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
seeking refuge
from lands that still bare
the markings of where it once took a bite?

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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.

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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

in parallel

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
changes

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,
like buildings
an erasing of memory
of which mom and pop shop
was there before.

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Even in death there is a racial hierarchy

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solo     inplacable

colonial      universal

animal    artificial

error     control

radical    vulnerable

doctor central

Invisible, with Liberty and Justice

 

As a child,

one of the special powers I coveted, 

besides telekinesis,

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,
walking,

crawling,

invisible when the lookers don’t turn their heads,

 

And we live in the periphery 

like floaters,

transparent squiggles

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

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Airports crossing the southern disorder,
with a line of dollars

across the sky, demarcating
a first class
drinks, blankets and entertainment,

 

while others,

as goats,

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?

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Tongue used as a line to sort,
as a line that you’d think is too short

to divide, 

but can.


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. 

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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

whose validity

you can’t help but question

but later share then

recant

to a friend

over drinks.

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The audacity of a limousine

where pretense becomes walled up

like Fortunado

to divide

the south side of the road from the north

thinking 

glitz

can be shown

off

when really

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.

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Some destinies manifest themselves on peoples 

backs and 

necks 

by pouring over legalese where a

healthy constitution should be

 

Some do it in broad daylight

so blinding

that shadows

can’t reach for themselves

can’t conglomerate

and can barely even be seen

 

These same destinies

light gas

as there is nothing here to see

and distractions are a

sport

and sports are a

distraction

 

All destinies

by their nature

write their own

histories

and all 

 

like us

 

are

destined

to end.

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Trapped in the indigo of the day that is the situation

rapidly changing my hues

undecided

libra scales taunting gravity

decidedly

difficult choices

that only seem visible in the sandwich

that is dusk and dawn

Confused by the straddle of what we were made to feel

 

about cops

what I teach now in social studies

community helpers

justifying

the separation of oranges from    (bad)

apples

and something not sitting right

in the gut

the same way

certain things

in Sunday school 

didn’t add up in that magical

math

 

years later

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 

faster

Thin
Blue
Line

 

In this country with families that sit around a tv,

with popcorn

to watch cop porn

where the black and brown get chased from one fenced yard

to another

a migration so great

so as to evade persecution

from a system that gives some no other choice but to lay down

and die 

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
whose autographs
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 

being forgotten 

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.

Natural

Causes

 

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

 

the were 

empty of judgements
that slipped through the slits

empty of stones to be thrown

but more importantly

empty to

make use of opposable thumbs

to heal 

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 

animal

another for

(hu)man

 

annotated with letters

and even numerals

Pontius Pilate

would have used

 

logical lists

(which make it onto the list itself)

to show why

we are dominant

and that Adam

should tame

that tree

 

that our ability to delineate

list

and decide

give us superiority

and dominion

that our 

minds 

make

more

sense

 

intelligence that scares even

crows

think deeper than dolphins can dive

throw around the weight of our mental fortitude

to topple elephants’ memory

 

all this

to make our lives better

easier

more thoughtful

coordinate with intention herself

to plot out a way

for our column

to pursue happiness

 

not to mention

trees sighs

breathing over us

so that we children

don’t understand their

adult conversations

 

not to mention

wisdom poured out into the sea

inspiration carved into the stones

by whip smart winds

in a timeline of

lineage

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

avarice’s gnaw

 

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

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Disneyland y el segundo King Ranch

 

Site unseen

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.

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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

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DOES THIS HAPPEN IN

                                ,                   ?

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Velvet Pain Thing

Velvet dark,
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.

Velvet dark,
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.

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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. 

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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

Our family
had a similar dyslexia with him 

as a person
Our brains
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
 

Shunned
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

downhill

and he with his quiet nature
unfazed, tucked away
and underestimated.

right at the edge of where an America meets the world.