—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’—

Turned purplish-Prussian.

 

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.

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