i was next door really. well, across the hall.
spending the night with my friend.
you don’t know her. she doesn’t
go to school here and you won’t tell anyone, right?
we heard this knock at his door. they knocked!
and we were taking turns looking out the peep
hole to see who it was at 2 o’ clock in the morning
and the guy waited for Julio to open the door so he could
shoot him. later we said to each other,
why didn’t his mom open the door? if
it had been my door, my mom would have opened it.
and the guy raised a shotgun. we didn’t see it
before because it was under his coat and he shot.
one time. loud.
and we went down on the ground and stayed
there for a long time. until after the sirens
came and we heard them outside and someone
crying. hard. and in the morning, we acted like nothing
but there is blood on my friend’s door now. you won’t tell
no one here gets along. it’s a joke.
and they call still the riots, the Rodney King
riots. like he was the one who broke the windows
and stole the TVs, and pulled that guy
out of his truck beating his brains
into the asphalt. like it was his fault.
what were the names of the cops
in this neighborhood, we teach
our children that when someone says:
where are you from?
which gang do you claim
and there’s only one safe answer:
and that’s what he
said, my good son,
when the blue car slowed and the passenger
leaned his head out
asked them, Gabriel and his friend, David.
they were sitting on the curb
late that august night. too hot
to stay inside.
where are you from?
and the gun was raised, barrel out
bullets exploded into the night
and into the head
of my boy
ran to the park.
away from the baseball field
and the lights.
later the cops only question:
if you had nothing to do with this,
why the hell did you run?
my good boy,
he would have been a great musician
a Mariachi singer
but now, his blood in the grass
soaking into the earth
staining the street.
I remember everything, every
detail of that day.
You stood before me, a grown man,
six feet tall, thin, eyes looking down
but I still saw you as a boy
hands in the pockets of your baggy pants
afraid to make eye contact, shrugging answers
to my questions and maintaining a distance.
When you came to see
me on the first day of school,
you hugged me, first. Then we had our last
you came to tell me
We stood together
outside the school office
You told me about other things too:
learning to make cabinets, your girlfriend
and how it would be when I taught
I thanked you for coming to tell
about the shooting and you said,
“Of course I’d come. You’re our
teacher. Don’t you know what
that means?” I had forgotten.
We hugged again.
And now, you too are dead.
into your chest.
Your aunt said
someone thought you knew
the shooters. You walked right
up to their car. Who were they?
What did they say?
he is caught in the push
and pull of puberty.
the need to stay
in one place grinds against
the feeling of motion
as his blood flows through his body.
the cells that multiply.
he even declares loudly:
i will not tolerate armpit hair.
he craves the warm
parental embrace, begs
for a kiss
offers his lips, leans against
his mother for comfort
while at the same time
he’s repulsed by her
smell and touch and old
he trusts innocently in adulthood
for a moment.
and he dreams tall
bones, developed muscles, strong
body, is proud of his man
feet which will ground him
and support him and take
him far from his mother
and i, his mother, stand
still and remember. it’s not hard
to call back those times
when i too carried all of this
within my own skin
and held love and hate
at the same moment.
Published: Lost and Found, Plymouth Writer’s Group Volume VII