—after Tao Te Ching
I spent prom night
In the school’s handball courts playing
Pachuco with my friends—
Boys trained like dogs to look down,
Hands on their head, legs spread—
Ricocheting the tiny, atomic-blue
Rubber racquetball as hard
As our budding muscles could
Off one another’s bodies
Until our tawny asses and backs—
Balmy, but not as wet as our parents’—
It was a pastime
Passed down to us
By our fathers, uncles,
Older brothers and cousins,
In between jail sentences,
To help toughen us up—
A Mexican predilection for pain
Or presage for when the time
Of our arrest and incarceration came?
It’d probably be for stealing something
People like us should never be able to afford,
For smoking stuff too hard
Even for our growing bodies,
Or smoking a fool
For wearing a baseball cap
Stitched with the wrong letters,
Claiming the wrong hood
To the wrong hoodlum—
Cholo cuneiform etched forever
Black and white on his frigid, brown skin;
Cheeks turgid sweet on the cold pavement
For the cops to unwrap like a chocolate.
Watching each other smoke weed
Out of a punctured apple—
A heart with two arteries
Pumping incense, skunk urine and cider vinegar—
Toking vapor until our cheekbones clenched as plums,
We suppressed the red-eyed,
Ain’t nobody give a shit about us blues;
Smoking an apple a day
To keep them fuckers away.
We felt as weightless in the Sun Valley breeze
As the wishes we mushroomed out likes genies,
Mouths gaped like exit wounds.
The long plumes danced skyward,
Twirling as if the moon took them by the hand,
Waiting for a kiss, anxious to feel loved.
The sound of sirens diffused
In the smog-bruised night sky,
Dispersing us into the neighboring homes
Starting to yawn their lights on.
Red and blue pierced through our haze,
Reminding us to fear the police,
And respect their God-given dominion
Over people of our color,
Educated to blindly hate
The beauty on their faces.
But the fog blurring the streetlights
Lifted our chins and led us home
Through the still dark;
Another day was coming,
And soon everything would be quiet again.
Jose Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a diverse urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share; those that often go untold. His writing has been featured in Meat for Tea, Sky Island Journal, Jelly Bucket, The Inquisitive Eater, and The Main Street Rag. His work has also been nominated for the “Best of the Net” award and the “Pushcart Prize.”