This is a poem that I wrote for my pops. I don’t know where he is or what he’s doing. There’s not much a schizophrenic can do in terms of work. But if you read this, pops–actually, don’t contact me. Because you’re kind of insane.

Be proud because we’re Mexicans.

And if they don’t like it, just turn

your head and walk away.

If you haven’t noticed, mijo,

this world goes on

in every goddamn direction,

whether you want it to

or not.

And just like that, he was gone

—a trail of weed smoke

and wisdom, wagging

into the horizon.

And to this day, a scruffy cholo with muddy skin

and a bad leg limps past and my eyes sliver, like closed doors

and I have to sit down for a second—thoughts

rushing past, like speeding trains in the night.

It’s almost too much to think of the gristly days:

that bus ride from Sacramento to Boston

where I sat, tweaked out, for a week on a Greyhound, too wired

and poor to eat. He waited at the station for seven days

with two black eyes, a set of brass knuckles and a warrant for his arrest.

It’s too much to think about when grandma

asked him to recite a prayer and for the first time in 20 years

he put down his glass of tequila and cried

the way Mexicans do when they find out there is no God:

“Creo en el Espíritu Santo,

en la Santa Iglesia Católica,
la comumión de los Santos,

en el perdon de los pecados,
la resurrección de los muertos

y la vida eterna.”

And after that we wiped away our tears, forgot how to speak

Spanish and got drunker than we’d ever been,

spilling out of that East Los apartment

into the world like masses of hot lava

burning up our livers till the frustrated sun

tucked itself into the cool bed of morning.

A life full of discarded things is what we were given. Humans,

like old bibles, lie—tattered, dirty and useless.

I wonder what he is doing now. My father, the broken schitzo

who wore his sickness like a neon coat.

Walking through this shithole of a city,

Nina Simone, ripping my heart out through an old pair of headphones,

I watch a dirty black mutt sitting in a junk yard

so stupid in his world of chain link, bone scraps, rags and old iron.

If you were here I’d tell you I miss you

and that there’s not much news, save for a funny headline

telling us about some frumpy rube in Arkansas who found

the Mother Theresa’s tit poking out of her pancake.

And, in this way, unwise and reckless, without you unholy father,

if you haven’t noticed, this world goes on in every goddamn direction,

whether you want it to or not.


Josh Fernandez © 2021
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