Saturday, March 20, 2010

How I Came to Be Down
There is an altar standing in a hallway.
It’s him.  Surrounded by Virgencitas and velas.
At dinner, Big Sleepy was kind and spoke
of a book we both had read.  A book I knew 
from school.  Farmworkers and pesticides 
and peaches, laying together on floorboards, 
two bodies “clasped together like hands in prayer,”
and the papeles guarded by the glovebox.
Perplexed, his camarada, a vato whom 
he’s known for almost as long as I’ve been alive, 
allows his brows to reveal his consternation.
That night was the first time I’d eaten parrillada.
It was the first time I’d worn a suit.
The first time I’d been to Olvera Street.
Never mind 3 a.m.
Never mind the boulders and the train.
In the hallway, I will later learn it was 
Patricio peering up at me:  Was I down enough?
Did I know what I was getting into?
Did I know how badly all of this could end?
But it’s what transpires on the bed that
spares me.  Each piece of his drapes
has been lain out, the pants flat and neatly
tucked, the tie and estirantes doubled over
as if from exhaustion, the vest and chain
and saco ready to go home.
At the edge of the bed, he sits in boxers and
tall socks and a white shirt and the discourse
of so many tattoos trying to make themselves
heard.  A plastic cleaner’s bag crinkles,
because he has removed his shoes and, after
wiping the black down with a cloth, has placed them
in their box.  Here, let me help you, he goes.
Already, he has gathered my coat when he reaches
to unsnap these estirantes I clutch like trucha 
about my pecho.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Monte Carlo
for a Torcido

Outside a Southside cantina, and I, though
furious, am huffing, as I’ve run six bold blocks,
gold spackled in a patina across
jaw and tooth and septum, am five, again,
and curious, again, and it’s the torcido alone
at the far end of the bar with the
marvelous bigote and the Jesucristo tattoos 
and the black Monte Carlo of my boyhood, 
breathing heavily from a chrome pipe, 
all the while glints of 2x4s and giants
and the slickness of my scalp seen in those 
side panel doors, and I’ve peeked in that door
before (cousin Ernesto putting his dick shaft 
into the rim of a Gatorade bottle, father 
on top of a woman who wasn’t my mother, 
a silver chain belonging to a lover’s trick 
left at my sink) to see things I shouldn’t look at after
having bolted out my Fair Avenue canton
hurdling six city blocks, thinking only of that torcido
the veins of his forearms and his thorns, 
and huffing old tinta like a maniaco out of the bote.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


In my closet, they hung like spirits.  
Six of them.  
I remember the black one and the blue one, because those he wore most.  
I remember the brown one because it matched his favorite tapa, and the beige one, because I have a photo of us after church, leaning in on the hood of a green ranfla, and he’s wearing it.
In that foto, I’m holding a Superman monito, and the jonque behind us is gnarled metal, a jungle of dead shit.  
And the white one, I recall, only because it’s the one my Tia Reynita gave to me when he died, and my moms (and me, virtue of my blood) wasn’t invited to his burial.  

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Men Blur
There were ice chests to lift and muscles to grapple with.
Cliffs as well.  Men stream, muscles and haloes,
and blur.  Horseshoes and triceps.  Muscles that knot.
In August, the white ball above, a furious blot plot 
high, will shimmer enough as to cause 
the emerald to soon lose half its volume.  
On boats tethered together like dogs out for a stroll, 
men blur.  Boats stall.  Gyrations, hollering, inebriations. 
Locking mouths together as underfed fish to hooks,
lips find nooks in muscle that has turned colors
like leaves disintegrating into stubble.  Men blur.  On this 
choppy sheet of green, men float and blur.
That emerald:  misshapen, murky thing, 
an irregular watery gem whose cut 
none other may mimic, illuminates my trek, 
then, from the cover of thistle, where after giving time 
with J., we are cuffed and dragged off by police.  
Indecencies and an aching overtakes my foot.  
It all blurs:  house, job, colleagues.
Only the jag of limestone knows this aching part of the foot.
The Pit Bull and the Fingerprint
Clambering among the freeways, 
I am barefoot and without my ride.  
Asphalt on either side of me,  
The awful parting that has occurred 
on the inside of my mouth has
Morphed—unglazed, summoning 
an explication, summoning a fat tongue 
or a prick:  
I have something here.
Pillars and pilgrimages to the grey colossus
bridging the body and wind
and back to the ferris wheel pier where 
that box of bones blew away so many Mays ago,
suddenly, sullenly, these fixtures 
have become more fitting, more tactile, 
more unguent than leaving behind these lofty things, 
things like horizons 
that spill sunlight into the gossamer foams of the Gulf 
whilst monstrous pit bulls lead pelons and part the orangest 
depths of Port Street.  Rhomboid muscles and thick wings 
bulge into daft clouds like those of buffaloes and hellhounds, 
and their Dickies-clad owners nod chins, wipe sweat
with creased white toallas.  Supple fingers invitingly caress
scalps and scapulars, and a pelon smirks with the whole
half of his mouth:  Demon, Clown, Creeper, Sleepy, 
Big Smokey, Mosco, Casper.
I have something here.
And I’ve tucked it like a coin just beneath the sternum,
just between the lungs and my loins.
And I am bound to run the gamut of disease,
unthinking my faults, my foes, my feet.
And I’ve found that smallest chamber of laying back
on the bare colchon of my homeboy’s canton to an open
throat and good brains, and this is the coin that can run me
and ruin me and return me to good times.
And with this new knowledge, I am bound to hone 
the huge bone of a Clown’s fingerprint 
smudged on the dashboard of my Silverado, 
fixed like teeth marks onto the silvery torso 
of my Art Laboe collection and my Guadalupe
clamped about my throat.
I have something.  
It is the foil crushed inconspicuously into a sofa cushion, 
a real crystalline skyline, a night without ice:  
I have something.
This belongs to us, I once was told of a house,
A barrio, a room that did not proffer much else but 
a deep throat, thoughts of the past,
and the promise of a Payasito’s penance.  
Pit Bulls

The tall fence does not exist
when I vault over it, Dollar Store laundry basket in tow, 
and land, undetected, in Nike chanclas,
basketball shorts, and a mushroom head of dust 
(at 6:38 a.m. on a Saturday in May 2008; 
the sun, giant orb, already 
blaring on top of this raggedy backyard 
on the near Westside of town, jeopardizing our intent).

And huffing (Fuckin hurry, Joe), while accounting for 
seven of what once had been nine pups, 
my lover hoisted the rickety black bed-liner of a truck, which 
had served as a purported shelter for the dogs 
(safely in our possession, we already had the mama pit; 
after a week of feeding her on the sly (cruelly, she’d been
tied to this fence, the chokehold of a rope tether cutting deeply
into her neck flesh;  hence, the seventeen unanswered calls to city
animal control, the emails shot to the news stations regarding
animal cruelty and neglect, the famous councilwoman’s
special request after viewing the skin and bones of cruelty 
revealed by the disturbing pics I forwarded), the owner had 
moved her tie, so that the dog couldn’t, even with the most 
formidable efforts of her neck muscle, reach the food and water
bowls we’d stashed for her in the overgrown alley
(GOD BLESS YOU, a handwritten sign left behind 
on a discarded food wrapper placed beside a mound 
of her vomit had read the day prior)
warily, the dog feasted on kibble and regurgitated 
a mush of what her twenty-two pound frame couldn’t manage,
and frequently, she peered upward, contemplating
perhaps the fates of her seven remaining babies 
not to mention the intents of these two bald, 
tattooed men who were either saving or pilfering 
her offspring while fending off, with daily advocacy
and early morning fence-jumping, 
her own imminent death by starvation), firmly
over my 5‘7” shoulders, so that I could pluck each
flea-infested pup, bellies rotund, and eyes squeezed shut, 
placing each tiny body in the tightened 
confines of this white, plastic receptacle 
functioning, now, with a bath towel, as a makeshift crib, 
the whole time thinking to myself:  Maybe they’re gonna wake up
suddenly and think I’m jacking their
commodities (the rest of us know as pups) and 

shoot my ass dead.  How would KSAT 12 report
that shit?  Fuck.  Almost missed one.  There in the corner
by that old-ass, upturned sofa, and throughout the day,
I keep creeping back, peering apprehensively through slats in
the wood of our fence to see if I could locate 
the two pups we’d counted previously, 
which now were vanished.  Later, we decided
to call this brave one Monster due to his gargantuan size 
and this white-headed one Ling-Ling,
because of her Mestiza eyes, 
this one Lil Sid with his pronounced dome head and 
then Sweet P. and Rat, Big Cooter, and finally, Krunk Lil Evaine.  
The mama bully we named Kimora, and one night,
while my lover slept, she crept her slight frame up onto 
the hueco of our bed, nuzzled up child-like 
between his chest and mine and sighed (a hard-ass, hard-life sigh);
I knew then we’d keep her as our own.  

Monday, February 15, 2010

In the long lineage of ribs, 
boneless ribs, containing cotton 
but no cartilage, 
to which connects no sternum, 
no clavicle, no ligament of heart
or lung, then, this pair of Chucks, folded over
and accompanied by tallboy calsitenes
chones, a wifebeater loaned or left behind, 
don’t matter when observing one’s tio shine 
and his homeboy shine
and that fine-ass vato in the blue Cutty at the car wash shine
and your jefa’s old school dude shine 
and your homegirl’s brother Guicho shine 
so firme, so fine--
one’s homeboy crease down so fine. Then, 
this pair of tongues that whisper, 
“This way.  Asinita, bro.”  
Hanging Bed Sheets
That man you’re fighting with, 
He called tonight
While you’re tugging shoestrings 
off the skinny clotheslines of a trailer park childhood 
and peculiarity bloats the ombligo of sky,
beneath the cackle of splintery electric poles and
tweaked-out Clowns swapping bumps, beneath stars
that droop like bolts of sweat, 
you’re pinching salt near eyelids and
sponging boot prints off your cheek, and 
haphazardly, the man inside me is wiping 
scuff marks from floorboards 
where the dancing occurred.  
In thunderstorms and nightmares, 
My abuelo used to strip our beds and 
hang the bed sheets, stained and
fending off impotency, over all the mirrors of the house.
Other nights, he’d clamber up the roof and piss a
golden pain as we’d all switch off turns attempting 
to coax him back to bed.  And that’s how I learned
to hang bed sheets in front of mirrors.  
That man you’re fighting with,
He called tonight.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sleepy and the Rock, 1993
a memory I lost but now have found
“See this rock.”  Perched between stout fingers, 
a homeboy shows off the rock, and I check the shit out 
like it’s fucking magic what he holds in the
sandpaper that is a hand.
“This rock ain’t shit,” he goes.  
“Til I put my arm behind it, guey.  
And then, shit, watcha.  
Watch what this little bitch can do.”
Intrigue flutters.  Wild, gilded eyes.  
I’m doubled over.  A day before Valentine's.
Torpedoing and a soft whistle 
across overgrown yard and a gate that won’t shut, 
shattering a toothless window to an old house 
that’s empty now except for the imprints of tecatos 
who shoot endless brown there and 
fuck and nod off and stave off life.
Now, I’m watching that rock.  
Seeing it spin.  Watchando.  
Huffing, still.  
Sleepy grabbing on me and dissolving.
Seeing it bring shit down, he goes,
“Life fucks up fast, manito.”  
I ain’t huffing no more.  
The sting that overwhelmed my lungs dissipates.  
I’m following a homeboy who has sped ahead 
of me on a rigged-up ten-speed, a homeboy who
swallows from a tallboy Schaefer as he pedals
and will put a mouth on me in the dreams that keep
me company when everyone else has failed.
The sun is hot like fuck.
The eyes of la vecina fisgona swarm around me, and 
the trains howl like dogs.
My breathing gaffs.  Desire stifles amongst so many 
locusts and then rises up again like perhaps maybe
when Sleep invites me to kick back at his pad, 
this shit might really happen, 
all the cards fall into place finally.
But they don’t.  
And instead, I’m here chasing, smashing
open another beer I don’t want,
always chasing the shit that I can never get.