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5 poems by Timothy Perez

January 27, 2010

Gourds

I’ve planted no winter garden.

The summer squash have gone soft,

and split in gruesome grins; I notice

seeds germinating from inside:

in time—anything will eat itself.

Mother’s back aches from the pulsing

root in her rib cage; organs pushed

up against spine, breathing labored

like a bullfrog. My son is coming,

won’t be long now—mother’s belly

has taken its final shape. The dried prickly

head of a sunflower rests easily in the grimy

corner; kernels trip over themselves

in a dust devil; ants eat fallen offerings

next to pumpkins rotting in their shells.

These gourds remind me of the bloated bellies

of the infirm, of the starved.

The grape’s wispy tendrils are tough—their

orbs dried into hard wrinkled nuggets

and the people are hungry and the men stand

around with leathery hands stuffed deep into

second hand store jeans, the collars of worn

jackets turned up against the chill:

this is the way of the world. The warmth will

soon return, and saplings will be planted and grape

vines will come again tough as horse-hair twine,

stubborn as an adolescent, and the women will watch

the men watch as an overripe harvest hits soft ground,

and the men will walk in wide circles avoiding veils

of gorging flies, the soles of heavy boots force tufts

of earth to rise and settle. I want to become a blue heron

and hold mother gently in my thin beak and deliver

her to foreign sands where she’ll dine on stone fruit,

caviar. Fare that crunches and snaps with life,

and together we will wait patiently for sun to return.

Identity of Flesh

I like the way flesh molds itself to other objects:

chairs, bone, other bodies.

When death claims me dry out my skeleton

until it’s  brittle as a bird’s.

Or boil me, render me thin like a soup and ring

out my remains into a jar;

set it on a shelf until it’s time to be dusted off

and remembered.

Better yet, take me to the Himalayas, hack me apart

with a Buddhist’s blade and cast

me to jackals and vultures; allow me one last time

to become land and sky.

poverty

to save face, laugh

when you are disciplined.

next time you’ll get the buckle end.

discipline is not change

mother is important.

mother is keeper.

i was with your moms las’ night muthafucka!

use of mother is unforgiveable.

destiny and fate govern choice.

gangstas make the world go roun’, world go roun’.

people are possessions.

try to steal my girl watch what happens. watch.

relationships are achievements

i got wid her las night ese it was firme.

defend your children no matter how they treat you.

mijo esperete, mija eschuchame, ninos, ninos, NINOS!

education is feared.

a2 + b2 = c2

negotiations are fists, rocks, sticks, knives, guns.

resolution is shiny badges and a boot on the back

of your neck.

respect is made in ink inserted under flesh.

respect is found in the arthritically bent fingers

of youth who dangle them like talismans.

and none of it matters, but all of it does because

tu ere, tu ere, tu ere—you are.

Pugilist

My mouth is in a cross fire; and my eyes are empty as zero.

I have a Mayan’s mouth, a giver’s mouth, a speaker’s mouth;

my tongue rolls, but only in English.

A crown captured a culture in the name of glory and God.

Severed heads replaced with burnt feet, lashed backs

and gutted libraries: civilization set back a thousand years.

Terror is an open border and legions of gardeners armed

with leaf blowers; a regiment of busboys, pistols replaced

with squirt bottles filled with disinfectant;

squads of janitors and house maids with mustard colored

rubber gloves pulled up to dark ashy elbows wielding red

plungers, swinging them wildly over their dark faces;

a company of nannies holding ironing boards deep in the pits

of their arms like resumes: a compendium of mercenaries

hunting for work, an entire militia of labor.

We are fighters willing to turn mandibles side to side easily

as a samba dancer’s hips. At the core, I am a pugilist;

when I smile the ggrrr of my teeth makes it so the frown fades,

turns into a twisted portrait, incisors whittled down to splinters.

I wish my early relatives had gotten the chance to splatter foreign

blood against the jungle’s wide green leaves—like a Pollock painting:

beautiful transgression; chaotic masterpiece of progress gone

horribly wrong.

In the end, the only history that matters is that of the victors.

Immortality will be steel and germs: I am what’s eating me.

Sin Palabras

You are forced to ask yourself: imaginary or real?

A young boy, mouth agape front teeth missing,

a busted eye droops sadly, matted hair squirming

with vermin.

You have to ask yourself—but there are no words.

Just a deep scarlet trail of viscera flowing freely

from the hole in his head.

Later, in the evening perhaps, in the glare of a mirror

remind yourself: it was only art it was not a death.

It was not a death of a child, but a picture of one.

Art, that crafty bitch.

And you’ll want to become someone else’s fiction;

the mirror of a blue eye, diamond dust, crystal, a bit

of glass rolled smooth by the gently hands of water.

You’ll want to become the stress of cursive

and not the passive print of a wobbly hand,

but mostly you’ll want the picture of that boy

to make sense, but there will be no words.

Aside from brewing his own beer and cooking large slabs of meat over open flames, Tim Perez teaches English at Santiago High School in Corona, California. He’s a graduated from Long Beach State with an M.F.A in Creative Writing. Ten years ago Perez’s chapbook Crooked was  published by Gary Soto’s Chicano Chapbook Series. That was before the job, before the girlfriend-turned-wife, before the kids; however, between all that he continues to write, and write, and write. This is one of his first submissions to a literary outlet in a long time.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. latinawriter99 permalink
    February 4, 2010 10:25 pm

    Congratulations to Tim Perez for not giving up writing, despite the fact that life intervenes, and so many obligations–professional and familial–take him away from composing. I experienced the same thing, and it is only now, in retirement from public school teaching and administration, that I have returned to writing. It’s hard. It can be lonely, but true artists like Tim Perez have the spark, the motivation, and the passion to continue to create artistry with words. May he do so for many years and share the fruits of his labor with us readers!

    –Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D.
    New author: The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories

  2. Katie permalink
    July 27, 2011 11:54 pm

    This is some of the best I’ve read in a long time. Gourds was my favorite.

  3. Graciela Soliz permalink
    November 16, 2012 2:57 pm

    I love Tim Perez’s work and style! His work in “standing at the corner of trouble and sacrifice” – 1997 was quite impressive, as well. Keep on writing, Tim, and don’t disappear like Sixto Rodriguez did in Detroit, Michigan in the ’70s. I am a true believer in your work.

    Graciela Soliz

  4. Barrie Ryan permalink
    March 6, 2013 4:36 am

    This guy is one of my favorite writers

  5. Tim Perez permalink
    June 17, 2013 9:11 am

    Thank you all for your comments. I check this site every now and then out of curiosity. And if this is the Graciela Soliz who was my middle school English teacher. Thank you. And if this is the Barrie Ryan whom went through CSULB’s MFA program back in the late 90’s then hello brother. If anyone reading my stuff is interested I have a new book coming out in July or August 2013. It’s being published by MoonTide Press. It’s titled “The Savagery of Bone”. There will be a book launch and a reading and all that. You can friend me on facebook to get specifics if need be. Thanks again.

    T.

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