Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saliva to Thread, Sternum, and Scalp

an escapulario has snapped;
kneeling, fingers fumble, 
nimbly wishing to
fuse the broken thread

traffic lights do not wait;
midday, a sedulous task:  
a tallboy and lotto;
PikNik doors swing shut and 
open in unwitting applause; 
shuffling feet miss

I could offer the young vato
what I have around my

he will soon find saliva
will not fuse
a broken escapulario.

I could offer homeboy
a hand, the repose of a 
vato’s shoulder,

words of advisement 
(trucha, homito.   looking at me
like that, you already know
the bulk of what there is to know).

I could offer
my scalp, stubble, salt, and 
pressed to
the slick section of his neck 
where he will dream
of others after me 

(the permanence of ink si vale),

could offer
the sternum, where he
has never felt a vato’s lips form
crisp ovals, has never felt
that crushing weight of a vato’s 
goatee inching up your spine that
first time, where 
the prick of his name enjoining
the wall of your cora is a
new thing;

could show him my own
shit, those losses and aguantos
where another’s
letters dangle atop cora flesh
and rib;

(be down.  know how to not fuck a good thing up, 
yet, know when to say fuck it and leave
that shit behind)

and then,
my own saliva 
might accept 
his own scraped scalp;  

Clown, I will learn they call him.
he will tell me it all,
and intently, I will listen; 

(can’t ever say nobody ever gave you a chance)

glistening brown, scarred, 
his scalp touching
my thigh or the flat of my belly,
a twist of the mouth 

sets that space inside him
where the
thread has broken 

what’s your pit’s name? he says.

Cucuy, I say.  

parking lot has emptied, a place
as vacant as my bed.

works best if you just put it on,
make a knot.

(some things, pa, can never be fixed)

I spit.  crack my neck, go slow.    

Entwine a mesquite.  Surreptitious 
embrace, potato vine and an eyelash—
(I wished for you.  I did.)
Stunned, your turgid loops rile 
whooping Cranes.  Venting  
Thistly neckbone suspicions! 

To pace and pause, the rigor of 
so furtively happening upon your
ventricle of a leaf.  This sweet vine harnesses.
It chides.  Chokes.  Climbs.  And I’m
Imposing implausibility, now.
Juddering, halted growth!

From here, the potato vine world is
Ungainly, untrimmed.  Friction is a pebble
Reciprocating for the improvement of 
Gravity and a slack kidney
(I fear it will not heal).

Fathom pelvises and viboras, wobbly
Helixes, and adept spines.
Kindling is the mindlessness of
forgetting shit (street names
and lists), fodder of recuerdos
torrents, really—

Foolish fuel, rambunctious neurons, 
a tangle of dendrites and oily, jolly kites 
amid Nino huffs and a Eucalyptus tree 
that has lost its grip—

Elegance of condors and night trains,
Elegance of unflustered swine and tortillas
turning brownish.
(You’re at the bars, and I have not slept.)
New Years underneath the Tower of Las Americas

Softly, in the dusk, a cholo is whispering to me;
Taking me back to the formica table of a prima’s tamalada, 
where corn husks gather expectantly in the hard waters of 
blue speckled tin, poised for smears of masa.  
Dutifully, corn skins part themselves for the girth of warm pork
pinched in rows and mounds.  
A window reveals condensation and palm fronds, 
which quiver and quake, unaccustomed and yet, determined 
to tolerate an Arctic wind inordinately thrust onto our streets.

A cholo whispering in the hours before the year unwinds itself, 
the cold on us like a barrage of ants at my toes.  Taking me back to when 
the air was cold, and I stared at homeboy’s shoes 
as he put the red of his lips to mine as the two of us huddled 
in the dirt of the back yard as we threw out his tia’s trash.  
A kiss that exploded in the form of clouds and candy canes and 
the scent of new promesas.  Later, keys jangling in tow, 
I stared at his shoes again and at those of his Tio Juan, 
a man as old as my own father whom I never knew, 
a man thick with years and jokes and who torched metals.  
Forged, joined, sewed the alloys violently into seams 
and joints and unsightly buttons.  

The moon belongs to us, the welder said of his wife, who nodded
at this sweet thing produced by his mouth, and folded
the corn husks, packing them tightly into a deep pot.
The New Years is a night of lovers.
Antes, we used to drive the loop and see what the city offered--
The most beautiful night in the history of the world.  The tio toasted
generously to our health and finances and to love and to the Spurs.
As vibrantly as a skyline of sparks, the Spanish fluttered off his jaw.
Strangely, I thought of my own father.

This cholo whispering as we cruised the 10 to the 90 to 281 to the 35 
alongside Brenton Wood and this vato’s homeboy and his heino, who’d
spent a year apart from his cora while he got sent away to the TYC.  
Four of us agreeing with his Tio Juan on the blueblack beauty 
of our city at night.  Great and simple beginnings came upon us that year.  
The appassionato of a midnight cruise thrown in a 1985 Regal.  
Southside streets impassable because of smoke and explosions.  
Rooftops and the black, naked limbs of oaks and 
the hard grey lines and loops of all these freeways and 
my heart as tall as the Tower of las Americas--
the skyline glimmering beneath the tonnage of so many man-made stars, 
the sounds of so many cuetes, and a Fair Avenue apartment where the four
of us pledged love atop mattresses and other necessary things 
amid the cold.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where I’m From (la Mera Neta)

I’m from cigarette smoke and kneeling on sea shells to recite Our Fathers as punishment for fighting, mouthing bad words, and talking back.
I am from altares to la Virgen de San Juan and nopalitos.  
(Green, sizzling, cactus meat filled our plates at Lent.)
I am from Severa and Jose Rocha, from Martha Garcia and an unfaithful grandfather
from Saltillo, Coahuila, whose birth name never made it to me.  

I am from running barefoot on the grey asphalt of night, street warmth
permeating my soles.  I am from never believing my Mom’s boyfriends
were ever good enough for her.
I’m from bingo at the parish hall of the Immaculate Conception Church
and women who gather around telenovelas to discover things about themselves via 
the characters on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights.
I am from Gregory, Texas, and East LA, from Lorena Street and Corpitos,
from the Southside of San Anto, Fair Avenue and Hot Wells Boulevard, from
the white dust of dirt-road trailer parks in Ingleside and Aransas Pass, Texas.
From broken bones and digging ditches, from rooster fights, food stamps,
and tattooed devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I am from tricked-out Oldsmobiles and Silverados pushed up on fat 20s.
From boxing lessons when I was twelve and metalflake glimmering 
in the sun of a lowrider show that I never wanted to end.  
From wanting to grow up to be like my Tios and my abuelito, imitating
their walk, their talk, their clothes, their placazos, their dreams.
I am from Guayabera shirts, estirantes, tapas, and Stacy Adams.
From creased-up Dickies and Ben Davis, Charlie Brown shirts and Nike Cortez.
I am from barbecues on Sunday afternoons with a hundred and one relatives
and fajitas, chorizo, brisket, rice, beans, and potato salad for days.  
From rosaries whispered over sick relatives and unpaid bills--
cancer, diabetes, and money for the light bill that was lost in a street bet and 
never found.

At the kitchen tables of my childhood, we played Loteria and prayed before Thanksgiving; we learned that my cousin David went to prison for armed robbery, that my cousin Rudy had died after being attacked by an army of ants, and
that my mom had developed cancer in her uterus.
I am from those hours of men, women, and children--
the waiting, the praying, the hoping.