Two Poems by Patrick Fontes
Mi primo’s canvas painted body
monochrome India ink on brown skin
blurred scribble on his forearm faded
into prison cell walls at juvie 1983
then Corcoran, Wasco, Tracy, Quentin
“Damn primo, this is my second strike”
he scoops more of my mom’s, his tia’s
Sunday menudo from a boiling pot
“Why do old Mexican ladies put a plastic
cover over their table cloths?” we chuckle
in sadness as he sprinkles onions,
oregano, chili flakes, then squeezes
a slice of lemon “damn this is good, primo”
he stares out the window at my kids playing
“Hey esse you remember when we
played hide an’ seek in grandma’s yard
at night we heard giant rats in the trees
always thought there were ghosts chasing us”
I remembered ghosts back then and now
he dips a rolled up tortilla soaking up broth
his right leg a jackhammer pounds up and down
“I turn myself in tomorrow, cuz”
he cracks open a pig’s foot breaking bones
tearing ligaments, biting knuckles he searches
in between spaces for hidden happiness
hot menudo juice screams from his immaculate
white shirt with creased sleeves “Shit!”
over the sink frantically he forever scrubs
straining muscles fighting the crimson stain
Within a dust storm’s eye Antonio daydreams
of his family in Jalisco’s Los Altos longing
for his safe return as father lover brother.
Morning exhaust fumes speed past in mad rush.
Dusty cars bearing distant faces eyes mesmerized
on straight lines as far as the muddied horizon
beckons. A blurred poisoned sky hovers staining
each sun ray soiled orange falling onto oily streets.
Antonio works inside his earth bound cloud as daytime
visions envelop millions of magic particles. He is lost
in memories of past present future whipped together over
and over like rich mole thick with sadness and hope
gushing out of the blower’s mouth. He imagines
Quetzalcoatl writhed about his body the engine’s
vibrations the omnipotent god’s beating heart.
With gaping jaws he spews mighty winds
of blessings. A torrent of benevolent chaos breathes
life into littered candy bar wrappers changed into
crinkled plastic birds flitting through the air.
A cigarette box tossed out a window last Friday night
receives a soul dancing like Jennifer Lopez gyrates
then shoots away with choreographed flocks of leaves
arisen in unison fall dead again in a neighboring gutter.
“Asshole!” a businessman in a black BMW yells
as he drives through Antonio’s dreamscape.
A Mexican god’s hot breath exhales down a Fresno
street inside the storm’s eye Antonio’s thoughts
a torrent whorling dust-laced divinations.
Patrick Fontes grew up and currently reside in the California Central Valley town of Fresno. The grit and grime of the working class city has made him who he is today. Fresno’s mean streets, junkies, homeboys, punk rock scene, and the city’s great cultural mixture with so many different races, foods, languages and smells have shaped my character and worldview. Currently he is a PhD candidate in history at Stanford University. His research involves border issues, Mexican religion, Mexican immigration, and the criminalization of Chicano culture. His poetry has been published in La Bloga, The Mas Tequila Review, and The Ascentos Review. Selected by Rochelle Hurt.
Photo © Broderick Delaney via Flickr Creative Commons