Seguin

What did she do
in long summer
afternoons standing
inside the small,
square window

three houses over
from our house? Her
son faint
and washed out
in my memory

except for stiff,
blonde crew cut, a
small boy’s
thin shoulders,
tanned elbows and knees.

Their house a white
wood shingle with no
front sidewalk. No
husband we knew of
in our church or

at the nearby grocery.
Somehow I heard
she was from Seguin.
A place I didn’t
know, a place I

forever linked
with a thin woman’s
tall shadow in a house
I never entered. The flat
plane of empty, the troubled

call for home. A
starched white blouse
behind a high screened window
over an empty kitchen sink.

Visiting

Sharp rocks jumped
at our car’s belly,
driving unpaved streets
to Laredo relatives. The
languages I didn’t speak—
older girl cousins trilling
Spanish, dressing
for skinny, black-haired boys
in blue suits
while I
sat with the adults
at Formica tables,
listening.

Aunt Aurora

She was the only
wife married into either side
of our dark Mexican family
with real blonde hair, yellow-green

eyes. To me she was
the leggy calendar girl above the footed
tub at the farm. An easy smile
above ideal paper waist, full chest,

bright curls. She spoke a smiling Spanish
like all the adults when we
visited the farm. The women
gabbing in the rotating breeze

of a heavy-footed Admiral fan,
twirling flour-sack towels
in a working flurry of pastel designs
and crocheted lace. Her husband,

my uncle—always the most
handsome. Full lips, parted
above a swagger
of body-building muscle. The

only one whose tongue
took pleasure in cutting sarcasm
and endless, logical debates. Once
I saw him slit open a steer’s

belly—just butchered and still
warm. The methodical pull
of whitish intestines. It was
what he loved—a quick stab,

the ripping apart from a
sturdy perch, knife in hand.

The above poems were originally published in Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston (Texas Review Press, 2012) and appear with permission of the publisher.

After Surf Fishing in Galveston

Coming home, summer-dusk
clearness turning to salty dark,
we’d drive by Texas City.

Invisible scaffolding strung
with white bulbs twinkling
inside blackness.  Orange steam
billowing from black pipes. Massed  
black vats and stark, soaring machinery.
                            From far
away—a land of white-lit
confectionary against plush,
warm darkness.
                            From close,
a Luciferian treachery of flames
spewed from unpredictable earth
and yawning pipes.  Small pools
of noxious mystery reflecting
flares of burning fumes.  A fiery
fairy tale along the two-lane road.

The Flounder Are Running

If it was only once, then that night
has grown inside me to a thousand nights,

when fishermen in hip waders gathered
near St. Luis Pass, pulling small

wooden boats with kerosene lanterns,                
to gig flounder.  Me, blanketed                

on mom’s shoulder.  Dad, in
long khaki sleeves and ball cap.

The sharp tines of each suspended gig,
a long steel fork.  Each flounder’s

faint contour appearing, then
vanishing in murky water and

rippled sand.  Dad’s excitement
illuminated each night

a thousand times in each
yellow-flamed mantle glowing

over brownish Gulf, in each
flounder’s outline in sand

when he saw that which
I couldn’t and still can’t

though I’ve searched
a thousand gilded nights.    

Autumn

A hope-riddled passage.

The summer’s dirge
sung on locusts’ wings.

Light goes gold
to refine a slow dying.

Dog Remembers Night

We’re crawling up
this hill and the guy
who just killed Ericsson
is holed up at the top, shooting.

Ahead to my left is a K-9
officer and his dog, both
belly-to-ground with us
after the cop-killer.

Then the handler stops
some rounds.  I can see him
but can’t get to him,
and he’s not moving.

His dog sticks
his big muzzle
into the officer’s bulk
and whines.  I hear

the dog’s breath
trapped in his strong throat
by the lump of love
or whatever it is bigger

that a dog feels for his man.
And the dog is whining,
whining a jagged blue line, his
breath more and more strained,

more and more squeezed
into a clean, high whimper,
the blood silvery
in the full moon’s glare,

and then that poor dog stops
whining.  He stops trying
to pull his handler back            
into this world, and I know

that guy is dead and that
blood-stained summer concrete
is all that’s left to that dog,
even as it chills and blackens. 

Awards Banquet
        for Deputy Craig Hughes

I don’t wonder
about the wife, face down,
straddled by the husband
in a closet.

I don’t even wonder
about the husband
angry or crazy enough
to want to kill.

I have questions
about the gun -- its
silhouette against a dim
interior of hanging shirts,

a splatter of shoes.
Loaded or not, one of those
plastic fakes or real.
Maneuverability in a tight

space.  And that one officer
yelling at him to drop it.  The
husband complying, then
picking it up.  The second

yell.  Did the officer
remember his new baby
at home, the son
in first grade?  Of

course not.  He shot
and killed the right
person.  Saved a life;
took one.  Tonight

in a crowd of fellow
cops and spouses, he
gets a plaque, greying
crew cut shining in stage
lights.  He stands
removed.  Honored.
Alive.

Today

if someone has to
unravel the evidence
at my homicide, let him be
a relentless, thorough

detective with no emotions
left to skew judgment, no
history of nasty divorces
or issues with the opposite

sex.  Let him find all
the clues.  The scraped flesh
under my trimmed nails.  The
new neighbors who glimpsed

my killer’s car, headlights
off in the long circular drive.
Don’t let the street cops—
for once—kick around the brass.

And please, dear God, don’t let
the gun I am killed with
be my own.  And when the banty-cock,
bouffant-haired, three-piece-suited defense

attorney dresses up the defendant
in his first new suit, a
professional haircut and pinkie
ring, don’t let the jury

be fooled by the sullen dirge
of the SOB’s cheerless childhood
and pitiful choices.  Make
the jury sicken at the photographs

of my maimed and disgraced torso.  Help
them understand how he enjoyed
the killing, how he relished his
own flush of sick cruelty.  And

when the verdict resounds, let it be
an eye for an eye, because even if
I’m dead, I’m still on the side
of justice.

The above three poems , "Dog Remembers Night," "Awards Banquet," and "Today," were originally published in Cold Blue Steel (Texas Review Press, 2013) and appear with permission of the publisher.