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Five Poems
by Radames Ortiz


                         through dusty window shields
and blazing heat
I see the weather-rotted faces
of working men and women
look down as they pass by

Weary of the nightclub district
I roam el central
where calloused hands grab firm asses
and brimming cups of cheap beer
rest on wooden bar stools

                              dry, starless, the night
                              wedged into cracks of brick wall
                              as buses spew smoldering exhaust
                              into neon liquor sky

I've given myself to the freeway,
to the long cement snake that sheds
its gray skin on streets
                         and stubble grass

Wandering carelessly,
Pasando alfalfa fields
and Baytown refineries that
breathe steam, fogging
               window panes of houses
near ditch banks y streetlights

               hooded sweatshirt, wide-bottomed jeans
long haired and unshaven,
I skim through unknown cities
for a mask
              innocent and golden

I lose myself in
rain-gutted side roads
where dreams of Hollywood
and hand rolled cigarettes are locked
into soil           of sweaty palms
of bar managers and fast-talking pimps

who promise children like me,
all over the world, that light gleams
at the end of a curving road

that one day the sky will turn blue
like crystal mountains in Tampico
and families reunite
          consoling, talking
like    friends    never separated

Rough Traveling

Lupe and I skip eighth period
We hide beneath shacks, waiting for the bell to ring
Mr. Duncan never looks for us
We cut across football fields, jump over barbwire
Fences. Our bodies brown and strong
Chests heaving like red balloons

Laughing, we smash bottles against walls
Of the old tire factory. Echoes of glass and
Victory ring throughout the sky. We are
Brothers who want out; a place of our own
We talk nonsense: Metallica and quinceaneras,
Green valleys across the border, of Erica's breasts,
Staring at us

Until a train horn, bursts into our chests,
Pounding our cheeks, our ears detecting opportunity
We run out to the tracks, eager to greet
The iron bull that stampedes through streets
Like cowboys, we wait for the perfect moment
Grins cutting across faces, the whiteness
Of palms becoming red. We wait
"Ya! Lo agarramos!? Lupe's mouth; a trumpet of war

Charging the train, placing our feet
On platforms, dangling from bars
We ride through the neighborhood like birds
Past the amazed crowd that line the streets
like blurred photographs in rain
We blow kisses to mamasitas who wore
Red-skirts and blue-eye shadow
Eyes closed, I dream of an endless
Train ride, taking us deep into the horizon
Until Lupe and I are no more


On West Main, near a church
My dad decides to be straight with me

"You get real tired of the same meat, of
The same stinking bed."

His eyes a dim gray
His mouth twisting sadness by butter knives

From Mexico City, to Chicago
He tuned-up old trucks, changed tires,
Traced electrical shorts. . .
The process of making due

"You were a mistake but I stayed."

Flies crawl his arm
The sun flaring behind trees
And I stare deep into stream
Of glass yawning in angled light

He was saying goodbye
"Ya no pedo. Ya no pedo"

Stepping out, dust dancing in gold waves
The engine roars thick as metal

and along the curb, I kick cans
under clouds giving up
and trees pointing to a new home

Saturday Night

Another 4 a.m. and we
litter Rudy's driveway with
beer cans, cigarette butts,
and plastic baggies. In the
June night we form a
semi-circle and lean against
Shorty's Impala. We talk
not of baseball or cars
But of girls we've screwed,
niggas we've jumped, of
tampons we've stuck on
neighborhood doors. Caught
between a passing jet and
Black Sabbath, blasting garage
walls, we acknowledge that
things aren't so bad, that our
lives aren't falling apart. And
after several joints we drop
the "Cool" attitude and become
children of the alleys once more.
Chests heaving. Faces Wet. We
engage in piggy-back wars on
moist grass, howling into the early
morning. And for a moment, in
the glory of our muscles, we return
to the summer of our childhoods
where we promised to remain
together despite our aging skin
and the growing chinga in our lives

Visiting Chewy

In room A27 I find Chewy
          stretched across a hospital bed.
Tubes crawl his arm, moist
          bandages and galls cling to
his yellow skin. His head
          shaven, metal bolts gleaming
under neon light. The doctor said
          "a few more centimeters and he'd
be dead." Like a mummy, wrapped
          in wool and cotton, he remains unmoved
and I alone with the corpse of a friend
          who had too much to prove to the
boys back home. In his father's room,
          behind the bed, he pulled out a cherry wood
box and grabbed the chrome .45. His
          lips blue. His eyes squinting the words,
"Let's play." So they passed the gun,
          pressed against temples, empty clicking in
the ears. Chewy takes hold, steady as a chair. His jaw stiff
          with rage. "Dare me. Dare me." Hands reach out,
trembling like black sparrows. Then "BANG ! ! !"
          the sky bruised with smoke. On the ground blood
pouring out of opened wound while friends stand
          and weep for the one lying among the weeds

Radames Ortiz is the author of a chapbook of poems, Below the Surface, which was illustrated by artist Tiziano D. Hernandez. His poems have appeared in Azimuth,, Fusion Ink, The New Journal, Adirondack Review, The Mesquite Review, among other journals. His awards include the Fabian Worsham Award for Poetry and the Megaera Award for Poetry. He is the editor of both The Bayou Review, the literary journal for the University of Houston Downtown and the online journal Coyote Magazine: Bringing Literature and Art Across Borders.

Links: Coyote Magazine: Bringing Literature and Art Across Borders


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