still here i
am still here at times
still here in half-light at times with you peering at this odd-angled orb
todavía estoy aquí for you yes para ti todavía still here i
am for you todavía still here it is true para ti for you in half
light it is this way still full face toward you still here for you
at times i sleep at times all i can see barely at times the shadow
that is me not me it is here still the door open at times burns
w/o me even though i am still here todavía for you para ti
on occasion you
notice me look down i look down a smile
yes a tiny smile comes to me for you para ti todavía aquí here
for you here i am both of us in darker light filters than the last time
we stood together todavía still here on this half orb both of us a father
in a clean washed shirt after a scalding shower todavía still you me w/o
the shadow at times the shadow
i cannot tell i sleep the blankets folded and unfolded todavía
still here para ti for you todavía
todavía estoy aquí para ti still here
i am still here here yes for you
ekphrastic poem based on Peter Foucault's "Embryo"
here is the spark of an island among hundreds on a map.
zoom in and admire the shape of things, the way her body sways and spatters
whether or not you can see her doesn't matter. you will smell her sulfurous skin before anything. she's on the move.
here is the contour of paradise you want to capture, but she is swift and leaves
your graphite tips in the dust
you may think she's a newcomer, but she has been here a long time.
titanium, koa, abalone, salt water rising
rinsing through her blood
she runs the lava at midnight, her braided hair flowing for miles
and unwinding only when she reaches the sea
Yes, it has been years. and she wants to know
why you never bother to say hello, or ask to come in, or take off your shoes before entering.
why do you fix your gaze on her without offering her a song?
or take selfies and then realize your boot souls are melting.
she wants you to look beyond. will you?
see the spattering on the golf courses, on the manmade beach.
her veins are hard to see.
do you know what "chicken skin" means?
ask the locals. they will tell you. erase, erase the lines.
embryo, she is. you have very little control. she will whisper
in your ear that you both sadden and amuse her, and if you're lucky
she will let you go.
Originally published in More Good Talk: Poems from the Poets Laureate of Santa Clara County, July 2017.
Twenty years later I’m told I am foreign.
How naïve to have thought
I’d grow out of it. As if I could erase
that Columbus Day:
in the morning
I had a homeland;
in the evening
I had two suitcases.
Twenty years later under desert sky,
I remember the stencil
of drizzle in Warsaw.
On the sill of our old kitchen,
pigeons ruffle like small gray clouds.
My uncle and my father
raise a toast with żubróvka,
the buffalo vodka, the bottle lit
with a blade of buffalo grass.
I ought to remember
in more vivid color,
but I was carelessly young.
I tried so hard: changed my name,
ate only with my right hand --
eager to throw away extra vowels
and hands. Twenty years later
men still want me to touch them
in French, slide toward them
on slow Slavic looks:
“You’re from the Old World --
You know how to treat a man.”
I must be centuries old --
I am river and rain.
And the half-remembered
Warsaw parks, chapels of green dusk;
through a fence of shadows
I call after the long-lost child.
Yet my true homeland is not
lilac gardens, nor childhood’s
palaces of clouds,
but the undefeated
republic of the mind.
Among statues in a museum,
no one says, as I used to,
“Excuse me, I’m foreign.”
No one is foreign.
Monday, September 4, 2017
We come from a long line of dreamers
Bracero blood braced itself
inside our veins
generations of the ebb
come back tumble
of migrant imaginings
for a better life
an un-violated life
a hunger-less life
by the cracks on
our dishpan hands
our book-filled hands
our toiling hands
our back broken hands
bounty in belly hearts full
despite Yankee spit on our faces
or the swollen echos of “beaner”
bleached into our skin
lawful before laws
abiding instead by the prophecy that
we would wander back across
lands our ancestors once abandoned
survival etched into every impossible day
inside this US where we’ve
slept and awoken to
loves long lost
between barbed wire
deserts and the greatness of
a river now red with our blood
Our futures fade into longing
to stay, to ignore the mandate
to return to the place
where we are further unknown
where not all is pristine
We remain, deemed dreamers
denounced for dreaming
inside the vacuum of history, erased
where we must yet again fight
for the light to be human
to fulfill the furies of
our expected failures
the pains of the gutters of the margin
to tear open the minds of those
who wish to see us vanished
to be seen as citizen
to be read
as always having belonged.
This was written on Labor Day 2017 as the government deliberated over the fate of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). If ended, 800,000 registered undocumented immigrants stand to be deported.
ekphrastic poem based on Guillermo Galindo's "Angel Exterminador"
and Wim Wenders' film "Wings of Desire"
she raced her little brothers to the top
of the rainbow painted carnival slide
the one she had been dreaming of all week
feet clanking up the metal staircase
rising in the middle of the desert town
a mirage of fantastic colors,
strange music and dust
out of breath at the landing, she twirls
in the four directions
to the south: her abuelita's hands reaching
out to her, cuidate mija
watch your step, watch your step
to the east, her mother's song:
sing your way home, at the end of the day,
sing your way home, cast your troubles away,
smile every mile, it will lighten your load,
it will shorten your road, if you sing your way home
to the west, her oldest brother on a fishing boat,
and to the north, the memory of her father's thirst
in the melt zone
never turn your back to the sea, he would say.
the sea, the sandstorm, the blast of la migra,
hail of bullets and the slide is lifted
in a horrendous crash, twister of dreams,
knocked the wind out of him, he is broken
and bent without the name his ancestors gave him
gutted like a fish, scales scraped off until the rust,
the rust of his skin is gone and delicate flesh
and the scorching sun have textured him
a new name: angel. angel. noose of drag chain
falls to the ground and the wind beats
the corrugated lies out of the body, singing
fly home my sweet angel, fly home through the sky . . .
when the child was child
she took a deep breath, grabbed the rough edges
of burlap and let go. her body shooting like a bullet
through border lies, blasting through
her angels watching her fly.
Originally published in More Good Talk: Poems from the Poets Laureate of Santa Clara County, July 2017.
We came with heavy suitcases
made from wooden boards by brothers
we left behind, came from Buchenwald
and Katowice and before that
Lwow, our mother’s true home,
came with our tongues
in tatters, our teeth in our pockets,
hugging only ourselves, our bodies
stiff like frightened ostriches.
We were the children in ragged wool
who shuffled in line to eat or pray
or beg anyone for charity.
Remembering the air and the trees,
the sky above the Polish fields,
we dreamt only of the lives waiting
for us in Chicago and St. Louis
and Superior, Wisconsin
in our mouths.
where we speak their names
in shadows and reflections,
the trace of our belonging,
in this refuge--still living in
threads of memory--even when
the infection of violence, chaos
of new explosions force us
to remember the dead, the scared,
the hungry in Aleppo, Baghdad,
Sana’a, San Francisco, Jerusalem
we carry this prayer on our lips
Hold your baby tight with the faith
that someone will receive you, want
you, want to know the story
of your life, someone's hands
will circle you, someone's heart
will hold you, someone's nation
will welcome you after someone
else sought your erasure
we carry this prayer on our lips
In the requiem of light, you will be
more than a displaced person,
you will no longer be adrift
in the open sea where your suitcase
is the raft of your dreams, where
your sacred prayer can float
in the air of magnified hope
and the cycles of the universe
cannot stir a flower without
troubling a star,
Here, where we can be
moving in the canopy
of the human.
My great-times-4 grandfather slipped on the trail of life,
crossing the Mexican border into California--
Jailed in San Diego. Branded like meat:
illegal immigrant. Julián Popé thrown back into the oven of desert.
He crossed the Mexican border, met California
in rags, with guns and a few amigos. Imagine:
illegal immigrant Julián Popé walking through desert,
remembering sight of ocean—he hadn’t bathed in months,
I imagine. Julián in rags, with guns and a few amigos,
desired nothing more than land for his someday family,
months before he saw the ocean. He bathed in hope, blind
to the future: axe and drowning—the ocean his own blood.
Desiring nothing more than land for his someday—family
and freedom--Julián Popé returned to California,
his blood-ocean future. Before the axe and drowning,
he toiled as a miller east of the city of angels.
For freedom, Julián Popé returned to California--
not his birthplace, Kentucky, or Taos, where he was baptized at 26.
Julián toiled as a miller in East L.A. before seeing angelitos,
twice leaving New Mexican hills and placitas.
Why a tardy Taoseño baptism with birthplace re-christened Quinteque?
He changed his faith to marry Maria Salazar, his primary vigil, and locked love’s door.
You see, Julián Popé had lived in New Mexican towns and hills
for 12 years without a legal wife—despite embarrassed records of a daughter or two.
He changed faith to marry Maria Salazar after loving her prima, Ysidora Vigil.
His son-in-law said Abuelo Julián Popé was mountain man William Pope,*
years without a legal wife. Despite two daughters, records said natural
instead of his name. My great-times-3 Abuela Juliána was named for Julián.
We know our abuelo, Julián Popé, was mountain man William Pope--
Distant cousins call Juliána, Popé, to this day. He abandoned his natural children,
including my great-times-3 Abuelita Julianita and her older sister.
They never knew about the valley, or winery not far from Napa, named for their father.
Distant cousins call Juliána, Popé, to this day. Cabrón abandoned his children,
but ¡Aye chingao! he gave me life. What am I to think? Should I forgive him?
Juliána never knew about Pope Valley, land grant of his death. I visited its winery,
sipped merlot beneath two hundred oak trees he may have planted—it was easy to imagine.
Julián’s transgression gave me life. I think I should I forgive him--
especially when I like being nieta of one who has a valley for namesake.
It was easy to imagine. Same two-hundred-year-old tree roots drinking blood as merlot,
absorbing screams. Julián’s axe. Accidental slice. Leg releasing sea into drunken earth.
They took my cousin
and they took his wife too
but they kept the babies
here, al otro lado for being U.S. citizens.
They searched and they searched
so that an uncle or aunt could sign papers
and they can let the babies go
and that way, let them get back
everybody back together in the land of their parents,
“But they need un “es-sponsor”” the government lady kept saying.
And my cousins--
without the car, without their things,
without their closets of clothes, without their t.v. nor their papers from work
but none of that mattered as much as the babies
nothing was as important like the babies stuck al otro lado
for being “yu-ez citizens” without “es-sponsors”
stuck al otro lado, stuck, stuck.
How can one sleep, eat, and calm down the nerves?
The babies the babies the babies
that was first, that was the only thing, it was what was missing.
“Where might they be? What might they be eating? Who might be taking care of them?
La inmigración, do they know how to take care of babies?
El Gobierno, does it know how to take care of babies?”
The government lady, she needed proofs, evidence
“¿Pruebas de que?” my cousins asked, “what are you talking about señora?”
“Proof that they’ll be in good hands” said the government lady
“Someone with a house, someone with a car, someone with papers, someone with payroll.”
And so the great American dream began to wear down
and it felt like a strange dream, something filled with fear
something that squashed the voices of the people without papers
and that was how it was during the longest month of my cousins’ lives.
Until at last, an aunt was able to sign, at last an aunt was able to be a “sponsor”
and they finally returned to Morelia, Michoacán
the land of their fathers and grandfathers too.
We don’t know if the babies will ever learn Inglés
or if they’ll ever seek the great American dream they deserve
but my cousin and his wife are together again with their babies
together again en Michoacán
the place where their parents’ journey began
and that of the parents of their parents
before embarking on the great American dream
the one they dreamed for their children
and for the children of their children.
Se llevaron a mi primo
Por Francisco J. Bustos
Se llevaron a mi primo
y también a su esposa
pero a los dos babies los detuvieron
aquí en el otro lado por ser U.S. citizens.
Buscaban y buscaban
de que algún tío o tía pudiera
firmar papeles para que soltaran a los babies
para que dejaran regresar a los babies y así regresar
todos juntos a la tierra de sus padres,
algun “es-sponsor” decía la señora del gobierno, “alguien que patrocine a los babies”.
Y mis primos--
sin el carro, sin las cosas
sin la ropa, sin la tele ni los papeles de los trabajos,
pero eso ya no importaba tanto como los babies
nada importaba tanto como los babies atorados en el otro lado
por ser “yu-ez citisens” sin “es-sponsors”
atorados en el otro lado, atorados, atorados.
¿Como poder dormir, comer, y calmar los nervios?
Los babies los babies los babies
Era lo primero, era lo único, era lo que faltaba
“Donde estarán? Que estarán comiendo? Quien los estará cuidando?
Sabra cuidar babies la inmigración? Sabra cuidar babies el gobierno?”
La señora del gobierno ocupaba pruebas
“¿Pruebas de que?” preguntaban mis primos, “de que ‘sta hablando usted señora?”
“De que estarán en buenas manos con el ‘es-sponsor’” contestaba la señora del gobierno
“Alguien con casa, alguien con carro, alguien con papeles, alguien con ingresos.”
Y entonces el gran sueño Americano se desgastaba
y parecía algo extraño, algo que daba miedo
y que aplastaba la voz de la gente sin papeles
y así fué como fué el mes más largo de las vidas de mis primos
Hasta que por fin una tía pudo firmar, por fin una tía pudo ser “es-sponsor”
y por fin regresaron a Morelia, Michoacán
la tierra de sus padres y también de sus abuelos.
No sabemos si los babies llegarán a aprender el Inglés
o buscar de nuevo el gran sueño Americano que les corresponde
pero están juntos, mi primo y mi prima con sus babies,
juntos otra vez en Michoacán
donde empezó el camino de sus padres
y los padres de sus padres
antes de salir a buscar el gran sueño Americano
que soñaban para sus hijos
y también para los hijos de sus hijos.
You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Follow Salt River through funnel of time,
though she stings as she snakes through native sand,
as she did when she flowed from Edith’s eye
through her lot in another oasis, southwest of dead
sea. Feel riverskin shed. Undulate, merge into border-
flow, a kind of synovial joint between nations.*
In 1827, mi antepasado, Julian Pope, shadowed serpent
Gila, sliding from Taos to San Diego to escape
La Migra. How dare this gringo from Quinteque
flaunt Spanish law! Swim in the House of Mercy, Beth Seda,
the rabbi said. Stand. Even on Shabbat.
Watch angels trouble the waters
of conscience. Don’t look back;
step into this mikveh of names
of daughters and sons of your great-great grandparents,
as if listening to moan of mesquite under weight of axe,
their exodus from somewhere other
to the open tent of desert sun.
Los Nuevo mexicanos y extranjeros were fertile and prolific.
They multiplied and increased very greatly; the land was so filled,
most of their descendants forgot the poor
cousins, working on cotton farms in Appalachia
or Sonoran fields of wheat. To cure illness
in a family, wash each other’s hands or feet.
Sprinkle the water over your garden.
* From 1848 to 1853, the Gila River was part of the border between the United States and Mexico.
Yo he visto al águila herida
Volar al azul sereno,
Y morir en su guarida
La vibora del veneno.
Jose Marti, "Guantanmera"
And for the cruel one who would tear out
This heart with which I live.
I cultivate neither thistles nor nettles
I cultivate a white rose.
Jose Marti, translation, "Guantanmera" translation, Pete Seeger
I'll never forget the first FIESTA SAN ANTONIO events I attended, having visited from San Diego, a relative kindly took me, per my pressuring request, to what I heard was going to be an entire city metaphorically singing. Festival of foods and bright garb, dancing to live Mexican music, walking cobble-stoned streets or cement sidewalks, city coming out, at once
And on the Friday before the final Sunday, morning after the night parade, where floats are lit and magic neon lines the streets, eleven days spanning, much of the city shuts down late morning or at noon the second Friday, in order to honor a traditional parade, Batalla de Flores, Battle of Flowers parade, a tradition borrowed from Spain, Catalonia, and Colombia.
The first night I was exposed to the explosion of color, sound, and joy, was at what the city knows as NIOSA, Night out in Old San Antonio, the most charming city, becoming more charming? Colorful garb on all the women, casual or crisp, creased and cuffed shorts on men, their billowy Hawaiian shirts or fine-stitched guayaberas, cool linens in a warm night, lucky if breezes blow, blessed when they do, in a dank city that embraces heat and humid air, creating beads on beautiful skin, then the bright and popping colors of Fiesta wreaths around heads, the flowing varied ribbons, interweaving with womens' and girls' hair, the collected medals people make a love out of, yearly collecting, more and more and more, pinning them on lapels and sashes and belts and purses, donning them like a history they make; this year, a beautiful medal from the San Fernando Cathedral, the Holy Mother's graceful visage, as San Antonio celebrates its 300th year, newscasters remind, San Fernando Cathedral, is heart and central to the birth of the city, "In this City of Saints" ..."In this City of Saints" beloveds. Music and festivity, this city, always in throes of rhythm and energy and celebration, mariachis sing, tableside, at Mi Tierra, Guantanamera, guajira, Guantanamera. Yo soy un hombre sincero, "I am a truthful man," Seeger reminded in our language. A favorite event, yearly, Fiesta de los Reyes, adjacent to Fiesta Carnival, "val" carrying, or should, a Spanish-language inflection, a Mexican sound and flavor inside our mouths, this Celebration of Kings, transliterated; this Carnival, as well, adjacent, at and around The Mercado, The Mexican Market, Market Square, where we imbibe Nortena music, Tejano, a bajo sexto familiar in our air, makes us want to dance.
And we danced, under the freeway, wearing our chokers, handmade by native artisans, turquoise and silver and wood, there we were, and many, dancing cumbia or corridos in our cowboy boots and straw cowboy or gaucho hats I somehow opted for ...San Antonians and tourists, alike, coloring the streets in their lime green and bright orange garb, splashes of color, energetic and wildly rich in their hues, rosa Mexicana, bursting with vibrancy, colorful as Carolina Flores's scarves, all these colors singing; if colors could sing, this is the season they would, these women in their Mexican traditional dresses, stitched embroidery making flowers on white crisp or bright-colored linen, airy and comfortable as smocks, stand and sway while working with their hands and history and hearts---there, beautiful, wise----native women, their salt and pepper braids catching the fragrant smoke rising from their grills or a makeshift comal, fire-hot surface on which they flip their native bread, brown bubbles pocking the tortillas where heat kissed the dough, hottest, slightly darker than golden, beautiful and bronze...
I am standing still forever
in the amber of late August,
in a rusty seaside landscape
a rooster crowing and crowing --
and a drunken Russian sailor,
weeping: See, you too
don’t know anyone in this town.
I am always leaving, leafing
in unending autumn --
poplars toss as to a beggar
coins of wind for luck --
walking through bombed cities --
on missing graves
they lay a wreath of smoke.
I’m arriving: Go ahead,
squeeze the lemon, this is America.
A stranger greeted by strangers,
I am always waving, smiling.
I’m preparing for the future:
I dissect rats and brains.
Stiff with formaldehyde,
a rat’s tail like an antenna
sticks out of my purse.
I receive invitations: Please come
in your national costume --
But I’m standing still forever,
a young girl about to step
across the world --
my name trembles
on the nervous loudspeaker.
My name crackles, and I don’t
My father dreams of pigeons,
their souls, their thin cradles
of bone, but it is their luck
he admires most. A boy in Poland
in a dawn all orange and pinks,
his hands opened like a saint’s
and taught those birds to fly, to rise
on the air, their wings beating
the rooftops into flesh, into dreams
of angels above the crystal trees.
And later in the gray dawn clouds
blowing about him in the camps,
where not even pigeons were safe,
where his body, thin then,
like a shoelace, sought other dreams
other bodies, and found only
the comfort of worms—even then
he could still remember
the birds without chains,
breathing quickly and cooing
“We are going, we are going.”
I am the water lily of the world
I float and let my roots dance
I wink at tiny fish
because they know
my story has been told by many who weren't--
aware -- I was the homeless citizen of the earth
and I have tried to stay where I was born
but stronger currents have pushed me out
and water creatures stopped
at my colors and beauty
I like to float and swim at my ease
I miss my home, but what can I do?
The world has beckoned and the world is new!
Now that I have tasted fresh water, my petals are glistening
It pays to belong to the world, especially if it's listening.
translated to Portuguese by Joao Diniz
There's a beautiful town, majestic
a town that splits the earth in two
with tail in Europe
legs in Africa
and always the head looking at Americas
you are always there
your soul is surfing on the huge waves
your soul inside the huge mouth of Montego.
On the roofs of the town you have loved forever
the flowers of time and the lost moment are sleeping
the cats of pain, relief and silence are sleeping
the flowers open -- the cats jump
and you are standing on the lowest house
always thinking about the Atlantic
why are you sorry, why in pain, what are you waiting for?
why don't you jump?
Start doing the parkour
jump like a leopard from roof to roof, again,
jump from fence to fence
sweetly kiss the girls,
take the boys with you higher,
one with the Figueira sky
a company again on the shores
to play football with the guys
the buildings as you move in time will be higher
as long as you cut the flowers and you make a bouquet
it will be higher, it will be even closer
on the sand, in the castles of your dreams
when you were young, fearless bulls
when you touched with your tiptoes
the salty water for the first time
and from the fingers you licked the flavours
that the Amazon sent
so that you want to go … to go…
Why don't you jump,
I shall give you wings
I shall turn you into The Figueira Angel
the old ladies are looking for you
as they lay their clothes on the balconies
the grandpas in the colourful coffee shops are looking high
they are looking for you
they want to know you are flying
they are singing with you in the rhythm of joy
the knights are saluting from the stone castles
it is time you did it,
close your ears to the sirens of melancholia
the girls of Portugal are looking for you
they want to see your reflection on the waves
the perfect human god
at Figueira Da Foz
with the flowers, with the cats
with the roofs unified from now on
a grand stadium, a neighbourhood
as we all play together the game of sorrow and joy
the game of water and soil
the game of loss and victory
the game of life.
Come, it is only a jump.
Figueira da Foz - Jogos Da Água E Do Solo
É uma cidade linda, encantadora
uma cidade que divide a terra em dois
com a cauda na Europa,
pés em áfrica
e sempre olhando para a cabeça para a América
Tu estás sempre lá,
tua alma a surfar ondas enormes,
Nos telhados da cidade que sempre amaste
tua alma na boca do enorme Mondego.
Nos telhados da cidade que sempre amaste
as flores do tempo e os momentos perdidos estão a dormir
os gatos da dôr, alivio e silêncio estão a dormir,
as flores abrem—os gatos saltam
e tu estás de pé na casa mais baixa
sempre a pensar no atlântico.
Porquê te lamentas, porquê na dôr, o quê que estás a espera?
porquê que não saltas?
Começa a fazer parkour
salta como um gato selvagem de telhado em telhado, novamente,
salta de cerca em cerca
beija as raparigas docemente,
leva os rapazes contigo mais alto,
um com o céu da Figueira
nas margens serão um bando outra vez
para jogar futebol com os rapazes
com o passar do tempo os prédios ficam mais altos
enquanto cortas as flores e fazes um bouquet,
será mais alto será ainda mais perto
na areia,no castelo dos teus sonhos
quando eras jovem, touros destemidos
quando tocaste com a ponta dos pés
água salgada pela primeira vez.
e dos dedos lambeste os sabores
enviados pelo amazonas.
fazendo-te querer ir…ir…
Porquê que não saltas,
eu dou-te asas
transformo-te no anjo da Figueira
as velhas olham para ti enquanto
os avós sentados nos cafés coloridos,
estendem a roupa na varanda
olham para cima procurando por ti
eles querem saber que estás a voar
eles cantam contigo em ritmo de alegria
os cavaleiros acenam dos castelos de pedra
será hora de fazê-lo
fecha os ouvidos das sirenes da melancolia.
as raparigas da figueira procuram por ti,
elas querem ver o teu reflexo nas ondas.
o perfeito deus humano
com telhados mais unidos,
com flores,com gatos,
na Figueira da Foz
o jogo de perder e ganhar,
a jogar juntos o jogo de tristeza e alegria
o jogo da água e do solo
um estádio enorme, um bairro,
o jogo da vida.
Anda, é apenas um salto.
Φιγκέρα Ντα Φοζ – Παιχνίδια Του Νερού Και Του Χώματος
Είναι μια πόλη ωραία, μαγευτική
μια πόλη που μοιράζει στα δύο τη γη,
με την ουρά στην Ευρώπη,
τα πόδια Αφρική
και πάντα το κεφάλι να κοιτάει Αμερική
είσαι πάντα εκεί,
η ψυχή σου σερφάρει στα τεράστια κύματα,
η ψυχή σου στο τεράστιο στόμα του Μοντέγκο
Στις στέγες της πόλης που αγάπησες για πάντα
κοιμούνται τα λουλούδια του χρόνου και της χαμένης στιγμής
κοιμούνται οι γάτες του πόνου, της ανακούφισης και της σιωπής,
τα λουλούδια ανοίγουν – οι γάτες πηδάνε
κι εσύ στέκεσαι στο σπίτι το πιο χαμηλό
σκέφτεσαι πάντα τον Ατλαντικό
γιατί λυπάσαι, γιατί πονάς, τι περιμένεις,
γιατί δεν πηδάς;
Άρχισε να κάνεις το παρκούρ
πήδα σαν αίλουρος από στέγη σε στέγη ξανά,
πήδα από κάγκελο σε κάγκελο,
φίλα τα κορίτσια γλυκά,
πάρε μαζί σου τα αγόρια ακόμη πιο ψηλά,
ένα με τον ουρανό του Φιγκέρα
θα γίνετε στις ακτές παρέα ξανά
να παίζετε ποδόσφαιρο με τα παιδιά,
τα κτίρια όσο προχωράς στον χρόνο θα είναι πιο ψηλά,
όσο κόβεις τα λουλούδια και φτιάχνεις μπουκέτο,
θα είναι ψηλότερα, θα είναι ακόμη πιο κοντά,
στην αμμουδιά, στα κάστρα των ονείρων σου
σαν ήσασταν νεαροί ατρόμητοι ταύροι,
όταν αγγίζατε με τις μύτες των δακτύλων
το αλμυρό νερό πρώτη φορά,
και απ’ τα δάκτυλα γλύφατε τις γεύσεις
που έστελνε ο Αμαζόνιος
για να θέλεις πάντα να πας, να πας, να πας ...
Γιατί δεν πηδάς,
θα σου δώσω φτερά,
θα σε κάνω του Φιγκέρα τον άγγελο,
σε ψάχνουν οι μεγάλες κυρίες
σαν απλώνουν στα μπαλκόνια τα ρούχα,
ψηλά κοιτάνε οι παππούδες από τα έγχρωμα καφενεία,
ψάχνουν εσένα, θέλουν να ξέρουν ότι πετάς,
τραγουδάνε μαζί σου στο ρυθμό της χαράς,
σε χαιρετάνε οι ιππότες από τα λίθινα κάστρα,
είναι καιρός να το κάνεις,
κλείσε τ’ αυτιά σου στις σειρήνες της μελαγχολίας,
σε ψάχνουν τα κορίτσια της Πορτογαλίας
θέλουν να δούνε στα κύματα την αντανάκλασή σου
τον τέλειο άνθρωπο θεό,
στο Φιγκέρα Ντα Φοζ,
με τα λουλούδια, με τις γάτες
με τις στέγες πια ενωμένες,
ένα τεράστιο γήπεδο, μια γειτονιά,
να παίζουμε όλοι μαζί το παιχνίδι της θλίψης και της χαράς
το παιχνίδι του νερού και του χώματος
το παιχνίδι του χαμού και της νίκης,
το παιχνίδι της ζωής.
Έλα, είναι μόνο ένα άλμα.
under a lone surviving Elm and newly sown sweet
corn, Pancho rests, speaking broken Española
the southern Colorado field, his barrio.
Pancho calls my father Ye’s instead of Les.
like tortilla or llama. My dad doesn’t seem to mind,
even though he complains.
Pancho tosses a stray mutt spicy chicharrón
thrown from a brown paper bag, his belly shakes
when the dog howls for more. “Ye’s la mirada” my dad nods
his head pulls his Allis-Chalmers cap over his big blues,
wanting to nap, but grins.
Pancho’s cousin says he is illegal, he sends money
to his wife, Theresa in Old Mexico, and has one son
who farms in Fresno. Later, dad, says, “Pancho’s gone
back to Chihuahua,” “lazy bastard.” A bit of worry
deepens his eyes. My brother’s say,
“Pancho’s been deported,” “deportado.”
Since Pancho’s capture, we play outside in the evenings
My mother throws a potato at my dad, grazing his bald head.
“You’re smoking too much; the kids cannot breathe.”
My father tells her, “Pancho’s son Pedro
left Mexico because the water and air are dirty.”
My mom does not hear him; he plants a big one on her
and calls her, “hot-lips,” labios calientes. My mom comes up for air
says, he will die of cancer if he doesn’t stop smoking. 15 years later he does.
My father again, takes his siesta, tosses hot Vienna sausages to the stray
he now calls, “Cisco.” There are no homemade chicharron. Cisco, whines.
Together they stretch under the Elm with Pancho
lost – my father and the stray, both American mutts, close their eyes
under the resting afternoon las sombra.
June 29, 2018
House after house. Every year, closets emptied. Clothes cleaned out, my dolls. Where did Mom take them? Salvation Army? A neighbor's garage sale?
Sandhill cranes, warblers, flycatchers, swallows—all fatten up before the long flight, need to keep those chest muscles strong, keep air moving through the lungs as they leave their summer home for their winter home, following the supply of grasses, seeds, insects. Then back again in spring.
All the places Mom left. As a child, sailing from London to Hong Kong and back. At twenty, from Hong Kong across the Pacific to Seattle, the train to New York, and a year later, back to England on the Queen Mary. And then across the Atlantic to New York again. Alone.
Songbirds return to the same spot year after year. Travel in flocks, rely on their neighbors. Safety in numbers. Those journeys can last twelve thousand miles. Less than half survive the trip.
No aunts or uncles, no grandparents, no cousins around. Town after town, neighborhood after neighborhood, school after school, I was always the new kid, talking funny. And with asthma, as if a hole had been pierced in each lung. Flattened. Easier to pack.
(First published in The Paterson Review, 2018)
along the rio grande
among carnelian melons
& orange groves
you can hear the coyotes
crooning to a moon
wide and bright as
the river she loves
naomi crossed this borderland
for freedom cradling her infant
son in her arms smothering his cries
to quiet him:
she cupped his mouth
with her warm brown hand
she comes each week to clean
solo hablo un poquito español
i speak only a little spanish i say
she speaks no english and so we agree
to teach each other laughing a lot
at the language
we are standing in the kitchen
with her naked toddler son the one
she cradled and silenced in the box car
where the coyotaje had hidden them
the one she rode from her
beloved guatemala to tejas
so many hours
con muchas otras desplazadas
so many displaced
& when the rocking
of the hot hot box
did not stop
her son’s crying
i had to cover his mouth with my hands
and just at this
her son has to go
& does not know
he does not know
how his mother’s hands
have just cleaned this tile
how she has scrubbed
& cupped to save him
and so he lets his urine:
an easy yellow flow
on the floor but quick
his mother cups her hands
to catch it…
My roommate, having grown up in Alabama, has a charming southern accent. She says I remind her of Kristin, her best friend in high school at Decatur. Perhaps that’s why she confides in me, though I never ask her to. Tonight, home from her evening job, she confesses she ran a red light on her way to anatomy class this morning. Wheels too near the intersection to stop, she watched the light turn yellow, saw it flash red just as she passed below it, wondered if the intersection had a camera, doubled back, saw that it did.
Now she looks over her shoulder, waits for something bad to happen. People she knows have been pulled from their lives for just this small an infraction. People like her, with two jobs, two diplomas. People you’d never know came here from the hell of a harsh country, traveled in their mama’s exhausted arms, arrived as to a sort of Eden, knew carnivals and summer fairs, marched in Fourth of July parades, went caroling in Decembers, always meant to study Spanish, but were too busy keeping up grades for med school, people who knew the sacredness of a life.
Through the day she looks over her shoulder for the man who looks official, the jacket with three letters. Someone who could steal her from her home. Even as she drifts to sleep, she is afraid. In dreams she sees herself sent back to a place she can’t remember, a place that was never home. In dreams she walks beside the ocean and wonders if the waves that break next to her wash back to touch the edges of the country in which she was born, the place that isn’t home. She sees her feet against the sand. In her dream, they grow pale roots, anchor her deep, immovable. Safe.
I lulled a child
once to sleep
on its quiet face
Ivy crawling up
my frozen front door
and my distant
the waves of wanting
waiting splits your skin
weight stretches you thin
the will away
this ocean of yearning
I will not wait