Tuesday, July 14, 2009

El Plato

And his abuelita, her old back rolling over itself,
Forgetting the magnetism of a favorite novela,
Forgetting the phone and the year and
the pack of smokes she needed to buy;
Tenderly, in the grip of her Westside porch,
making a Sign of the Cross over us
as if gestures and 9 pm whispers to God
And an anciana’s tacit approvals were all two

homeboys in San Antonio needed to
watch over the things we’d done when no one else
would see all that her nieto and I had become.
Asking God to bless us. Pediendome:
“Take care of him.” Mijo. Holding my shoulder. Mijo.
“Guardelo.” Mijo. As my own mother, abuela,
vis-abuela had never done.

Still keep it, that plato. Perimeter of florecitas.
Painted pastels accompanied by two Dollar Store forks.
Still remember her simple gift of arroz,
frijolitos, tortillitas recien hechas, three or four chile
piquins. That offering of nimble fingers, arthritic, devoted
articulations. So much toil over a hot stove,
toil to nourish, to display. Carino and the inkling that
duty outweighed Judgment. It was an old woman’s palabra
that came to me wrapped in silvery aluminum this
one afternoon in June when the furious 410 had given
Up its clutch on the endless line of trucks like mine,
And her nieto and I had traversed the Southside and all of
Downtown to cross the Guadalupe Street Bridge—

If she knew what we knew about foils.
If she knew what I did to her nieto in the private
Hours of my Fair Avenue canton when the radio had
Already shut itself off, and my mouth, scented of Colgate
And Lone Star, soon, smelled of his pecho and between his

legs and of all his twenty-two years.
If she knew how his mouth felt on my parts.
If she knew that he wrote me poetry--firme, hard-ass
Homeboy poetry.
If she knew he wrote my name on those
Parts of him that mattered more than skin.
If she knew he called me, “pa.”
If she knew we said prayers together, nightly, me clutching him
As “Padre Nuestros” fell off our lips like beads of sweat
And sweets.
If she knew he promised to love me.
Por Vida. Para Siempre.
If she knew I was the main reason he moved away.
If she knew I broke his heart, that he still thinks of me
From time to time, writes me a poem, offers me a kite.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Coyote and the Old Man

And way off in the distance, a coyote sang,
And the earth spun for the sun and absorbed
the coyote’s song. That sadness tunneling into
topsoil and bedrock, into the spidery tributes of
roots and the skeletal remains of animals that had
long ago given themselves back to the womb.

And way off in the distance, an old man banged
Clothes onto the flattened backs of boulders, and
Imagining the man he no longer had, the old man,
too, began to hum the coyote’s tune, a soft crooning
that billowed, soon erupting into an exhaustive huffing
and gasps--the echo that was his cariƱo’s name.