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Friday, March 05, 2021

First Impressions Matter

 One of my earliest memories:
standing in line 
with my parents
at some amusement park
or public place,
(that's how early this memory is),
and I was holding my father's hand.

I was so little
probably 2 or 3
and I was just immersed 
in the experience
so much

I heard my parents 
from behind me
say
"What are you doing?"

So I looked behind me
and there were my parents

so then whose hand
was I holding?

I looked up 
and saw a beatific 
face of a chuckling,
middle-aged 
African-American man,
just smiling at me,
amused at this mystery child
holding onto his hand.

That image of smiling grace
is fundamental to who I am.

All my life,
as a Mexican-American,
I've never felt anything
but kinship,
acceptance,
for African-Americans,

and I wonder if
that smile had something to do 
with it.

First impressions matter.

The Sound of My Voice

I would sing you
love songs
all day,

but you don't like 
the sound of my voice,

so I still sing them
to you

but it's just
in my mind,

where I imagine
you like 
the sound of my voice.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Disinhibition

 In the turbulence
of passion,
moistened skin, 
400 thread sheet count, 
I am happily,
wondrously lost, 
my imagination
and lustfulness 
trying to keep pace
with my heart rate.

After all these 
years, days collected
and stacked
high and haphazardly
as fall leaves 
in November,

this intensity,
this raw disinhibition,

saying things,
moving in ways
that can only 
be earned
through time,

to a climax 
of orgiastic,
timeless ecstasy.


One Last Nice Moment

New Year's Eve
ticking over 
2019 to 2020.

I find my 23 year old 
daughter
who is diagnosed with 
borderline personality disorder
in the kitchen.

I gently hold her
by the shoulders,
look her squarely 
in the eye and say

"Well, on the good side,
God didn't take 
either one of us this year."

She stifles a smile
and tries not to hug 
back,
but doesn't try 
too hard.

Finally caught,
she dismisses me
with a derisive

"Stalker."

That's a good way
to wrap up
2019.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The View From Here

She takes a drag,
looks out the window,
sees the familiar,
perfect red
white
blue police lights,

and thinks,

"I don't miss those days."

Friday, October 30, 2020

Where Were You?

In times of anxiety,
stress, worry,
I manage to get through it.

Most times I don't care
about the quality of how I handled
it,
I'm just glad it's over.

Then,
In a vain shallow
snottiness
I ask God:

"and where were You?"

In typical
elegance and wisdom,
God replied

"Where were *you*?"

Sunday, September 13, 2020

On Having a 23 Year-Old Daughter with Borderline Personality Disorder (for Sarah)

She lives in
an insular world
of emotional instability
and impulsivity.

I live with
the possibility that
the illness
will overpower
the meds
and she'll do something
impetuous
and unintentionally
tragic.

Most nights,
as I make
my final rounds,
set the house alarm,
and walk up
the darkened stairs,
I see the light
from under her door.

Maybe she's awake
and her mind is racing.
Maybe she fell asleep
with the lights on.

I'm just grateful
I know where she is
and that she's safe. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Christian is a Verb

Make yourself known

not by your label,

not by your word,

by your action!

 

The grace and kindness

with which you’ve been entrusted

must sprout,

emerge or

explode,

whether spontaneously

or as a premeditated act,

 

but,

it must exist

and

it

must

matter!

 

A follower in isolation,

selfishly hoarding it

squanders this gift.

 

Christian is a verb.

 

You don’t need to

be crucified:

 

just feed a hungry person,

or water a plant,

or just sit and listen

when needed.

 

Christianity is a belief system,

choking on legalism

and self-contradiction,

but Christian is a verb,

so

commence Christianing!

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Ritual (Over 100 Quarantine Days)

When the work
is done,
I retire to the garage
to smoke my cannabis,
watch a sitcom rerun
and unwind
as I always do.

I walk to
the front of the house
to check 
my daughter's car
to see 
if it is locked,
as I always do.

I walk around
the black
2012 Honda Civic
and check the doors
and the windows
as I always do.

Noting this ritual,
as I have done over 
100 quarantine days 
in a row, I numbly think:

"There is 
absolutely nothing special 
about this day."

At that moment,
I became conscious
of the purple in the dusk,
the melody in the breeze,
the hopeful laughter of 
the children playing 
up the street,
the scent of her hair
lingering from an
earlier embrace
and the warmth knowing
all was safe,
calm and bright 
for the moment,

and the truth 
whispered in my ear:

"Every single thing
about this day
is special."

Forgetting

As parts of
her drift away,

weightlessly

as if released into
the infinite darkness
of that eternal night,

laughing memories
of our life together,
important names,
evocative music,
the taste of enchiladas,

are evaporating
as ice cubes on
a summer sidewalk.

Thankfully,
along with
those treasures,
my mother
is also forgetting
the cold score keeping,
the distance, the invulnerability,
the pain of
my father's abrupt departure,

and I find
that she says
she loves me
far more easily.

You Just Can't Please Some People

March 1999:

When my father
was taken
at 64,
two days after
his own mother,

I was angry
and I said,

"God,
why did You take him
so quickly?

I didn't even
get a chance to
say goodbye."

June 2020:

As I watch
my mother
video-calling from
her newly-installed
hospital bed,

I hear the
fatigue and slow-surrender
in her voice,

and her mind
is disconnecting,
her memories
are falling away
like rare coins
from the worn pockets
of her lifetime,

and the pain
of this sight
makes me think

"God,
why are You
taking so long
to welcome her
home?"

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

My Rain

My rain comes 
in meek droplets
and unforgiving sheets.

Rarely does it wash
anything clean,
merely adding
another layer
of dirty air,
baking itself
on the roof
of my car,
or on a cheap plastic
backyard chair,
miscreant weeds and
unspoken-for
mounds of dirt.

No,
my rain is
unpredictable
and it takes
a day or two
for its musty
grasp to be
loosened.

It can gray-dampen
a sun filled sky,
sit on my plans
and cruelly,
unceremoniously,
remind me
of my ultimate
helplessness
and finite
abilities.

My rain
comes in memories
of loss, regret
and longing

and even if
I try
to hide indoors,

it is always
rainy season
in there too.

[Written for https://dversepoets.com/2020/06/02/rain/]

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ascend

Those old love poems
worked hard
but failed to fly;

these poems, for you,
ascend, never looking back.

[Posted for https://dversepoets.com/2020/05/21/mtb-5-line-japanese-poetic-forms/]

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Portal

Implicit in
every portal,
every entrance
every pathway
is a decision:
do this
or do that.

Most days
the choices
are overwhelming
and I rely
on habit,
other’s decisions
or time
to decide for me.

Today
I walked through
the door
that said

“try writing again,”

and now
that I have
crossed that threshold,
I stop to consider
whether
I carelessly
skipped over
the portal that said

“write something better
HERE!”

[Posted for https://dversepoets.com/2020/05/19/dverse-poetics-about-portals/]

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

“Isn’t This Fun?”

The usual vibe
these coronavirus nights
is
my Ollie
planted between myself
and his sexy grandma
because we have
a king-size bed.

We play,
we giggle,
we slow down

and some nights
he fights sleep,
violently, desperately
as though something
in his 30 month soul
whispered a lie
that the sleep
would be eternal,
forever.

Finally,
his strength abates
and he surrenders
to the cool darkness
as we all  do,

and his breathing
is slow and deep,
as “The Cat in The Hat
Knows A Lot About That”
softly lullabies
him into narcosis
and this is our life:

the three of us
in this cozy, wondrous
cocoon of love,

and just as I drift away
I hear the cartoon cat
gleefully exclaim:

“Isn’t this fun!”

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Iron Jew

The Iron Jew
steps into the ring,
tuxedo shirt
and bulging eyes
and craggy features,
sweat from his fore head
nervousness in his twitch,
he is a mountain
with punchlines
at his 1970s
new York nightclub.

Standing in the spotlight,
gauzed in cigarette smoke,
he delivers
line after line after line,
each one more powerful
than its brother before.

Cynics, skeptics and
shtarkers,
each come up and
each is knocked down,
but the sheer gravitas
and invention of this
survivor and his
world-weary shield.

He leaves the stage,
undoes the bow tie
slumps in the dressing room chair,
lights up a joint,
and waits for the next
challenger.

Scene change:
Thirty years later
on the other side
of America,
I come home
wrung out and hope spent
I go to the garage,
fire up my pipe
and queue up Rodney Dangerfield
on the Johnny Carson show
via YouTube
and
puff puff laugh
puff puff laugh
and his attack begins:
decades melt as
and he hits,
unrelenting;
each hit perfect,
and I begin my surrender:
sides aching,
he punches,
I’m sucking for breath,
 he punches,
throws a three joke combo
with a topper
and I’m almost doubled over in pain,
joyful and liberating.

I have lost myself
and my worries
for a moment,
and I am grateful
as I catch my breath
and marvel that
the Iron Jew
has won again!

Monday, November 18, 2019

My Day, at 56, in Chemicals

No-Doz
Metformin
Lisinopril
Diet Coke
Saline nasal spray
More Diet Coke
Cannabis
More Metformin
Simvastatin
Simethicone
Sildenafil
Ibuprofin.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Eternal Warning (Don't Think Too Much About it)

Looking at the
oily French fries
I saw a stain
on the discolored melmac
plate and I wondered:
what caused this?
Was it a fresh stain or has it been here
for years?
Did the cook wash his hands
or for that matter
did he scratch
his dark oily hair?

As I bit into my pastrami sandwich
the eternal warning returned:
don’t think too much about it.

I’ve been told this my whole life
as I attempt to scale
the holy trinity,

or when I’m trying too hard
to have an erection
that just
isn’t
happening.

I pick up the pen
or seat myself at the piano
and try to disconnect
my brain,

don’t think too much about it.

Let it all drip lightly
like syrup off a stack of pancakes
or the blissful sweat
between her naked cleavage
as she rides me,
both of us
lost in two different worlds
consumed by one love,

but don’t think too much about it.

Where did my children go,
they were just here?
Between holidays and loads of laundry
we traded in our dreams
for beautiful young starlings
who would rather be
somewhere else,

don’t think too much about it
that’s was Evil told me
when I repeatedly rejected her advances
because I knew it was wrong
because I knew she was married
because I knew better
but I did it anyways.

Don’t think too much about it.

what if I lose control and drive my car off the freeway
and if the tingling in my arm isn’t benign
and if our global economy is an illusion
and if no one finally remembers me.

and maybe you don’t really think
I’m the most beautiful person
in the world and that you could be
more easily tempted
than either you or I want to admit.

Don’t think too much about it,

and what dark and pungent mystery
remained waiting down
all those roads I never took?

who might I have met?
what might I have done?
which drug might have killed me?

Would I have been
the sweating and desperate soul
frying pastrami and potatoes
desperately plotting and trying
to escape my existence?

Perhaps,
but I’m trying hard
not to think too much about it.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Two Things

Two things I
I know:

Stay humble
or God will keep you
humble,
and don't
bullshit yourself.

I try to be
honorable,
virtuous,
Christ-like

but I know
the soul
inside this
unassuming
shell,

and I keep
waiting
waiting
waiting
for that
other
cosmic



shoe




to




drop.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The M Mountain

I pray nightly,
from my upstairs
bathroom window,
and I look for
the Mountain
with an illuminated
"M"
representing my city.

I do not imagine
God is the Mountain,
or lives in the Mountain,
or looks like the Mountain,
but still I look for it
as I pray.

Some nights
it is seen clearly,
unambiguously,
while other nights,
the fog,
the smog,
the detritus of
this world
make it difficult to
see.

Especially on nights
when it is not
easy to see,
I remember
all those gifts
I trust in
and rely upon
that I cannot see:

air,
God,
music,
love.

I pray
even though
I cannot see,

I trust
even though
I cannot verify,

I am thankful
even though
I cannot repay.

Some nights
I feel at one with
the Mountain.

Some nights
I just feel the distance.

No matter what
the Mountain
is always there.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Exchange

He gave her
a virginity
no one wanted.

She gave him
a glass slipper
he still cherishes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Folly

You can fight it
but in the end,
it always wins.

So try
and steal as many
breaths
memories
orgasms
possible.

If you’re lucky
a handful of survivors
will hardly remember
you were
ever here,
and if you’re
luckier,
all your missteps
will fade from
collective memory.

Since I cannot
control it,
I try not to fear it,
but rather
I keep it
in the back
of my mind,
and the front
of my actions:

no matter what,
each of us
leaves behind a skull,
some bones,
rare moments truly lived,
and the folly
of imagining
one more tomorrow,
just out of reach.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The Woman I Married

I spied them
from the kitchen:

she was with him,
my beloved grandson,
and she was
so respectful,
and warm
and fun.

She was always
the woman I married,
but somehow,
I’d never seen
this woman before:

someone who consented
to share my life
and my fortunes,

a woman with a bounty
of lustrous eyelashes,
inviting curvature,
and an oasis smile.

She gives him
her truest,
most unguarded
laughter and joy,
and he is forever changed
one lesson at a time.

I see her expressing
the purest version of love
I’ve ever witnessed,

and the thought comes,
unbidden:

“That’s the woman
I want to make love to.”

Friday, May 03, 2019

Listen, Inhale, Absorb

Listen,
inhale,
absorb.

Before doing anything
that would smack
of reaction,
just listen,
inhale,
absorb.

You already know
what is inside you,
you gave it birth,
so there’s no need
to celebrate it
with trumpeting braggadocio,
or eloquent poetry.

The more you can
absorb,
deliberate,
reflect,
the less you’ll need
to regret,
to apologize for,
to fix.

We prioritize
action
when we really need
wisdom,
which is why
I should’ve kept this
to myself.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

The 1993 Balloon

In 1993, I was
an optimistic, naive balloon,
filled with helium hope
but leavened with
trepidation.

The capital O
outrageousness of
Maury, Jerry, Ricki and Geraldo
now seem quaint,
even puzzling.

We shared
anonymous germs
in Superman’s
ubiquitous changing rooms
because there were
no cell phones,
and even then,
Superman
was merely
a human actor
in garish tights,
before CGI technology
made him
Super indeed.

There was no
user-friendly internet,
to capitalize on human
avarice and desire,
before the days
of monetization,
before it became a
privacy-sucking machine.

Streaming existed in
air waves,
radio waves,
television waves,
media resistant to ownership.

One merely talked
to another.
No email,
no text,
no IM,
no DM.
The impersonality
of the beeper
should have been
a warning.

Before
Everything
became customizable,
we learned to adapt
to the things we
couldn’t change,
and when each of us
endured it,
we had a shared
common experience.

I recall it
as a time
of dreamy possibility,
less splintered,
simpler and slower,
and looking back,
my heart
sighs in unexpected
yearning.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Ultimatum

She sat in
the beanbag chair

guilty but not
contrite,
a child caught
in a lie.

“You gotta decide
whether you want
to stay married to me.”

She just stared into space
not taking any
responsibility,
just wanting it all
to be over.

Then I issued
the ultimatum:

“I’m giving you
two weeks to decide:
it’s either him or me.”

The Lesson In Retrospect:

if your beloved
takes more than

three seconds

to decide
if they want to
be with you,

RUN!

The Gravity of Faith

I shoot my petitions
into the
black
unending
night
like arrows
with tips
dipped in
fiery faith

and though I cannot
see where they
eventually
land

I smile
content
in the
knowledge

that all my prayers
will fall
back to Earth
answered

I rely on this
just as I
rely upon
gravity.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Open Letter on Immigration

Dear young ones,

For years
I've seen them come
over our borders,
like dirty water
over a dam
and they even don't try to fit in.

They have their strange language
their awful food,
and they don't seem afraid
of our laws.

One of them even made
improper sexual advances
on your aunt,
my wife.

They come over here
and use our resources,
the ones your father,
and my father,
and my father's father,
built
and they squander them,

but they don't care
they just want a better life for
themselves.

I want to tell them
to go back where they came from,
but I know that is not right
because this world belongs
to everyone.

So, let us open our land
and ourselves to them.
Perhaps all these things
that worry me
will not come to pass.

Do not fear the white man,
he will not hurt us.

your loving uncle,

Ignacio
February 1, 1848

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The January Hangover

Same thing happens
every year:

after Thanksgiving
the whole world
seemed to be dressed
in red and green
and snow white with colored lights
with everyone was playing
the same music,

and then on
December 26
it all stops.

All the laughter,
the music,
togetherness

and everything just gets
dark and cold
and dull.

Every January
I go into my post-Christmas funk.

I know it's all
an illusion of
togetherness
this worldwide party
to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

In December its easier
to accept my longing
for a larger shared experience,

for something special
maybe even a miracle.

So as I gather the Christmas
decorations and the cds and
put them back into storage,

I wait out January
determined that it won't
get me down,

and I look forward
to the anniversary of my sobriety,
to my wife's birthday,
to Valentine's Day,

to February.

[Posted for The Tuesday Platform at Imaginaary Garden with Real Toads.]

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Downloads

I do not have 
dreams
or
nightmares
when I sleep.

I get downloads.

The universe
exploits
my helplessness,
the vulnerability
of my unconsciousness

and downloads
what becomes
perception
into my
unsecured brain.

Most nights
the download
is an unholy melange,
of doubt,
curiosity,
fear
and transcendence.

I pray that hackers
will not attempt
to break through
the rudimentary
security measures
I’ve installed
so I can operate
with the predictable
smoothness of glass,
of a perfect machine.

Some nights
the download is so real
I wake up scared,
praying to undo
what I saw in
the download.

Some nights
The Great Coder
compiles the lines
and I awaken
fresh and eager
to live out
these commands.

“So, then,
are you merely a Puppet
of the Great Coder?
What about
free will?”

I didn’t get here
because of any
free will choice 
I made,
so I don’t know
what free will
means.

And, if free will
is something granted
by The Great Coder,
then can’t the code
be modified?

I don’t know,
just like
I don't know
the virgin birth,
life after death,
the mystery of the trilogy.

So,
I have faith
and hope
that the next
download
might clarify
things.

Pleasant dreams.


[Written for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads ]

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Christmas Present (For the Brokenhearted)

Christmas Past
stays in yellowed,
attic memories,
re-appearing as
days get short
and the nights become
a cold, black
collective,
and the ache
in my soul finds
its way
from my childhood
to now.

Christmas Future
invariably promises more-
conspiratorial familial laughter,
opulent –themed rooms,
quiet spiritual contentment-
and predictably,
delivers far less
than my covetous dreaming
could ever imagine.

Both Christmases
are illusions,
yielding only
red and green
pangs of sadness.

This year
I’m foregoing both
and becoming
Christmas Present.

Not
The Christmas Present,
but rather,
present,
fully here
this year.

If I stay present
in this time and place,
perhaps
I can sidestep
the pain and
the memories
that usually linger
well into
the next year.

Christmas Present
is my gift
to myself
this year.





[Written for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads ]


Tuesday, November 06, 2018

I Pray for the Birds

Every night
I walk past the cage,
dim the lights,
bring my palms together
and solemnly pray:

“I pray for the birds:
please watch over them,
keep them safe,
keep them comforted,
help me to provide for them.

Also,
help them to
be kind to one another
share their food,
clean water,
may they enjoy
the sweet brace
of fresh air.

While they are in
temporary cages,
may they one day
fly again,
and when they do,
may they
glorify Your name
and sing Your praises.”

I pray for
the birds,
as I pray for all
of us,

with our feathers ruffled,
songs screeching,
and confused expressions,

for we are no more
grand than
Your birds.

Friday, November 02, 2018

The Darkest Hour

It wasn’t
the darkest hour
when I found out
he died.

I prayed
it was merely
a week-long nightmare
from which
I’d awaken.

Still,
I’d cried, laughed
written a eulogy
but mostly
that week
I held my breath
magically thinking
I’d awaken
and not be
fatherless.

The darkest hour
came later
when my widowed mother
couldn’t bear
to let anyone
go home.

The funeral was done.
The reception was finished.
Her house was empty.

Crushed
by the weight
of his absence
the darkest hour
that started
in 1999

still isn’t finished
yet.