Archive for May, 2013

May 26, 2013

The Force Is Airborne

Photo: Nat'l Archives and Records Admin

Photo: Nat’l Archives and Records Admin

Contains explicit language

When the force was airborne, we fled to our hideouts. My brother and I huddled under a neighbor’s porch. Our friends found similar strategic vantage points in trees, under cars, behind shrubs – points from which we could all see the freak show.

Frankie was a thin-framed man with an oversized head. Several years of excessive alcohol consumption squeezed the proteins from every fiber of his body, reducing him to a man too old to be twenty-nine.

On those nights when listening to one too many Johnny Cash songs, when consuming one too many Pabst Blue Ribbons, the flashbacks too would excrete themselves in sweat when Frankie stumbled into the middle of the street.

In such a state he was Frankenstein, the Boris Karloff type – a protruding eyebrow, blunt greasy bang stuck to his forehead, and his skin was a peculiar, alcohol-induced green hue under the streetlight.

Stuck in 1969, he uttered to a lieutenant 8639.5 miles away: Yes sir!

No sir!

Shoot the fuckers, yes sir!

I heard the other boys laugh. They darted in the shadows, deepening Frankie’s paranoia. Fire in the hole! He tossed a grenade in their direction with his free hand while he gripped his beer bottle with the other watching the memory explode against the inside of his skull.

One of the boys threw rocks back. Another yelled Baby killer. Frankie was too wasted to react.

I was too scared to run but my brother wasn’t. He left me alone under the porch. Frankie fixed his eyes on the spot where I was. It was dark but I knew he could see me. He staggered closer. I was scared.

He dropped his empty beer bottle in the grass and pointed his machine gun toward me. I saw the fear in his eyes. Tatta tatta tatta tatta tatta! He shouted, spraying syllabic bullets all around me.

Perhaps I reminded him of the children in Vietnam.

His fear changed to satisfaction.

An empty beer can hit him in the shin. He heard the boys laughing. His eyes went vacant.

1975 – regret.

He turned away crouching on the grass. He crawled to the curb where he sat, curled up. I saw his shoulders shaking slightly as he tore at his hair and face.

As he mumbled, I saw his profile against the light – the cowlick on the crown of his head never tamed by service, the way his upper lip curled like a two-year old’s, his long eyelashes like brushes painting a different reality in front of his eyes, his involuntarily clenched fists.

He beat his fists into the grass in an attempt to shape a grave of sorrow like the inside of his skull.

I found the right time to run from underneath the porch. I didn’t look back. I was heading home. Alive. From behind me I could hear Frankie yell, The force is airborne!

As I reached my backyard, I caught my breath. The dog down the street was barking.

It was 1975. I couldn’t understand his pain. How bad could the war have been on the guys in my neighborhood? The bad stuff only happened on tv shows like MASH.

Again, I heard him. He was yelling at the sky, The force is airborne!

The phrase echoed in my mind until my middle-aged neighbor with the sideburns yelled at Frankie Hey, shut the hell up!

May 19, 2013

the old man and the little dog

Photo: Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

 

Jens, the solitary man next door

Spot, his spotted Chihuahua

they kept each other alive

into old age

 

every morning they took their walk

Spot leading ahead slightly on a leash as thin as thread

Jens shuffling in his boots

Spot waddling in cadence

 

every time they passed me, Jens would nod expressionlessly and Spot would growl

two angry souls made for each other

they were happy with each other and no one else

Spot was a cocky bastard around his master

 

one day I was in my driveway after my mother grounded me

next door Spot was watching me from the bottom of the porch stairs

I looked him in the eye, hopeful that he would throw me a little sympathy

but all he did was yap constantly

 

Spot’s barking angered me

as if reinforcing my mother’s scolding

I yelled back

he moved toward me, his bark now raspy

 

I grabbed a nearby twig and ran at him

I was going to call this little bastard’s bluff

he barked louder running to the sidewalk

in my fury I didn’t realize he was without leash

 

I ran after him; he kept running

in the confusion so did I

he ran faster to stay ahead of the monster that was chasing him

at the end of the street his bark faded as quickly as he

 

I ran back into my house before Jens could see me

I checked the window all afternoon expecting to see Jens and Spot on their walk

I only saw Jens; he was Spot-less

I remembered Spot’s terrified, bulging eyes glancing back at me as he reached the end of the street

 

the next morning I saw Jens walking

he was alone

I tipped back behind the shrub along my driveway before he could see me

he reached his porch and sat on the stairs

 

he had the same stern face as always

but his eyes were different

needed

was this how mortality might feel

 

I wanted to run to him to explain

but I was scared

what if Spot never came back

and Jens died

 

Jens sat on the stairs for hours

anxiety rode me all day

until I had to go in for dinner

I was still grounded

 

I ate little thinking about Jens’ eyes and Spot’s eyes

I expected the police to knock on our door at any minute

learning that my snoopy neighbor Miss Jones ratted me out

I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in jail

 

after dinner I sat on my porch

staring at the vacant stairs next door

from a distance I heard the familiar shuffling boots

I turned to see Jens – Spot was waddling beside him

 

life was good

Spot was alive

Jens wasn’t going to die

I wasn’t going to jail

 

as they passed I waived

Jens nodded back

Spot the bastard barked at me

we were all alive again

 

May 12, 2013

Legacy

Mom 5

~

A cold egg rubbed all over my fevered body as spiritual words floated around me

Tortilla dough slapping hands and its sweet burning smell on the comal

Water in the kitchen sink at just the right warmth for my bath

An ankle clicking with every footstep around the house

The curse to my abuelo the day my abuelita died

~

The thread sewn into my homemade jacket

Every starchy potato in my meatless soup

Each paycheck earned away from home

Traditions and unconventionalities

Remind me of my mother

~

May 5, 2013

Into the Wind

Photo: Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

To see my father age before my eyes

Inherited eyes keen to recognize the insensitivity of a barren, West Texas landscape in the heat of summer

A once stoic, authoritative, swaggering rock was now crumbling soil

When winds slowly picked away layer after layer of his countenance

I ran with cupped hands to retrieve what the wind stole – if only to delay the inevitable a little while longer

 

In a geology of generations, machismo, traditions, ideas born to the uneducated child of an overbearing mother, each brittle layer was stolen by a new wind while escaping grains nestled themselves between the needles of saguaros

 

As shadows encircled above, his stride was slow, his posture hunched

Every windward step taxed his body

The protector who once held my hand to cross the creek bed, I now protected him

The provider who was always there for me, I was now there for him

 

I turned to block him from the wind and sky and looked into his surrendering eyes

He looked back into mine

 

Just then I felt the wind penetrate my enlarging pores

 

Before we turned our eyes into the wind

I grabbed at that moment anticipating the indifferent gust that would diminish it to dust

 

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