our neighborhood



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

anyone, right?






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



*Gabriel’s mother



in this neighborhood, we teach

our children that when someone says:

where are you from?

it means

which gang do you claim

and there’s only one safe answer:

no where.



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?



no where.



and the gun was raised, barrel out

the window

bullets exploded into the night

and into the head

of my boy

sitting there

lying there

bleeding there




David bolted

didn’t look

barely breathed

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

that Gabrielle

was dead.


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

your children.

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.

seven shots

point blank

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.



he fights

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

person vocabulary.


he trusts innocently in adulthood

forgetting fear

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

some day.


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

within me

at the same moment.

Published: Lost and Found, Plymouth Writer’s Group Volume VII