Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Where Was Fidel When I Needed Him?"

The story Fidelito cracked The Castro Monolth for me. Here's a poem from Driven into the Shade.

Where Was Fidel When I Needed Him?
to ElĂ­an Gonzalez

Because your father looked nervous during his interview with the INS,
your granduncle’s attorneys don't believe you should go home,
they say your father doesn't really want you,
that Fidel is making him say such things.

When I was six, my father was across the ocean, too.
Divorced from my mother before I turned a year old,
in arrears for child support, hiding from the court,
he'd gone to Vietnam to research how the communists 
brainwashed people out of the comforts of exporting rubber.

When I turned 16, I met him. He took me 
to a Baja bar where I listened to his voice
as I tunneled beneath our wasteland of memory,
trying to resupply our love, but
the tunnel didn't lead that way.

Throughout the afternoon, he uncoiled his story
how my mother and grandparents hid me from him.
Later his story wound back on itself like a python,
how he drank in Saigon, drank at San Diego State,
drove around Berkeley with a Marine friend 
yelling "faggots" out the window at the longhairs. 
I could not hear myself in his voice.

He said we were alike because we played football, 
but despite the distance between us,
he'd never thrown one pass to me, nor
had I been close enough to hit him with a block
and feel him hit back.

How I wish Fidel had walked into the bar,
taken my father at gunpoint,
locked him in Cuba's darkest prison 
without rum and brainwashed him,
electrified the genitals I came from,
made him scream that he wanted me with him.
Where was Fidel as my grampy sang me too sleep, 
where was Fidel as my father bought Saigon Tea 
for the mothers of dust?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

"Green Afternoon," for Mark Steinbeck

Green Afternoon
for Mark Steinbeck

Mark, sorry I didn't want to see The Louvre. 
At 17, What did I know of painting? 
40 miles inland, over the fireplace
we had a Robert Wood seascape,
moon through clouds doubled off a wave regressing, 
the beach now gray glow and hush
while outdoors the orange groves took the beating sun, 
Santa Anas, late April frosts. Art was a kind of denial.

You knew so much from books. You turned last pages,
shut them and went into the world with educated momentum.
I tried to catch up to your Thompson with my Huxley,
you in Escondido, me in Northridge
That acid we dropped in Chapman
fell a long way. The cello played "When You Wish
Upon a Star" just blocks from The Happiest Place on 
Earth. I couldn't believe our luck then, so 
now that it's run out, I'm not surprised.

Still I go around saying your name.
Forgive me for calling you back from the paradise.
When Dorothy scattered your ashes from the stern,
I saw the gray flash green and recognized it:  
our afternoon off Ensenada Grande, the late sun off the 
sandy bottom. I call your name not in denial of death,  
not to fill the empty spaces (there's no such music);
you are not alive on my breath,
just ahead of me. 
                              So when I saw The Louvre,
it was too late to tell you about it. Now I know,
friendship is about going when your friend says, "let's."
For everything we saw in the same space and light,
I say your name and am blessed as so much memory 
regresses, how the images emerge from utterances
letters at a time, the space between two words,
never a full sentence, and no full epistle,
but the kind of denial I keep in the center of home
with the spirits homes are built to hold.
Photograph by Dorothy Steinbeck