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Authors: Juan Felipe Herrera

SkateFate

BOOK: SkateFate
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JUAN FELIPE HERRERA

SKATE FATE

For Lawrence King

A fifteen-year-old middle school boy from Oxnard, California,
who was shot and killed by another student
for what prosecutors said was a hate crime.
A few weeks before the incident, Lawrence's classmates said
that he had publicly declared that he was gay.

Rest in Power, Lawrence.

 

And

For all the boys who love the color pink.

. . . LET US GO FORTH IN THE BOLD DAY, AND WRITE.

—Walt Whitman, “Proud Music of the Storm,”
from
Leaves of Grass

boom-blam that was the last thing i heard.

a so forever scream slid through me

Is this a dream Lucky i asked myself

just rolled here new foster parents new streets. new beats. new kids laughing out loud so what if i wear fruity tops skinny black pants so what if i sing to myself so what if i write in a hot-pink journal so what if i drag tons of art and poetry books. Levertov. Baudelaire. Van Gogh. Whitman. Neruda. Chagall. Passolini. hear me. Mattie Stepanek is my favorite. cuz he wrote poems sitting in his wheelchair breathing through a tube in his throat. scribbled them as fast as he could for everyone. yeah like that. that's what it's all about dude

i was saying this over and over to Klarissa my new cool friend before it all happened. Jason Blocker was after me. said You never gonna be in the Scene girly. and you are never gonna really ever skate. you're sooo gay! read this i told him. here. get a grip. winked at him. heh

I HEAR

MYSELF

SINGING

i hear myself singing

a clear morning a sun filled with laughter

everything that everyone is after right here

inside my song this iTune i am on this
melodía
i am ringing

bounce from the mirror bounce from the flower

in my foster mother's short hair here & there or now or

some day never i say Now i hear myself

not yesterday when i was sad

alone under the shade of a broom in my hip-hop room

my father somewhere somewhere saying when you have life

well—be alive! At 2 or 7 or 6 or 11!

there is no clock when your voice rises & trembles an iris

on the fence or the dock each petal curled up

around the world each other around each color never settle

for the cold iron gray of a bullet-riddled metal pinging

open your heart that's how i start

a clear morning a sun filled with laughter

everything that everyone is after happens now

i hear myself singing singing

ACROSS
THE STREET
AT THE
GREEN
SPEEDWAY
CAFÉ

valedictorian cannoli

wrapped so elegantly on a neon city tray

here i come come

madame hip-hop powder puff

mademoiselle éclair may i

sit at your side

on this wheely black-strap trickster chair

please please

one fiery cappuccino tease

one strawberry shortcake awake & those crunchy

wait! what is this on my iPod nano?

my grandmother Serafina's border ballads from afar?

papa z's desperate gypsy beats from the war?

shall we skateboard

on this delirious apple-shaped floor?

clap for a night of nutmeg

& cinnamon dancers

clap for the answers in chocolate autumn-leaf dresses

barefoot blushed cheeks hot-hot Milky-Way breath

oh the rest is on my long blackish hair—clap!

INSIDE
MY
PENCIL
BOX

number two lead

skinny gummy toothpick poles the color of tar

punky eraser with a bony shaved head

who wants to write about Manitoba Trout sooo far?

yellow beads sunflower seeds & a bee's head without a tie

soggy crumbs taste
mm-mmmm
good

from last year's pumpkin pie

ON
THE
PALM TREE STANDING
TALL
BEFORE ME

tiny rough childhoods

roots bent astray

songs of night

starry children

hidden seeds

lost embraces

scattered hearts and gone faces

one

by one

flowerings

going into

red-brown going into

fire fawn traces

breathe for us

rise
for us

newborn harmonies

shimmerings

glimmerings

lingering

boy of spiked

strands & girl of roaring tides

wild fruits & dark-petaled eyes

i bow to you

ON
MY
METROCARD

jot down 5 things

    
that i can balance on my forearm

jot down 9 things

    
that when splashed together look
    like the earth

jot down 17 things

    
that rhyme with Thyme

jot down 3 easy streets

    
for foster girl fights

jot down 9 words

    
that i know are 100% magic

jot down the word
Lost

    
& stretch it into
Most

ON THE
LAST
MIDNIGHT DRAG RACE
ON A
STREET
NAMED DESIRÉE

for your open shirt fender that flies

   
for fragments of bittersweet mags & tags & a sigh

for your violet-brushed eyelash & your crazy single i

   
that crashes when light sings alone

for your dive drive into the pale street's gasoline moon

   
to burnish to flow to attract the sun

for your hand this multiplied fan

   
these shatters of Pluto & Venus out of orbit

for your cosmic engine sassy brain colliding

   
flashing conspiring messages dashing against themselves

for your siren voice your hollering

   
night shout fright trapped locked door

for your face where is it what was it

   
half this half that with this without that

for your heart all i have

   
this skate that churns metal flake blues & burns burns

hear

   
your last midnight drag race voice calling me back:

Don't race me now don't race me now

cuz i am gone

ON THE GIRL TREE
STRUCK BY
LIGHTNING
IN THE
MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

in black all black

without branches or

friends or fears or anything near

in brown & sepia music

in blue nest nothingness

absolute singular & cut to glass

transformed into light & sky & void

realized—all

possible knowing & unknowing

motionless measureless in shards

struck spliced delivered

charred blond peel

leaf without water or substance

or blood or back to behold

Stand you

stand

I SING TO MYSELF
AT THE CURB
BEFORE I TAKE
ANOTHER STEP

why are you singing under the saucy sun

the blurry skylight of all things

why are you trembling there

with a torn foot & a messy rain jacket

why are you waving your hands grabbing stars from afar you! yes, you!

why are you breathing rough & starin' up

& rasping your boot

why are you nervous & jazzy & crazy & brassy & quiet too

why are reading your own rhymes & spittin' out the words no one is here!

why is it you & just the sky-eye the air the flare

of clouds & the street

why is all this concrete beat to you a galaxy to you a song to you, yes, you!

why don't you have an answer Why you ask then you say

AT THE
GO-GO
GIFT SHOPPE

for the computer tech nerd—

   
licorice sticks tangled up into algebra

      
& a greasy skateboard losing it electric

for the seventeen & a half year old test-driving

a new speedy ride—

   
crazy-glue gloves from Daytona

      
no-stick bubble gum & no-sweat socks

for all the Iraq vets in the hospital waiting room—

   
fluffy free ice cream &

      
a Tchaikovsky sky symphony swoon

Lucky Klarissa said Maybe you should work on fitting in dude you look like a weird wild Mexican cowboy. some kinda mariachi in a painted Gaga shirt and those oh ma-gosh gnarly twig pants and funky lizard boots dude! but cowboys don't have a red-pink faux-hawk boiling up from their cabeza right. plus a wheelchair that says Out & About. grinned back snappin' my pencil box. breathing mellow smoothing the bumpy scar on my forehead

got a steel rod in my back. and screws all up my left leg. right leg paralyzed. it happened after my father came back from Iraq three years ago started talking to himself in his room. talkin' in beeps. exclamations. no subjects. no objects. explosions. like he was being attacked by crazy commas from across the ocean. blasts and stuttering bullets going nowhere. until nothing but gasps. poor papa. then he left my mama. it all happened after my mother died from breast cancer a year later and after i drag-raced into the night with Sammy Valencia and Des Nguyen loaded on crystal yeah Des didn't make it ahhh dunno. she was so cool and tuff always crackin' up that was two years ago and two years of therapy. and cryin' stuff into this journal. nothin' but cryin' dude you'd think i was Niagara Falls. yup

BOOK: SkateFate
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