I feel like Jughead when she comes around.
She would make the perfect Betty.
We have little in common and live on opposite ends
of the valley. We hail from different schools.
I once went to hers, but then I moved.
I live among a different crowd now, one lacking
in pep and smiles, one dressed entirely in black.
I have a dark side, but she has one too.
I wear mine on a jacket, but she hides hers.
I only saw a hint, but I heard the rumors.
They draw me closer to her. We converge
at the penumbra, unblinded by light,
unhidden by darkness. We see each other
as we truly are: moody and distant,
mean when necessary or preferable,
but willing, wanting to come together
to form something greater than us apart.
On opposite sides of the valley, but still, we meet
most nights through mutual friends and excuses
to see her that hide how I truly feel from us both.
Not sure I’d call this love or need, but I want to feel
both for her. She’s more physical. I’m not spiritual,
but I’m a writer in search of a narrative
that doesn’t revolve around death, an escape
from one cliche into another but one I have not
experienced much living my life alone
with only movies and music to keep me company.
She can be the cure, the golden ticket off the screen.
She rarely looks my way, but she smiles
when she does. I interpret it as love
even if the feeling is not reciprocated.
Maybe all my reasons are wrong and we don’t belong
together. She still has eyes for another guy.
I still fight a crusade to reclaim my pride.
Hard to please and quick to leave, but I cannot survive
another loss. I have no more time to nurse the wounds
of another dream abandoning me. I have no life
outside of the narratives I write. She may be my escape,
and I may be hers. We may just be a fling, a distraction
from things I still do not want to think about.
Either way, she means more to me than anything
else, at least for the time being.
I would run if I could walk
without a limp. It rarely shows,
but only because I stand still
instead of embarass myself
with stumbles and falls.
I am not weak or incomplete.
God botched my wiring,
forcing me into acrobatics
for movements others take
for granted. The effort exhausts
me for nothing to gain,
so I hide inside a chair
to hide a limp that will not be fixed,
because it hurts less never to walk
again than to fall on my face
in front of a world that is not my friend.
Frozen in eternal nightmares, the past
lived forever as the present. No choice,
no matter how drastic, would end the dream.
I always woke up in the same bed, same place,
on a ship sailing toward an island nowhere
in particular. I chased dragons there
hunting for the truth but finding
only lies that preserved my destiny.
In truth, I hunted for lies to avoid the truth
that the person I wanted to be had already died.
I was no hero or savior. I was a living failure.
Frozen in a dream, I fought the same battles,
performed the same rituals, replayed the same scenes
where my life had meaning as I slept
under the presence of the full moon.
A blue rose scarred my face, shattered the hate
that kept me asleep. I fell from the clouds
and hit the concrete. Gravity crushed me,
molded carbon into diamond. With your first cry,
I was awake. I gave up the sword and turned
to the heart. I learned that life is not a fight to win.
You don’t need a weapon. You need me
to be your shield. You need me to be your wings.
For you, I’ve given up everything I hoped to be—
the sun, the moon, the star—and will give you everything
you need so that you are not lost inside a dream.
No pastor practices what they will preach.
They speak of forgiveness to stack the deck,
because it’s easier to fleece a sheep
than wolves that bite back and aim for the neck.
Those who can’t do will teach you to be cruel
by bending the rules when it suits their desires.
Morality enslaves. Only the fool
hath said of his own heart it is a liar.
Each heresy erects a wall and deems
it truth, but what is truth? Limitations
appeasing gods unseen except in dreams,
and dreams? Reality’s resignation.
Apostate to all ideology
unshackles life’s endless possibility.
I believe in love. I lost my righteous anger.
Crusade is just a euphemism for war.
My crucible forged nothing of value. I fought
for years not to gain a single inch, still brittle
as clay. Every sacrifice to Ares made me
no savior but a slave to righteous intentions
to pave a bloody path on which I hoped to save
the world. I retreated, not out of fear, but fatigue,
and for a child that demanded my attention.
I used to want to save the world. Now I want to
save him. I can't help the refugees, but I can
help him. Even if I wanted to save the world,
I am no god that could end the plague of frogs.
I helplessly watch the war against doomsday.
I threw down my sword; it was useless. I raised up
my shield, and now I protect him. Call me selfish,
an apostate warrior, but I was just a ghost
before. Now I am a guardian angel. Flesh
is soft, but armor rusts in acid rain. Flesh heals,
and it can heal others. I no longer drink
from the storm. I filter my seas of minerals
that no longer benefit me. Blood is thicker
than water, but water nourishes. It is clean.
I'm clear and light with the world not weighing on me.
I never saved a soul with violence, but I saved
two with love. I no longer live in darkness.
I believe in love.
Call me Rorschach. You see what you believe.
You will always be right. I am indeed
a mutilated face, a couple in a fight,
a sexual organ, a monarch butterfly.
I fit in every hole except gender
and Myer-Briggs. I identify as Scorpio
and Slytherin, not because I believe it,
but because I want to be it, but if she insists
I be something different, I would.
Labels lack value without appraisal.
Even then, it’s currency not accepted
at every retailer, but money is.
I’d rather be money than whatever
you see me as. I’d rather be accepted
without argument than condition
every relationship with a treatise.
I threw away identity and found love
by being all things to all people,
that I might save myself, because nobody
else would. Nobody else could.
Rorschach could not live in a world not black-and-white.
I could not live in a world that is. I never fit
the contours right. I dabble in spaces, but never commit.
I found pleasure in your black-and-white world
but I found joy in me despite what society said.
Don’t call me Rorschach because I never believed
what others assumed of me. Call me a naturist.
I don’t need to cover up my base humanity
with patches to build up my identity.
I wear it all for fun, but it’d come off for anyone.
My body aches all day in bed.
The pills delay the pain until
the next day. I wake up again
and numb it until I don’t feel
my back, relaxed most of the day.
My heart always threatens to break
when I haven’t written in weeks.
I self-medicate on soulmates
and tweets until I’m not lonely.
I love to find love in daydreams.
But the spasms always return,
reminding me I’m still alive.
Sedation may delay the burn,
but purgatory never dies.
I tire of quacks and fantasies
that keep me drooling on the ground
when I could traverse vaster seas.
Mockingbird, I’m listening now.
Guide me through the forest until I find
the seed to silence you and help me fly.
I became a full Mexican to publish my first poem,
because the truth would have muddled the impact.
Wit is brevity, and purebreds have more value
than mutts in dog pounds and in poetry.
A culture and heritage that matter little to me
are more poetic than a life shaped by Final Fantasy.
Lightning is fleeting, but tradition’s immortality.
It mattered little what I really wanted to say.
I just wanted to be saved, so I crossed the penumbra,
but I found no light, no sign of intelligent life.
I learned magic wasn’t real after my first time.
I am also part Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and Filipino,
but I know even less about all those. At least I’ve been to Mexico—
Cancun, for MTV Spring Break, not to reconnect with an estranged grandfather
as I had written; he lived in Oakland, and my fondest memories of him are not
of stories about life in Mexico—he may have never been—
but of when I first played Super Mario Land 2 on his Game Boy.
I’m not a good person of color. If only I were white.
Nobody would expect me to be a stereotype.
Whitewashing made Doctor Strange great according to critics.
Why can’t it do the same for me?
I’m not like a poet at all. Some would say I’m the reverse.
To be a poet, I was taught to market myself. Who would listen
if I never reached out? Who would understand?
Write what you know, unless all you know are pop culture references.
Then write about the world as if you can save it,
but no matter how often you pontificate, that won’t change
the fact that everybody came to hawk their own words, not listen
to yours. Mine are no longer for sale, partly because I hold no value
to strangers, and partly because they hold no value to me,
but mostly because I’m the middle class now.
Why act as if I still struggle in poverty?
I’m not the type to ask for help.
Angel investors smell spilt blood,
and friends turn their sights somewhere else.
The tears I plead change soil to mud.
I never play nice for a treat.
I save more time by buying sweets.
Exiled, and I never came back.
The world offers nothing I lack.
The common core may crack your spirit, but
I will lift it up and heal it. Too young
to break over a grade, the golden stars
that tempt your eyes and stress your heart will fade.
I gained nothing from every A I earned.
So quiet and well-behaved, I lived a ghost
through twelfth grade earning nothing from essays
until I wrote for cash instead of grades,
ten dollars per page, thirty if due the next day.
Every F and A you earn will wither away,
worth no more than four touchdowns in one game.
All that remains after you graduate
is you, either dreaming of Columbine
because all that you learned were just white lies
by teachers who don’t remember your name
and boys and girls who feel the same
or someone full of joy unstrained by grades
and courage not exhausted by exams.
I will fill the cracks left by twenty types
of math, correct the grammar in their language,
replace obedience with empathy,
justice with mercy, and dogma with honesty.
I’ll also teach you academics
just to ease your gallop through their gauntlet,
but despite what they may teach, every F and A
you earn fades away after you graduate.