Chicano Poet

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Lines Stolen From Notorious B.I.G. For A Returning Vet

You’re nobody till somebody kills you,
insurgents, resurgent, detergents,
your fatigues look fatigued,

the desert planet of the first Star Wars,
the desert planet of Iraq,
the roads like razor blades against your throat.

You come back to America in aluminum,
you come back like a hero, zero, cero,
you’re nobody till somebody kills you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dog Dooley

Henry gets home and his 16 year- old dog
has become entangled in the curtain
while he was looking out the window

anxiously awaiting Henry.
Somehow he got his collar
wrapped around the drawstring.

He was choking and wriggling
and wiggling and diggling.
Hang down your head Dog Dooley,

hang down your head Dog Dooley,
hang down your head and cry.
Henry had to get the scissors

to cut him loose, wuzz up dog,
is you on booze? Take it from me,
you won’t look good as a canine giraffe.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Henry’s Joy Ride

Henry hot rods his rice burner
around the twisty curves
of hillside streets

from Wal-Mart to Henry’s house,
sliding all four tires
around the corners, little Jack Horner

like a horny teenager.
Henry forgets he’s an old codger
but he can still drive the wheels

off a car, forget the scars,
forget close-calls,
forget the times he’s outrun cops.

Turning the last corner near his house
he slams the car into gear,
pops the clutch, floors the gas.

He parks in his driveway,
where the heck did he leave what he bought,
the Depends, the new walker, the Preparation H?

Friday, August 26, 2005

On The Death Of An Iraqi Infant Dying Of A War

The President was vacationing in Crawford
just beyond the reach
of Cindy Sheehan and America,

except for a few days off from his vacation
to visit his own private Idaho
and a ride on bicycles with Lance.

Oh, drug-laden like athletes,
this country is replete,
Henry repeats, ain’t it neat.

While this is going on
a peaceful bomb hits a hovel
and a baby and his family are obliterated.

The brand new constitution
amounts to prostitution
like an American institution.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Henry’s Toy Poem Lullaby

If Barney Fife was deputy
of these here United States,
he’d put more soldiers to sleep

in a veterinary sort of way.
Meow, meow, meow,
bow, wow, wow.

I don’t need a cat,
I want my money back.
I don’t want a dog

or a Calaveras jumping frog.
I just want
my sons and daughters back.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Henry’s 1977 Thunderbird

"take it to the backseat,
run it like a trackmeet..."
Gwen Stefani in
Bubble Pop Electric

When Henry was dating his future wife
one of his cars was a 1977 Thunderbird.
One night

Henry and his girl were having sex
in the front-seat,
on the passenger’s side

if you want to imagine that.
Well, anyway, after hot,
mad animal love

both of them exhausted,
her knees were pinned
against the glove box.

It took a while before
they could extricate themselves.
Henry’s wife better not ever read this!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Chicana Mermaid With Drunk White Men

after neruda,sorta,casi

The white men were drunk
when a Chicana mermaid walked into the bar,
the white men spit on her

because she was brown.
She should not have left the river,
they spit on her.

They insulted her brown skin,
but they longed for her brown breasts in secret,
they burned her with their cigarettes,

they rolled on the floor laughing,
she couldn’t talk,
her eyes were the color of cinnamon.

She left by the same door she came in,
she plunged deep into the water of the barrio
until the barrio encircled the white men’s throats.

Friday, August 19, 2005

American Pie

Not that it matters how they die,
a sniper’s bullet in the face,
the always popular roadside bomb,

the unexpected charge of the light brigade,
six or seven foreign fighters
we are led to believe.

Sometimes it’s just a rollover,
a tank sinking in the river,
the crew drowning.

We don’t know what this war is all about,
but in the end our soldiers die
no matter how you cut up the pie.

Here’s a slice for you,
here’s a slice for you
and here’s a slice for me.

Those aren’t strawberries,
those aren’t cherries,
that’s just what George Bush buries!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Texas Quarters

The house where Henry was born
sits lonely in fields of corn
and empty during winter months.

Henry played in arroyo floodwaters,
floating down so far
and then climbing out,

usually just beyond El Tonto’s house.
El Tonto was a white sharecropper,
don’t know why we called him that.

I guess I’ll have to ask my dad
next time he comes to town
which is so rare

because he loves the desert around Indio.
The heat, the cold,
don’t ask Henry which.

The mountains rise like twenty dollars
and you come back with ten,
that’s two fives or ten ones.

Henry doesn’t like to be nickeled and dimed,
but the Texas quarters in his pocket
can’t be spent.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Henry’s Rilke’s Duino Elegies For Daniel Rocha

The medical examiner says there were no drugs
in Daniel Rocha’s body, no marijuana,
but after Julie the cop

shot him point-blank in the back,
they found a baggie of marijuana
next to his body.

Of course, no police department spokesman
is going to go on television to admit
that it was cops

who planted the marijuana.
It’s standard procedure for them
to plant evidence---blue gardeners---

so they can get away with murder.
Now the cops are pissed
at the medical examiner

and want him to resign or else.
They don’t want you to hear the truth,
they want you to believe their little white lies.

But, in the end, it doesn’t matter what we believe
because Julie the cop will be found innocent
and Daniel Rocha can only turn over in his grave.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

White Casablanca

Henry Casablanca
sat at the bar
while Mr. Bones

was playing “As Time
Goes By”
on a piano

that stretched
way out
into the desert,

the hot wind
making dunes
in the shape

of a woman’s buttocks,
but Henry couldn’t think
of that

because he
was in love
when suddenly the Nazis

startled him
out of his daydream

the desert
wiggled its tail
like a snake swastika.

Mr. Bones
and the piano
walked away without the black keys

and were
by the white ones.

Just before the airplane
lifted off the runway,
it ran over a frog.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Houston, You’ve Got A Problem!

Houston, you’ve got a problem,
your cops are beating Pablo to a pulp
and that black kid they shot in self-defense,

he was twelve and so was the butterknife,
that homeless man they arrested
had committed the crime of being homeless.

Houston, you’ve got a problem,
your cops are like all other cops,
New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, Papalote,

while they do uphold the law,
it is not our law,
it is not us they protect and serve.

Houston, you’ve got a problem,
while you can send men to the moon and back
your heart beats like a moon rock beats,

while you can show us beautiful pictures
of earth from outer space,
you can not show us justice anywhere.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Desert Flower

It takes a thousand desaparecidas
in Cuidad Juarez to equal
one white girl vanished in Aruba.

It’s always been that way
and it won’t change anytime soon.
The Minute Men don’t wear hoods,

but they should.
The Minute Men are proud citizens
but not Americans,

they crawl like Gila monsters,
scorpions on the desert floor,
they're rattlesnakes that rattle their tail-guns.

They want their sons
to grow up in a country
so white, so right, so bright

like the desert sun
beating down on Mexican bones
until it drives the wind insane.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Toy Soldiers

My grandson plays with plastic soldiers on the floor,
the roadside bombs are lollipops
stuck to grandma’s carpet.

The streets of Baghdad come into the living room,
the Green Zone is astroturfed in the backyard,
the family dog becomes notorious

for being,in God’s eye,vainglorious.
He wags his tail at Eve
and Eve wags her tail at him.

The war is going on and on and on
like Vietnam and Vietnam and Vietnam.
My grandson gets up,

goes into the toy room for more of his favorite toys.
Fourteen Ohio National Guardsmen
dead in that playful instant.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Pedal To The Metal

Everytime Henry returns, burns, learns,
the old home town distant from the moon,
nothing left but bones and koans.

Friends that played in the band,
friends that rode bicycles on weekends,
friends that fractured,

friends that spun out of control like tornadoes,
friends Henry last saw eating tacos,
friends who took the skin off poetry.

The Wolfman was right,
you can’t go home again,
the tall buildings are country roads,

traffic takes the place of stop signs.
Look ahead you see yourself,
look behind you see yourself.

Henry jumps like a plague of locusts
spitting tobacco juice,
he heads back home like Hansel and Gretel.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Papalote Unbound

The streets are dusty now like cows,
my high school friends have the bends,
the girls all have large rear ends,

each week Henry visits the topless clubs
to relieve the stresses of girls in dresses,
the beer is cheap like farm boy sheep,

having lived in the big city for so long
Henry finds he don’t belong no more,
his ways are quaint, Mr. Bones ain’t.

Inside Wal-Mart you can’t tell the difference,
everything is cheap Chinese,
Papalote equals Paris, Texas,

coming back home for funerals and weddings
stirs the bottom of the cow pond
and the bullfrogs of my early poems,

they make a racket that wakes up the dead.
Coleridge loved the Germans, Keats the Greeks.
Henry’s always been a sort of Chicano geek.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Mr. Henry’s Neighborhood

Drive through my barrio now
and all you see is the new arrivals,
you can’t leave your door unlocked anymore,

the Medranos, the Nietos, the Barreras,
the Acevedos, where have they all gone?
The neighborhood store is no more,

the park is a place for punks now.
Sure, I’m an old man
and you might not like what I say,

but I didn’t give a damn when I was young
what makes you think I give a damn now,
you little bastards.

They glare at me as I drive through their turf,
unaware that nothing is theirs,
that the landlord tags their behinds while they swagger.

Drive through my barrio now
and all you see is the new arrivals,
their roots are flying in the wind.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Henry’s Elegy For My Grandmother Fernanda Cardenas

My grandmother passed away the other day,
so many things were sucked out of my life,
so many things just up and died.

No pot of beans left on the stove,
no hot tortillas pulled away from the comal
by her delicate hand that swatted at me

so often when I was young
for being a bad boy.
I was rarely good.

My grandmother passed away the other day.
What can I say? Did I treat her
the way she deserved to be treated?

No way, Jose! But, what else can I say?
My grandmother passed away the other day
and left me all that was good in her life.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Henry’s Edmund Spenser’s Poetry Dispenser

One day I wrote her name upon the sand,
came a wave and washed it out to sea,
her name went tumbling

with the fishes and the sharks,
to far off islands and atolls,
to tiny Micronesians’ knees

and they, of course, could not understand,
they had no clue, not even clothes,
their minds wondered, pondered, yondered.

They’d never heard of Edmund Spenser,
they’d never heard such poetry of love,
but they wrote the name upon the sand,

came a wave and washed it out to sea,
her name went tumbling onto English sand,
and it was plain to see that someone loves Cecilia Ann.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

How You Created A Chicano Poet

Growing up Chicano
watching Captain Kangaroo,
going to the drive-in movies to see Lash LaRue,

going to the all Mexican school,
speaking Spanish in the schoolyard,
forced to speak English in the schoolroom,

going back to the farm on the schoolbus,
white kids picking on me,
kicking me as I walked down the aisle---

I’d kick those little bastards back
and bite them if they weren’t quick enough.
I haven’t changed much in the intervening years!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Cremation Of Shelley

There on the Italian pizza beach
Shelley’s funeral pyre burned brightly
like the lighthouse of Vesuvius

Byron and Hunt retired to their carriage
to get drunk. The horses wondered
why Shelley’s verse never mentioned

their standing here in the cold wind waiting.
The seawater in Shelley’s lungs
evaporated, H two oh by H two oh,

rising, imitating freedom
in the Italian sky, skewered,candy-like.
Shelley’s hair red like sunset,

the last few lines of poetry still in his head
for all to see
written pale in ashes.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Running Into A Chicano Boston Poet

I was walking
in an

two blocks
Boston Common

when I
on a rag

maybe used
by the

to wipe
the sweat
off their brow.

I kicked
the rag
out of the way.

It spoke
to me,
“Carnal, why

do you kick me.
I have done
nothing to you?”

Of course, I apologized,
“Sorry, carnal,
I didn’t know

you were a chicano rag.”
Chihuahua, Aztlan used to be
such a fine cloth.