Mermaid 4

by Timothy Matthew Perez

because your life, your wife, your two point five kids are my imaginings.
because your actuality is my face in your window heaving over the chicken
you just pulled crispy and tender from the oven.

because where I live I can’t walk down the street in a white tee shirt
because my wife is afraid I may be mistaken for someone else.

because where I live every guy looks like me, which I find amusing,
and when I tell her, every guy is dark, short and overweight
she simply says, you never know . . . just remember the knife.

and I remember the twelve inch chopping knife stained with blood next to my car and how I peeked underneath the car just to make sure there wasn’t a body.

Where I live you can’t miss the stink of reefer or the clouds of cannabis rolling out a teen’s windows like smoke signals.

Where I live the dogs of choice are Chihuahua or pit bull—nothing in between.

Where I live the obesity rate is three times the national average.
Where I live dialysis clinics are numerous as McDonald’s: one on every street corner—
dah-dah, dah, dah, dah you’re dead—the signs says it all: billions served.

Where I live Vatos walk the street shirtless because they have so much ink you can’t tell where
they end and the asphalt begins.

Where I live when my brother-in-law gets out the pen I lock up my kids, but where I live is only 10 minutes from where you live, so to give you a taste of where I live I point him in your direction.

Where I live I have to rake bits of glass and hypodermic needles from the park’s grounds and shepherd off the homeless before my kids can play.

When I go to the Food For Less, because there is always only a Food For Less where I live, I push the grocery cart as far as it can go before the electric wheel locks because I want the old man who collects them to keep his job so he can continue to send money to his daughter in college and his sister in Jalisco or Michoacán or wherever.

Because where I live dreams die fast and easy, but where I live there is also hope. I see it in the windows, glowing through the eyes of a saint plastered to the side of a candle, but mostly I see it growing like weeds from the cracks my children hop, skip, and jump over.

I know there is hope for this city and its inhabitants because today I watched a man—shaved head, goatee, neck tat, baggy everything—go down a busted, tagged up slide with his niece not once but two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight times: a wide toothed smile across his face and I imagine him remembering what it was to be a child and when I gave him a quick nod of the head, he didn’t go into character he just nodded back.

And I know there is hope because today I watched a man put down his brown bagged bottle and play tag with his son. And I know there is hope because today I watched a mother guide her daughter across the wobbly bridge for the first time telling her the whole way, be brave mija, always be brave.

because that’s where I live—in a place where hope is born from the shrieks that charge from the walls of children’s throats like winged soldiers because I know if they are taught what’s in the books they will learn how to refuse failure and poverty, and I imagine them writing stories in a language of their own enterprise telling those stories the only way they know how.

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3 comments

  1. I have had a little too much sugar and am contemplating a salad to assist my stomach and digestion. I am trying to feel badly about the sugar and it is not working.

    And then I read your poem. Fantastic!!! So honest, so pure, heartfelt to the max.

    I love that you see the hope and show it to us. Thank you; thank you for seeing those who live in my neighborhood too. Thank you!!!

    May you go forth and publish again, and again, and again!!!

  2. What a beautiful piece! It was raw, rich with detail, and insightful. I felt like I was beside the protagonist from start to finish. You give voice to many whose voices cannot always be heard. Keep writing. Can’t wait to read more…

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