Poem: Two Chicanos Sift Through the Chisme

Two Chicanos Sift Through the Chisme

You swore you were giving up TV
to write more poems in the same month
you told me you were addicted to sports, which
was the same month you published three poems.
Now how am I supposed to watch seven
basketball games on five channels in one day
and feel good about myself while you’re
at home conjuring the axolotl and its power
to regenerate? Fuck it. I’ll get up, reach for my
recorder, my microphone, my headphones,
my mic stand—all of which cost way more
than your moleskin notebook—and I’ll press
record. You pack an awful lot into two minutes
thirty seconds, into one minute forty-three seconds,
into fifty-one seconds. “Hold on to those you love
and maybe even those you hate, and prepare
yourselves.” I laughed out loud when you said that,
I mean for real for real, laughed out loud in real life,
and I don’t laugh out loud often enough in real life.
After the recording was over and we talked
and we texted and we basically just did our thing
at the University, reading and recording poems
and sifting through the chisme like we do, you said:
“If God exists, that was a form of prayer
and church in there. Truly.” And I knew you
meant it because you included a praise
emoji. Later that day, I watched a movie by myself
about an Argentine man dying of cancer
who decides he will not do another round
of chemo. He decides he would rather live
his last days as best he can, and he re-connects
with an old friend from his childhood. The old friend
flies nearly halfway around the world
to spend four and a half days with his cancer
friend. They eat, they drink, they laugh, they cry,
and then they part. I sobbed at the end.
I thought back to the recording session. “If I
could translate that to an evangelical,” you said,
“I’d tell them that the holy spirit was in the ether.”
Brother, tell me where I need to be and when.

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Poem: What You Made

What You Made

Long before the moment you sunk
your scissors into the patterned
cardboard sheet, you had left your
mark. How could you have known
you would cut out all the tiny pieces
for more than a dozen cards
but complete only three? Maybe
you did know. Maybe you left
the bottle of glue open on purpose,
to freeze the moment of creation.
Or maybe we failed to notice
it was stuck open all along, daring
the elements to decide its fate
in the absence of closure. It would
be easy to think of what you made,
precious as it is in our trembling
hands, as a sign—a discovery
from a parallel universe made real
as a tangible expression of your
love. It would be much harder,
of course, to imagine the unfinished
fragments pieced together, holding
themselves in a shape that abides,
a shearing that’s also somehow a gift.

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Poem: Still Life

Still Life

If memory loomed over Roethke
as large as my Buddhist friend
said, then I prefer to remember
what you remember: her earring,
his old wallet, a few nickels, a bolt,
collected in an unexpected corner.

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Poem: Thief


You said all the best poets steal
and I believe you. But I can’t help
but feel like there’s an addendum
somewhere in there, a clue
left behind in one of our friend’s
sketchbooks, a doodle or a smudge
of sage lightly traced through
with a fingertip or with glitter glue
and it’s waiting to be discovered
underneath a crumpled Pizza Hut
receipt or on a flash drive or maybe
even bottled up inside a tiny bottle
of tiny rocks placed beside the altar,
which no one will ever, ever take.
Go ahead. It’s ours to borrow now.
Let’s try and find everything we can.

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Poem: The Cloud

The Cloud

I refuse to believe
that The Cloud can be
understood. I’d like
instead to believe in
mystery, in a little bit
of magic. The answer
to why my new iPod
can’t automatically sync
with the computer
I’m looking at, or why time
insists on temporality, or
why memory fails me each
time when I try to recall
my LinkedIn password
should not be searchable
on Google. Rather,
it should be the opposite:
We forgot our smartphones
at home by accident and yet
we still managed to arrive.

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Poem: Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Today I am working on simplicity. An apple,
a banana, a handful of almonds
for breakfast. An email letter to a friend
traveling in Europe. Small cups of hot water
to soothe my aging guts. I will try not
to talk politics when my father
serves us the dead bird. I will try not
to disappoint my mother when I skip
her dry pumpkin pie. I will try not to forget
the hundreds of water protectors standing
in sub-freezing temperatures in
North Dakota, pelted with water cannons
and rubber bullets by a government
I am finding it harder and harder every day
to recognize. My brother in Alabama,
a traveler in the heart of Make America Great Again
country, texted me Happy Thanksgiving
with a bearded, animated image of himself
waving hello from inside a cornucopia.
Why not? Joy and hurt are plentiful.

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Poem: Parading

for Mireyda

You asked me about my writing
the first time I met you. It was the third week
at my new job in our writing program.
We talked about Xicanismo and we
talked about our parents and tíos and tías
and we talked about coming to
identity. I told you I wasn’t writing
literary essays right now, maybe
I never would again. You said to me,
simply, that if I hit a productive period
I would be welcome anytime to share
my work with you and the other
Chicanx kids. Your offer meant more to me—
a White-passing Chicano with a White father’s
surname and a Mexican mother who learned
to forget her Spanish before I was born— than I
can ever express. I feel so grateful
to have known, even for a short time,
such a generous and warm person as you.
Rest in power, my friend, Xicana seester.
I will see you parading down Blackstone
Avenue and I will talk back yeah
with hand claps, yeah hand claps for you.

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