La Poema de mi Vida
My first memory
is watching the refinery burn.
Amoco had blown up
And it wouldn’t be the first time
nor would it be the last.
There were many fires I watched
with the fear of a scared child
or like a wide-eyed pyromaniac.
Between the fires came the floods.
Lurking like a leviathan,
lapping at our livelihood.
Water in the house;
eroding away my sanity.
How I hate the water sometimes.
Water through the roof;
I don’t think
I’ll get over my first hurricane.
Big brother came to stay.
He broke my toys,
then he broke my spirit
before he had to go away.
Mom tried to blow on the wound,
to make it all better,
But it only hurt more.
I would carve my own niche.
Home sick from school,
I would write the words
that would take me away from it all.
High seas adventure
on a stormy sea,
I maneuver it well
in spite of hitting the rocks.
Then puberty hits me blind side.
Every girl looks good,
But they don’t see me.
I am invisible to them.
When I landed one,
it was all a sham.
Girls being cruel to me
for no reason at all.
Another niche was carved for me
when I met the clean side of the blues,
raising my junior high voice in praise.
Grandpa went to ride the chariot,
but I had Mahalia’s beautiful music
to sooth my shattered soul.
Then came high school
and a roller coaster of emotions.
I had a notion it would be tough,
but nothing prepared me
for the road ahead
no matter how ready I was.
I am a survivor,
But not the disco anthem kind.
I have survived things
That would turn your head inside out.
And I don’t mean floods, fires, or abuse
at the hands of someone I trusted.
I am talkin’ about gang wars, discrimination,
And the deaths of friends and enemies
who left this life too young.
Shit no high schooler should have to live through.
I heard the stories about
how they gunned down boys in cold blood.
‘Cause they looked like someone else.
‘Cause they picked the wrong fight to break up.
‘Cause they couldn’t choose the right side.
Bloods and Crips.
this killin’ people over colors.
Yeah, that was years ago,
But it stays with you,
grows inside you like a cancer.
After I lost them,
I lost my cool.
Dumbasses tellin’ me,
‘Why you the only white boy in the choir?’
And I say, ‘I’m Hispanic’
And they say, ‘I’m 1/16 Native American.
And I think to myself Yeah right.
I would have run with the Hispanics,
But they’re too clannish,
And I’m too far removed
from their second-generation culture.
So don’t ask me again why we’re not friends.
I’m happy with my choir sisters and brothers.
They take me as I am, warts and all.
After I lost my cool,
I lost my friends.
Acquaintances and bullies alike,
their deaths a shock to me.
I experienced the death of many friendships;
the revolving door spun too fast and out of control.
How I wished it had rusted shut
before it was too late.
Of course, I’m never alone
when I think about it.
After I lost my friends,
I found myself
a stronger person
because of my trials,
But I live with the pain of yesterday
aleved with doses of therapeutic poetry
Because I’ve already swallowed enough bitter pills.
I wanna howl like Ginsberg.
I wanna go tell it on the mountain
and everywhere my story.
I said there wasn’t enough paper
to write down all the shit I’ve been through,
But stories were meant to be told.
When I started this gig,
I was young and scared
Having shit shoved down my throat
and people ridin’ my ass.
Until I grew brave and bold;
Lashing out against
what I couldn’t in high school.
Fighting urges I didn’t understand
being a naïve young man.
All through college I fight WASPS
with a sting as powerful as theirs.
I learned as I was unlearning,
that old things have to be done in new ways.
That the wheels of progress
can’t turn without the grease of change.
As I go along,
I re-invent myself to keep from getting old and rusty.
Then, there are those routines I can’t shake
Because I think I’m getting something
when it’s just a lot of empty feelings.
I am tired of having lost as much as I have loved.
I am fed up with back room bitches
who won’t give a hundred percent.
I am sick of bathroom ads that go nowhere.
I put this all behind me,
But the songs take me back
like little harpies that chase me everywhere.
They torture me with songs
that bring back suppressed memories.
Of relationships as sour
as a fruit that’s been picked before its time.
Now I’m at academia’s doorstep
ready to be unlearned again
for a turn at something different.
A chance to escape
the prison of small-town life.
No unwanted pregnancies for me.
No poor-paying military service.
Not prison time,
for stupid shit I know is wrong.
No funerals attended
by friends I don’t’ remember.
I’m not quittin’
until I rise above that which has held me down.