A poem by Vincent Cooper
Even though they died young
My haunting tíos died right on time
Filled with a bitterness of being free and
Heatwaves of depression on the westside.
Tío Jody was an angry man
But all senselessness of the modern era and legal murder
Would’ve taken its toll on him too. I could see the tíos making peace with
Ex-wives who tried to kill them in all the little other ways.
While his daughter watches. She is a brown child
In her Sunday best, that doesn’t understand the hatred and coldness
Of her father pulling out a hidden gun from his waistband. She
Only knew the feeling of bullet to skull.
God saw it all.
God made sure that man was caught
God’s justice is not fulfilling.
Murdering children is the last stop for humanity.
Only a demon would shoot a child in the face.
At work, the news on TV is showing photographs of a tiny Syrian boy washed ashore; dead.
Everyone scrolls quickly through their cellphone social media timelines
So their meals or mood wouldn’t be ruined.
I stare and cry over the boy washed up,
And for the black men,
And brown men,
And black women, and brown women,
And Indigenous people that find themselves
Staring delicately into the barrel of a white terrorist’s assault rifle
Or a white policeman’s gun,
Our hearts racing and racing…
Then a plea:
Don’t shoot me God (or Devil)
I want to go home to my family/ partner/ friends.
They truly got their peace in death
Tío Mike died three times:
Once at mother’s house on Gerald street, across from Harlandale High School.
Second – at a hospital at Medical Center
Third – in a ghetto apartment on the access road of the 410 freeway.
It was a still winter
And mother’s car no longer worked.
Tío Mike & son slowly pulled up
In a used red Ford truck, he’d parked in front of the house like a hearse.
Wearing dark black shades against
Uncombed silver hair, a hint of stubble, he
Was wincing when he walked.
The rubber of his black cane punches the cement as he strode towards us.
Tío Mike wore a black T-shirt with a pack of cigarettes in the pocket,
Plain grey shorts, an expensive black fedora, and cheap black tennis shoes
Once a stout man, with an infectious smile in Navy dress but
Now is layered in Goodwill dapper.
Mikey, his son, spoiled and tatted up
Spent the morning yapping commentary
In circles around us
Like a lap dog
I mention the Dallas Cowboys, Tío Mike shakes his head in disapproval.
His eyes carry the weight of our Chicano struggle.
We pause, he wants to say something foul to me, instead
He checks mother’s car engine.
“The car still won’t turn on. Maybe call pick n’ pull to get a few bucks out of it.” He says.
She nods, walking away.
Mikey runs to his side and Tío Mike waves a frail hand in my direction.
They drive away.
The next time I saw Tío Mike
He said goodbye at a hospital, but then died in some apartment he tried calling home.
Because he didn’t want to ask his familia for the right food, or money, or to care for him.
Later that year, I found an old phone,
Charged it and listened to saved voice-mails of his voice.
“Hey Vinny, It’s your Uncle Mike. Try to keep next week open on your calendar. There’s a new sushi place we should try out. Call me. “
I had called
Asking for the dinner to be just us
I could hear Tío’s heartbreak on the line.
“Some other time” he said in a splintered voice.
There was no other time.
Then Mikey, unwelcomed,
Stuck around Danny and Eddie’s house on Guadalupe St.
Still mourning their carnal
He was briefly a go-for
And much to the chagrin of the familia
Little by little the boy from suburbia was pushed out.
Danny died and Eddie went to jail
Mikey – no longer protected begins to steal - small things.
He is sent to jail and continues where the tíos left off.
Like the boy washed ashore, Mikey is dead too.
Sitting in a cell, or floating in society, he spends his time
Talking like a cholo
to his father’s ghost.
Tío Mike loved his boy until the end of the ocean.
A Syrian dad, pointing at his boy, cries hard into the camera for American media.
Meanwhile, in the barrio of my time, a ghost child and her mother clasp each other forever
Somewhere in the darkness.
Vincent Cooper is a Macondista living in the westside of San Antonio, TX. His chapbook Where the Reckless Ones Come to Die was published by Aztlan Libre Press in 2014. His poetry has been published in several zines and journals in south Texas. Cooper is currently working on his first full length book of poetry titled Zaramora.