April 30, 2013

vernal | National Poetry Month

his body knows it’s too hot for 
the dense kinks of his Puerto Rican hair
that comes from his mother’s side.

his body knows it’s too hot for
the curly twists of his Mexicano locks
that comes from his father’s side.

his indigenous spirit knows
it’s time for cleansing,
time to acquit the past,
time for renewal.

with a snap of the shaver,
his hair spills and tumbles
onto his shoulders
and then to the floor
like the feathered mane
of Quetzalcohuātl.

with the repose of Yúcahu
his hands trace his scalp
for the first time since
he last performed
this sacred ritual.

his brown gods
have returned in the
in the tribal rhythms of his heart,
in the serenity of his breath,
in the artistry of his craft.

gently closing his eyes,
he welcomes them back
with an appreciative smile.

©Miguel M. Morales

April 15, 2013

patterns | National Poetry Month

Usually she’d eye my sister,
turning her slowly,
estimating measurements,
to create a pattern in her mind.

Ordinarily mom cut fabric freehanded
sometimes from a pattern of newspaper.
I’d laugh at seeing one of my sisters
pinned with the Sunday funnies.

If needed, mom examined an old dress
following the cut, contemplating the facing.
But when faced with unseemly seams,
she’d load us into the car and head to TG&Y.

In the stale, air-conditioned sewing department
she’d sit under humming florescent lights
on one of the metal stools with cushions
crafted by the store’s sewing class.

Rows of wooden tables displayed
Butterick, Simplicity, and McCall’s catalogues.
There in that retail library, she’d study
new techniques and memorize patterns.

With new buttons and zippers and threads,
she’d attentively work into the evening
feeding the sewing machine fabric
guiding and twisting with a steady hand.

In addition to constructing
shorts and pants,
fashioning shirts and skirts,
designing tops and blouses,
(I remember a little red leisure suit – it was the 70s),
there were the gowns:

Each stitch,
      a prayer,

April 14, 2013

wake your brown ass up | National Poetry Month

Just because your abuelitos came here
and (eventually) became legal
and had nice brown legal babies
that became your mamá and papá,
doesn’t mean your brown ass
doesn’t have a stake in immigration reform.

Even though you were born in this country,
you’re still an illegal.
Even though you espeak without an accent,
you’re still a wetback.
Even though you have white manteca legs,
you’re still a spic.

Don’t get me wrong, cariño,
go to work and do your best,
earn those raises and bonuses,
because living well is the best revenge.

But, mijo, don’t you dare ignore
your coworker’s comments
about the women
who serve you food,
who clean the restrooms,
who empty your wastebaskets,
the women who look like your tias,
or else you’ll suffer a fate worse
than that of la llorona.

It is not I who place this curse upon you, mi amor.
but rather the curanderas from your clan
whose whispers you dismiss
when they come to you at night.

No, you can’t sit this one out, pendejo


Hermanito, I’m not saying this to be mean,
I’m saying this to

April 13, 2013

hermana del cielo | National Poetry Month

Before cloaking herself in flesh
she made an eternal covenant
with the being
who was to become my mother

Their sacred bond
predates the universe.

Untested by the physical and the temporal,
they each chose flawed vessels,
perhaps purposely.

The being who was my mother,
struggled to prepare for the arrival
of my sisters and me,
with whom she also shared eternal covenants.

Sometimes she failed.
Sometimes she lost herself.
Sometimes unconditional love
had too many conditions.

In my mother’s despair,
that’s when she arrived,
a frail blue baby,
from the heavens.

We named her Celestina,
though she remained mortal
for only a few hours.

She came to my mother
to touch her soul and
to share a moment of the divine.

Before cloaking herself in flesh
she made an eternal covenant
with the being
who was to become my mother

Their sacred bond
will outlast the universe.

April 11, 2013

you will not erase me | National Poetry Month

There will not be a
where the story
 of my life unfolded.

No button can delete
my culture
my community
my creativity.

No, you will not erase me.

My passion lives beyond
that are so  easily

You will not make me
by deleting the documents
of my life.

You will not erase me.

It is beyond your power
to purge my existence
 from memory.

My thoughts live.
My heart loves.
My soul soars.

No, you will not erase me
because I am free.

April 10, 2013

liar | National Poetry Month

No one believed me
when I tried to explain
that I missed school for a week
because my mom wouldn’t let us go.

No one believed me
when I tried to explain
that she couldn’t sign our report cards
because she tore them up.

How could I explain that sometimes
there was no food in the house?

How could I explain that sometimes
she stayed in her housecoat all week?

How could I explain that sometimes
she sat in the living room late at night crying?

Instead of trying to explain
that we weren’t allowed to answer
the door or the phone, I lied.

I told the lies that were expected
convinced I was protecting my mother,
my family, and myself.

Instead, my lies absolved those
who did not want to hear,
or bear the responsibility
of acting upon,
the truth.

April 9, 2013

i found a cookie in the men’s room | National Poetry Month

I found a cookie in the library men’s room.
It laid on a green paper napkin
on top of a urinal just under
the chrome flushy handle.

It was the kind of cookie
one eats at a reception
and snags a few extras on the way out.
That’s probably what happened.

Except it’s owner drank too many
free sodas poured from cans
into those tiny plastic cups packed with ice
that keeps drinks cool
but melts too quickly and dilutes the drink.

There must have been cheese and crackers
that caused him to drink an excess of soda
or maybe it was the fruit:
red seedless grapes, sliced strawberries,
cut fresh pineapple and multi-colored melons
that cause his over hydration.

Maybe the reception was for a retiring colleague,
perhaps the person who hired him.
And she urged him to take a few extra cookies
because “they’re all paid for”
and she didn't want them to go to waste.

Or perhaps he didn't like the person
and showed up to make sure the old bastard
saw his face one last time.
Perhaps he took the last cookie
knowing it was his nemesis’ favorite.

Maybe a student club was selling
cookies for a fundraiser
and our fine fellow bought one
to support the Queers and Allies
or the Muslim Student Association
or the dance team, who are not cheerleaders
even though they dance with pom-poms.

Whatever the reason, he set his cookie down
on top of a urinal in the library men’s room --
a decision he immediately regretted.

As I left, I almost threw it away
but I liked the thought of the next guy
standing at the urinal confused by a cookie.

I went back a moment later to take a picture to post to my Facebook page because my Facebook friends would “Like” the hell out of it. But when I came back with my phone, the cookie was gone. I looked in the trash and it wasn’t there.
So either the guy came back for it or someone else was like, “YES, I’LL HAVE A FREE COOKIE!”
Either way -- gross.

April 8, 2013

tuition | National Poetry Month

Your tuition increases
my doubts
that I’m making the right choices
as my family sacrifices
to help pay for my education.

Your tuition increases
my stress
that I’m asking too much
for a dream that, no matter how hard I try,
seems to move further away.

Your tuition increases
my fear
that I’ll never be more
than I am right now
at this moment.

Your tuition increases
my resolve
that when faced with buying
textbooks and paying fees,
instead, I’ll choose my child’s needs.

Your tuition increases
my struggle
to correct mistakes from my past
to clear the obstacles in my path
to create a future that lasts.

Your tuition increases
the odds
that I’ll choose to prolong
or delay my education.
I’m already at the point of breaking.

Your tuition increases
the guarantee
that I’ll work for minimum wages
at part-time vocations.

Your tuition increases
my worry
that when it comes time
my child will be just as lost as I am
because I can’t provider for her education

April 7, 2013

the lost boys | National Poetry Month

In a distant but uncomfortably close land,
an uncivil war created them.
They tried to recall their lost years
like brothers reminiscing a family vacation.

They remembered the soldiers that hunted them.
But they couldn’t agree which was more dangerous,
the lions that stalked children on land
or the crocodiles that snatched them in the rivers.

Dominic shielded his face in his hands becoming 
that 10 year-old lost in the dessert.
As he looked up raising his head,
his slender fingers wiped his confusion away,
a mannerism he said he developed long ago.

Simon sat still as his lost brother spoke,
and smiled uncomfortably the way I’ve seen others do
when they can’t sign their names
or don’t understand English.

Speaking of hunger and horrors I’ll never know,
They described their tearless trail.
Tears required water they didn’t possess
and energy they couldn’t spare.

Their silence told stories they couldn’t share
with those who aren’t of the Lost.
Their dark eyes eternally roam,
assessing and searching 
even in serene surroundings.

Yet despite their conditioning,
they reached out to connect
another gift from the desert.

This poem was inspired by an article I wrote for The Campus Ledger

April 5, 2013

thank the work of our hands | National Poetry Month

“Thank the work of our hands …”
            -Richard Blanco, One Today
I never thanked the work
of my mother’s hands
that sewed clothes for my sisters and me
that made comida out of a sparse pantry
that prayed and hand-crafted rosaries,
hands that cleaned other people’s houses
and other people’s children.

I never thanked the work 
of my sisters’ hands
that dutifully cared for me
when my mother could not
and that helped me with my homework.
Often it was their young overworked hands
that scraped together the rent.
To this day, it is their hands
that mean most to me.

I never thanked the work 
of my father’s hands
that sliced the flesh from fresh carcasses
in a chilled meat packing plant,
hands that helped me move,
that changed my oil.
Tired hands that say, “I love you”
when his words cannot.

I never thanked the work 
of my Tia Noche’s hands
that showed me how to work efficiently
in my first job out of high school
at the explosives factory.
Her hands invited me to work puzzles
spread out on the dining room table,
the one only used for special occasions.

I never thanked the work 
of my friends’ hands
that offer welcoming handshakes
enthusiastic support,
and comforting hugs.
Their talented hands show me
what is possible.

I never thanked the work of the hands 
of the men I loved
skilled hands that tilled soil, picked fruit,
danced across keyboards,
and augmented machinery.
Hands that caressed my face
and whose gentle fingers
traced my lips.
Hands that, in public and in private,
searched for and enfolded mine.

All these loving, working hands
that wipe countertops,
chalkboards, and windshields,
as well as sweaty brows
and mournful tears,
reach for me when I am lost.
They proudly pat my back
or gently take my arm.
No, I have never thanked the work
of these many hands.

Nor I have ever thanked the work 
of my own hands
that clenched a garden hoe 
as I walked uneven fields,
hands that blistered, cracked,
and bled under an assiduous sun.
These hands labor so my soul can search
and my mind can reflect on and thank
the work of our hands.

April 4, 2013

muse | National Poetry Month

Her long-empty eyes unlock
the potential energy inside words.

Her sequestered soul stirs
searching for meaning.

Her languishing mind awakens
connecting and creating images.

Her invigorated tongue converts
these deliberations into language.

Her simple hands, inspired,
complete the transfiguration
from thought to word
making the ethereal
physical, visible, literal.

Now, her meditations await
another set of long-empty eyes.

April 3, 2013

day off | National Poetry Month

I’ll rise early upon the morn,
strip the sheets from my tranquil bed,
take them down to the basement
to the wash.

I'll gather the hanging clothes
off the treadmill,
plug it in, and exercise.

You know, because once I start doing it, I feel better.

After, I'll have a breakfast
of warm oatmeal and whole grain toast.
Then, with sheets in the dryer,
I'll start a load of towels.

While I'm in the basement,
I'll clean my workspace and desk
and sort through all the materials
I brought back from the conference.

I already threw away the junky stuff,
this is the really important stuff I need to read.
And I can use this bag again. It’s cloth and I could take it to the farmer’s market
and buy fresh … I don’t know what they sell ... but I should go ... this weekend.

Coupons will be organized.
Old pens and batteries discarded.
The stairs will be swept
and I'll make a healthy grocery list.

The refrigerator will shine, inside and out.
Paper towels and toilet paper
will fit comfortably in their holders.

Seriously, why am I the only one who changes these things?
I mean, he see it right there. If you’re gonna open a new pack,
just put it on the roller thing, right?
And throw away the empty roll.
Hello? Is that so hard?

I'll have a nice salad for lunch.

I really do like salad but I have to have put extra stuff in it.
It’s gotta have walnuts and maybe some apple.  I can’t just eat lettuce by itself.

On my way to the grocery store,
I'll stop to wash the car and run by the bank.

Dammit, I have all those boxes in the trunk.
Those two bags in the back seat have to go to Goodwill.
That other stuff needs to go to the basement...

Ugh! Are you kidding me?
I'm gonna spend my whole day off in the basement?

No, no, no.
That's what the weekend is for.
It's my day off. I'm going to a movie.
And I’m gonna see a movie that I want to see.

Uh, but I have to get the oil changed,
oh, and the wiper blades too.
God, I hate those blades.

Oh wait …
Crapity-crap. I can’t do any of that stuff.
I have to go to that thing.
I promised I’d go to that stupid thing.

Upon day’s end, I’ll retire to my welcoming bed
knowing I shall rest comfortably and safely
amongst the thoughts of my loving family and friends.

Then I go back to work the next day
and see all those people with their faces.

But I do have two sick days left …

April 2, 2013

berries | National Poetry Month

Picking blueberries is where we begin.
Picking blackberries stain my clothes and skin.
Picking strawberries is hard on mama’s back.
Picking raspberries is when we come back.

but of all the berries my hands pick
my favorite is the one that makes me homesick.
I fill my bag with so much to carry
but I'm happy because it's the liberry.

April 1, 2013

i stole a book from the library | National Poetry Month

i stole this scratched
and scarred book
from your shelf
because it stood alone
among many
reminding me
of me.

fully bound, we endure,
yet weakened threads let loose
our textured coverings.
faded tattooed spine
cracks when touched
like father’s brown back.

i stole this bounty of words
from the one
who slipped inside
my soul
cramming into his pockets
by greedy fistful
the treasure of
my thoughts,
my dreams,
my pains.

for how else did they
find their way
onto these worn pages
if not by the actions of a thief?

yet his words,
mine but not,
take me to
unvisited familiar places,
remind me of people I've yet to greet,
comfort me and educate me
like none have before.
how can this be?

yes, i rescued this scratched
and scarred book
from your shelf
because it stood alone
among many
reminding me
of me.