Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: writing challenge

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.

17/30: BREATHLESS, I READ A POEM UNDERNEATH THE POET TREE

I ask my body to move, and it moves.
I tell my legs to open their stride, and I glide in the wind.
I beg my breath to stay in control, and my life doesn’t end.

Do I need anymore evidence that I am alive?

Oh, sun. I give all my gratitude to your Tuesday evening gradient.
I repent for all the times I second-guessed your radiance.
Oh, sun. I bet all you ever wanted was a captive audience.

Sweating at sunset, I run with my head held to the sky.
The way my heart knocks against my chest, you’d think
my bones were a microphone.

The faster I move, the more pain I see in my rearview.
I’m not running out of time, I’m running through it.
With miles to go, I surrender to the sky’s invitation.
A voice whispers in the distance and it sounds like
my voice, but six seconds in the future. I’m chasing
the part of the story that has been untold for centuries.

Breathless, I become a disciple of stillness. Still,
I miss what it means to call the chaos home.
Along Buffalo Bayou trail, I catch my breath and lean against
a tree where all the leaves are poems, and
the way my heart knocked against my chest, you’d think
my bones were a microphone. I stand beneath the Poet Tree,
and read the tiny poems that hold so many voices inside.

Reading each poem to myself, I ask the words to hold me,
and they do.

16/30: A LUNCH BREAK HAIBUN ON GRATITUDE

Mid-afternoon mischief in the trees. A river of light divides the leaves. Shadows are everywhere the sun is. Downtown Houston is in a dance competition with itself. Music between the buildings. Everything is under construction, even our secret shame. On my feet is where I feel most alive. Inside Market Square Park, every smell is a spell on me. Oak and Maple guardians hold the block in balance. Cross-walk signs light up like a flame. Squirrels stealing the scene. The universe wants to be seen and so does this poem. Lunchtime longing. See the closed sidewalk? Your path has changed. I want the confidence of a building. Whoever said not every moment has a door has never walked inside my brain. Green-grey water waits for me to sail away. I say a prayer the only way I know how. Like the sky is a secret we all get to keep. Underneath trees, I find a reason to stay. I find a home alone, but alive.

Outside, I go, say:
Gratitude
is the only face of god
I know.

 

15/30: fruit cup empanadas

Sometimes I feel like the opposite of a witness. With my own eyes, I have nothing to report. I gather memories from my grandmother’s garden. I’m holding her life in my hands and I am held captive. I am a helpless spectator. I piece the details of her life together like a bouquet unafraid of decay. Opposite of omnipresent, I rake the leaves into a pile and picture her mind the same way I picture a tree changing colors.I don’t know the consequence of missing information. I regret to inform you, I still can’t say where my ancestors came from. Show me a map, and I’d laugh at the lines defining borders but never me. If my blood has a story, then nobody ever told me the beginning. But listening to stories over the stove, I discover the fire is alive in my grandma’s eyes. Her voice a wood stove. Her love a warm home. Waiting to eat, I’m fed a story from her childhood, about fruit cup empanadas, and my grandma recites every ingredient of her memory. The recipe of the past is bound to repeat.

 

10/30: GRASSHOPPERS IN THE SKY

Me? I got me 4 brothers. Corey, Brent, Jesse, Kyler. Blood-bound. I love these men with all my heart, always have, ever since the start. How lucky of me, to be both big and little brother. I used to be a bother. I used to be a small king. I used to be a pawn. I used to be a boy who knew joy was simple like falling asleep on Brent’s shoulders in the backseat of the car cause Corey always got the front. Jesse asleep on mine. Eventually Kyler on his. This is the song I recall. Sometimes the words change. Like I’m never forgetting what I’m not. Always searching for who I’ve been. You know I can count the poems where I throw the word loneliness around like a stone but truth is, I ain’t never been alone. Not truly. I was raised by boys whose names I knew only as roots, as proof of who I am or was or could be. My bruised and busted lip is a trip down memory lane. I lie awake thinking of my brothers somewhere away from me. Their faces are my history. Their names a story only I can tell. One hug from them and all my pain is resolved. I got me 4 brothers. All of us the same but all of us different. Like clouds in the sky. I know we belong together though we may precipitate with different precision. All my mother’s sons. Blood-bound. Can we pretend the light that shines in the sky is each of my brother’s reaching out to me? Our father calls us grasshoppers and I become a creature of habit, hiding in the low-grass of the past. Did you know grasshoppers can only jump forward? Never backward. Never backward. Never backward. Never backward. Never backward.

What I’m trying to tell you is: I’m blood-bound to these men like the soil our grandfathers worked in, and every day I miss them.

9/30: THE PISTACHIO SPEAKS

The shell is a fortress
(badly designed)
to protect its green king

Any shell will tell you:
it’s what’s inside that counts.

I’m counting the cracked shells
all the green hearts
living outside the bodies
they were given.

I hold myself like a soft secret
Like the portrait of a seed
that never saw the soil.

Inside, I am covered, concealed, hidden.

If any hands opened me,
if I had the choice,
If I had a voice
I’d probably run
myself into the ground
back to my roots
back to the tree
that knows my name

The man holding me now,
I see how softly he pulls me from myself

Does he know I was cultivated
for this moment?

Does he know
there is a part of me
nobody ever sees?

3/30: SHOUT OUT

shout out to the businessmen buying broken gold
shout out to the folks who kept gold after it broke
shout out to the men who hug me in public
shout out to my pops who texts me recipes
shout out to the cast iron feeding the cast of my life
shout out of your driver side window at the top of your lungs
shout out to the crescent moons marooned under my eyes
shout out to voicemails
shout out to wanting to talk to someone so much,
you call to hear their voice, only to leave your voice behind
shout out to green lights and Monday morning traffic
shout out to black tea, honey steam, and hand heat
shout out to the voice in my head and the voice in my throat
shout out to buttermilk pie breath
shout out to my lonely homies
shout out to the play station four encouraging my solitude
shout out to the service industry
shout out to the industrious servers who laugh at my jokes
shout out to my niece, Jessi Diane Caballero, J3, JD, valentine’s day baby
shout out to the bridges I did not brave
shout out to the turtles picking up shifts for Atlas
shout out to the bargain shopping hustle I inherited
shout out to the out of reach future
shout out to Sufjan Stevens curing my sorrow
shout out to the lady bugs who trust the touch of my hands
shout out to stick in the mud that is my tongue
shout out to the generous ticket stubs of love
shout out to the depressed, us champions of effortless sadness
shout out to the sunsets stunting like Shakespearean sonnets
shout out to man behind the manuscript
shout out to the mighty pens of my friends
shout out to my left palm dividing the wind like a pretend god
shout out to my students who fish their voices from the river
shout out to the promises I will die to deliver
shout out to the verdicts I reach about myself in silence
shout out to the endless shouting of shame
shout out to the dark passenger shouting to get out
shout out to the dark side of the wiry moon
shout out to the dark bark of peppered brisket
shout out to unrequited love’s lesson on risk
shout out to my happy flintstone feet, flat as a flag
shout out to the poems put on plates
shout out to complete feasts
shout out to inescapable refuge of regret
shout out to the mouth, the pink soundboard of speech
shouting out loud what I refuse to whisper.

26/30: WHILE SHOPPING AT H-E-B

A little boy walks by the orange juice,
proceeds to shout “Dad! We NEED Orange Juice.”
A little boy walks up to me while
I confirm the integrity of the eggs,
his small voice grows beanstalk raises to my ears,
his face at my knees asking,
Are you a stranger?
I look at him, grab my eggs,
whispering back without a crack,
Yes.

Let me enjoy the mystery
I’m disappearing into the bread aisle
where everything rises, turning sharply
to look for candles, I nearly hit an older man
and I apologize, say,

Sorry Sir, I was coming in hot.

He apologizes back, adds in,
I was like that when I was your age,
I lose my breath at his sincerity,
the ever fond reminisce happening
in aisle six. But before I leave,
I say to him,

Well then, I’m in good company.

Then I abscond onto the olive oil,
soil of my growing appetite,
my absolute delight, the effortless
sweep of the wrist when I’m
cooking with rhythm,
and what are you
but another instrument?
look at all I can do with
a bottle of you?
Parts of you needing me,
me needing you, yes,
this constant need
to invite others in
has become such a gift.

When preparing to examine the apples,
an employee grabs each spoiled, rotten
apple and tosses it away, and I think
how hard of a job that can be.
Who is to say what is unworthy?
But he moves with confidence,
rubbing his hands across the
jazz apples, honey crisp, pink lady,
gala, granny smith, and he is making
my life so easy, it’s lovely. I’m so tired
of picking over the dead, of losing before
I even begin, and I am more thankful
for him than I’ve been of myself.
What’s with this strange history of mystery?
After I’m done marveling, I ask of him,
Are you tossing out all the bad apples?
He doesn’t say a word, just keeps tossing apples
and I think this has something to say about
the invisible work most people do,
the kind of effortless
that took so much effort
to perfect. I mean, to me—
this is a miracle, and honestly,
Who am I to deny the gospel
of gathering all the bad apples
which just happens to be
happening in a grocery store?

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?

23/30:THE SECRET TO SOFTNESS WITH AN APPEARENCE BY YOUR EX-LOVER

What is there to say?
Who here is to be trusted?
The other day,
I bought four avocados
Dinosaur skin,
I used to think to myself.
Before, while still in the store,
with great precision,
I massage my hands across the skin,
measure the mustered force
behind my pressed thumb.
Me, an ordinary produce priest
In the aisle, with my hands,
little blessings performed
for the crowd.
Upon the skin,
the armor of each
green peach told
me to wait before
breaking open
what is enclosed.
[tip: this is the secret to softness.]
Later,
I placed each
in my fridge
Waited. 
Went about the days, pledged patience.
Heard stories of sour brown insides
I wish to unlearn how to say decay.
Still, I thought of the cruel yew trees rooted in me,
all the flowers I forgot to touch.
Decomposition is a sentence
unwriting the end of the story.
When I cut into them,
each spoiled before me.
Dead green darlings—
not a one to call mine.
When my hands
touched the green mush,
the color rusted inside me,
cast a spell over,
reversed
the light’s forceless arrival,
as I feel silent waves
leave behind the color of darkness.
This day of decay
found my hands
like the end of spring,
where I watch the color cave in,
but like all things lost,
Fate had prepared me.
When the color caved in,
I knew then,
it had everything to do
with the eyes of my last lover,
who,
last winter,
who took the song of her eyes with her,
her love, also,
spoiling before me.
The rot,
believe it,
or not—
still caught
in my unwashed hands.