Four Poems, Spring 2018
I remember you, abuela. The tortillas and the way you touched the comal to check the temperature. I want to ask you things that I did not ask you before. How were your boys and girls when you were young? I listen to your music and wonder why when we are born, we cry, but when we die, we are fulfilled in a lasting rest? I see in the distance and the wind plays with the bugambilias in the dirty streets.
You told me once: do not cry, we always knew this time would come, but laugh, laugh always, because we never know how we will share our lives. I think about the boys who sign themselves away to the causes of others. It is a matter of desire, the bartender says. A matter of lust. Change and bills in your pockets. Food and frijoles. Take a person and I will show you someone who looks to others around for forgiveness. Take from me all you need, I think Jesus said once to a man on a skiff, and listen to the bells in the distance.
The garden gate was left open and the trees fell with the years. When I was a boy you were a girl. When I was a boy I used to sit on the benches of the railroad station and fall in love with women the way innocent boys are paralyzed with love. I hear the clap of a man’s shoes on the sidewalk and the town falls silent and there is a din of silence. The wind is a soft wind. An old woman pushes a grocery cart home. The fields are dormant. The fields are dry and the sun like a scythe cuts us down as we walk north. I walk north and my star is your smiles and sighs and your hopes. I will embrace this burden like a boy in love with love.
The Chicanos who live on the border look and stare. They call out into the night and the night calls back. There is dirt on the walls and dust on their clothes. The streets, black, long, and the heat plays in them. Hear the blaring of horns and the cries of street hawkers selling tortillas hechas a-mano. A man lays under an old truck and changes the oil. His hands are blacker than oil. His son, seventeen, a junior, who wants to join the military next year, walks into the sun and down on the road. He’s helping out an uncle who works as a carpenter. The kid earns twenty dollars a day, more than he ever has. He walks down the sidewalk into the sun and returns when it is already dark out. The Chicanos look and stare and recite their lives to the dust in the air and the grime on their hands.