What I Learned When I Turned Nine

What I learned When I Turned Nine pdf

The bathroom mirror affirmed the innocence,
of my ignorance.

The only color a child should see,
is reflected in a maple tree of fall
or the coral and pastel hues of roses in spring.

But on my name’s day, my friend said,
“Let’s go to the movies, we’ll have ice-cream on the way.”
A soft concoction of chocolate and vanilla swirl,
the sweetness blended and inseparable,
like we once were.
Our goodness to be soon consumed.

My first movie.

He said that he would pay,
because he had a little but I had less.
You see—my friend was sparrow-rich,
and I was church-mouse poor.

101 Dalmatians was in town.
It was exciting to be in line.

And then a boy my size,
Lassie’s Timmy came to mind.
Who like a lion, snarled and roared.
He bore his teeth and spat at me
because I was brown and he was not,
he spat at me and cursed my friend,
because he was white and I was not.

With his father’s voice—
he changed my name to Spic.

He caused the candles of my cake to die,
the maple leaves to fall and roses fade.

Then I saw the world in painful clarity,
like magnets in reverse polarity.
My color repels and casts away.

Back then, I thought I was the same,
that one boy brown and one boy white were all alike.
That one and one was one,
a blended concoction of chocolate and vanilla swirl,
the sweetness mingled and inseparable.

But what I learned when I turned nine—
is they were white,
and I was not,
that one boy brown and one boy white were not alike.
That blended and inseparable goodness
was consumed like tissue on a fire—
the day my innocence, lay on the funeral-pyre.

He Rests

In memory of my son Davin Villarreal who passed away July 11, 2019

He Rests

He drove off,
not knowing,
death’s coachman
would take the wheel
and collect what was on loan.

He didn’t know
death cheats at cards,
would draw five aces,
and reveal the revelation
of what happens when we die.

With the mystery unsealed,
that sacred secret,
was placed upon
his silenced lips,
what lies beyond unfolds.

In an instant he was gone.

His body,
melded and meshed
into metal and wood.
That bastion of leaf and limb still stands,
and he does not.

His spirit cast-out from his body
like Adam from the garden,
never to return,
until the trumpet blast
of judgement day.

He rests in a copper coffin
beside his grandfather’s grave.

He went there often
to ponder the old man’s wisdom.
And I will visit his,
to ponder what might have been.

No answers for the unnaturalness,
that a son should pass, before his father.

Now I see glimpses of ghosts,
and hear the wisps and whispers
of fond recollections of what was.

I see him in the child holding tightly
to a father’s hand,
like his in mine,
once upon a time.

I see him in the tales told by parents,
first words, first steps, first day of school.

In the loneliness of a sleepless night,
in the stillness of my dim-lit room,
I see him faintly from the corner of my eye.

I hear him in the laughter of his daughter.

I hear “No Papa!”
When I steal a sinful bite of something sweet.

I see him, I hear him, but I cannot hold him
or slap him on the knee.

When he was a child, I would peak in
and find him in peaceful sleep.
I’d say goodnight,
but there is no hearing
no awareness,
no sight or sound
in the silence of sleep,
just as there is none now
in the permanence of death,
where he does not hear
or know my grief.

I could not bear it, if he could.

Tacos De Barbacoa

Tacos de Barbacoa

Me sonriso
when I recall the early days,
those meatless fasts of beans and rice,
frijoles en bola.

Down a gravelly road,
a slaughterhouse sells,
the remains of cattle to my father.

A severed head of steer,
una cabeza de vaca,
a fifty-cent feast for a family of twelve.

Under the shade of a big tree,
a stack of wood, and the long-awaited sound
of breaking ground,
a pit.

The poso, three-foot-long, three-foot-wide, three-foot-deep.
God’s earthen oven—

A kindled fire in its belly
and hungry flames reach to heaven,
y saludan a Dios,
and the woodpile dwindles.

The blaze,
a pyre of leña seca that turns to ember.
The hot brasas
con su calor ardiente warm the air.

On mothers table,
a skinned head,
the muscles weaved
through stately jaws and lengthy snout,
severed from what graces the table of kings,
USDA prime, rich man’s fare, medium rare.

But here, on Mother’s table,
lay the regal head with glaring eyes
to be handled with sacred care,
un regalo a sus hijos.
Her hands with loving care,
rub and anoint it
with ancient secrets
in preparation,
for its ascension
to the feast.

The hot pit calls its sacrifice,
“Come, rest in my womb, my altar of hot coals,
my warmth awaits.”

The offering, neatly wrapped in wet gunnysacks,
bolsas de costal,
in my father’s, father’s day,
was adorned with cactus leaves,
pencas de maguey.

Then into the pit,
to be cradled by amber and gold,
a sepulchral bed,
sealed like an earthen tomb by tin and sand.

The anointed host,
awaits resurrection.

De noche a día,
half a day, to rest in the grave.

The time tempered
by another fire on the heap,
and like a song from the past,
the crackle of flame
gives tempo to boyhood tales—
my father’s history to me.

La luna llena,
el cielo con sus estrellas,
the crickets play their fiddles,
and the chicharras sing,
they claim the night.

The fire turns to ash,
I lumber to bed
to dream of come what may..

I wake to Sunday morning music!
Los Alegres de Terán,
A-hoo-a!

Soon, the scrape of sand on tin,
earth’s oven opens wide
to tempt the air with flavor:
barbacoa!

From smolder and smoke
the blessed beef has risen!

The charred shroud removed,
sustenance revealed, the jaws hoisted in the air,
a sudden jerk from Fathers wrist,
and meat melts from tooth and bone into the platter,
lined with tortillas de maíz.

Our fingers do the rest,
folding fibers of flavor
into tacos de barbacoa, to end the fast, of beans and rice.
A-hoo-a!

Born Americano

Born Americano

Texas migrant shack,
dirt floor beneath the bed.
Born Americano!

My Mother Americana,
My Father, sin papeles
until he buys, the Green Card,
now free
to work the fields with his children.

Detached from my roots,
like an onion pulled from a hot
Texas field.

Adapted without full benefits
no access to tools,
that make me relevant.

Inwardly white,
an Oreo a coconut
yet color coded by race.

Born Americano!

My Mother Americana,
My Father, sin papeles
until he buys, the Green Card,
now free
to work the fields with his children.

Altered and absorbed by American ways,
my heroes fly, they are tall, they are white,
y no se habla Español

Born Americano!

My Mother Americana
My Father, sin papeles
until he buys, the Green Card,
now free
to work the fields with his children.

I come from a line
that left the other behind,
to cross a bridge, to ford a river,
chasing the help wanted sign
From California to the New York island
From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters
picking crops for you, and me and born Americano.

Assimilated

Assimilated

Don’t get me wrong,
I love my white friends.
They should love being white.
I only get pissed,
when having it all ain’t enough,
when they think they’re the victims—not us.

Accentless I speak.
A pleasant white noise
but never, quite, white, enough.

Assimilated, vacillating—
in limbo ‘tween cultures,
branded Americano by the Mexicano but not fully accepted by either.
Affirming my perception that
Being Born Brown on this side,
is a call for rejection.

A whitewashed,
hollow brown shell,
filled with white reverberations
that echo and bounce against tall walls.

Expediency made it right to be white,
let the chips fall where they did.

No time to prevent a cultural demise.
So we push and shove to survive,
like a twelve-pup litter
feeding off a Ten Tit Bitch