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.
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.
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.
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.
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.