Friday, June 26, 2020

IF is such a terrible word

IF is such a terrible word.
IF possess demons of potential
Who most people are afraid to face.

IF my descendants, my great grandchildren,
And great-great grandchildren,
Read my books and my poems
Will they wonder

What it would be like
For me to talk to them in the flesh,
IF they could time travel to now, here, with me?

IF they read my books, read my poems
Will they consider and ask,
IF I was really that funny?

IF I was really that magical that I could heal
The un-helpable, the uncurable?
IF I was really that tender and sweet
That I was cherished by young and old?

IF they read my books, read my poems
Would they ask
What was it like for me to go to war
To watch young men die?

Would they say to themselves:
I could never do that,
Or could I?

Would they wonder why governments forced people
To kill people, they didn’t know?
And justify it with a three-letter word?

IF they read my books, read my poems
Would my descendants ask their friends to
Read my books and my poems, too?

Would they, along with my descendants
Ask what would possess him
To lead an anti-war demonstration
In a war zone, on a Navy warship?

Didn’t he know he could be executed, or imprisoned?
He knew,
And did it anyway.

IF they read my books, read my poems
Would they say,
I hope I can be that brave
IF I were in that situation.

Would they sit and cry with a grieving dad?
Or give up their bus seat for a grey-haired lady?
Would they dance for joy, for the delight of it?

IF they read my books, read my poems,
Will my descendants ask of themselves,
IF I have the opportunity to speak my truth
Will I have his courage, his love, his determination
To do what is right?

IF I am put in his situation, will I be like him?
Will I earn wisdom and grow in love
even IF I know it could be painful?

IF they read my books, read my poems,
Will they follow my lead to do what’s right,
To be courageous, to act, to write,
To love, and to share the laughter of life?

What IF they don’t
Read my books, read my poems?
IF is such a terrible word.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Asian Doll

Asian Doll
By Mushroom Montoya

I stared in horror as she ripped the black hair
Off the top of Yurri’s head.
I ran to stop her
As she scrawled and scratched Yurri’s face
With a Black permanent marker.

My heart hurt watching her do
What I recognized all too well.
Our daughter’s tears ran
Across her cheeks, down her face, onto the floor.

She looked up at me,
Wiping her tears with the back of her hand.
She grabbed her Asian doll by the arm
And tossed her against the wall.

“Why can’t I be blond and have blue eyes
Like Aunt Holly?
Blue eyes like my friends at school?
White skin like mom?

I picked Yurri off the floor,
And carried her tenderly back to our daughter.
“Look, I think Yurri’s crying.
She is beautiful like you.”

“No! She’s not!” Our daughter whimpered
“She’s ugly.
She has slanty brown eyes,
And straight black hair.
Just like me.”

I place our daughter on my lap
I held Yurri up for her to see.
“Her eyes are beautiful,
Like yours and mine.”

“No!” she cried “They’e not!
They're ugly like me.”
I lifted her chin
I have eyes like you,
Mine are brown and beautiful, too.”

“But you’re a dad,
You’re a man.
I’m a girl.
I’m ugly.”

I cried inside
Knowing all too well
What she was going through:

Being the only one,
Being the other one,
Being the different one,
Being the dark skinned one.

I picked Yurri up,
And give her a kiss.
“Yurri doesn’t know why
You don’t like her.

Maybe she just needs someone to love her
So, she won’t be alone,
Like the way I love you,
So, you and I won’t be alone.”

Our daughter cried.
She buried her tears
Deep in my chest.

Many years later our daughter said,
“Look! Isn’t he beautiful.”
As she handed me her baby.

“Yes,” I cried, tears flowing down
As I held our grandson
With his slanted brown eyes,
His straight black hair.

Who knew she would want to go?
Go back to Korea,
Back to her birth,
To reclaim her beauty.

Back to find a handsome young man
Who looked like her,
With straight black hair
And beautiful dark brown eyes.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dead Heading a Rose

I count on Denise always 
Being here,
With me, always.
She is my anchor, my playmate, my inspiration.

She is my personal stand-up comedian,
Who laughs so deliciously
That I must take a bite,
And burst into laughter with her.
We feast on silliness

I keep beating down the truth
Of our mortality.
I don't want her to die first.
Yes, I do want her to die first,
So she won't cry,
And bleed a thousand sadnesses,
Drowning in her grief.

I'm being honestly arrogant.
Being true to who I am.
I know how she would feel
Because we are one together.
If she died first,
I would die over, and over, and over.

But for now, I am blessed,
And so is she.
We are a blessing to each other,
With our playful love.
With our loving presence.

She brings me breakfast each morning
While my fingers pull words from my imagination,
and tap the letters on the keyboard.
All the while, the aroma of eggs
Blends with the scent of laptop plastic.

I grind coffee beans in my noisy machine.
I pour the steamy espresso into a cup
Of cream colored sweetened condensed milk,
And ooze my love into her Vietnamese coffee.

I offer it to her with both hands
As I watch her snap off the dead heads
From the climbing pink rose bush
And smile as she tosses them aside
Knowing that they will grow again.

I can't help but to wonder,
If I die first,
Will she still be happy when
She dead heads her roses
Knowing that they will grow again?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Saturday Morning Haircut

I hated the iron stool, the black barber's drape,
And especially the buzzing, vibrating clippers
Who seemed to take great delight
Irritating the back of my scalp
Every Saturday morning.

The bare and cold black iron stool
Whined quietly with me,
But after a thousand hours
The hard, flat, iron, stool bit
The bones in my butt.
Dad's voice frowned, “Stay still.”

The clippers were mean,
Laughing at my miserly.
They sent electric charges
All the way down my back,
Down to my right thigh,
Making it want to wiggle off the stool.
Dad's voice smacked my ears, “Stay still!”

I was imprisoned on that iron witness stand,
With a black barber's drape
Covering every part of me,
From my top of my neck down
To the soles of my shoes.

I wished he had gone to work,
On his mailman route,
Delivering bills, and birthday cards.
Instead of making sure
Every single, tiny hair on my head
Was exactly the appropriate length.

I wished that he had never
Gone to barber school.

After the whole morning lay wasted
Along with my hair, on the floor,
My dad would take his silky, soft brush,
And whisk what little hair was left
Off my face, my neck, and the drape.

I wanted to go play,
To get away from the iron stool,
from the clippers.
But no!

Sweep up the hair and put the stool away.
Before you go out to play.”
Dad oiled his clippers,
Cleaned his brush,
Shook out his black barbers drape,
And folded it like he was still in the Navy.

The wind teased and licked
The back of my freshly shorn head
While I swept up my own hair
From around the cold black iron stool
Every Saturday morning.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Retablo Twisting Twirling Lessons

I didn't understand you, my dear retablo,
Dancing your magical, spiritual, love filled lessons
With your twirling, twisting, outstretching arms
Every morning at six. 

Four years I stared at your dance,
But I didn't yet speak your language.
I didn't know that each twirl, each saint, each leaf
Taught through each twirl, each twist,
Each outstretching of a hand or leaf.

Faithfully, I followed the rules the teachers in black cassocks,
and stiff white collars demanded.
I memorized their lessons while not understanding yours,
In your twirls, your swaying hips,
And your twisted, twirling sing song language.

I stared at your dance every morning at six
I inhaled the incense, sang songs of praise,
Folded my hands and prayed.
And still did not understand your twirling, twisting language.

You snaked your lessons around and around.
You danced and twirled louder and louder.
But I didn't hear your undulating, snaking language
That you danced for me every morning at six.

I stare now at a photo of your twisting snaking dance,
Frozen for four hundred years.
Again, I see your undulating, snaking
Twirls and swirls, and your outstretched arms.

Now each morning when I get up at six,
I rise and ride above twirling snakes
Along the river, under the snaking clouds
Who continue your lessons in a
Language I am almost old enough
To understand.

I love to dance and twirl throughout the day
With my undulating, snaking body
Re-interpreting the lessons
You tried to teach me
Every morning at six.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Shirt Off My Back

Let's go see a movie, Earl invites
over the phone.
What's playing?
Who cares! Mid-terms are over.
We need to celebrate!

I arrive on my motorcycle,
Earl in his car.
I can't remember what we watched;
But it is dark and cold
When we get out.

Earl takes off his long sleeve shirt.
He winks,
I am literally giving you the shirt off my back.
We laugh,
I put it on and we go our separate ways.

Twelve years later
I ask a nurse.
Is there a place I can take a shower?
I need to run my worry down.

She shakes her head.
Not here, not on this floor.
Go down to pediatrics
They have showers for parents.

The elevator door opens
I run to the first nurse I see
Can I take a shower here?

The Nurse turns.
Lindas eyes glow with joy filled recognition.
Mushroom! She hugs me.
What are you doing here?

I tell her our son is upstairs.
He's been hit by a Buick
While riding his motorcycle.
She gives me another hug
And leads me to the showers.

I didn't know Linda called Earl.
The next day, Earl walks in
To the trauma unit walking
Side by side with Linda.

I had to call him , Linda says.
You're his best friend.
He flew in this morning
from the east coast.

I hug Earl and cry,
What a good friend you are!
You really didnt have to come
All this way.

I had to come.
I'll do anything,
I'll even give you the shirt off my back,
Again, if you need it.

Now, they come to me with their grief,
They come tired, teary eyed, and cold,
Without their dead sons,
Without their dead daughters.

I sit and listen to their sad stories,
Even though I've heard them before.
I sit and wait without saying a word
When a lump in their throats chokes all their words.

I give them my heart
As we sit together and talk.
I give them my presence.
Because I am one of them,
I give them the shirt off my back.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Shed De Doe by Mushroom Montoya

Jeremy walks into my home office,
I look up, giving our son a receptive smile.
His eyebrows want to do battle
As they roll their shoulders toward each other.

His words punch his frustration,
I couldn't find it.
I already looked in the dictionary.
It makes no sense.

Our son is holding a book
Whose cover displays a bushy, white-haired,
Mustachioed, white man, Samuel Clemmons.
The title is Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Using his thumb to hold the page
Preventing the conundrum from falling out,
Jeremy opens the book
His eyes stomp on the letters.
It's spelled s h e d d e d o.

My hand opens, making its request.
His feet slog slowly, elephant style.
He points to his discontent, his frustration.

I gag my grin, quieting it for the moment.
"You can't speed read this Southern author.
It took him too long to say each word
In the sweltering heat of Hannibal, Missouri.

Pretend you are a poor, uneducated, Southern boy
Who just walked into a slaves home.
Its winter and bitterly cold.
What does the slave say to you?
Let his words drip out like molasses."

Jeremys eyes ask, what?
A deep inhale, a slow exhaust.
"Shed de doe.
It be code out dayah."
We both burst out laughing.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mom Loves To Scare Us

Mom Loves To Scare Us.

Denise scared me this morning.
As I ran up the stairs
She stood in wait
in the closet.

I jumped and then laughed 
And gave Denise a high five.
Denise is the mother our children.
Through her, my mother scared me this morning.

Our whole married life
We have copied this ritual
This hilarity my mother taught me:
Scare the bejeesus out of them
And then laugh.

My mom laughed when I fell.
She told me I did a great flip
Or she'd ask the table if I hurt it with my crash.
And then she'd laugh.

You don't need to suffer.
Look at the dog;
He bumps his head, shakes it off,
And continues to play.
And then she'd toss her head back and bark-laugh
Pretending to be a laughing dog.

She'd hide behind the couch,
Or the behind the curtain and wait
as we came in the door from school.
BOO! She'd jump out
And squelch our scream with her laughter.

When she wasn't laughing
She would listen to whomever
Or whatever was talking
She knew the plants could talk.

People told me what a good listener she was.
She was.
She listened with great interest
When I told her about my friends,
About what I did today.

She cried with me
When the police told me I couldn't
See my girlfriend
Because I looked like a Mexican

She stood beaming with pride
At the LA county Museum.
She giggled and pointed to my nude photo
Displayed on the Museum wall.
Take your clothes off so they know
It's you in the photo.

She had a magic side.
My mother knew somehow
When things were amiss,
Even 800 miles away.

She ran into the house
Her eyes pulling her to the phone.
George are you OK?
What? Florinda got hit by a bus, just now?”

How did she know those things?
I know those things now.
Although I don't know how,
But I know.

Our mom had a sneaky smile
That got my gut to vibrate,
Knowing she was up to something,
Always something to make us laugh.