Redbeardedguy - Posted on 24 August 2010




Culture war collateral damage:

Mexican-American gang member from nowhere

northern California, released from prison

to San Francisco half-way house

sketches her;

long-gone from nowhere northern Texas,

you can take the boy from the country

but some of the country stays in the boy

from divorced smashed-atom

whitebread nuclear family

connects one or two of my dots


Watching that black hair twitch to the rhythm of her

 take me as I am or eff off walking body language

was an education in the school of desire

and long odds;

one day, walking through the Goodwill warehouse

after a break, she said “Stop not talking to me or

I’m gonna throw a candy bar at you!”

I was glad she wasn’t tempted by the

heavier things surrounding us


The warehouse was a video game:

avoid the forklift and the man pushing

thAe palletjack,

what comes in always goes out in a

daily dance of muscle and fossil fuels;

detour, detour, all Goodwill’s children

must detour


We sniffed the edges of heterosexuality,

but it didn’t fit as well as we wanted it to;

age, culture, maybe class differences too—

well, shall we say that enough

hard-core gangsta rap

and bloody violent movies

can make me feel

like Samson with short hair


One day at a time actually meant something to me,

until she got fired and vanished like a fantasy


Mind and love are things of the spirit, unclassifiable

Area 51 UFOs,

or microvoltages of electricity and feel-good

kickapoo joy-juice brewed by the brain whenever 

we connect, hug, kiss, whatever:

my nowhere northern cali girl was gone and

I finally understand what cold turkey really means


More about us:  she was and is three gang-banger brothers,

drug addict, single mother, fragile grandmother, aunt

and mother raising her daughter, loves

Jimmy Santiago Baca; I met the woman she fell for

at the half-way house once, my gang-banger girl’s

eye for female flesh and spirit is pretty good


I’m a child of divorce, the sister I’ve seen once in 20 years

married three times, father remarried once, mother

never remarried, I haven’t hitched yet;

I almost had a Black step-father and brother,

but nowhere northern Texas would have

punished that crime


I borrowed a 6-foot-tall sister named Debra,

too well acquainted with 2004 drive-by death;

one day I said, “Sometimes you look like

a wolf prowling your territory in the warehouse”

after I asked her opinion on the chasing of younger

trying-to-be-ex-gang-banger women,

the word “fag” vanished from her vocabulary


From client of Goodwill to employee was a twisty

roller coaster ride, addiction to Debra and the

Filipino women, younger and older, seemed

going-going-gone; I was mood-swinging in the

tree-tops, thinking cold turkey might just

be my middle name


I said to one of the Filipino women, “If I ever

learn to speak Tagalog it will be your fault,

you make it sound so much fun to talk like that”


Give me I’ve-seen-it-all-and-it-can’t-hurt-me,

strange sense of humor, stainless steel much less

than 6 degrees of connection to large extended family,

I might run for the hills or get a grip

and ride that tiger—

I don’t think he’ll bite


His name was Celso Cabanero, classic 70 year old

tough old Filipino man, smoked too much, went from

hospital to retirement to dead after we worked together

for over a year;

my own maternal grandfather’s death

bothered me far less than Celso’s;

asking the supervisor about him didn’t get results,

retirement means gone means learning the truth

from a random work conversation


Management knows all about love and paychecks,

sexual harassment, the bottom line,

they talk about some of that in new client,

new employee orientation classes;

loving your co-workers,

losing them

and the desire to be part of the Non-Profit

Industrial Complex—the employee handbook

doesn’t cover that




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