[beverly grove] from CHALINO SÁNCHEZ: A SEQUENCE.
BY JD DEBRIS
2021 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry – Finalist
I wanted café con leche, a little peace,
when I stopped into that coffeeshop on Third
with nothing but a notepad in my western shirt
& a corrido I half-finished months back in La Mesa.
What was I doing in that gabacho neighborhood?
Well, that’s for me to know & the law to guess!
Fine, I was just at Bloomingdale’s, nothing badass—
bought the wife a ruby crucifix bright as blood.
Blonde barista rapid-fired some English,
mirrored my smile. I asked for (I thought) coffee,
got some iced swill sweet as Fanta, weak as tea.
Took a corner seat & started scribbling
notes on Armando’s murder—seven bullets,
messenger dove singing bad news over Sanalona,
his sons (my nephews) all fatherless & grown—
when the boss stormed out from ensconcement
to knock knuckles on my tabletop, red-jowled.
Maybe he didn’t like me leaning back in snakeskin,
cowboy boots crossed on a chair, shirt unbuttoned,
or the tilt of my Tejana brim, how its shadow fell.
In that half-finished corrido, Armando, lionhearted
even through his execution at the Santa Rita hotel,
would’ve flipped the table, made this gringo piss himself.
Me? Parolee from La Mesa, trying not to be deported,
I bit my tongue until the song beneath it bled.
I wrapped my song in fabric el jefe could never pull off,
in a language he’d never comprehend, & left.
Raising a middle finger instead of my dead.