Archive for the ‘Life’ Category


Since her, I am a cultural Christian at best.
The bright spirituality of my youth, so vibrant, has waned through the years.
Petered out, as they say.
I don’t trust in God any further than I can see Him.
I see the Divine as the hope dangled before me like the proverbial carrot.
Prodding me onward, never to be satisfied with where I am.

An Unsettling Hope. Nothing more.

This diminutive spirituality of mine, I believe, is self-inflicted.
All the wrong in my life I can trace back to a singular act of cowardice.
A decision so selfish, so disgusting and perverse, I know full well that I deserve every ill that has come way because of it.

I abandoned a woman. Left her in a state of divorce, to her own devices, when she needed me the most. I committed this Cardinal Sin in full view of the sun. And now, only Night is left to me.  I had vowed before God to love her and cherish her, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Then I turned my back on her like some such dish at a buffet I no longer wanted. A dastardly deed if there ever was one and I wasn’t ashamed of it then.

I am now, utterly so.

Since her, all that I have loved has been unrequited. All my dreams looked upon, without the full bloom of experience. I have been on the outside, looking in. Like a phantom. The Odorous Act was insidious like that, like the loneliest little sin on the planet. A puddle in my path that to this day, I have not overcome.


Whats Left of Taormina

Posted: June 30, 2014 in Life

Part I Elation

Kaleidoscopes may have once embraced the melody of her faces
And may someday capture the spring in her dance
Tonight, gaze brazenly into the sky for mere hints and glimpses of the wonders in her expression
Impetuous delights abound in the art of her playfulness
Entangled with each moment, like conspicuous pearls, are new and better reason to smile

Part II Longing

Relinquish as best you can the gift of her presence
Assuage that cold darkened sound
Compelled to live in the light of mere memory
Hallowed like soldiers on the ground
Echoes of her linger: that porch, that couch, that tree
Leading to long winding roads of reverie
Longing once more to embrace the melody of her faces
Ebbing inevitably with the passage of time

Part III Jubilation

Songbirds kiss the dawn, greetings in a thousand forms of splendor like the many faces of her
Mana falls with new expression – the shape of her smile
Inundated by the wealth in her attention
Taken by the warmth of her style
Hail, O Fortune! She gave me new eyes for seeing
Evermore besotted in the brightness of her being

Cover Girls

She always tried to cover them, the scars of her former self when she was into cutting. Every shower revealed them. As she stood there, water dripping off of her, all wet and squeaky clean and free of the dust of the day, the irony was not lost on her.  At her cleanest the scars presented themselves to her.  At first she used what was convenient.  A long sleeve shirt or a piece of fabric she’d fashion into a cute little bracelet but she finally decided that her foundation made the best cover for the scars.  Wiping away a large swath of steam from the mirror, she mocked herself derisively: You’re an honest to God “Cover Girl.”

She’d often feel shame. Ashamed that she had let him besmirch all the pride her mother had instilled in her. But she was a mother now too and full of hope.  The kind of hope only a mother can have and she was determined to better herself.  Determined to be the best mother she could for Jamal like her mother and grandmother had done before her.  She assured herself of this, that nothing would stop her. But he had before and she feared he might again.  Only time will tell she thought to herself as she walked into the bedroom to clothe herself.

Maritza, her longest friend, was playing with Lil’ J in the living room and whatever she was doing filled her little apartment with his raucously joyous laughter.  Renita hastened her clothes on so that she might catch them in action; almost tripping as she made her way toward them.

“Watch this,” Maritza exclaimed, “watch this!”

She covered her face in a peek-a-boo fashion revealing herself to Lil’ J in a playful tone.

“Auntie Maritza loves you, yes she does!’

Her hands moved from her face to his belly in one smooth motion the length of the sentence like a skater on a rink.  Whether it was the tone of her voice or the poke of his belly with her fingers, or perhaps a combination of the two, the gestures sent Lil’ J into a fit of laughter, sudden and boisterous, that ended when she covered her face with her hand. And then again.

“Auntie Maritza loves you, yes she does!”

Laughter eruption.

This went on several times when Renita declared, “I’m going to the store now, M, want anything?”

“Auntie Maritza loves you, yes she does!” Her hand impatiently shushed the question away in a bothersome gesture.

“I guess not,” Renita said as she made her way toward the door adding: “I’ll be right back.”

Renita walked down the same street, coming from the same store, humming the same song. She was a creature of habit after all.  She was thankful Jamal wasn’t with her and that she had some time alone.  She was grateful for the space and that Maritza had agreed to watch him even if only for the time it took her to get back from the store.  This caused her to hum along with extra jubilation.  Melodies took on another form, she thought, when it was just her voice. No words. No music. Just her voice.  The notes seemed more real. More alive, like they had crawled themselves out of her own soul.

It was hot, oven hot, but she didn’t mind because stiff winds blew by her a brief respite at a time.  Hot air was better than nothing and besides, she told herself, at least it made the trees dance; entertaining her.  The heat of the asphalt crawled up her flats making the soles of her feet uncomfortably warm and sweaty.  She was approaching 2nd and Huisache when she stopped and sat on the one bench that remained there.  Smoking a Black & Mild, the one with the wood tip, she couldn’t help but think of the stories her father often told her.

In the 80’s this corner was the center of a thriving community with bustling streets.A restaurant here, a barber shop there.On that corner a night club that later became Hill’s Antiques and Collectables. A grocery store over there gave closure to the space bracketing it in as a hot spot of black wealth and entrepreneurship.  Her father was fond of calling it: Kingsville’s own Greenwood, Archer and Pine.  What the rest of the town called “Little Africa.”  King Star Baptist church was just up the street where her grandfather used to preacher and where he fell in love with her grandmother.  These were the days of a by-gone era. The good ‘ol days her father came to call them.  It all hardly seemed possible considering the current state of the neighborhood: graffiti filled red brick facades, broken down doors and windows. Trash piled up against walls left to fend for themselves.

When she returned home, Maritza had Jamal sprawled out across the floor on his favorite green blanket. She was thoughtful enough to keep the oscillating fan fixed on him.

“He just fell asleep,” she said.  His naps didn’t last long so they sat on the kitchen table to talk, music just audible in the background.

“So have you made a decision or no?” Maritza inquired with curiosity.

“I made the decision a long time ago, M, only thing left is the courage to follow through. I don’t know if I have that yet.”

“Well you know I believe in you Love. I know you can do this,” she consoled her punctuating the point with her finger on the table. She continued.

“I’ll help you in any way that I can. Come live with me for a while until you get back on your feet, you know, like we talked about.”

“I can’t do that, M, I told you already. I can’t risk bringing trouble to your place cause you know that is what’s gonna happen.  He’s not gonna just let me just walk away from him. He ain’t gonna let that happen. I know him, he’ll make this as hard as possible for me. And for you too. I can’t live with that. I won’t live with that!”

Maritza countered, “Harder than you have it now, living under his thumb all the time? Not getting to live your own life or make your own decisions?  From where I’m sitting, Love, you have it hard already! Can you live with that? Will you live with that?”

After some time, the intensity of their conversation subsided.

“Fuck girl, it’s hot in here!” Maritza indulged in the obvious. Can’t we turn the A/C on or something?”

“You know X-Jai won’t have that shit.  It’s bad enough he pays for my bills.  If we want A/C we’ll have to go chill at his pad. And besides, grandma paid my utility last month when X-Jai and I had that big fight. I’ve got to take it easy on her.”

Looking around to comfort, she clicked the fan in Maritza’s direction.

“Here you go, my Peach,” she said smiling.

“Just for a bit, Love. I got to head to work soon. I was late yesterday and got my ass chewed.”

“Don’t forget about you Sprite and Hot Cheetos, M, you’ll need your strength.”

“I didn’t ask for anything,” she replied. A big smile on her face.

“I know but that’s your favorite combo. You’ll want it later on at work. And here’s you Lone Star card too. Thanks again”

She sighed, her words escaping without courage.

“I’m flat broke again.”

“No worries, Love. I got your back. You know that,” she comforted her with a warm smile. Lifting her right arm in the air, she cocked her left shoulder and gave Renita her best solidarity fist.

Little Renita Jai

She had been called “little” since birth.  Her namesake came from her great grandmother, the grand matriarch of the family.  She was a woman so important, so revered that her name had been hers alone, kept from at least two generations. Hers alone, that is, until: Little Renita Jai.  Her birth was the stuff of miracles.  She was born premature, given a grim prognosis by all the doctors in the city.  Her parents were told that if she lived at all it would be at a ghastly price.  That she would never maintain a “normal life.”  Her eyes were malformed though she could see.  Her tiny arms were mangled and deformed. The shape a stick of Laffy-Taffy might take if left in the South Texas heat too long.  Her legs were bowed at the knees, so much so that it seemed they might have been a portal to another dimension or another time.

Her skin was so dark and mysterious, multiple shades of deep dark bruise purple, it made the night sky writhe in jealousy of her.  Her eyes, when they were open to be seen, were a deep eerie white. As white as pure sin after the Lord’s grace has washed it clean.  She was the scion of a proud African family that came to Kingsville very early, when dark folks were welcomed only for the labor they could provide.  They had settled in what was called “Little Africa” on the corner of what came to be 2nd and Huisache.  Her great grandmother among the first blacks to settle the neighborhood on land donated to the “town folk” by the venerable King family.

Little Renita Jai was not expected to live beyond a year.  And that year, they were told, would be a year full of heartache and medicine, doctor visits and costly procedures until finally what ailed her would prove victorious and take her fragile little life.Leaving the family with only bitter memories and gnawing questions of Why?

For all that, here she was at age four, a precocious little girl with dark curly hair, eyes a splendid moss-green and a smile as wide as Texas itself.  She still suffered the pains of her misfortunes, of course, because miracles never work out as we’d like them to.  in life, Lazarus never really rises from the dead, or Jairus’ daughter for that matter.  But here was little Renita Jai, alive and well despite all the wisdom of the learned medicine men.  She had just began learning to talk, a symptom of her mother’s insatiable need to read her stories at night.  All the classics too: Dr. Seuss, the Bothers Grimm, Aesop.  When she began to speak it was a little miracle in and of itself.  When she was able to put words together, enough to string sentences along toward a semblance of meaning, she told her mother about a recurring dream she ‘d been having.

Mommy, I dreamed of place I’ve never been. I was wearing a pretty dress with new shoes and my hair was up in a bow.  It was a big parking lot but there was no cars.  It was night-time and I was all by myself. A few lights were on but I could only see just so far into the distance.  And it was purple everywhere. Dark and purple like when I look out the window when you read to me and the train tracks go on for ever and ever.  I was scared because I could feel something was there in the dark. I could feel something was looking at me.  I call out to it: monnstro, monnstro, like I know the name of the thing that’s out there. But nothing happens.  Then there is a man who come out behind me and asks me why I’m all by myself in the dark parking lot.  He’s a good man, mommy, he asks if I need help.  In my dream, all I can do is point out into the darkness.  He asks me, “What are you pointing at, sweetie? Are you afraid of the dark, there’s nothing there I promise.”  All I can do is point out there into the dark place.  Monnstro, I say, over and over again but he doesn’t understand me.  “monnstro? what is that sweetie, what is it?”  And again I point.  “Do you mean, monster?  Is that what you’re trying to tell me?  There’s a monster over there?”  Then he walks a few steps closer to the dark place.  “There’s nothing out there sweetie.  Look, there’s nothing there. No monsters, nothing. You don’t have to be afraid.”  And then we hear it.  A loud noise, mommy. A very loud noise like a lion and a pig and a human all screaming together at once.  The man jumped toward me and pulled me behind him. He tries to protect me. All I can do is close my eyes real tight and cover with my ears with my hands.  Then I wake up

Her mother was rightly put off by the dream she heard. It was just a dream she said.  Told Little Renita Jai that dreams are mysterious things that happen to everybody.  Sometimes the dreams are scary but sometimes they are really good one too.  She consoled her with these words.  Throughout all your life dreams will happen to you. There is no need to be afraid of them.  She took her in her arms and showered her with affection, somewhat saddened that her precious daughter now had nightmares to worry about on top of everything else in her young life.  Little Renita Jai, sighing into her mother’s chest, asked her pointedly: Then why do I have this one all the time and not those other ones?

Little Renita Jai has regained much of the normalcy the doctors predicted she would never have. She outgrew those words a long time ago.  She has made something of herself. She can walk and talk.  She has friends and even a lover, all those things normal people have.  She lives in Kingsville, the place her great-grandmother came to as a young girl.  He mother has passed and her father too.  She has had a thousand dreams since then and a thousand nightmares too.  But this one, this dream, of her fragile little voice echoing in the night, “monnstro,” haunts her still.

A Powdery Nothingness

Genius visibly struck her as Maritza closed the door to leave.  She would take advantage of Lil’ J napping and finish putting her make up on.  Looking at herself in the mirror, and gently humming the Lauryn Hill that played in the background, she peeled her now-sweaty clothes off the mass her physique had become.  She tried to take hold of the fact that she was older now and a mother, not wanting to let her mind drift back to her younger years when she had mad booty.  Many more men looked at her then, with desperate eyes, like she had all the power in the world.  Even so it was not like she could give over to them anyway.  X-Jai just exploded when me looked at her.  It always embarrassed her but at least they looked.  It got to the point that he’d lose so often the men just stopped looking.  Or rather they did look, but they were older now and less attractive. Their eyes had gone from inviting to hunger, plain and pure, like they wanted one thing and one thing only.  Fixating on a remnant pimple under her left eye she softly hummed the first melody her ears deciphered.

“Renn?” a booming voice called out from the front of the apartment.

“Renn? Where are you girl.”  he asked with intensity.

“I’m in here, in the bathroom,” she said informing him.

X-Jai poked his head through the doorway, his eyes darting her up and down.

“Aren’t you ready yet? I told you we’d be leaving by six when I got here.”

“I know,” she said gravely, “I just have to finish up. We have to drop Jamal off at grandma’s house. Will you get him ready?”

“Sure, but hurry up. We gotta go Renn,” he said with typical curtness.  And as was his custom, he let off a sharp crisp snap of his fingers over the operative words of his sentences.  In this case: hurry up!

She peered into her eyes in the mirror. It was time to be strong. She had heard someone say on television that God did not want us to be happy. He wanted us to be strong.  And that was her mantra the last few months while she built up the courage to leave X-Jai.  Could she go through with it? Could she escape her former self and be brave enough to leave him come what may?  He heart pumped with great resolve. today was the day.  Today was the last day of her former life.  Any love she had for X-Jai withered long ago.  After the threats of violence became occasions of pain and sorrow, after the hospital visits became more and more frequent her love for him withered away into  powdery nothingness like the wings of a butterfly.  She could not stand it any longer. Not with Jamal around. She could not take him learning to be like his father. A violent and possessive man, full of jealousy.  She was tired of worrying. She was tired of being afraid.  And she simply did not want to think about X-Jai anymore.  Never again.

It wasn’t just that she was tired of the thoughts of him. It was that she had in mind another.  A man she’d met altogether elsewhere. Had not even told Maritza about him.  He was handsome, yes, but there was more.  It was his eyes, yes, but there was more to him than that.  It was the peculiar way in which he looked at her and saw all that which she could not see in herself, like her father used to before he died.  All the potential wrapped into her package he just intimated without a word.  And it was in that moment that she knew she loved him deeply because all of her insecurities solidified themselves within her, vast and immovable as the sea.


Posted: June 3, 2013 in Life


The thing about a rugged individualism:

It’s almost always done in the name of God, family and country.

Therein lies the irony, the pernicious myopathy

The blinders that lead to suffering of other people

Who are often a means to an end

Rarely do the blinders come off

Dear reader:

There’s no sense in going further.  After all was said and done, the fact remained, I fell for it again.   When will I ever learn? And it began with a rush of wind; a blistering hope that was poked and prodded but left to scab in the open air.

She was looking good, really good. Far beyond me.  And for moments at a time I felt like another man; wholly another man in the shade of her smile.  Someone worth her effort, worth her affection.  There was no time to tell her, left it up to the gods to do that. But they were silent last night. Silent like the screams into my pillow.  Felt like the first grade fool I always knew I was; a chump even.  But there I was, longing for her touch, silently begging her to calm the wolves of my desire.  Leaving crumbs like clues, desperately hoping she’d follow them.  But the wolves prevailed and they devoured me.

I don’t have the strength to live in that world; never the man worth the effort. Worth the affection. Sad to report I am less a man and more a bundle of meaningless words.  Words that get me nowhere.  Mediocrity is my first and last name and I can’t erase it from the blackboard.  Never been good enough, never will be.  And yet, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I fell for it again.

I’ve often think of castration.  Thought about it so much it scares me: perhaps Origen was on to something.  Of what use is thirst if water is far off and undrinkable.  Or rather, it is my fountain that is tepid and forgettable. Utterly unworthy to hold such flowing water.

Here I am, dear reader: angry, besmirched, feeling foolish beyond measure for even having entertained thoughts of her.  Alive and wide awake in an ever gathering dark and I cannot contain it. It consumes me more and more, day by day, night by night.  My cup overflows with the filth of my existence. And I am but a bundle of meaningless words.  Expressions that go unheard.

Does she wither at the lack of me? Does she writhe into her pillow cause I’m not there?

There’s no sense in going further.

Above Water

Posted: January 27, 2013 in Life

Hands reaching above water

He continued, though many on the committee had begun leaving the room:

I want the bulk of my work to be a testament to the diversity of our small town…

A few turned around on politeness alone and to them he smiled, but to the others he shouted further:

I believe it is a rare thing indeed to have such a small community in South Texas as diverse and varied as the population we find in our city…

There was a cold silence as the last committee member shuffled her way out of the room.  It was Marquesa.

Not her

he thought

not her.

Of all the members, not her. She was the only one who had agreed to the lunch.  He thought he had her, that she had believed in his idea.  He sat on the rather large seat of the Chair of the Committee; sank into it, as they say.  Spinning around with his feet he decided to finish the task he had begun there and read what he had prepared for the committee in the silence of the boardroom:

To that end, I want my stories to burst forth with a light composed of the many voices of our little city; from the ubiquitous Kineño cowboy in the chaparral to the Mexican land laborer, from the Pakistani store owner to the group of Chinese students that meet on the third floor of the library to study.  Together, through the crucible of our lives and the decibel of our stories, we will serve as a spring board to the top.  That our existence here on this tiniest of corners in the world and here in this tiniest moment in time can be seen like outstretched hands above the water.

He sighed and walked out of the room, leaving the text of his remarks on the chair.

On the cusp of this Election 2012 in the United States of America, I sit at this laptop with a decision to make. (Actually, I’ve already voted!)   To put it to you slick: Vote for O or vote for Ro?  That is the question before us.

Many would have you believe that this is the most important election in our nation’s history.  We stand on the brink, they say. On the brink of a fundamental shift in the fabric of these United States.  Many of the conservative persuasion see the inexorable decline of the Obama administration into a “European style government,” (kinda like the Magna Carta?) where we tug at the strings of “Socialism,” (kinda like what Jesus and his disciples practiced?) as an usurpation of the Constitution; a negation of what this country used to be.

Many on the liberal side of the equation view President Obama’s policies as a necessary tonic for the ills we find ourselves in, a “tussin” poured deep into a flummoxed nation after two terms of a hawkish Bush administration.

I agree this is a defining moment in our nation’s history.  I believe, however, that the most important election in the history of this country is always the next one, because it implies we’re still around.  That may sound like a hustle, like a sidestepping of the gravity of this election.  But I assure you it’s not.  It is the result of a practical aspect of my citizenship; the pragmatic nature of my politics.

When I voted for G.W. Bush the first time (after having voted for Clinton), I was voting for a Texan and the “Fuck you, I’m from Texas” attitude.  The form of Republicanism G.W. Bush espoused, what he called “compassionate conservatism,” I felt was a push in the right direction for the country.  I was listening to a lot of talk radio then and it showed. And in any case, I just could not see myself voting for Al Gore.

When I supported W. the second time, I was voting for a hawk.  A macho man Cowboy to lead the U.S. into the sunset like so many John Wayne movies.  Anything to get out of the 9/11 funk we were in and to restore a semblance of strength to our nation.  Boy, did I back the wrong horse on that one. We went form strong to bully in no time flat.

In 2008, I cast my vote for John McCain (I know, right?)  Again, talk radio was influential to some degree but I voted mostly on the side of experience.  With multiple wars raging, I felt that John McCain was who I could trust the most in that arena.  When Obama won the election, I was not completely disheartened.  My world did not come to an end is what I’m saying.  I can now say, I’m glad he lost the race.  I’m fairly certain not only would we still have an active war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also Iran and Pakistan as well.  The Bush Doctrine would win the day.

In the end, the financial crisis was much more suited for Barack Obama than John McCain.  The decisions that had to be made simply could not have been made by a Republican president.  We would have a collapsed car industry (thanks you bailout!) and a still plummeting housing market (thank you bailout!). We would have a more hostile country for many many people the establishment considers “other” at best, “anathema” at worst.  And those of us who “have never met a payroll” would still not be worth the air we breathe.

Today I voted for President Obama.  My first Democratic vote since Clinton! Again, it is the result of a practical aspect of my citizenship; the pragmatic nature of my politics. I used to think that the above dichotomy between conservative and liberal was only useful within the flash fiction of CNN and Fox News.  To borrow a phrase from Rush Limbaugh, that it was the bread and butter of the “drive by media.”  Meant to first entertain, then inform.  To engage, then educate.  I no longer see that as the case.  There are very real differences between the two parties.  I reject the notion that voting is what matters, that it doesn’t matter WHO you vote for as long as you VOTE.  Well, that is rather like saying it doesn’t matter WHO you have faith in, as long as you have FAITH.   Rubbish! Of course it matters.

What’s the character of your candidate? More importantly, what is the content of that character?  What good is even a billion more jobs if the nation has lost it soul in the process?  What good is equity in our country if our government is bankrupt?  I don’t have the solutions to these problems and the reality is, neither does any candidate currently running for office. The solution to the issues we face will not be found in a party affiliation. It will not be found in a religious book. It will not be found by making more money, in the private sector or the government.

So to Romney supporters: I know how it feels to lose.  However, I don’t know how it feels to harbor the sort of bleakness and apocalypse I’m seeing all across the Republican party.  It’s only four more years and you even get to keep the House.  If there is any truth to the post election fallout it is this: what happened on election night is four more years of more of the same.  I can live with that. So can you.