is for courage. White is for Truth. Blue is for justice.

I want to talk about the flag
as a symbol
as an object
as a pallbearer
that carries
the coffin
that carried my Uncle Pedro’s killed in action body
back into a country that does not love him.

I want to talk about the flag, and how,
in the 5th grade, I was in the Color Guard,
which means, I guarded the courage, I guarded truth, I guarded justice
Every Friday, I carried the flag like an ode to democracy
I held my head, raised my voice like a flag,
left, left, left right left,
Picture it! A Mexican boy presents the flag
before he pledges himself to America
until he would become the perfect citizen,
or at least,
a part of this country

I am a citizen of this country
but a glimpse at recent American history
will tell you,
citizenship is divisive, but I don’t want to be divided.
This poem is where I cross back into myself,
where I praise the history of my people, my family,
If I stopped writing poems about Mexican people
I’d probably vanish, like a war we forget we lost
like the blood in Pedro’s body,
Red as the republic
For which it stands
One Nation’s wall
between justice
and liberty
for all.

13/30: SO ME AND JEREMY ARE STUCK IN TRAFFIC AWESTRUCK AT THE WILDFLOWERS WE COULD NOT NAME, OR PINK EVENING PRIMROSE

It’s spring in Texas and I want to name the flowers I see
whenever I’m stuck in traffic on I-10 on the way to Austin.
Me and Jeremy are two men stuck in traffic on the way to Austin,
two men awestruck at the pink evening primrose, though neither
of us can tell the other the name until we look it up on our phones.
Pink evenings are burning in every room of my mind. Everything
I remember is set against a pink evening. Even when dreaming,
I adjust the rearview mirror of my memories, altering endings until
the dark thoughts turn to alternative facts. Never look back.
I change the wild past with each flower we pass, laughing
at the new name,
we both now know.

Nobody has ever asked me why,
I believe in myself with such certainty—
And who wants the truth?

20/30: JOY SHUFFLES, PAIN REPEATS

Watch me create a moment.
Lonely vibrations jumping
out the bag of my bones.
Home alone as karaoke king,
my magic
stays unknown.
Rhythm is an invitation,
but
the breathing pattern of my lungs
stays undisclosed,
& all I know is
joy, like air, is unavoidable.
both carve their own space
both fill the space they make,
emptiness giving me shape,
Elation shaking my hips
French-kissing the chorus
I’m breaking all the rules.
Give me joy, give me pain.
Suffering is a slow song
everyone wants to shuffle gone.
Don’t make me the DJ.

Inside of me, a need for
suffering
repeats, repeats, repeats.
On my birthday, my shirt says
SAD SONGS, because
sad songs are my weakness,
because pain is a place too,
not unlike a dance floor, or
my forehead spinning,
skin vicious wood splitting
sweat leaps off me,
like light jumping
off disco balls,
the need to shine
craws through
the dark room of my past,
also a dance floor,
where each body
orbits like an heirloom,
beating hearts for tennis shoes,
walking through
unavoidable echoes
where hopeless is
the opposite of rhythm,
something that throws
you off by letting something
else in.
What if,
what if joy and pain
are both unavoidable
crescendos?
What if
emptiness is a shape-shifter?
Can I still kiss suffering
with a smile on my face?
I’m breaking all the rules.

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.

6/30: IF YOU CHANGE ONE LETTER

If you change one letter,
lonely becomes lovely.
When I say cast a spell,
I want you to misspell
the ugliest word
you have called yourself.
Misremember its parts,
take power by the syllable
Grab a letter by its throat.
Every word ever spoken
stays invisible unless written.
Name the shadows in the dark.
Pick your tongue up like an ax.
No, your tongue is an ax.
No, your tongue is a tongue.
Sling the word you have reshaped.
If you change one letter,
wanting becomes waiting.
If you add one letter,
heart becomes hearth.
If you add one letter,
star becomes start.

The beginning is always like this,
metamorphosis through addition,

Listen, each word nothing more
than invention, invocation, invitation.

Again, again, again, my tongue spins
a sentence, a spool of creation,

Silkworm imitation.

Yes, your tongue is silk with blood
Alive with the words you’ve drug
through the mud of love, erasure
is a patient process.

A word, like any earthly body,
must erode, if only to grow again,

Must end in flames, if only to begin.

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.”

28/30: AND ONE FINE MORNING—

In front of me is a poster of Gatsby’s silhouette,
reaching for love’s green light lost across the bay,
and this image is made with every word
from his most famous novel,
and I can feel the
length of my own famous longing curl with my spine
each morning I rise, tomorrow is already
showing in the way my ribs do after I
turn to the other side of myself, after I
breathe deeply, the way April does with the rain.
It’s funny how every motion forward takes me
both further and closer to what I am.
Listen,
love’s green light across my own stormy bay,
the moment you see my outstretched arms,
know,
it will not last.

25/30: RIGHT SIDE OF THE DIRT

What’s really unbelievable is that
Chinese alchemists, who in all historical likeliness,
were men,  had to draw a brainstorming map once,
write a to-do list, had breakfast meetings,
together, in a room, and ultimately,
Gave themselves directions
on how find and brew and intermingle
all the elements necessary to create
the elixir for immortality, which they
probably intended to drink, obviously.
Had a plan to outmaneuver death!
To stay on the right side of the dirt!
They say it was supposed to be the great last trick of the alchemist!
Then, the sparks began to flower.
They discovered gunpowder.

24/30: ODE TO SUBRIDENT, SORT OF

I can’t leave my street/ without turning into an Ode/ I want to write beauty disembodied/ then proceed to explain/proceed to blush/ at my deconstruction/ devastated by the simplicity of my lust/ but before me/ A form I recognize/ Breathlessness is what the afternoon brings/ Praise my lungs/ unafraid to bloom/ Praise the colors of spring/ beauty embodied/ unafraid of gloom/ Wouldn’t that be something/ But I have left my street/ The name of my neighborhood is the Shenandoah Valley/ I do fear evil/ I do fear death/ The road before me is callous with wind/ Among this vast expanse/ Darkness goes unrestricted/ among the Storm Systems/ siphoning faith like the wounding of color/ The sweeping exhilaration of thunder/ unloosens the stitch/ in my side/ My toughness collapsed/ My collection of light/ cracked open/ for all to see/ the nucleus of marbles/ each particle pinballs to create a stronger thing/ Have I spoiled the mystery/ Has anyone seen me before the warm heat rises/ before the cool air quiets/ before the sun riots/ before the masquerade of the storm/ has made you forget your own flesh/ but this too shall pass/ but not before the spell is cast/ Look/ up ahead/ the horizon is unhaunted/ Look/ before you/ my heart/ Unhunted

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