A shortie from the hood thinks he's allowed to ponder life.
I'm a Puerto Rican from the West Side of Chicago, who somehow found himself in college, in China, in Guatemala, at commencement and now in Madrid as a Fulbright. I like to think that I got this far by reading and writing and actually extracting meaning from the anime I watch. Maybe you can help me find out why the fuck I've been so lucky.
Tune in for a wide-ranging discussion on masculinity, belonging, loss, hip-hop and inclusivity with Michael Torres. Torres is the author of the National Poetry Series winner “An Incomplete List of Names”. A brilliant book by a talented poet.
Tune in for a discussion on the poetry collection “Ararat” by American poet and 2020 Nobel Laureate, Louise Glück. In this episode I discuss Glück’s practice of psycho analysis and how she’s used it to mine the human psyche for understanding.
This book is essential for anyone who’s ever felt anything, experienced significant trauma or simply wants to understand what it means to truly look within.
This week I discuss “Snow Country” by Japan’s first Nobel Laureate for Literature, Yasunari Kawabata. In this episode I discuss the challenges of love, jealousy and neglect, and also how we can all benefit from loving well and appreciating our loved ones.
can’t catch a breath these days. conservation efforts haven’t taken hold, campaigns for the hood on standby til primaries heat up. primary concern is getting home without the heat up, lindy hopping circles around me. slugs swinging out the chamber and triple stepping across my vital organs. would fall back on mama nature for aid but she’s battling a hot plate, treading thin ice. fuming at a temperature so formidable as to make her air intoxicating. can’t catch a breath.
Ma never gave a fuck anyhow. nobody does.
about 2 months since i fully respired. lungs at peak expanse as life courses through them and mind at optimum repose as death exits respired. thick heavy shackles no longer hindering my ability to navigate the world freely respired. no fun pretending to ascend. 2 months since asthma reinstated the black new deal, pumping my lungs full of grime. got a filter equipped so you won’t catch a contact and descend into the dirt w/me. oh, i’m fine. no doubt about it. life never equipped me to confront this particular demon but, sword to bane, i’m keeping sane.
told my brother something along those lines last week and last night. we’d just finished painting half the bedroom of our new apartment. his but now i’m here so ours. neither of our bank accounts swole enough to muscle the weight, so we flexed our arms across a blank canvas to lighten the load. ran outta paint midway through, couldn’t afford another can so we set mop to floor and dipped.
i’ve never been depressed before but I feel like the World hates me, he said as Chicago peeked through obscure clouds preparing yet another dreaded downpour. like no matter what i do it’s not enough, makes me wanna give up sometimes. the windows were open and the breeze cooler than usual for August but it felt right. strangely enough the pinch, like January’s lashes as unforgiving gusts torture the city, soothed my skin. pain heightened me so i left him to wallow. absorbed even the finest inklings of misery for cache in my subconscious repository.
we were never allowed to be depressed, i said, prompting him to recall all the times Ma yelled “ya with your shit! I’m tired of all the moping.” how can you confront a demon who’s face you’ve never seen? I asked.
that’s a good fucking question, he hit back before looking into his left side view then at the dilapidated buildings of West Humboldt Park. that’s a good question. yuppies split the neighborhood in two when they invaded. couldn’t stand to associate themselves with the project housing nearby or the vermin that occupied them. housed in red brick buildings a third, hell a fourth the size of the new “single family homes” spawning on empty plots of land across the neighborhood. average income barely $30,000 in our hood yet these buildings selling for $1,000,000+.
colonize my hood colonize my mind.
it pains my mind to watch outsiders thrive in a hood i lost friends in. to watch couples embrace on the same benches Ma wept on for hours as we rode swings into dawn, nowhere to spend the night. to watch my sister waste away in a low-income apartment that she can’t maintain as her autistic daughter screams for attention. baby daddy a specter, spectating as my sister digs nails into cranium fingers into screen. begging the world for financial relief while he forges a safe of his wallet. another single mother in a bind.
she was put on antidepressants last week. my sister. history of depression runs long but was neglected by everyone because they had to work or worry about the rent or what we would eat for the day or because she had no reason to be depressed anyhow. she ain’t the only sad motherfucker on the planet. did she think she was? well that makes her selfish, they’d say. ashamed to admit i’m culpable, but I will admit it. i’m culpable of reading her posts on Facebook, where she felt alone. 1 2 3 per week, occasionally finding it in me to put the wine glass down while my date was taking a piss, to ignore texts and Instagram long enough to ask how she was. offer shitty textbook advice, mention my similar but altogether foreign experience with depression, tell her i’d call soon. never called. never.
finally called about dinner last night. drove to Cermak w/my brother for zucchini yellow squash shallots kale tomatoes mozzarella and a baguette. summer vegetable spaghetti. healthy food for a healthy mind. it was nice shopping w/him even if he seemed in a rush and mostly indifferent. he noted a cleaner appearance, vegetables brighter in hue and lighting crisp as a fresh bell pepper. funny how different stores look in white neighborhoods, he said and i immediately proclaimed Humboldt Park a community of color.
not anymore, he said. not for a while.
my sister was on the phone when we arrived. her building, and a few others next to it, the remaining vestiges of a low-income tribe. exteriors drearier than Dublin in December, the coalescence of earthy browns and reds taking on an ashy tinge. she was on the phone when we arrived. commented on my grabbing long bread then moved to her room and continued her conversation. brother migrated to the living room. i chopped squash onions garlic tomatoes kale. browned onions in olive oil over medium heat, added garlic and spices and tomato paste and a bit of parsley, then squash and eventually chopped tomatoes after the squash softened. simmering. brother left to be w/his daughter midway through. do your thing, i said, looking back to the living room for my sister but she wasn’t there. emptied pasta into pot, too much. stirred sauce and chopped more kale and tomatoes and mozzarella for salad. sister came in to check on food then left again. i stirred the sauce. simmering.
girlfriend texted. cranium’s hyperventilation caused me to ignore. i called after my sister three times after straining the pasta. no response. went to her room to say the food was done. oh okay, she said. set the table and watched the steam of our dinner dissipate into a winter-like frost in the cool breeze of the night. opened my phone to a pic of my girl covered in beads of water, her eyes and cheeks and breasts all transmitting the brightness of Tahoe’s sun into my soul. hypertension in my subconscious spilled into my amygdala. what the fuck? i said to my sister when she finally entered the kitchen. who the fuck are you talking to that’s so important? i’ve been here over an hour and you haven’t said more than five words to me. the fuck did you ask me to come for? i yelled and she ended her call.
dinner was the kind of awkward you’d expect post-quarrel. except it’s seldom different for us. the more she talked about her circumstances, the more dejected i became and i know she noticed. tito doesn’t make enough to help out, she said after i asked what he contributes. fantasized him entering the apartment to my fists smashing his face into the wall cabinet and ground until he fully realized what it meant to be a good father a good man.
she jumped back onto her phone while i dozed on the couch. my brother called. i packed his dinner then dipped w/him. can’t recall what we talked about. sporadic breaths. went straight to the bathroom at my friend’s crib and splashed cold water on my face but that ain’t stop my body from commencing filtration. you see it automatically attempts a systematic detox when in possession of excess bullshit. my eyes burned my nose burned my throat hurt. my girlfriend texted asking if i was okay–my heart burned–texted several times after. screen hazy through the grime my eyes expelled. silenced my phone in search of solitude.
you ever attempt to look at yourself in a gritty mirror, splotched splattered and tainted w/who know’s what the fuck? ever lift your head from the dirt and attempt to understand every crease and fold and jutting feature? every hair pore and freckle? what do you see when you do, cause i haven’t managed to stare close enough long enough. not sure how when… i’ll leave you to fill that. done raking the fields of melancholia for prescriptive descriptors of a feeble grifter. show’s over.
been a minute since the honey bees of Your words buzzed around my earlobes. three days. ain’t terribly long unless you terribly in love. and i am. no mystery, tho it do feel like a revelation whenever i acknowledge it. like every time is the first, head caught in a swivel, spiraling uncontrollably into some unknown realm.
remember that second night, after the fiesta and discoteca, our bodies glowing in the faint gold of Abascal’s streetlamps? morning after couldn’t say goodbye. neither of us. small talk, broken stares, cheeks rosier than Oeste would be in the coming weeks. i sorta felt it then, when we finally allowed ourselves to embrace and Your lips cuddled mine. lightly glazed in the sweat of our morning, sweet and salty, forcing mine into a tight pucker. something like my heart the remainder of that day and each that followed.
i miss You. i don’t say it enough. would never stop talking if i did. can’t ride a train w/out thinking of Your pinky crawling toward mine, like a caterpillar, atop the railing of the metro. i miss your hands legs and hair. eyes nose and ears. fingers toes and teeth. the moles that form a constellation across your body. the blond micro-hairs that appear w/ the sun, blowing back and forth like a field of wheat just after dusk but before the sun has fully risen.
always think of You when i rise. i do. talk myself into not texting you. might wake her up, don’t have to bother her so soon, text too often and you’ll overwhelm her, push her away. a devil rests on the shoulder of my amygdala and i can’t shake him off, but i’ll always try for You. this is me trying, unsolicited, to feel w/out fear. and there ain’t nothing to fear, really. running from love like it’s a disease.
wouldn’t mind if it was. catch me bedridden for a few days, Your hand massaging my forehead for relief. words buzzing around my earlobes like a secret, except it’s no longer unknown. our love has fully shone. creeps through the shutters every morning, so bright. o so bright, love thrusting me into flight.
cue the chorus. pop-pop-drop. wailing in the distance. can’t read under these conditions. focus on ceiling til fan propels me into stasis. traveled world but still don’t know where place is.
back in the jam knives with ridges. jagged. edges betray resentment. cut down so often i forget to stand. mans offers hand but i reach for fan. stasis. complacent. take me out this world til reality returns. madrid sun burns.
pesticides cast gnats aside while i decide if it’s worth the ride. pop-pop-drop. 9 hours past 12 and bodies drop. 9 hours past 12 and body’s copped. tryna catch the breeze before slugs catch me. pesticides enjoy the ride.
cue pop in the distance. these conditions propel me into world but still don’t know where place is. knives cut. i forget to stand. reach for stasis. complacent. take me out this world. cast aside i drop. slugs catch me. pesticides enjoy the ride.
i been in chicago a week now. away from you too long. sleeping alone don’t feel like a possibility so i gaze at the pillow beside mine with hopes your beautiful bed of curls blankets it, entraps my mind. let me lose myself between them, let your charm tickle my soul for a second or two before reality nestles beside and rattles me awake. jetlag.
wish the jet lagged behind last week, leaving us perpetually tongue tied. perpetually in love with you, my tongue is a knot i choke on regularly. flustered. not sure what to say after the sun sets, what to do. unable to escape through dreams cause they consist of you.
someone told me fretting sunset i’d miss the moonglow. told em fretting sunset i’d miss the day grow. can’t spend em all with you but i’m convinced tomorrow’s the one we’ll wake together, skin glazed by the heat of our dreams. i find myself in a state of endless perspiration thinking of you. hope you experience the same. probably believe it unbecoming but, —–, mi amor, ain’t nothing more beautiful than a soul set ablaze. left in a craze dazed.
her curls become sunset when she frolics into the shade and it frightens him. like penultimate Hemingway, he can’t stand to confront the inevitable pain that lies near.
is it over already? the beginnin’. gold fades to orange like an over-worn oxford. curls wrap her ear like a secret and release the tawny flecks of her irises to overwhelm surroundin’ skies. your eyes look like sunset.
grins chuckles slices of hand. can’t ignore it. ringlets of fire burn stroma pierce retina. grabs a spool and allows it to spiral his finger. proximity stings but he ignores it. tan and white. bronze & gold.
october eyes starlit skies. grass exposes invasion of night. projections changin’ perspective. sparkles ignite flames in diaphragm, scorchin’ his pasture spring. lungs charred by smoky skies cloudy eyes. peers upward for relief finds grief.
twilight. a crimson horizon in disguise. stars gone but the moon ridin’. rides light waves til he drowns in abundance. asphyxiated by a love he can’t summon. nowhere to go after sunset if the stars can’t guide. nowhere to go after sunset if the stars in her eyes.
confusion > pain. four w’s and an h loopin’ his mind like a first kiss. ensnarin’ it. pops would be ashamed to witness this were he present. never was. he’ll claim unaffected til metaphor becomes reality and the sun don’t set no more cause time will have dipped too. endless time. time endless.