summer. home.

Daniel was the son
raised in the valley. A bucket for a 
swimming pool. Air conditioning was
hosing down the cement porch, 
waiting for a breeze. Him and Mom,
Granny and Papá Romulo.
Then Dad returned from the war. That’s all 
I know of the war. 
     His return.

Raul was raised in San Antonio.
Daniel & Raul,
speaking Spanish, singing boleros, 
eating raspas, and parting their hair on the side. 
Los hijos de Junior y Noelia. 
Tan joven, tan guapo. 
They knew the valley, they knew 
the language. 
     I came late. Learned late.

I came each summer 
to Granny and Papá Romulo. 
Dad in the reserves, Mom with us. 
Two weeks to watch 
     and learn late.

Fairgrounds Road
Rio Grande City, Texas

I climbed the salt cedar 
each morning. I could see 
Roque Guerra school,
where Mom learned
English. Dogs unleashed,
dust and dress shops 
and the panadería. 

Papá whistled. I climbed down. 
Past the cement porch,
past Granny hanging sheets 
freshly wrung, flapping and damp, 
between the pomegranate trees, 
Javi watching from 
the other side of the chain link fence,
(sin hermanos, pobre de Javi)
to a row of bricks in the backyard,
to Daniel, Raul, David, Martita,
and Papá Romulo. He had made
us slingshots.

He sets up the cans, his heavy step 
crunching mesquite pods.  
We take aim.
Pebbles ding the bricks,
bounce in the dust,
Javi watches from
the other side of the chain link fence.

Pull, aim, miss. Calmate, mi’jo.
Pull, aim, miss.
Fijate, mi’jo. His weathered thick hand
on the slingshot now. Dress shirt and 
dress pants, thick lenses and Three Roses
pomade, but a face and a gaze pure Olmec. 
Fijate, mi’jo. 
     One pebble, 
     one shot. 
     A can falls.

Papá Romulo, stepping heavily,
back to his fading aluminum
lawn chair. Grinning, rolling a Bugler.

(The bricks were put to better use
when the house burned down on 
my eleventh birthday in 1980. 
     I was there.
Papá Romulo learned to make do
with his left hand after the stroke
in late May, 1985. Raul led us
down the hospital hall, fighting back
tears in his cap and gown.  
Papá Romulo, face drooping,
voice powerful & phlegmy, 
letting Raul know how proud
he was, how loved he was.) 

I haven’t been to Fairgrounds
in twenty years. It’s not ours 
anymore. I drive 
past it, past the peyote dealer,
past the bougainvillea 
and unlocked trucks
and picket fences
and hand-painted signs for
businesses long gone. 
All the way to the cemetery
on the left. Where my cousin
Netito patted my shoulder,
as we carried Papá in his casket. 
Where Mom and Tío Israel cried 
and sang. Where the dust covers
plastic flowers and prayers
etched in stone. Where I went 
the day after Thanksgiving
in grad school (just 
to pay respects) and wound up  
with my Tía, slicing apart
a hose tucked in the weeds,
to siphon gas from her car
to fill the borrowed lawn mower. 
We can't leave it like this, mi’jo. 
Dusty, dirty, like a parking lot.  
The mower kicked up whirlwinds.
I gathered faded silk flowers
blown from nearby graves. 
We stood under the mesquite.
She cried, and I slapped my 
jean jacket clean for 
the drive back to Dallas. 

My closet has vintage
skinny ties & guayaberas, 
safe from the fire. I still wear 
the gold Virgen they put 
around my neck in 1982. 
I’ve never removed it.
I look at the veins in my hands, 
more pronounced each year,
and see Granny’s veins,
her olive skin. Your blood
is bouncy, I’d say, poking
her veins and laughing, my head 
on her shoulder, her hands
on my lap.	
     Our hands, our blood,
     write now, right now. 

They lied once a year, 
Granny and Papá Romulo,
each April inflating
their income for the honor
of paying taxes. Their city is named 
after a river that they never crossed. 
They lie side by side,
under a mesquite tree
at the far end of 
Fairgrounds Road. 

A slightly different was originally published as part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge in May 2019, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. 

2 responses to “summer. home.”

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