Common Core

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.

Marks of the Beast

I can’t fix you, Lily Lou.
You’ve chewed up more than I could swallow.
It was cute when you only destroyed
five-dollar wires, then they were ten,
and now they’re five hundred.
I don’t know what to do.
If I throw you in a pound, the boy will cry,
but if I keep you around, everything I love will die:
my PlayStation VR, my Sony sound bar,
Cloud’s Buster Sword, my violin’s veneer.
You destroy everything you get near.
I bought a gun to protect my home,
but how do I protect anything from you?
You leave bird feathers all over my patio,
and chewed up wires all over my desk,
and I swear you stole a twenty from me.
Why else are there bite marks on my wallet?
They say you provide companionship,
but you just prove that hell is others.
They say you’re worth more than electronics,
but we live in a material world,
and I am a materialist in mind, body, and spirit,
and each time you bite through another wire,
it’s like your severing my tendons.

Not of This World

I cried when critics declared Batman v. Superman rotten.
My trinity had died, slain by a hydra I cannot reason with or fight.
I believed in justice. The world proved me wrong.
I’m always wrong. That’s life’s greatest lesson.
I couldn’t save animals or stop global warming
by passing out pamphlets and abstaining from meat.
Al Gore blames SUVs and eats food from factories painted green.
I couldn’t help the poor or myself by giving out charity.
The church told me I took the Gospel too literally,
Donald Trump commissions the saints to crack heads and crush pussy.

I once believed everyone was stupid except me,
but now I wonder if I’m the only one asleep.
I run in place unable to cross the horizon.
I speak but lack the volume to make anyone listen.
I’m naked, but nobody’s paying attention.
I revolt against the inevitable conclusion.
I never knew I never enjoyed life
until Christ led me astray. I could’ve joined
the circle-jerk, but I took a vow of celibacy when drunk
on the Spirit, when I believed life had meaning
outside a high school thirst for college coeds.

I was wrong again.

Now, I use my education to debate teenagers
on why Microsoft is evil and why Sony is great.
Maybe I’ll find a revelation on Reddit or Tumblr
that will shift the paradigm and solve the paradox.
I deserve to be loved. I’m smart, and I’m kind.
I am most of the time. But even if Gaga matched me,
even if she saw my reflection and not just my shadow,
she’d never be as beautiful awake as when I’m asleep.
She’d never be the pixie that I really need,
quenching my need for more dopamine.
Antidepressants numb the body and mind,
but not the heart. Nothing ever does.
There is no God, no justice, no logic in this world.
If there were, everybody would know
life only makes sense when you force it to.
Deconstruction is more real than what’s canon.
I was never deemed a hero for making the right choices.
I was never white or tall enough to spring from Eden.
I remained a stillborn seed, a weed begging for somebody
to water me. I’m a ghost in my own dream, waiting for somebody
to pinch me. Wake me up, or prove that I’m right about life.

My Losing Virginity Poem

I became a full Mexican even though I was only a third
because the truth would muddle the impact.
Wit is brevity, and purebreds have more value
than mutts in dog pounds and in poetry.
I fleshed out my life with reality TV.
I had been an amateur until reality kings
perfected my POV. I plagiarized pop lyrics
and sprinkled in “soul.” I created a grandfather
I had never known but had seen in novellas
I watched with my abuela, a word I never used
until election campaigns introduced it to me.
I never learned Spanish. I chose French
because the goth girl in class introduced me
to the Cure, cocaine, and poetry,
all things I remember more fondly than Cancun,
which I went to, not with the hope of connecting
with my ancestors like in the poem, but to get laid.

As usual, reality got in the way.
The euphoria did not last long anyway. It never does.
I want neither climax nor validation, but salvation
in a world without God, magic, and passion.
Compared to those, art is masturbation.
Even if my truest poem were published,
it wouldn’t change anything. The climax
ends too quickly, and the buildup just wastes time,
so why take Prozac to extend the grind.
I lost interest in Katie right after I graduated,
but I held onto her for my imagination,
but no medication can keep me dreaming.
I’ll always wake up alone, surrounded
by people I don’t care for. I stay in the club
because if I ever find comfort in being alone,
then I may as well already be dead.
Words lack substance when confined to my head,
so I vomit on Facebook to show the world
I’m not dead, dumb or blind to what’s around me.
I just close my eyes because I’d rather live
in dreams where I just fuck and eat. No need to cut
life with drugs, media, and friends.
I turn off my phone when asleep;
I no longer need notifications.
I’m in control. I’m free.
I can run on water, I can eat meat,
I can abandon everybody and remain guilt-free.
I can see my baby when he was still three.
He’s the only person who matters to me.
He’s the only reason I wake up when I still want to sleep.

I never loved another person.
I love Lady Gaga, not Stefani Germanotta,
Lana del Rey, not Elizabeth Grant,
and not even Katie, not as she is.
I flesh them in poems but hide when I see them.
Even if they loved me, I would lose them
just like every crush that quickly turned to dust
as soon as I saw them without imagination’s makeup.
They’re nobody I want. I’m not the angel they need.
I’ve taken a vow of celibacy, not out of religion,
but because there’s no reason to do anything
for a quick pick me up that barely lasts half a day.

White Dwarf

Prozac made it hard to rise

from bed most days. I didn’t want to die.

I didn’t want to wake. I lost my pick-me-up

at the pharmacy. I couldn’t find my way

back home, so I stayed behind

and stared at walls like 3D posters,

but the patterns had no depth.

I only saw black-and-white text

I could read, but it made no sense

why I’d age fifty years instead

of trying to surf the tempests.

Either way, I’d end up dead,

either drowning in my own storm

or shriveling in a desert sun.


The “smartest” girl I know confesses on Facebook
that she’s an introvert to her one thousand friends.
She would rather read a book than go out for drinks
according to her weekly posts of Buzzfeed links.
In conversations, she refers to Mark Twain
as Samuel Clemens, and translates our laymen speak
into an esoteric dialect rehearsed
since college but she always misses my connotations.
She uses Tumblr because her thoughts won’t fit
into tweets, most of which she expresses through sunset memes.
She no longer follows my blog because I disagreed once.

She considers grammatical fallacies and misused
apostrophes torture, but she has never won
a spelling bee like me. My trophy’s at the Goodwill,
discounted to a quarter, if you want to see it.
It comes with my Mensa spam. I gave it away
because masturbation’s a sin, and I never
got laid with the results of a quiz anyway.
I half-assed my A’s to make time to sleep, watch TV,
and play video games. She worked her ass off each day
so she wouldn’t end up at Jack in the Box like I used to be.
I now work on websites, changing the colors of links.
She earned her master’s degree in teaching
and makes three-fifths what I do with my corporate BS.

She tells me I will die alone; I remind her that she will too.
She waits for Prince Charming like her Jesus godmother taught her to,
but she’s no Cinderella, Snow White, or even much of a Lady,
and I’m more Elsa than Anna when it comes to love.
I don’t need a mate because I don’t have a soul.
I don’t need a god to avoid feeling alone,
and I don’t need to be liked for a profile pic
covered with flags to show strangers I care about shit.
I burn bridges she’s terrified of crossing.
I’m Kanye West: unfiltered genius with a godlike fashion sense,
and she’s Taylor Swift: fake as shit church princess.
She says she’d rather read a book than party, but
while I slept through New Year’s, she carpet-bombed
Instagram with pictures of her friends—
teabaggers and anti-vaxxers—and thanked them
for making her poor, dumb, lonely life worth living.

I Am not a Hufflepuff

Do not call me a Hufflepuff. I want
another class—anything—not defined
by what I do for you. My loyalty
is why everyone comes to me, but not
for me. Man’s best friend, because I’m your bitch.
I like to help, but I’m not just an elf
who lives to deal with your dirty laundry.
I have a life outside of your epics.
You would know if you ever talked to me
about something other than your own battles.
Why must someone die before you see me?

I’m more than miscellaneous background.
Acknowledge me for my brain, spine, or heart,
not just for hands that carry you across
the ocean when you’re too tired or drunk to walk.
If all I could be is a Hufflepuff,
then I’ll drop out and disapparate to the streets, cloaked
with invisibility you gave me,
to gorge on sin and gluttony of the world
beyond your magical fortified island.
When the police come, I will not be named the culprit.
They’ll never see me. I’m a Hufflepuff.

You’re not so smart. You’ve passed your OWLs, but they
have never reached the heavens like mine did.
You’re not so brave, afraid to live in a world
where magic doesn’t exist. I have lived
my entire life without a wand, burning
bridges with my words to prove I could fly.
I’ve killed more demons than you’ve seen, escaped
a prison built by magicians like you,
where you sort everyone into a class
to flesh out your pyramid scheme, with you,
the lightning rod, erect at the apex.

If I am just a Hufflepuff, I do
not belong with you celebrities on stage
or with the groupies who wait for you to cast
away their dry spells. I’m not a wizard
anymore. Magic summons me to you,
transforms me into your familiar, living
portrait to pretty up your walls at night,
your own personal Uber saving you
money you’ll squander somewhere else. I have
no life within your walls. I’m just a ghost
wandering the halls at night, looking for a fight
to prove to the world that I’m still alive.
Why must someone die before you see me?

Power Fantasy

Who wouldn’t become Kilgrave if given
the power to control minds? Whether for food
or love or to bring about world peace, we want
the world to abide with us. We know what’s right.
Do others? We won’t know until we tell them so.
A superhero’s greatest power is control
over people, whether through strength or charm
or binding webs. The lines we vow to respect
wash away in a single wave of force.
The appetite does not relax when fed;
it only expands, and self-reflections
are never seen. Crusades saturate souls,
nuance blends into shadows. Justice remains,
guided by a compass attracted to good
intentions, but always our own, leading
to depths we never explored before we had

Even God may have been the love he claims
before impatience pushed him to practice
tough love on the flocks who kept acting up.
Ripping children from wombs, crushing their skulls,
aborting nations to build a paradise
where nobody dies. Christ himself did not
shed as much blood as the Israelites did.
What would Jesus do? He would die for the world
rather than save it with blood, sweat, and tears
of villains who refuse to just listen.
He forgave them anyway.

Kevin lost his chance to be saved the moment
his parents stuck the needle in his back. They extended
his life, expanded his strength, extinguished his soul.
Redemption never comes without castration
nor does the desire for it. Jesus conquered death
without assault rifles and neutron bombs,
without pillars of fire and forced obedience,
just by accepting it. The saints followed
his footsteps into the caves. Crusaders
prop up his body in front of a flag,
plug up his wounds and pierce his lapels
with campaign pins. Armed with rifles and dick
pumped up, they made a savior for real men
to follow and honest women to obey.
They made a hero to bring about the peace
they desire. A paradise in their own image.

Short-Term Evangelist

Michigan Avenue
Photograph by Jason Carpenter. © Creative Commons.

I helped my church plant a garden in Chicago’s inner city,
but the plants withered, because we forgot
to water the leaves, declaring our mission accomplished once
we planted the seeds. One of the boys who pretended
to shoot me as my friends handed out cafeteria trays
asked if I’d return to play with them the next day.
I had to say no, because we planned to take a trip
to Michigan Avenue where I entered my first Apple Store.
Homeless men and women begged at the doors of Starbucks,
still holding the pamphlets on the Four Spiritual Laws we gave them
that morning during the evangelist phase of the mission.
I gave them no money because I only carry plastic,
but I gave one the rest of my vanilla bean frappe.
He wanted to talk about Jesus—I wanted to talk to a girl,
but God was watching, and so was she,
so I listened to his testimony, waiting for the opportunity
to present mine and close the sale, get close to my soulmate,
but his testimony ran too long, didn’t adhere
to the three-hundred-word limit we wrote
and rehearsed the morning we arrived in Illinois.
I drowned out his tragedies with prayers to return home
on dates with porn stars I promised I’d leave behind
once God blessed me with a family of my own,
until he stopped, and I could finally brush him away
with a passionate prayer, but though free, she already left
to see Blue Man Group with the rest of the flock.
I wandered through Michigan Avenue in search
of a light, a sign, whether it came from the sky or from a strip club.

Nostalgic for You

cemetery flowers
© Flysnow | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

I never considered you more than a friend,
but time multiplied by distance reshapes
your face, mutates friends into obsessions,
molds love out of nothing, perverts the chaste.

Dreams photoshop your eyes a greener shade
as porn expands your breasts a couple cups.
Old songs reheard weave us into new fate
revised by porn with girls who have your butt.

I found you on Twitter again. Your tweets
praised Trump, raised guns for Ohio, teabagged
women and children. Were you always so sweet?
I never noticed. I never saw through masks.

My dreams now have you bind me, torture me
with whips and wax until I vote GOP.