Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Manuel Paul López






There are Looks in the fences.  They stink of menace and iron work.
I remember when the Looks called me names like:     Glue     Cross Bones     Fly Trap
Days I walked home from school dreaming of levity and impenetrable door jambs.
But the Looks are conniving baseball bats they swing for the head.
In high school everything was a drug that looked at me:
My teachers did drugs.  Our Parent Association did drugs.  I couldn’t inherit the Monday-Friday logic.
I wanted to tear it out my throat and challenge that pathological logos: Criticize me to my face!

Once I fell drunk on Nestor’s shadow and felt it wince beneath my back.

Nestor said: There are few good people in the world.

Nestor said: The only difference between a truth and a lie is that the lie hasn’t happened yet.

Please disaffect me.  I wouldn’t mind a disappearing act if only to reemerge on the moon.

That Look enjoying me when it really should have said:
I’m an FBI looking in there
I’m a CIA looking in there
I’m a two-way polonium surveillance window looking in there
I’m a furious cop fink looking in there.

A nowhere goon tails me these days.
I hear it licking stolen SIM cards above me from a weather balloon:
That autoblaster.  That suction mack.  Everything is hazy.  The Looks are real.
I used to be a mighty stockyard hero but now my forklift sleeps ungassed,
heeds the timesheet imaginary, heckles the reckless bottle.
The Looks are severe.  The Looks are willy-nilly and intent
on lighting matches from my earlobes just to brighten their dopey looking glass.


                                                             THE INSURMOUNTABLE

The world might be motherfucking cuckoo but my homeboy Nestor’s not that’s for sure.

Nestor’s just the neighborhood peludo inching in the dark like some mole in time.

My boy Nestor’s smart as fuck and his science might very well explain why there’s a jungle in my kitchen where a three-headed monster shakes ass deep bamboo trees behind my refrigerator just to frighten me.

This morning an insincere warthog stole a jar of Nutella from my snack drawer and thought it funny to leave a note that read: “Your rent’s due motherfucker.”

I saw a wolverine nursing a fox last week while I reached for a glass of almond milk so beautifully tender in the twilight until a slick-mouthed lemur mimicked my end-of-the-month complaints about the rising water bill with pinche helium in its mouth.

This kitchen is a shit-talking ostrich provoking the goofy-eyed vulture perched high up to double down and dine on my life insurance policy.

This kitchen is a blue-haired stoner smoking herb with a marsupial intent on pocketing all of my cutlery.

I spend most mornings spraying mosquito repellant all over my trembling body before an hour wasted clearing ocotillo bushes with a machete just to deliver my beloved panecito to the toaster.

Damn those scandalous-ass hyenas with those beach ball laughs!

What kind of forest is this, Nestor?

Nestor says I have no imagination and that I’d die before I had even lived if I’m not careful with what I have. Whatever the fuck that means.

If only Nestor could devise a rocket ship with all that science he thinks I’d buy admission tickets for me and the me’s I might leave behind to lift off my kitchen countertop and soar some place I’ve never truly been, divorced of the down-here-dull-on-gravity-me, O hey to kick and paw wildly at the sun.

Overcoming a forest in my kitchen is insurmountable.  Nestor taught me that word.  I believe it isn’t as insurmountable as previously thought to actually inhabit the moon, he said, but I would never-ever do that you know why?  Why Nestor, why?  I asked.  It’s because my father already sees enough of that astronomical darkness in me, and I liked that, all sciency and shit, but Chicano goth at the same time, con ese corazonsote Nestor possesses beneath his pecho like a little-little ashtray that tries hard-hard-hard to pacify a night of burning cities in its grasp.

But for real, Nestor needs to breakup with books from time to time. Break up with those motherfuckers, I say.  Too many in your head and they become battery acid for the brain.  I swear I hear pages flipping inside his dome while he’s standing on the front porch saying nothing, perhaps, daydreaming about the great oceanic enervations of the inter-galactic psyche, perhaps, as he likes to say while using his favorite word, perhaps.  Of course, I can only assume, perhaps, but one thing’s for sure, he’s always still, javelin-straight, an obelisk on the street corner of eternity, and I doubt he’ll ever put down those damn books not even for one hot ass minute.  But that joint I borrowed about growing mushroom gardens in kitchen cabinets wow and now my visions have declared sovereignty.

O Nestor’s bear traps around my broiler to protect the steaks he’s been manning but I’m vegetarian!  That meat’s for the dying lion, he says, though I’ve never seen it nor do I ever want to.  The thought of an accidental encounter makes me shiver.  We must always think about the dying lion in the light, he said, and when I look at Nestor’s eyes as he reports this shit I can tell he means it.  And this is what hurts me for reasons I cannot openly express in a poem written from the jungle of my days.

Nestor visits me most late afternoons just to set meat on the kitchen floor for a lion that might never roar anymore.  This nonsense Nestor’s grown in my kitchen fills me with great anguish though I must admit the air I breathe these days embodies glorious pine needle, glorious honey, glorious and wild lavender that just startles me into living.  I exist to revere this plight—Nestor’s dream, nightmare meat for the willing.

Manuel Paul López’s books include These Days of Candy (Noemi Press, 2017), The Yearning Feed (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), winner of the Ernest Sandeen Poetry Prize, 1984 (Amsterdam Press, 2010), and Death of a Mexican and Other Poems (Bear Star Press, 2006). He also co-edited Reclaiming Our Stories (City Works Press, 2016). A CantoMundo fellow, his work has been published in Bilingual Review, Denver Quarterly, Hanging Loose, Huizache, Puerto del Sol, and ZYZZYVA, among others. He lives in San Diego. More from this author →