Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Concrete River by Luis J. Rodríguez

The Concrete River

 We sink into the dust,
 Baba and me,
 Beneath brush of prickly leaves;
 Ivy strangling trees--singing
 Our last rites of locura.
 Homeboys. Worshipping God-fumes
 Out of spray cans.
 Our backs press up against
 A corrugated steel fence
 Along the dried banks
 Of a concrete river.
 Spray-painted outpourings
 On walls offer a chaos
 Of color for the eyes.
 Home for now. Hidden in weeds.
 Furnished with stained mattresses
 And plastic milk crates.
 Wood planks thrust into
                 thick branches
                 serve as roof.
 The door is a torn cloth curtain
                 (knock before entering).
 Home for now, sandwiched
 In between the maddening days.
 We aim spray into paper bags.
 Suckle them. Take deep breaths.
 An echo of steel-sounds grates the sky.
 Home for now. Along an urban-spawned
 Stream of muck, we gargle in
 The technicolor synthesized madness.
 This river, this concrete river,
 Becomes a steaming, bubbling
 Snake of water, pouring over
 Nightmares of wakefulness;
 Pouring out a rush of birds;
 A flow of clear liquid
 On a cloudless day.
 Not like the black oil stains we lie in,
 Not like the factory air engulfing us;
 Not this plastic death in a can.
 Sun rays dance on the surface.
 Gray fish fidget below the sheen.
 And us looking like Huckleberry Finns/
 Tom Sawyers, with stick fishing poles,
 As dew drips off low branches
 As if it were earth’s breast milk.
 Oh, we should be novas of our born days.
 We should be scraping wet dirt
                 with callused toes.
 We should be flowering petals
                 playing ball.
 Soon water/fish/dew wane into
 A pulsating whiteness.
 I enter a tunnel of circles,
 Swimming to a glare of lights.
 Family and friends beckon me.
 I want to be there,
 In perpetual dreaming;
 In the din of exquisite screams.
 I want to know this mother-comfort
 Surging through me.
 I am a sliver of blazing ember
                 entering a womb of brightness.
 I am a hovering spectre shedding
                 scarred flesh.
 I am a clown sneaking out of a painted
                 mouth in the sky.
 I am your son, amá, seeking
                 the security of shadows,
                 fleeing weary eyes
                 bursting brown behind
                 a sewing machine.
 I am your brother, the one you
                 threw off rooftops, tore into
                 with rage--the one you visited,
                 a rag of a boy, lying
                 in a hospital bed, ruptured.
 I am friend of books, prey of cops,
                 lover of the barrio women
                 selling hamburgers and tacos
                 at the P&G Burger Stand.
 I welcome this heavy shroud.
 I want to be buried in it--
 To be sculptured marble
 In craftier hands.
 Soon an electrified hum sinks teeth
 Into brain--then claws
 Surround me, pull at me,
 Back to the dust, to the concrete river.
 Let me go!--to stay entangled
 In this mesh of barbed serenity!
 But over me is a face,
 Mouth breathing back life.
 I feel the gush of air,
 The pebbles and debris beneath me.
 “Give me the bag, man," I slur.
 “No way! You died, man," Baba said.
 “You stopped breathing and died.”
 “I have to go back!...you don’t
 I try to get up, to reach the sky.
 Oh, for the lights--for this whore
                 of a Sun,
 To blind me. To entice me to burn.
 Come back! Let me swing in delight
 To the haunting knell,
 To pierce colors of virgin skies.
 Not here, along a concrete river,
 But there--licked by tongues of flame!

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