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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Soft Core Deep in my Soul

There is a small,
soft core
deep in my soul,
where my shame 
and embarrassment live,
and I haven’t been able
to banish him
from who I am.

I’ve covered him 
with a shell of
confidence and competence
but he still
endures.

All these years 
of acting like he wasn’t there
or that he wasn’t 
important
are taking their toll.

Now,
he is demanding attention,
respect,
and he threatens
to expose my secret
self,
with tears that will not 
stay hidden
and feelings that will not
relent.

I am held hostage 
by these emotions,
unpleasant and embarrassing
as they are.

I keep trying
to float back in memory
to understand his genesis,
but like a dream,
fog-like
it slips away
just when I think
it is within my grasp.

He didn’t do anything
wrong
but he still feels 
shame and embarrassment.

Whoever he is
I need to make peace
with him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Just Keep Going

That first night
after I moved out,
minutes dripped
faucet-like,
agonizing and slow,
and I kept thinking
“she’ll call,
any minute now.”

By the 11 o’clock news
I was resigned,
eyes red and puffy
and I play-acted
normalcy,
pretending to sleep,
realizing this new
world would take time
to become mine.

The brief, pathetic life 
we’d made 
you traded away 
for the White guy
who made more money 
than me,
and his promise 
of a fantasy life 
and left me prey 
to another woman,
who wore evil intent
like her body splash.

She was also 
looking for someone 
to fulfil her fantasy life
and she thought she’d found it
in me,
but I was just 
numbing myself
with her attention
and her pale, freckled bosom.

That ended badly as well,
but she wasn’t going to be 
a victim,
and she accused me 
of rape.

That was 1994,
and again,
time did its 
predictable thing:
it just kept going.

One day to the next
like the waves on the sand
ever repeating,
ever repairing
ever after.

Time 
just kept going, 
no respecter 
of people,
nor pressure,
nor pain,

and there I learned
the lesson and the secret 
to making it through
that hellish year:

just like time,
just keep going. 

[Posted for https://dversepoets.com/ - prompt: from a place of pain.]

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

He Wore Blue Velvet

They wrapped
the baby
in blue velvet
because he was
a boy.


Now,
he wear pinks
and pastels
and argyle
and gun metal gray
because he is
a man.

[Based on Prompt "What's Your Birthday" - the song is "Blue Velvet" by Bobby Vinton, #1 on September 27, 1963, the day I was born. Thanks to https://dversepoets.com/ for the idea.] 

What Falls Away

 These days
I find myself
falling apart
easily.
 
My arms are tired
of trying to hold
myself together.
 
My body keeps telling me
in aches and groans,
“what are you
holding onto that
for?”
 
My exhausted brain
unfolds his director’s chair,
squats his weight
upon it and exhales:
 
“Let it fall away.
This body wasn’t meant
to last forever,
so what makes you think
your will is any stronger?”
 
I don’t want
to let everything
fall away,
just the
old, flaky, dead
stuff,
which
makes up more of
who I am
every day.
 
So I’m letting it all
fall away;
if it cannot stay affixed
of its own strength,
then that’s Life saying
I don’t need it.
 
But still,
way deep down inside
the pilot flame is still lit,
the rhythm still beats,
the juices still flow,
 
and I realize
the Great Interconnection
 
as I breathe in
the same air as
Socrates, Jesus and Groucho
and bathe in the same rain
as a delicate hummingbird,
a breathtaking mountain,
the pebbles in the stream.
 
Help me
to easily let go
of what
I no longer need
and
remain steadfast
and strong
and true
to that which
never falls away.

Friday, September 24, 2021

"What Race are You?"

The conquerors
came to my mother’s door,
kicked it in
and invited us
to accept Jesus
at the tip
of a sword.

What could she do?
They were on a quest,
a holy mission
guided by The Great Commission
and imperialist avarice.

Subjugate,
rinse,
and repeat.

With each new soul,
each hungry, crying mouth,
with every generation,
the original sin
was watered down,
until eventually
there were enough
mestizos
that they qualified
for their own
ethnic checkbox,
their own profile-able
category.

Fast forward
centuries and continents
later…
what is your race?

Father was
a Spanish rapist
a Christian murderer.

Mother was
a humble Indio,
a surviving stoic.

I am not half-White.
I am not half-Indigenous.

I am mixed
and troubled
by my father’s cruelty,
humbled
by my mother’s strength.

My blood is
impure,
and so is
my race.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Popsicle

We had 
a simple popsicle
between us.

I asked her
“do you want 
to split it?”

“No, but 
I’ll share it.”

She knew 
I’d eventually
understand.

This is the difference
between 
mine and ours,

and I pray 
it informs 
my every interaction,

and this was how
she used 
a simple popsicle
to teach me
a profound lesson 
in loving. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Waiting in the Fog

My daughter says
“you need to write again 
and tell everybody where you’ve been.”

I’ve been nowhere in over a year,
cherishing anything safe and dear,
but these thoughts of mine aren’t even clear, 
so often I dwell in a cloud of fear.

I went out into the world again
revisiting places I hadn’t been, and 
while many things looked how they used to look,
even the bookstores had fewer books.

Everyone zipping at their pre-COVID pace,
like the pandemic was elsewhere in outer space,
except half the people had covered their face.

The other half stupidly danced along
defiantly ignorant, like nothing was wrong.

I never thought we’d live this way,
year after year, day after day.
My heart ached from all the memory,
and I wanted to go back in history,
be free from this pain
like it used to be,
but my wish went unanswered,
it just haunted me.

So where’ve I been?
in a fog for a year,
waiting for my spark
to come back around here.

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 love
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 (for Rodney)

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