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. 

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.

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. 

Eodem die

bacteria invades and
infects Los Angeles,
leaving it with a thick
congestion of the chest.

silenced by coughing fits,
the city opens its mouth
but phlegm distorts the
history it tries to tell.

only ears forced to concrete
can make out the steady
heartbeat of the city.

knees scrape against the sidewalk,
blood dripping in synchronization
to the sound of screeching metal

some pray,
others beg,
but all live out

their nightmares -
real or
perceived.

The Zone of Orphaned Humanity

Sliced open by his overgrown toenails,
the corroded canvas slip-ons
cling to his calloused soles.

Stumbling down 1st Street,
he whispers to every lamppost he passes.

Don’t forget who your children are.

Stopping to catch his breath,
he squints one eye closed
as his body sways
to the sound of silence.

Lifting his head,
he places a crooked finger
in the stale air and
traces the pattern of the steel
lattice towers that stand proud in front of
the distanced Los Angeles skyline,
as if he were an artist painting
the city’s visual pollution into existence.

Draping his body over the bridge,
he looks down into the city’s river
that he no longer
can baptize himself in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tall-Poppy Syndrome

How tall are the poppies where you are?

 

Where I’m from when a poppy grows too tall

You cut it so the others don’t attempt to rise that high

 

Where I live now, the tallest poppies suck the life from the roots of the shortest

But somehow everyone still loves the tall poppies

 

I think I’ll be a wildflower

And never think about my height

City Sin

A madness arises slowly,

Like the skyscrapers off the 110

My bones don’t really know me

As I settle into the city’s sin

My mind numbs gently

As the smog creeps in