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Luis Lopez-Maldonado

March 30, 2012

1960…

                                                              CALIFORNIA

            eyes wide closed,
                                            Mi Abuelito carrying his Mexican dream for a better tomorrow
like the bright candy inside a piñata, but worse:
                                                                                    he hid inside the trunk.
            a pale yellow 1955 Chevrolet…a brave white older woman
                                                   suffocating, sweating
                                                                                         he held his hopeful choppy breath
              held it, and held it…
                                 the smell of the infinite ocean, seaweed, palm trees galore
he had entered the city of SAN DIEGO.
                                                                                     at last
                                                 a fresh start, an opportunity of gold
work, make money and send it to my grandmother in Michoacán
          Felizidad!
                                                                      a tear slowly crept down his pink cheek…
                                 still trapped inside this American product
                                                                                                              he opened his eyes
                                                     an awakened puppet
get up at 4am, work all day picking strawberries, then go home and sleep,
                                                                                                 the trunk opens…
                        EL NORTE.

El Granjenal, Michoacán, December Traditions

 

I hear a little girl talk to me

on nights like this one, intimidating

and forgotten. When limp

olive trees cast their shadows

on my shadow, machete in hand,

I stop to watch. Is it a sin to closely

watch your cousin strip down to his underwear?

Uno de los Maldonado’s baby cries

and my abuelita calls for her yerba de Manzanilla.

 

Las posadas are held tonight on our street,

my sister chosen to be la virgen Maria,

my cousin as Jose— horses, a donkey,

floors drowned

in hay, a floating star lit

hung with the same wire

they used to hang my birthday piñatas with–   

I am no one tonight though.

No role-playing.

 

The warm smell of canela boiling in large pots,

pan dulce arranged neatly in plastic

containers. This feels foreign to me,

like my mother and my father.

But I pretend to enjoy it and stand behind the old ladies

in their black rebosos. We sing in Spanish,

songs that relate to the Nativity scene

that once was before my time. The space between

my temples fixes on my cousins eyes

and we both smile under our closed lips.

 

A choreographed night and after duties disappear,

so do we, sneaking away, taking an extra Aginaldo,

going to our private hideout– the muddy stalls

of an abandoned home where a family

was murdered. In the dark we forget

about everything and caress each others hair,

and kiss each others lips, “for practice,”

pretending to be doing it to a girl.

But for me,

it was heaven.    

 

Luis Lopez-Maldonado was born and raised in Santa Ana, California. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California Riverside in Creative Writing, and another in Dance. His work has been seen in The American Poetry Review, Spillway, The Packinghouse Review and Cloudbank. Poets that have influenced Lopez-Maldonado’s work include Gary Soto, Federico Garcia Lorca, Cesar Vallejo, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Alba Cruz-Hacker. He is single and living in Orange County.

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