I: 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. II: 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.) III: 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. IV: 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. V: 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.”
Ah, so lovely and lyrical, and driven by memory and connection.
“I look at the veins in my hands,
more pronounced each year,
and see Granny’s veins,
her olive skin …”
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks so much. And now it’s full circle with my son poking my veins just like I used to poke hers