Borders of Good Taste
Where is a border?
How is it defined, as a word, as a space?
Does it exist in two dimensions, the shortest distance between two points
or is it as wide as a swath of land, full of people’s ancestral earth, cattle,
dreams and butterfly migration paths?
Is it something that can shift like a river until it is filled with concrete to keep it erect
and prone with a stiff male logic?
Is it the embodiment of a cruel conceptual art
taking an abstracted idea
and carried forth as an actual manifestation
taken too far, even for Andy Kauffman?
Does that idea of division spawn others in its wake?
Does it get extrapolated onto fashion, music, and a classist sense of
a brown that is in this season, but left to Goodwill the next?
Is it steal bars that reach up to the sky in lines that never converge
except for in a forced perspective?
reach up and challenge even the gods?
Does it open and shut like the maw of a nation
that speaks to hear its own voice,
wide and welcoming to an alabaster
that matches its teeth
but clenches for others
from lands that still bare
the markings of where it once took a bite?
Bridge 1 (Too Brown)
This poem is in response to Gloria Anzaldúa’s La Prieta, from This Bridge Called My Back.
Patricia’s skin can still try to rise up from her body like a thousand points of rapture,
goosebumps that flock away from her form,
every single time that word “prieta” drags her back to that moment as a child,
in Mexico, visiting family, as the American Girl that she once was.
“Está bonita, pero lastima que esté tan prieta.”
(She’s pretty, but too bad she’s so dark.)
That this gradient, casting shades, in a shady system of castes
set up by Mexico’s lily white rapist from so long ago
by a tongue that is still forced down our throats, for so long that we call it our own,
tasting our own gritted teeth,
-it forgets that roots are brown.
That she, as the American Woman that she is,
staunchly jutted up
against that masculine, that macho, macho man,
a white haint that lingers in Mexican homes
as an oppressive cologne wafting in the occupants’ noses
- she taunts them, in being delighted by stories about ghosts.
That to this day, this fuck-you-feminisim which once was a tomboy, in a tree
asserting her independence from gravity’s patriarchy,
using her limbs to launch, limb to limb,
with nature’s growth being the only limit of her climb,
-she is still a Mexican-American Woman, who still won’t back down,
to step backwards
over that line, still.
Even as nature herself, in her green indifference and negligence,
siding with ghosts
sought to consume her, and make the tomboy cry,
-she carved out her own womb to make a point,
with her pointed will, fashioned as a scalpel.
Flocked skin, or not, Prieta is a badge you wear.
It’s a thing that makes white ghosts shiver from their graves,
in the ground, planted like crops,
that no one will ever harvest.
Bridge 2 (Far)
So as to not have my voice not drown out
the sway of this bridge,
built to bend with wind and wave away shudders,
as one must
when men cross you daily,
I will try to approach with soft lungs.
Lungs that can rise to the occasion and rise up,
to call out other men, when they cross you daily.
Lungs that must also fall silent and fall to rank,
to be pink ears embedded in the cavity of my chest,
even as my privilege wants to hear itself talk.
In moments of mindfulness, focusing on my chest rise and fall,
I bring attention to breaths that we share,
that link us to each other as ephemeral bridges
of humid air,
bring attention to some of the same spans I have crossed,
others I’ve burned,
some I’ve never heard of,
and others I should surely help mend.
I mean, there’s lot of talk of infrastructure,
how it needs repair after decades of neglect,
this system of systems that runs quietly all around us,
unseen, taken for granted, as roads to follow and bridges to cross.
And, because of that other system of systems set up
to help people who look like me to speak more freely (mansplain),
I’m overconfident that I should be saying any of this at all
rather than listening with my chest, to be mindful
of the tone
of this very poem.
BIPOC and Latinx versus Mexican at times
and why not just American?
as in North and South,
not just states of
as in a state of matter that is the same thing but
depending on the conditions it faces
Lines are decisions
In this binary world,
a collection of borders
gerrymandered around eggshell egos
e- racing memories, down double yellow lines,
which are meant to unite multiple points
across a digital globe,
in something more akin to 3 dimensions
rather than the two as we’ve done
because we can’t have nice things,
our faces gentrified,
an erasing of memory
of which mom and pop shop
was there before.
Even in death there is a racial hierarchy
Invisible, with Liberty and Justice
As a child,
one of the special powers I coveted,
was the power of invisibility like many other children did.
The reasoning was,
that with invisibility,
we could go and do things we weren’t allowed,
and get away with it.
not realizing that I would be manifesting a future
of BIPOC invisibility
loveless in a city
with blinders to the lonely walls it erects
and Liberal doses of emotional distance.
A city progressively worse.
A city progressed right past the finish line,
without looking back at the others still running,
invisible when the lookers don’t turn their heads,
And we live in the periphery
forgotten about in your eye
as you navigate the economy
of a day lived.
As we stand together against these walls that are built against our backs,
we stand shoulder to shoulder, as our own sentinels,
to keep gates,
and squint our eyes as if less light allows us to
approximate a character deemed worthy
to stand with us,
back to back,
holding back the flood
of our own histories
Airports crossing the southern disorder,
with a line of dollars
across the sky, demarcating
a first class
drinks, blankets and entertainment,
under a bridge they’d rather be crossing,
without a drink of water, but foil blankets,
for even entertaining the idea
of taking refuge
from violence and starvation.
Do European beauty standards have any validity or do I just hate myself?
Tongue used as a line to sort,
as a line that you’d think is too short
An implicit bump as you cross a path,
in which my language
is on the auction block.
A surprising and kind reparation
in a state not known for being kind,
an acknowledgement of a duality,
as a Chicano invitation
Now it’s being stripped,
as Education in DUAL LANGUAGE
using the race of Black students as a bludgeon
to work off the backs of the brown,
as a way to exemplify that one meme
we've all seen
that touts the difference between
equality and equity.
En la Ciudad de México hay unas saunas/ baños públicos que tienen décadas siendo parte de la fábrica, de un parche de la cobija que es la cultura del monstruo que es la ciudad de ese tamaño. Aún se presentan, igual a su estética de arte deco, un regreso temporal- como se encuentra en muchos países del tercer mundo- a un tiempo que barnizó el machismo, para que brille como los peinados de cabello y bigotes negros, que aun viven ahi.
En estos baños, que en silencio, y ojos desviados, se ha vuelto (o siempre ha tenido) una energía homoerótica, aunque ahora más a la luz, sinvergüenza, y descarado como el mismo machismo con cual convive. Es una audacia que solo está oculta por la capacidad de una cultura de hacerla invisible, hasta el punto de mirar más allá de ella mientras se mira directamente.
Los hombres mayores que han trabajado allí desde los años 60’s, son capaces de fingir, mucho mejor de lo que la imaginación de cualquier niño puede proyectar una realidad, diferente a la que sus ojos les dicen que no pueden ver.
Los hombres aún mayores que han frecuentado el establecimiento durante más tiempo, se sientan hombro con hombro e inhalan los vapores del sudor producido por actos que ignoran, a través del espacio. Esto es convivir.
That queer gaze so hesitant to show attraction and reveal that very queerness itself
Eyes that dare not linger
and lies that endanger,
must be caught in a darting blur
like a ghostly apparition
you can’t help but question
but later share then
to a friend
The audacity of a limousine
where pretense becomes walled up
the south side of the road from the north
can be shown
he’s just a wall himself.
As a child, back when I was more Pollyanna, still weaning from the Bible’s teat and tearing up at the Star Spangled Banner, indoctrinated in ways that I now try to distract my students from, I gave more benefits than doubts. I had more faith in whiteness not being AS toxic or pervasive as it is. Even as those authorities and allies of my periphery literally saw a different color of sky, because they didn’t have a word for it, my trusting nature beat me back. Two steps at first, then four, until I’m not even standing in the same country anymore. I didn’t realize I was backing up- not out of reverence/ deference, but unconsciously making myself smaller, by a forced perspective. My introversion used against me, to be a novelty in any scene I happen to play an extra. Then, as a consequence, after years of this numbing norm, Pollyanna gets worn down. She gets tired, and jaded. Then, sometimes as a BIPOC, a simple disses or slight feel racist because that is our norm, even when it’s just your run of the mill asshole behavior.
Some destinies manifest themselves on peoples
by pouring over legalese where a
healthy constitution should be
Some do it in broad daylight
can’t reach for themselves
and can barely even be seen
These same destinies
as there is nothing here to see
and distractions are a
and sports are a
by their nature
write their own
Trapped in the indigo of the day that is the situation
rapidly changing my hues
libra scales taunting gravity
that only seem visible in the sandwich
that is dusk and dawn
Confused by the straddle of what we were made to feel
what I teach now in social studies
the separation of oranges from (bad)
and something not sitting right
in the gut
the same way
in Sunday school
didn’t add up in that magical
hiding in the wake of a cop car on a congested highway
huffing on some of their privilege
to get where we are going just a bit
In this country with families that sit around a tv,
to watch cop porn
where the black and brown get chased from one fenced yard
a migration so great
so as to evade persecution
from a system that gives some no other choice but to lay down
in a reality so real that no form of media can convince
those eyes peering from couches
that they aren’t somehow below
Stars of the small screen
are made with fingertips, ink pads and pride
TV screen butted up against the reality of that living room
Separated by the glow of a thin blue line
BLM in Summer of 2020
is just as intense as the push to feel it was
and how real it felt
as we waited for shoes to drop
just like that good will,
cheer and wishes for peace
we live through at Christmas
soon forgotten, tangled up and put away for next year
once confetti falls
and the cork pops
on the champagne.
you’d best take your hand off that bible
mid oath if must,
sooner rather than later
as your jesus
that man whose name you took
his hands were empty
empty of judgements
that slipped through the slits
empty of stones to be thrown
but more importantly
make use of opposable thumbs
those in need
that’s what you purport
to have read
or at least will hear
someone to have said
is in that book
sooner rather than later
where is that divide
that we decide
folded down the center of a page
where two lists can be made
one column for
annotated with letters
and even numerals
would have used
(which make it onto the list itself)
to show why
we are dominant
and that Adam
that our ability to delineate
give us superiority
intelligence that scares even
think deeper than dolphins can dive
throw around the weight of our mental fortitude
to topple elephants’ memory
to make our lives better
coordinate with intention herself
to plot out a way
for our column
to pursue happiness
not to mention
breathing over us
so that we children
don’t understand their
not to mention
wisdom poured out into the sea
inspiration carved into the stones
by whip smart winds
in a timeline of
to be read
like a phrenology
we have yet to be
wise enough to add to our list
not to mention
logic to save us from the predator’s maw
but no sense to save ourselves from
not to add compassion to column B
not to put that list to work
to truly divide us from A
in a way
that has us
take our hands off that bible
to empty our hands
make use of opposable thumbs
to heal those in need
Disneyland y el segundo King Ranch
in this Texas
a long long spot where the edge of the US meets the rest of the world
a ranch fit for kings
the largest on this hollow shellacked globe
larger than another state
with a memory of being México
dirt that still speaks her native tongue
gagged by cow shit
gagged by order of
men in robes who say
she cannot speak Spanish anymore
There is a fragile meniscus where the world touches this cell
a membrane of insanity policing in and out
a membrane that allows billionaires to build their theme parks
with rides into space
right at the edge of where an America meets the world.
I know of several thousand people still frozen in time, in horrible conditions at our border waiting for their humanity to be realized by our own government.
Not wearing the latest fashions
Not speaking with tongues that wag like the tail that wags the dog
Tongues that are gauche to bright pink ears
pink with anger at being forced to listen to another language
a language south of their understanding of taste
DOES THIS HAPPEN IN
Velvet Pain Thing
absorbing brightness that even stokes Anish Kapoor’s covetous bulge
tiny fibers like alveoli underpinning particles of life’s dusty specks of pain
captures them to digest
to have and to hold
to own it.
tiny fibers fused by acrylic,
colors so bright
nebula against that texture that brushes its stubble on your cheek
you can feel its breath
as she holds it down in (en)lightened hues
vibrating with a contrast
telling stories we may have already heard
but need to live again.
Who is it that has the gall to eradicate validity? Has the conscience or lack thereof to say something isn’t real to someone else just because it doesn’t resonate with them? In essence, we all do this in one way or another: such is the nature of our human differences. Yet there’s a difference between differences of opinion and being shortsighted to a beauty that arises from the ash. There’s a point of view guided by an underlying culture of manifest destiny, that American dream, those cities of gold that were sought by Europeans so long ago. It’s a point of view that can’t see past poverty driving joy from anything that isn’t prepackaged, en masse and disposable. It is blind to a native species of plant, they thought they’d driven to extinction, to make room for their xeriscaped dreams, still thriving, not despite, but because of beautiful detritus.
COVID solamente es la enfermedad más reciente que se supone que proviene la frontera.
Enfermedades con dos patas.
Son decisiones con puentes que se cierran por pánicos creados,
sobre los cuerpos de crias
dispuestos a soñar en las nubes,
con las cabezas en las nubes
ahora con nubes en la cabeza.
I buried my brother a few weeks ago
he was easily the most underestimated member of my family
At one time he lived on the edge
of edges that I myself toy with
privileged by my education
not to pay for
in the ways that he did
I’m convinced he was dyslexic
working now as I do with students who struggle with words
that disconnect between what our eyes see and how our brains process it
had a similar dyslexia with him
as a person
not computing with what we saw in him.
Instead of an MFA he had a GRE
In either case
another of many jumbles of letters
that at times he’d ask me to help decipher
even by our family
for not being the pediatrician, the business owner,
or the teacher
Spent years of wheeled penance for playing too close to an edge
of acceptability that even kind hearts don’t protect you from
crossing in other people’s eyes
those burnt edges that we somehow make ourselves blind to
because of convenience
because they don’t fit our narrative
of what we didn’t want to portray to the rest of the world
That within our own family, his wheelchair was nudged over time
over some line
and he with his quiet nature
unfazed, tucked away