El Pino, East LA: A Return
For Jose Olivarez
All my homies are gone. Dead would be an improvement
for some of them. Abuela and Bora are in the ground somewhere.
Jennifer? Still lost, I guess. Who is left? I drove by Angel’s
mom’s old pad and saw an older, fatter looking Angel
melting on the porch. He was missing a foot, but the other
was wearing a fresh white sneaker. I didn’t stop to say whatsup.
El Pino follows me like a ghetto bird with its beam of light
trained on me. I see it when I step off the curb and hurry
across Brooklyn Ave. They call it Cesar Chavez now?
Damn, shit is wild. I went to the alley lookin’ for you, Jen.
I ain’t gonna lie about it. You’re just probably dead,
which means you might be around here and I can’t shake it.
I went walking through Evergreen Cemetery looking for names
I might remember. All these paisas sound like someone
I used to know: Manny Hernandez, Gabriel Ruiz,
Andy Zepeda, Maricela Nevarez, Yesi Saldivar.
I imagine there’s a grave here with my name on it,
a piece of dry grass just for me. A cube of
cracked clay like Abuela’s hands and face, a place
where I can rest and grow dandelions from my kneecaps.
Maybe I already died and I’m just an old ghost of East Los,
banished from these lands and cursed to walk these rows
alone. I mean, the vieja at Cinco Puntos didn’t even wave to me
when I ordered my carnitas. Abuela’s old house looks new
and has a horizontal fence. The line of compas coming through
for chile verde is gone. Like me and the milkman, the video store
is just a memory falling off an old tree like a dry leaf
smashing into little pieces underneath someone’s punkass foot.