5 poems by Timothy Perez
I’ve planted no winter garden.
The summer squash have gone soft,
and split in gruesome grins; I notice
seeds germinating from inside:
in time—anything will eat itself.
Mother’s back aches from the pulsing
root in her rib cage; organs pushed
up against spine, breathing labored
like a bullfrog. My son is coming,
won’t be long now—mother’s belly
has taken its final shape. The dried prickly
head of a sunflower rests easily in the grimy
corner; kernels trip over themselves
in a dust devil; ants eat fallen offerings
next to pumpkins rotting in their shells.
These gourds remind me of the bloated bellies
of the infirm, of the starved.
The grape’s wispy tendrils are tough—their
orbs dried into hard wrinkled nuggets
and the people are hungry and the men stand
around with leathery hands stuffed deep into
second hand store jeans, the collars of worn
jackets turned up against the chill:
this is the way of the world. The warmth will
soon return, and saplings will be planted and grape
vines will come again tough as horse-hair twine,
stubborn as an adolescent, and the women will watch
the men watch as an overripe harvest hits soft ground,
and the men will walk in wide circles avoiding veils
of gorging flies, the soles of heavy boots force tufts
of earth to rise and settle. I want to become a blue heron
and hold mother gently in my thin beak and deliver
her to foreign sands where she’ll dine on stone fruit,
caviar. Fare that crunches and snaps with life,
and together we will wait patiently for sun to return.
Identity of Flesh
I like the way flesh molds itself to other objects:
chairs, bone, other bodies.
When death claims me dry out my skeleton
until it’s brittle as a bird’s.
Or boil me, render me thin like a soup and ring
out my remains into a jar;
set it on a shelf until it’s time to be dusted off
Better yet, take me to the Himalayas, hack me apart
with a Buddhist’s blade and cast
me to jackals and vultures; allow me one last time
to become land and sky.
to save face, laugh
when you are disciplined.
next time you’ll get the buckle end.
discipline is not change
mother is important.
mother is keeper.
i was with your moms las’ night muthafucka!
use of mother is unforgiveable.
destiny and fate govern choice.
gangstas make the world go roun’, world go roun’.
people are possessions.
try to steal my girl watch what happens. watch.
relationships are achievements
i got wid her las night ese it was firme.
defend your children no matter how they treat you.
mijo esperete, mija eschuchame, ninos, ninos, NINOS!
education is feared.
a2 + b2 = c2
negotiations are fists, rocks, sticks, knives, guns.
resolution is shiny badges and a boot on the back
of your neck.
respect is made in ink inserted under flesh.
respect is found in the arthritically bent fingers
of youth who dangle them like talismans.
and none of it matters, but all of it does because
tu ere, tu ere, tu ere—you are.
My mouth is in a cross fire; and my eyes are empty as zero.
I have a Mayan’s mouth, a giver’s mouth, a speaker’s mouth;
my tongue rolls, but only in English.
A crown captured a culture in the name of glory and God.
Severed heads replaced with burnt feet, lashed backs
and gutted libraries: civilization set back a thousand years.
Terror is an open border and legions of gardeners armed
with leaf blowers; a regiment of busboys, pistols replaced
with squirt bottles filled with disinfectant;
squads of janitors and house maids with mustard colored
rubber gloves pulled up to dark ashy elbows wielding red
plungers, swinging them wildly over their dark faces;
a company of nannies holding ironing boards deep in the pits
of their arms like resumes: a compendium of mercenaries
hunting for work, an entire militia of labor.
We are fighters willing to turn mandibles side to side easily
as a samba dancer’s hips. At the core, I am a pugilist;
when I smile the ggrrr of my teeth makes it so the frown fades,
turns into a twisted portrait, incisors whittled down to splinters.
I wish my early relatives had gotten the chance to splatter foreign
blood against the jungle’s wide green leaves—like a Pollock painting:
beautiful transgression; chaotic masterpiece of progress gone
In the end, the only history that matters is that of the victors.
Immortality will be steel and germs: I am what’s eating me.
You are forced to ask yourself: imaginary or real?
A young boy, mouth agape front teeth missing,
a busted eye droops sadly, matted hair squirming
You have to ask yourself—but there are no words.
Just a deep scarlet trail of viscera flowing freely
from the hole in his head.
Later, in the evening perhaps, in the glare of a mirror
remind yourself: it was only art it was not a death.
It was not a death of a child, but a picture of one.
Art, that crafty bitch.
And you’ll want to become someone else’s fiction;
the mirror of a blue eye, diamond dust, crystal, a bit
of glass rolled smooth by the gently hands of water.
You’ll want to become the stress of cursive
and not the passive print of a wobbly hand,
but mostly you’ll want the picture of that boy
to make sense, but there will be no words.
Aside from brewing his own beer and cooking large slabs of meat over open flames, Tim Perez teaches English at Santiago High School in Corona, California. He’s a graduated from Long Beach State with an M.F.A in Creative Writing. Ten years ago Perez’s chapbook Crooked was published by Gary Soto’s Chicano Chapbook Series. That was before the job, before the girlfriend-turned-wife, before the kids; however, between all that he continues to write, and write, and write. This is one of his first submissions to a literary outlet in a long time.