The Chola and Llorona
Doesn’t myth belong to everyone? I have two tios and they
are barely older than me and mi hermano. One is four years older,
the other six and when we lived together in my grandparents’ house
in Douglas Arizona they would take us for long walks, sometimes at
night and tell mi hermano and yo about la Llorona.
Her endless walks through the arroyos. They added a knife to her
hand, and gave her the ability to overrun children. My brother and I would
remain awake at night, in the bed we shared, and each
sound we heard became the chola banshee of Douglas coming to savage us.
One other day, because they were bored like all
other ten and twelve year olds
in Douglas, mi tios removed their t-shirts and poured Heinz Ketchup
all over their roadrunner chests. They jumped from behind the garage,
sticks in hand and amusement in their eyes,
as mi hermano and I were playing in the dirt, and
yelled, “somos vampiros, somos vampiros” and the four of us ran
screaming. My grandmother came out of the house with a broom
and rescued mi hermano and me from certain doom.
My grandmother was puro chola. A smile and a broom
that crushed all rebellion.
Much later when I graduated from college she asked
me, “Por que no encuentras un Mexicana?” She was
on rescue all over again.
This is a story that loves being told:
My wife Kelly es mi Irish chola. Her words
all green hills, gritos full of Joyce
barroom descriptions. She has
always said she wants to attend
a boxing match. Ring side seats even.
Once she encountered mi tio Roberto
walking through the counters full of fruit
at the neighborhood grocery store. (Even
though he lives across town). The other
shoppers keeping a big ring
of isolation around him.
Roberto with his loud charm
was probably singing a Trini Lopez
song, serenading the ripe citrus. His basket
containing a bottle of tequila, frozen orange
juice concentrate, tortillas de harina,
and a bag of beans from the
large brown bulk barrel.
And Kelly greets him.
His face smiles in confusion.
-Do I know you?
-Soy la esposa de Cristobal
-Hay, of course
And he hugs her like he has
just returned from Saturn. His breath
still alive with the inflight beverages.
My wife is mi Irish chola. Loyal
like the tides and sunsets. Her eyes
reminding me that Santo Patricio
guarded the families and workers.
Clover and cilantro
crosses and boxing gloves
Michael and Emiliano
The faith that la Llorona
and the banshee are the same women
protecting children from the
labyrinths full of bored men.
Once at a bar
where the bartenders know my name
a young law student asked me
if I sold dope? I said
no. I was only there to assimilate.
Maybe it was my red, black, and green
striped bag my mother gifted me. A bag
she purchased when she visited
Chiapas that inspired this stereotype,
or perhaps I reminded him of his
former mota retailer, greying hair, blue eyes,
undolled-up, relaxed, alone in a bar.
It bothers the young the most, being
wrong about their expectations. That first
pathetic drunk night. The beer warm,
the music not funky enough. Or the special
night, getting sexed up in the small car.
The romance mimicking a PBS
wildlife mating show.
Once after high school basketball
practice, my friend, Maza, smiled and explained,
he liberated his mom’s Percodan. His fingers
uncurling like a jump shot follow through,
exposing the small plastic bottle.
The fact that one day everyone who
loves comic books realizes
Superman is undocumented.
(Talk about labor exploitation).
I think the law student counted the number
of cigarettes that remained in the pack, rose up,
smiled, walked over and shook my hand. It
was fine I couldn’t help him get high.
He walked out like a penguin
waddling to the edge of the iceberg.
Scooby Doo Backpack
In 10th grade English class most of the students
desire their driver’s permit and then license.
In their eyes the world will suddenly
become awesome…a rap song crescendo,
and everyone will love them, buy them
cokes and potato chips, when they acquire
their driver’s license. They crave a
freedom that a driver’s permit must deliver.
So these questions seem right for the time.
What does the blinking red light mean?
You can’t pass in a school zone? What’s
the fine for parking near a fire hydrant?
But one day early in the semester he showed
anyone who wanted to see it, his
ankle monitor. He just lifted up his pant leg
and there it was, secured with a thick black
Velcro strap. I knew the situation. Caught dealing
drugs out of his Scooby Doo backpack
at his last school. Even this day,
his notebook and pens
were still in the classic cartoon
backpack. The Great Dane exposing
a huge smile, Shaggy, his sidekick wearing
dark sunglasses and looking content.
The Class had questions. What happens if you remove it?
Does it hurt? Itch? What if you shower?
Batteries or do you plug it in and charge It up?
He looked like the other teens. Pimples,
and anxious about the crowds around
the restrooms. Almost everyday he said the school did
not have enough bathrooms. No way
you can take care of business and get
to class in seven minutes with the crowds.
He did the classwork. Read out loud like the
others, asked questions about words
and engaged in class discussions.
Decriminalize dope, private prisons are whack.
Then we read Romeo and Juliet. She kissed him
Without knowing his name? She’s a slut. But
Romeo didn’t know her name too.
He’s a player. The double standard making
even him chuckle.
After most of the school year, his desk
missed him for a week and I went to investigate.
The counselor told me that the administration
kind of suggested he find another way to
complete his 10th grade. Just too much for
the school to worry about. The reputation
getting around. The walls threatening
the ceiling. The floors waiting to open up
under everyone’s feet.