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My uncle Juny once told me that when he was a little kid in Texas, my grandparents told him not to tell anybody his last name because then people would tie him to a relative of ours who had caught his wife cheating. She was found in the act while having sex with another man. So he stabbed her repeatedly with an ice pick and then tied her to the bumper of his truck before dragging her body around and through the town for everyone to witness before his surrender.

My mouth was a tunnel entrance waiting for a freight train to pass its shock process down my windpipe. Jaw on the floor so I don’t crack any teeth on the casual briskness of detail. The sadness of each word filled the final point like a sock full of pennies swung fast at my gut…generations of savings found one cent at a time- rusted up and salvaged from the pavements of our accidental lessons; bits of currency added up to this moment as he summed it up for me in a way that was more telling of a million other heartbreaks before this.

Juny sat back in careful consideration…eyes gleaming to the sky, mouth curled in intrigue. “Could you imagine just stabbing your wife with an ice pick? And then dragging her around town with your truck like that! Naaaaah!! It’s impossible to LOVE somebody THAAAT MUCH!”

There was the time that my grandmother asked me if a letter she found was from my “girlfriend,” then quailified the question with, “You better not be…gay!”

Or my mothers confession that the reason she had so many kids was because she thought that having kids meant you were not queer…and would hide the relationship she carried on with a woman she introduced as her “best friend.”

The time that my cousin Rudy Boy said, “Man, fuck the public defender; I’ll do that shit myself! ‘Guilty, Your Honor!!'”

The kids that thought I only got into school with them because of affirmative action.

All the times I’ve been told, “Good luck getting a job.” Because of the way that I look.

The seemingly universal connection to Ramon Ayayla’s Un Puno De Tierra, Tragos Amargos and Sies Pies Abajo.

All the thing I’ve seen or heard and am forbidden to repeat because my name could end up in a gang report as a “violation.” Could get me sentenced by a “shot caller,” killed by a “street soldier.”

I am bound and boxed in, tortured everyday by this shit; laughed at and ridiculed because I am still a Dreamer, still a believer and an activist. I am a writer, a speaker of hope and I believe differently.

I believe that I should never be ashamed or scared of my last name.

I believe that true love is unconditional and yet I still understand the conditioning of generational trauma, where how bad you hurt someone is equal to how much you love them.

I understand its not always a persons fault that they can’t name things for what they are, they were taught that way.

I also believe at some point though that we must take responsibility of our own education, we owe it to those who are learning from us. Like the way that my mother learned her beliefs from her mother.

I believe that my mother was wrong; that popping out a child does not determine your orientation.

And I believe that no matter how many parents you have or what their genders are, it’s still possible to fuck your child up.

It’s too easy to exhaust life with brutal and determined contradiction: breeding future links to the same familial abusive comforts; becoming reincarnated mirrors of someone else’s pain, fighting to overcome the very fence we link together.

I believe that people of color shouldn’t feel convicted because having hope is a bigger fucking crime!

I want all those silver spoon, trust fund kids I went to school with to know that I didn’t get to go to school with them because of affirmative action…they, got to go to school with me: because they could afford to pay for a degree that I held up to my standards.

I believe that I shouldn’t be excluded from board rooms or senior managers meetings because I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves — forcing you to look at my past as I speak the future.

I believe that the romanticizing of death and alcoholism in foreign languages connects today’s pain to yesterday’s pain, and should be felt, con ganas. It just doesn’t have to be lived out just because it connects you to something.

I believe that gangs are armies responding to what was created by the war on drugs, the war on crime, and the systemic criminalization of poverty.

I believe that through all this, we can still heal! Come together to build solidarity in working toward lasting change; assist in the struggle to organize for principles like equity and justice.

Using each moment to build upon the last as we carry the movement with us.

More importantly, I believe that not despite, rather because of all of our collective histories- those that have came before us, have become us…through action, abstraction, and chemical attractions.

All those yesterday’s making up the past, making up what brought us to here, to today, to this moment, this poem, and it is this moment that will bring us into tomorrow.

So everyday, I tell myself that I will use today, this moment, this poem, to remind me to make tonight better than this morning, so that tomorrow is better than today.

Falling Stars, In Memory of Claudia Castillo

Stars fall from every direction,
Screaming silently through the night.
They stream behind the unspoken trails of wishes.
Needs, desires, and undone deeds.
My voice is trapped somewhere beneath the nothingness
Of everything that small talk is so good at hiding…
Because the ineffability of falling stars
Always hides in primitive discussion.
All the “have you heard” and “that’s too bad”
Banter try to spark the embers that are long gone,
Dedicating these moments to the ones she will never have.
Photographic memories, philosophies on paper
All try to retell the story of
The million fiery embers that lit
The moments of her life.
The embers that left behind a brief second
Of enormous illumination.
It all seems so minute, after the fact.
I watch, wondering what would happen,
If one were caught, and saved, placed back in its place
To keep lit the darkened night of the eyes that watched it.
But by the time my mind processes the thought,
The star has fallen and faded,
And the light…is light no more.
In its place is a sea of black
Made of the tears from those who sit amidst its darkness.
There is no saving or replacing a fallen star.
Only remembering its light, and the trail it left behind,
As it fell so abruptly from our lives.

Beautifully Broken

my body is covered in hieroglyphics; not a single lie is told, each mark bears the truth. each smile & tear, each battle from youth, each teacher & love lay over my flesh like a map of my path, the glory & the wrath; the passes & the beatings, the meetings & the leavings; all the times i lost, along with every win; pictographic memories all sprawled across my skin. yeah, i’m held together in stitches of ink, if you don’t like my flavor, then don’t take a drink. i proudly wear my scars & stripes, the story of my life. i am a storybook cracked wide open, telling the story of how i became, beautifully broken.

My Favorite Song

Scents ring out like sirens,
Drawing me back to the
Music of your skin.

The lyrics in your eyes
Dance across the sky
Each night as the sun sets.

And though I am bound by your beauty,
And struck down by your rhyme,
You are my only freedom in this world…

You, my favorite song.

Your Light

There is a light that emanates
from thoughts of you
which sends embers of
orgasm through my psyche.
Your smile touches me
deep down inside
and tickles the
clitoris folded between my legs of
inspiration on the left and
brutal truth on the right.
Climactic acknowledgement of
spent love,
growing love,
slow love,
deep love,
unbound,
untamed,
unconditioned love-
pushes up and brims out of my heart
with force unstoppable.
I am lit by your light.

You Are

You Are

You are my son, my moon, my bright shining star. My intentions for you are to grow deep, rise high and reach far. I want for you a heart filled with compassion, strength and courage; a life free from all forms of bondage – be it greed, hatred, substance or oppression.

For you my child, I can only speak the language of action and see that you grow up full of love and hope that you are never jaded. I will share with you my love of the pursuit of knowledge and all of its fruits; teach you that success can be personified as one who puts purpose before power, character and community before cash and spirituality before carnal instinct.

I hope you stay grounded, humble and kind. Stay close to the creator, Mother Earth and most of all, yourself. Never stop seeing yourself in your neighbor. Always remember that the creator gave you such strong hands to heal and build and never to hurt.

You were made to do big things in this world, son. There has never been another like you in all of creation, nor will there ever be again. You stand on fierce and mighty ancestral shoulders. Carry yourself with dignity and honor…and most of all, be gentle with yourself and others ESPECIALLY when it seems the most difficult thing to do.

Too Young To Be Old

How can it be
That you and you and you
Possess the audacity
To flap your lips
With your tongue like a whip
In a loud self convincing
Another
“Try again please.”
Authorities
On hypocrisies
Across the seven seas
You’re like a kindergarten class
Adding peas
Like minds
Dyslexic logic telling me
That you agree you shine through me
And all of my overgrown
Invisibility.
How can you all count to three
And then like magic
Laugh into me
The impossibility
For my young and tired eyes
To have ever seen
Anything
Of substance
Anything of beauty
Any damn thing
That could ever
Mean a thing
For me
Or for you
Or anything
That could ever bring
A lingering
Important kind of meaning.
You say,
I haven’t lived enough to see
The life that lives outside of me
And I may never age to know
What maturity brings
What it really means
To be “old.”
But when the telling is told
And I’m the one teaching
The only one speaking,
The marks of my branding
Compassion and understanding
The crash of their landing
And force of their demanding,
Scotch-taped together,
The lone person standing…
You will learn what I say
That yesterday and today
Age is age
Just a measure to gauge
The years that it took you
To stay stuck on the same page
When I am libraries ahead
With the heart and the wisdom
Of an old soul instead.