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.