Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

Category: Uncategorized


After Shannon Leigh

Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:

I see the island
Still ahead somehow.

– From “Island” by Langston Hughes

My landlocked tongue tucks each destructive emotion
into unopened oceans where hope shipwrecked and did not return.
I have learned to stay afloat by letting the water wash away
most waves of sorrow but some waves are names
reaching for safe harbor like my lips are a lighthouse
but when the crest falls, all I do is flood inside.

Sorrow, you have made me a vessel but can I choose
what I carry?
I’m done committing to the horizon when I am hiding.
I see the island, still ahead somehow.
Not every choice is sink or swim, sink or swim, sink or swim.

Underneath this sorrow and underneath this pain is another wave
The water is so clear I see my face in the sky like another moon
Like another moon, I move the terrible tide on cue,
trying to hide my life beneath blue dreams of silence.
I drop my heart and pick it up like an anchor.
Wave of sorrow, let me follow the wind like a sail
with stories to tell.
I have no lifeboat and no flare.
My lung capacity is a catastrophe.
I hide my tongue from the tide when I know I shouldn’t.
What I choose to carry isn’t supposed to float.
For me, arriving is the same as surviving.
I came into this world, but only after water broke.
All my life I’ve carried an unopened ocean
Tasting the salt of my wounds,
I surrender to the seascape around me.
Nobody’s ever found me in the depths of my defeat.

I’ll deny this ‘til the death of me
but even when I’m sinking
I still believe in anchors.



Like back in the day, my Grandpa Fred fed my will to work
When I was a boy, he’d ask me to wash his truck in exchange
For his pocket change, if I was lucky, a couple of quarters
So I could break even when the ice cream man orchestrated
a symphony down the street, rushing me and my brothers
Quick feet, then we’d buy ninja turtles with gumball eyes,
Strawberry crunch if the sun whooped us good enough,
And of course, Lucas, the only Mexican candy we knew,
Licking salt off our sweaty palms like a low-key communion
Our mom didn’t have to force us to go to, and I never knew what work
was until I took the quarters and washed the car in the harsh heat,
Bringing change to the table like offering to a congregation,
Digging in our pockets like mom with her purse in Lockhart
at the Presbyterian Church, where she put us in ties and paid her tithes,
and then we’d all pray over the food in the back room where the kitchen was
and after we blessed the beans, the tortillas, the rice, the meat,
I remember how my dad gave grace, and I’d say in his voice,
good food, good meat, good god, let’s eat, and we would eat together
on plastic picnic tables and talk about family or faith or
finishing the food on our plates, and of course, I wanted to play
outside with my cousins and older brothers,
throw the football and climb the trees until one of us got enough
red-lipstick on our cheeks and dollars in our pockets from some aunt
who missed us most, and we’d all run down the street to Sonic, parading
with mis primos and my brothers to order a cherry limeade where I’d save
the cherry for my mom, or see how long it could go before I’d eat it whole.
I want to look forward into the future, and say this is what I know. Truth is,
I am a guest in my own mind. I hear my voice echo and think, I do not know
this stranger. But I cannot abandon myself like ash from the flame.
It is time I learned I am worth staying for, that I can be a thief of my sadness
But first I must master the stampede of my sins, the list of regrets
stuck on my skin Like the things I wish I knew. I want to clean my soul
like my grandpa’s truck.

I exhale in the hallway where it is dark, where I look for a spark,
where I look for a way to give grace to myself.
I know I need to change, but I’m afraid to be in charge.
I make promises to myself so I know how to break them.
I want to break the habit of making something just to break it.
I want to make a meal big enough to feed the appetite of light,
Please, let my legacy be a lesson in forgiveness.
A chance to lose and gain back your goodness,
until we give ourselves the grace we need.
I’ll go first.
Good Food
Good Meat
Good God
Let’s eat.


After René Magritte’s The Healer (Le Thérapeute) (1967)

I want to reveal who I am on the inside,
But I am too tired to explain the cage.
Everything hurts less when I’m unknowable.
Two doves bless my body with white light
But once there was more time to shine.
I’m poor at small talk,
But I’ve walked a long way here.

I am the healer by the sea
I take a seat when someone is suffering.
It is hard to carry a cage,
But where would the pain go?

A body is only as useful as its secrets,
And the sky is a secret I keep
For the both of us
broken birds
humming hope

until the anatomy of melancholy
is nothing more than a curtain calling
to be pushed aside,
like the wings of sadness crashing
each sick and sadly suffering someone
into the seaside where I am now sitting.


This is a sentence with a sense of urgency
let us celebrate the death of breath
like your lung’s favorite emergency

No matter the worry, hurry fam
never lose the fast food for thought.

Quick lips, decide joy
without a jury.

the last gasp is how the breath crashes
into a crest of ash

nothing good is good
until we learn it cannot last.

20/30: BIG MAC

I meet a guy at the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Belfort and Gessner who says his name is Mac, but people call him Big Mac, so Big Mac asks what I’m about and what I do while we both stood in the parking lot after discussing the cooking failures caused by empty propane tanks, laughing off backyard disasters when I finally tell him I’m about to finish law school, and how I’m almost a lawyer, and that’s when he stops me, that’s when interrupts my sentence like a cloud passing over the sun, and he says no you are a lawyer, you have to say it, for it to be true. Put it out there. Big Mac pulls the doubt out my mouth like a spare thread on the sleeve of my dreams, and I unravel into my grocery bags and both my hands are carrying my gratitude for this afternoon’s agent of kindness reminding me to let the good word be heard, and we shake hands and part ways like old friends, and once I return to my car, I rejoice in who I’ve become, how the world is run by none of us but we all choose to participate in fate, even when I’m late to the learning, life delivers me from my mistakes, and this is a lesson I take home with me Thursday afternoon like a ticket stub I keep on the wall in my room

19/30: little things

When my dad would lose in backgammon, he grumbled
About luck, about both my brothers and my failure to adhere
to the updated rules of the game. I mean, the man justified defeat
Like a dying king in battle
And I believed in his brave wounds
Even when I did not see the foreshadow,
in how he salvaged small sorrow into a ship
like a sailor stuck in the sea of himself.
My father carves a life boat from each lesson
From each lesson, he rescues himself.

When I would cuss growing up, my mother would
admonish me, Zachary Fredrick! Do not cuss!
To which I reply, but my father is a sailor!
And she’d laugh where she stood, her eyes heavy with
the past,
and my tongue was a sail in the wind of an ocean I’ve
never been in


Busy missing you — I have not tasted spring.”
-Emily Dickinson, from a letter to Susan Gilbert, April 1868.

Oak trees cloak the afternoon 
Like spring’s longest shadow.
With nowhere to go, each color
Grows larger in my head.
I save enough room to bloom,
for my coffee, for my mistakes.
I feel powerful in my perception,
picking apart the atoms of my affection,
fixated on the future
of my joy like a laid-off prophet.
The breeze flows without interruption
and I join the congregation of naked leaves—
both our bodies sway together
in the open bed of the afternoon.
How much further must I cave
before I say your name?
I’m in my chair
but I feel like groundwater.


“Therefore, dear sir, love your solitude
and bear with sweet-sounding lamentation
the suffering it causes you.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Dear Zachary, sir—I need you to love better.
Dear sir, I need you to love better and mean it.
You can start with me, and all the sweet-sounding
suffering I cause you. This isn’t advice.
I love watching you try, but what good is
showing up, if you do not follow through
with who you wish to become?
Apart from me, you are another and I am other.
As if we exist in separate dimensions.
Am I a place you go but do not mention?
Dear Zachary, together, have we not walked
through shame like confetti and cascarones
underneath pink evenings? Have you forgot
the wilderness of your childhood, the backwards
deliverance of our innocence? We passed the time
like a jar of fireflies at dusk, opening the closed
jar to see how far we could see trace the fading
light. Each time you proposed an exit strategy to
get out of your head, who was your canary?
What if I told you it is not possible to love
someone until you love me? All the pain
in our heart is instructive. Isn’t that what
you call precedent. Would it please you
if I gave my argument with authority?
Because I know how you hate the past,
And yet, you protect your agony, unequivocally
too stubborn to learn the errors of your ways
And I know this weighs on you. I can feel
the slow puddle of your blood form when
you refuse to participate. Dear sir, please,
I am not an exit strategy. I am an invitation.
My only wish for you is to receive what
I give without leaving me behind. Remember
how it feels to stumble through the unfinished
plot of what is lost and what is gained? I know
you need me most when it rains and the air
changes instantly, announcing to the world
what is here and what is to come, the same way
you wish you could change back into the man
you wrote about once before you became an
island, stranded in the sand of your fears.
I hear you talk to yourself when you refuse
to use your voice. I know all your tricks.
In the mirror, when we visit each other,
Your eyes trace our body in the dim light.
Dear sir, don’t you see the space I give
is empty for a reason?

16/30: on the fridge, in two parts

rain by us
sweet pounce
clean lick
Can water ache?
Could the sea boil over?

Some long
melancholy evaporates
I watch the dark
dark weather of us
Does the sky see
what does not last?

15/30: if you’re looking for a sign, this may be it

it’s Saturday night on East Cesar Chavez and I’m on foot
in stride, side-by-side with a man I’ve known long enough
to give me back my faith in people, back again in believing
in every human’s innate goodness. Again with belief, again
with hope, again with being a hopeless believer, I begin again.

But not like clockwork, or counter-clockwork, or how an alarm
works. More like the blinking clock next to my mattress next to us after
a storm erases time off the face of the earth when the power yanks
time from and the only way to know what time it is to get up and
stop pretending the world isn’t waiting, watching me hesitate.

it’s Saturday night on East Cesar Chavez and I’m on foot
in stride, telling Marshall about my latest heartache, when
an empty church stops me, but only after I notice the barb-
wire praying to a passerby like me. The painful invitation
of god has robbed me of my desire to dance in my own hurt.

Above in the sky, an oak tree homily interrupts me once more:
Run the race of life to win an ETERNAL crown, and my life
is now in the hands of my feet, and in this moment, I’m on foot.