Happiness

Loosie and Toosie arrived
in a brown paper bag with cutouts
one Easter morning—a surprise
to me from Daddy and Mom.

The household rearranged
itself inside and out
accommodating two tiny, yellow puffs
I had named in rhymes.

Loosie and Toosie pureed
the dog’s food in his ceramic bowl
before he got to it.  They walked into
Mom’s orderly garage and shat.

They were scared of the billowing
washday sheets on the line, but
squawked and circled Blackie,
the outdoor cat, in St. Augustine grass.

They explored every hole
in the chain link fence
patrolling for pill bugs,
juicy slugs, and freedom.

One summer before we drove
to Washington, D.C., my parents told me
no one could feed my ducks during vacation.
Loosie and Toosie had to go away.

We could drop them off
at the lake across
from the Zoo. With so many
other ducks, they’d be happy.

Daddy bought two expandable plastic rings
at the hardware store—light
blue, pale green. By now their
feet were large, yellow, thick.

Daddy put them in a cardboard box.
Silent, he and I drove that evening
to let them go near the small black lake.

When we returned from vacation,
Daddy and I went to visit them, picking
out pale color against mud, white flip
of tail feathers. I wanted to know if
they were happy.  Daddy said yes.

Yes. I’m sure. But, I couldn’t tell.

I rode home on my side
of the wide front seat
full of that first question
and of all the many uncertain answers.

 

Delivery

No man other
than family
came in
through the kitchen.

Until we hired
a milkman when I
was thirteen. Oh, we
were always up and dressed

on Saturday mornings

and he always knocked
loudly before he brought
in a sea of white, starched
uniform, hat. The cold milk

in square glass gallons.

Pretty blue eyes that
always tried
too hard not to look
at Mom in a cotton house dress.

I didn't trust him.

Felt a violation in his
every cushioned, careful step
on our polished linoleum. Hated
that he put milk in the fridge

himself, that he saw rectangular
glass containers holding
our next delicious meal. Prepared
promises, savory treasures he had

no right to see.

"Happiness" and "Delivery" appear in Walking Home:  Growing Up Hispanic in Houston (Texas Review Press, 2012) and appear with permission of the publisher.

 

Bucket-Head

In an ideal world,
we all would’ve felt
sorry for him—a
tall white-boy LT
assigned to Investigations
since he was too
incompetent
for Patrol.  He

got to wear a suit
and tie, though,
and meet behind
closed doors on the
carpeted second floor
>with the Chief.  We

all knew he’d burn us
in a heartbeat
to make himself
look good.  You could
tell by the way
he galloped
down the hall,
staring off
in the distance,
frowning.  Always too
busy for a hi or a bye.

One tight breath
curtailed inside his
chest—a permanent inflation—
as he strode hallways
and stairs.  His
thinning hair ruffled
into a cocked curl
between premature
bald spots. When

 

I shot Expert
the second time
he was always
too busy
every day each day
for six months
in a row
to issue my Expert
pin. That’s the
kind of guy
he was. Busy
Real busy.

 

On Some Streets

The children don’t wave
to cops. Instead, they stare,
eyes glinting—an array
of hard, black diamonds.
Sallow skin. Sparse freckles.

Front-yard autos
hiked up on make-shift
stilts. A chow dog
wandering loose, patches
of fur hanging off his belly.

Each young face turning
to watch the patrol
car’s path on the block.
Each face hardened
into a cold, white cipher.

 

Serial Killer

Sometimes I remember how
he carted the bodies frozen
across interstate cement
in his truck’s refrigerated maw.

Other times I see girls
like the ones he selected –
runaways already married
to danger, a past that bore

no repeating. Slender girls
with large dark eyes,
winsome above a boyish
flatness barely hinting

at a womanhood still
distant.  What I pray
is that the first blow
was an outright kill.

That he wasn’t too excited
to aim well and execute
swiftly before laying
each one out

inside his stainless tundra.
Rock-hard flesh and
frozen hair later
jettisoned into scrub

besides stagnant ditches
next to a highway’s
curling cement ribbon
leading to the next

 

tender girl.

"Bucket-Head", "On Some Streets" and Serial Killer" appear in Cold Blue Steel (Texas Review Press, 2012) and appear with permission of the publisher.