Skinnin' The Pachuco

I'm just happy to be here.

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

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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

18/30: TASTING SPRING

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.

17/30: LOVE BETTER

“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

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

ii.
Some long
melancholy evaporates
I watch the dark
dark weather of us
asking,
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.

14/30: ARS POETICA

I laugh like salsa kisses
My echo is everywhere
I talk like water goes
My voice is survival
I kiss like a cemetery holds
My mouth is a lousy mausoleum
My poems are the flowers
I bring when I forget how to sing
When the dead weeds of my deeds
need to be pulled up, a poem is a
palm in the soil. Does poetry excuse
my dirty hands? All I ever loved
was to try to help everyone, except
myself. Some mornings, the poet
pretends he is a boy again,
watching his words
escape like balloons
he wants to trade in
for hope.
If it comes down to it,
I may say yes to silence.
Most days,
I smile like my poems try to forget.
So I write to leave the door open.

13/30: SO ME AND JEREMY ARE STUCK IN TRAFFIC AWESTRUCK AT THE WILDFLOWERS WE COULD NOT NAME, OR PINK EVENING PRIMROSE

It’s spring in Texas and I want to name the flowers I see
whenever I’m stuck in traffic on I-10 on the way to Austin.
Me and Jeremy are two men stuck in traffic on the way to Austin,
two men awestruck at the pink evening primrose, though neither
of us can tell the other the name until we look it up on our phones.
Pink evenings are burning in every room of my mind. Everything
I remember is set against a pink evening. Even when dreaming,
I adjust the rearview mirror of my memories, altering endings until
the dark thoughts turn to alternative facts. Never look back.
I change the wild past with each flower we pass, laughing
at the new name,
we both now know.

Nobody has ever asked me why,
I believe in myself with such certainty—
And who wants the truth?

12/30: WITH THE UNIVERSE AS MY WITNESS

After Anis Mojgani

I am invincible
Look at my eyes on no sleep.
My eyes on no sleep still look
you in the eyes 
My eyes on no sleep are so perfect
I’m actually never going to sleep again.
I am invincible. 

Today while walking through the hall,
me and my no sleep eyes
are seen by a pair of kind eyes. 
I am told I am always so smiley. 
I think on it: true. 
Before walking away, 
I say back: It is my gift. 
When I think of my gift, 
I no longer feel cursed.
With the universe as my witness,
I am invincible. 

When I make sweet tea, nothing goes wrong.
One morning, I woke before being told. 
When I am too tired to move
I lay my heavy legs against the floor like
a crested wave reaching the shore
after a long-traveled journey. 
I am invincible. 

Have you ever seen my butt?
It’s organic, makes all my pants panic.
It shoots for the moon and reaches for the stars
because my butt is basically a sky.
Your sky.
I am invincible.

I can make my no sleep eyes cry
if the moment means enough.
I can make any moment mean
enough, just give me the wind, 
or a line in a song, like this one:
your love belongs to everyone 
(Jose Gonzales, Open Book)
or I can look at pictures of my niece
whose cheeks look like Fredericksburg
peaches I would eat with her daddy 
both our sticky hands steady 
through the summers of our childhood
when the two of us would chase 
each other around til our sweat boiled
in the backyard of grandma’s garden
and grandpa’s shed. 
I am invincible. 
Even if my no sleep eyes are small
almonds missing their shot to blossom,
I choose this act, this scene, this line
I thought of without even thinking 
keeps my fingers moving, if I were a bird
you’d call this flying. 

I am invincible.
But I am not invulnerable
Look at the armor around my heart
Look at how many pathways a knife
like guilt could take to prove
I am not invulnerable. When I heal,
I move much too fast. Doctors don’t know
what to do, on account of, I hide the truth.

And the truth is, sometime ago,
I began to preface what I say with 
it’s okay, before the sentence could 
even begin. I reach conclusions in
which I give acceptance I did not ask
for but with reasons I now must defend.
I want to sing, I’ll do anything to be happy
(Noah and the Whales- Blue Skies)
But anything is lazy and I cannot know
the sum of my strength unless I weigh
my weaknesses. 

When I look at who I am in the mirror, I smile
before sorrow can say hello.
This is my gift. With the universe as my witness, 
I am invincible. 

11/30: OBJECTS OF MY AFFECTION

ol’ hereditary hoarder
ol’ bargain-buyer baller
ol’ dress for less loyalist
ol’ king of keepsakes

when will what I hold be
enough? If I comb
the knots out of my closet,
and I do not give an answer
to each questionable relic
wondering where my
eyes have been,
is the object
wrong to expect
my affection?

of course, i’m a sorry warden.
each object of my affection
only knows desire
as a lie in the eyes
only knows attention
as a glimpse of light—

In the dark spaces of my past
I am an awful oracle.

each object of my affection
remains a portable miracle:
not the thing itself, but
the king of the thing
two tricks
short of sainthood.
Yes, I kept something
I kept something alive
though I did not care about its life.
Isn’t this enough?