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Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Undercover Chicano Speaks (Day 17 Prompt: Risk)

In the hierarchy
of White racism
I see  
two distinct reactions:
 
first,
there is hard hatred
against Black skin
and those who 
inhabit it,
the blacker the skin,
the more virulent
the animus, and

second,
there is soft hatred
against those
who are off-white,
of which I am
one.

Since I am not
as dark as others, 
I do not endure the same 
wrath as they do,
but don't think
this is any kind 
of protection.

As I am 
fair-skinned,
the White racists
sometimes forget
that I am non-White
and let me see 
who they really are

-in all their 
entitled ignorance and ignominy-

and I can test 
in real-time
whether their 
words and actions 
align 
into ethical integrity.

This perspective
is a blessing,
and the finding
is often a curse,

but that's the risk 
you take
when you're 
the Undercover Chicano. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Best English Teacher I Ever Knew (unprompted)

"I wanted to say
that Bob Tomes
was the best English teacher
I ever knew
because he was 
encouragring
to the point of 
indulging me
and my unreachable dream
of being a playwright.

He was kind and funny 
and didn't take himself 
too seriously
and let his students 
do the same.

More than anything else
he treated me like
a peer,
an equal, 
-which I 
clearly 
was not-
but this led me 
to believe 
someday 
I could become
someone he read
and admired.

Yes, so if I felt this
way about him
as a student,
I can only imagine
what it would
have been to be 
his son.

I'm so sorry
for your loss, Jay,
and I'm also sorry
I didn't get a chance
to say these things 
to your dad
before he died."

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

No Poem (For D'Verse Prompt)

No future 

no past

no hunger

no fast


no sadness 

no joy

no girl

no boy


no music

no silence

no kindness

no violence


no blessing

no hex

no longing

no sex


no this

no that

no dog 

no cat


no one 

no call

no nothing

that’s all.  

[Posted for https://dversepoets.com/2022/11/15/no-vember/ ]




Monday, November 14, 2022

Playwright Story (Day 14 prompt: "blank" Story)

I wanted to be a playwright

which gave me the first taste of 

playing God,

fixing the problems 

in my real life with 

imaginary characters.


My plays had great 

dialogue

but terrible plotlines 

because I could never figure out 

how to end the story.


I just liked being 

in the moment

one person 

communing,

communicating 

with another. 


I tried five times

and finally quit

and this is why 

I am here 

doing this 

now.


I no longer

play God 

nor do I want to,

and I am 

ever surprised 

by the endings

written for me. 


x

Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Sign-Off (Day 13: didn't write to prompt)

In a previous media world
before the existence of 
the 24-hour broadcast day,
television represented 
a stable world to me.

I thought 
everything in the world 
shut down 
when the stations 
signed off for the night.

I imagined the lonely
tape operators 
playing the 
canned messages telling everyone 
about the end of broadcast day
and imbued it with a gray 
duty-bound romance.

If I ever stayed up late
to see it,
it was oddly comforting 
to hear the sermonette 
or other words of wisdom,
 
and them the Star-Spangled Banner 
then came 
the unceremonious 
disorienting signal loss 

and the loss of connection 
to the rest of the world

and my world became unstable
again
until the 
next broadcast day.


Saturday, November 12, 2022

56 Days in the Time Machine (Prompt 12: Time/Future)

Every year
starting November 12 
and ending January 6
I allow myself
to linger in the 
time machine of 
Christmas music.

It is one of the few
lifelong continuities
still comforting
this solitary soul,
with visions of warmth,
togetherness and love.

Images of people long gone,
places long forgotten
and things I thought were important,
softly bubble up through 
my memory like a slowly
cooking stew.

I forget where I am
and remember 
where I was,
who I was
and am thankful 
for this awareness
and the familiar glow
of hopefulness at 
Christmastime.

Friday, November 11, 2022

The Uncontrollable Teardrop (Day 11 prompt: fear)

The fear is not
secret,
we broadcast it 
by our avoidance.

Our fear is 
the uncontrollable teardrop.

We are trained to be 
strong
in-control
impenetrable,

but
when we fail,
then comes the deluge,
untamed and embarrassing.

Our species 
will not survive
without a radical rethink 
of male tears.

One properly placed
teardrop
might be all it takes
to bring down the
patriarchy.

Why do you think
The Male Code
is so strongly guarded?

Tears make us 
human,
and humanity makes us equal,
and there is no hierarchy, 
no property ownership,
no power differential 
in humanity.

The uncontrollable teardrop
can change us
from machines back into
people again.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Struggle to Walk over Burning Coals (Day 10 prompt: Struggle)

It is a struggle 
to walk over burning coals 
when we do not expect it 
to hurt.

We struggle when
we don't accept things
as they are.

Life is difficult 
when we fight 
the universe
fate
or anything else
we have no control over.

When we try
to resist the 
will of the universe, 
or fate
the will of 
something greater,
plan for a struggle.

So, it's easier 
to change our way,
than it is 
to change
the will of the universe,
or fate, 
or the will of 
something greater. 

Try to remember 
you can only change
what you have 
some control over.

Let go 
of everything else,
and most of the struggles
will go with it.

Then
your next challenge 
will be 
staying clear 
of the burning coals
in your path.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

The Nose of the Matter (Day 9 Prompt: Blank of the Blank)

Every night 
when I emerge from the shower,
hair wet and thinning

I see your face
in the mirror:

the unembarrassed scalp,
the big, unforced smile,
the shnozzola.

Yes, I am my father's son
and with every day
I am happier 
about this fact.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Monday, November 07, 2022

This Adaptable Heart (Day 7 prompt: Adapt)

This heart continues beating
as if it was only 
an internal perpetual motor
without memory.

It breaks often- 
sometimes of my own doing,
sometimes it is broken for me-
but it still continues,
hopeful,
encouraging
and unstoppable.

She broke my heart,
it kept going.
God took my father
it kept beating.
I walked away 
defeated
and it never abandoned me.
I fail  
and heaped scorn and shame
upon myself,
and yet it is still here.

Yesterday,
I lost my wedding band
and I fear it is gone for good.

My heart broke
but it never stopped.
It just kept going while
I took the time 
and accepted the inevitable.

This heart I carry
is my reminder
to keep pushing on 
while I still can,

and trust that it will
still be there,

always working,
always helping,

my trusted friend. 

Sunday, November 06, 2022

None of this is New (Day 6 Prompt: News)

There is 
nothing new 
under the sun,

except us
and our 
consciousness.

The Stoics believed
no man steps 
into the same stream 
twice. 
 
So, 
the words may be new,
but the themes are
unchanging and
universal:

desire
greed
avarice
tragedy
pain
struggle.

We change 
and the world changes
and none of this is 
new,

except 
this 
very 
moment
and 
everything
it 
touches.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

This is Not a Test (Day 5 Prompt: Peril)

THIS IS NOT A TEST.
THIS IS NOT A REALITY TV SHOW.
THIS IS AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT.
THIS IS NASCENT FASCISM.

Democracy is in peril.

In a democracy
your vote is the great equalizer,
not wealth,
not education,
not skin color.

Do not vote for someone 
who wants to take away 
your right to vote.  

Reminds me of a
sign in my dentist's office:
ignore your teeth 
and they'll go away.

If we 
ignore democracy
we do so 
at our own 
peril.

Friday, November 04, 2022

In the Garage (Day 4 Prompt: In The ...)

In the garage
in my cannabis haze
in the memory of a love song
in the embrace of my girl
in our 20 year marriage
in a world I never dreamt possible

in love.  

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Misguided (Day 3 Prompt: Misguided)

My plan was to document
about all the misguided souls 
in their daily parade
of selfishness, hubris and idiocy
from my perch
of unassailable 
self-righteous justification:

the MAGA cosplay fascists
who are intimidating election workers 
so that others may not vote,

the White supremacists
who want to kill 
their presumed replacements,

the Christian literalists
who think the correct interpretation 
can be written and read,

the scared Alpha Males
who hide behind guns
and tweet their threats,

but since I am not 
in their shoes, 
my words
would be 
as morally vacuous
as their actions. 

If I label them
as misguided,
then there’s hope,

but if I think 
they are the enemy
then, they must
be eradicated.

Then,
who would be
the misguided one?

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Bittersweet Is My Favorite Flavor (Day 2 Prompt: Sweet)

Human love
in its powerful 
and life-changing
force
is ultimately
finite:

the familiar taste of 
ripe strawberries
dissolves,
a melody 
that recalls a memory
of kindness
fades,
the breathless
post-coital 
heart-racing 
skin-on-skin warmth
cools.

To forget 
the fleeting beauty
and venerate the loss
is to miss 
the necessity 
of their interconnectedness:

the bitter
only exists
because 
the sweet
also exists.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Why November (Day 1 Prompt: Start or End Poem)

After the slow grind 
of loneliness and dialysis,
she left earlier this year
and is finally reunited
and celebrating 
Dia de los Muertos 
with my father
after 23 years 
a widow. 

November was
their anniversary month
and it was the start 
of my origin story.

November is when 
I begin the Christmas music,
the gift-buying,
the general nostalgia
for a childhood 
that was inevitably 
sad, hopeful
but still together.

Why November?

Working backward, 
I calculated this was 
the time of the year 
I was conceived.
It’s when I started.

It’s not the same this year.

This November,
I am moving on 
with fewer people, 
more memories,
and an ever-growing list 
of things I wish 
would come back.  


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Break and Make

Every living thing 
must
for its own growth, 
for its own survival
break away 
to make a way. 

If you are not 
growing,
then you are just 
going,
and staying in this old place
for too long 
will make you sick. 

So, make a break 
from that old self, 
those old thoughts,
those predictable indulgences. 

Trawl the second-hand stores
of the infinite consciousness,
and begin collecting novelties
to assemble into a new self, 
a little at a time. 

When you break it all down
completely trust
The Invisible Inevitable 
will bring you 
the images 
the dreams
the inspirations
necessary
to make yourself anew.

And,
if that doesn’t work,
break it again,
make it again,
break it again,
make it again,

over and over
until it feels right.

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!