Conchinita Pibil

Moving his fork like a rake, he scrapes through the pork
and shovels the marinated meat into his mouth.
Mouth still full, he squeezes a straw through his lips
and takes a large sip of diet Pepsi, rinsing out the flavor
of the barely chewed bite before swallowing.

His face puckers, pale skin constricting and gathering into folds,
like the wound banana leaves cradling the meal he is abandoning.
He tosses his fork to the table and reaches into the pockets of
his tailored trousers to fumble through a wad of cash.
He counts out four, pauses, and subtracts one,
shoving three brittle bills underneath the sweating drink glass.

“That’s the last time I trust the cook,” the man says,
pulling himself off the tired wooden bench table.
How do you consider that Mexican food?” he asks,
walking out the door without waiting for an answer.

Pushing her braid behind her back and tucking her bangs behind her ears,
she weaves past the kitchen counter and stands in front of the meal
she had prepared that the man had probed, dissected, and left behind.

Dipping her tired fingers into the red sauce, she plucks off
a piece of the Conchinita Pibil and places it on her tongue.

The subtle taste of achiote whispers to her, reminding her of
the stories her father used to tell her about
her abuela and the market in Mérida.

Oregano, peppercorn, cumin, and allspice
twirl in her mouth, circling around the achiote,
amplifying its telling taste.

As she chews again, the smooth taste of Ceylon cinnamon
appears and latches on to the achiote,
forcing her body to feel rather than remember.

With eyes closed and arms wrapped around herself,
she travels through the tastes of her father’s home.

Right before swallowing, she becomes aware
of a taste sliding down the back of her mouth,
drowning out the voice of the spices.

Opening her eyes to rays of the Los Angeles sun
sneaking through the window and saturating her face,
she remembers the oranges she used in her cooking.

Thinking sweet nectar would work
just as well as the sharp bitterness of the
Neville oranges in Yucatán,
she squeezed California oranges into her
Abuela’s recipe for Conchinita Pibil.

With tears rushing down her cheeks,
she grabs the man's napkin on the table
and spits out her chewed up pork.

 

 

Freeway

The world froze over this morning
On the 10 and the 5 and the 210
between 6 and 10am,
and I remembered Albuquerque
and how we were there yesterday morning

and saw the open wound of the world
and how it bled and bled
even before we got back to Flagstaff
and the world was still frozen
this morning, motionless

and how we would have never left Arizona
if it was like this – we would have pounded the bars
and pounded the drinks
to avoid the frozen-over world
baking in the mid-morning desert sun.

405

I mourn the spirit whose body is still here.

It lays on the bed with a rising and falling chest.

He’s not here, nor heaven, nor hell. But somewhere

Between the wind and the skyscrapers with working men in their fifties.

In the line of the horizon where the sky meets the sea.

He’s floating with the hawks above the suburban homes and children’s soccer fields.

He’s flying under the cars that move like molasses on the 405 laughing at the drivers damning

lane 3. I don’t know what he’s waiting for, but his spirit seems like it’s already home. 

Bovidius

Ruminations of dreams
dawdle on grasses I only know as an undulation of weeds,
do they
dawdle on dandelions glimmering here and there
behind the barbed wire, the citrus-tinged
reticulum running
heartbeat over hillock to gully beside a
highway that pierces straight—

I thought it was a recollection of California:
an all-dayer northbound from the San Gabriels,
the Tehachapis receding
into desert blasts,
the musk of it
taunted me, I had to
look for verdancies, or so help me,
the gods of Folsom and El Dorado Hills,
the visible nothingness I had to
fill with an expletive, or two, or whatever,
I was possessed, but

it was an island, the genus Americana:
late afternoon
was on the fountain grass,
the tattered tresses of rainbow eucalyptus,
finitude came with a
light rain and a
necessity to parse
the bitter tastes of rainbow eucalyptus,
you forget
citizenship to it, how much more to
topsoil to porous lava rock to pilgrimage,
blindness and basalt,
I fell
to brooding
on the myriad superficialities for a spell,
e Waimea mea degluptea
ad hoc or hydroplane or a
mother cow
behind the barbed wire,
russet cheeks laden with water,
she was an utterance of a countryside,
as provincial as they come,
the quondam sights
moving
in metamorphosis.

Pukana

I drive down the onramp to merge into L.A. traffic

 

A greying haired middle aged man does not want to let me in.

Forced onto the curb of the the freeway I turn and look at him.

He is staring at me

And a blanche, passionless, gaunt middle finger waves in my direction

 

I look back for another couple of minutes and smile as I drive on the edge of the freeway still.

 

An excitement runs through me

A fierce rushing of blood.

I am the Polynesian heroes of my youth.

I am the Anglo-Saxon legends of my ancestors.

I am an African-Brazilian of utter defiance and survival.

I feel their spirits deep, comfortable

I am from the pure earth of the south pacific

I am from the hardened rock of northern Europe.

I have water in me from the raging Amazon.

I am crafted from powerful dust

And none shall defy me.

 

I roll down my window

And lock eyes with the man slowly becoming a boy.

 

I am ready for war

I have been melded in battle

I bring blood and fire

 

I show him my Pukana

 

My ancestors envelop him

 

He sharply turns and looks at his steering wheel

Slowly brakes

And never looks back up

 

I am all that I have been.

Deprecation

Self-promote,

Become the proudest version of yourself

Self-promote

Become louder than your work

Self-promote

The world has to know

Who you are

Success never comes if nobody knows

Who am I?

Self-deprecate

I minimize myself for arts sake.

Self-deprecate

I make something amazing but you might hate.

Self-deprecate

This society has me feeling everything is fake.

Self-deprecate

Pragmatism

“Good intentions last longer in Boston,”
the man tattooing my arm didn’t say
but I understood – I’ve seen autumn
leaves blowing from churchyard trees
in the center of the city, the streets
are littered here with drifters and bastard
sons of rail-riders who found the sea –
of course angels get lost in the mayhem,
why else would I want wings etched on me,
why else would “go to Hell” mean so little
if we were not already beside the congealed sea
passing the shadow of the valley of death,
Welcome to L.A., kid, he said, and I gave the money
I’d gotten from the East Coast, when the leaves
on the trees had fallen; these woods are rotting.

Posthumously

The one whom we oppress

Fights for our freedom

 

He is not a native

So othered he becomes

 

Did he become one of us

When he laced up his issued combat boots?

 

Or when the Iranian dirt

Whipped him across the face?

 

Or did he become one of us

When he became the sniper’s target?

 

Once he became cargo flown back on a plane

He became one of us.

 

America Tropical

Forced to conceal their darkness,
the man and the mural
dwell in the shadows.

Trying to hide
but never able to escape,
the California sun exposes
the man and the mural.

His leathered skin blisters,
as the paint used to hide
the mural on the wall cracks.

Shedding in the shadows
of the city of Angels,
the man and the mural
peel off layers to bare truths
saturated in pigment
that cannot be
concealed by a layer
of white wash.

 

lax

the asphalt river of the world

snakes

through the fog toward the glass
and a new growth is growing –
“terminal, probably, that tumor”

and the tiny tv squawks anyway
interrupted
resuming after every inconvenience
as though I know the story well enough
to break it

we are slithering

toward the end of the line
and back behind me, a child cries
and I envy it through my soundproof
earphones and third ginger ale
in my illegal repose mid-fall

hunting

for an open window/door/air vent
before I settle in again –
waiting to approach the new-formed terminal,
what a shiny tumor, I know we are all

mice. 

Pain of a New Place

It hurts to try and fly

and keep getting shot out of the sky

 

It hurts to try and swim

and keep getting tangled in a net

 

It hurts to try and float

while others paddle

past in a boat

 

this new place hurts

while I grow.

 

—Afterword—