Two Poems by Jose Oseguera
Updated: May 8, 2019
Arise early, Cacho Osambela,
Father of five— three from his loins,
One of which he’s unaware of being the father,
Two from the woman he shared a bed with
Who wasn’t his wife
But one who would mourn his death as if she were,
Even if he had never divorced his first wife:
A rose plucked from soil,
Unpetalled of its soul,
The only thing under his control
Was how neatly he trimmed his thick mustache.
Grinding his soles from Avenue 53—
Beyond the grasp of Monte Vista—
To the scents of freshly baked
Sugared-cinnamon bread and burnt coffee
On the dark corner of Avenue 54.
A trip on a bus of dreams redreamed,
Lives lived and relived,
Under the hand-me-down, oversized
Titleist hat his patrón threw away,
That he later asked if he could have—
El Super Mario de la Figueroa—
The acids burdening his temples
Slumped him on his woman’s shoulder;
I smiled at her, she didn’t smile back, at first.
After a few weeks, she began smiling back,
As did Cacho— who was sporting a new used hat—
Accompanied with an acknowledging nod,
From someone most people
Would’ve considered beneath them,
Seeing me as his equal—
Two responsible men who sacrificed
The warmth of 8-hour sleep
To bring comfort to their families.
The day I finally had the courage
To say “hola,” Cacho wasn’t with her.
A few more days passed,
And she continued to ride alone:
No more smiles or café-con-leche timid gazes.
“Excuse me, Miss,” I said, unaware of her name.
“Whatever happened to the man that always rode with you?”
She looked out the window before looking at me.
“He’s on vacation,” she said.
“Oh, did he go back to Mexico?”
She let out a sigh, fogging the glass,
Wishing that we’d continued to be
Nothing more than strangers.
“He wasn’t Mexican. He was from Guatemala.”
“Sorry,” I said, not meaning for it to sound
The way that it came out.
“That’s okay,” she said.
“So, when is he coming back?”
She pulled the yellow cord for the bus to stop
And walked to the back exit.
“Mijo, he’s dead.”
The smile she left me
Before she disappeared into the distance,
Wasn’t like the one that took me weeks
To get out of her and Cacho.
It bathe me with a scalding that comes
From drinking the Panadería coffee too fast
And never bothering to acknowledge the person
Who I shared a bus with for months,
Even though we spoke the same language.
Cacho was the name I gave him—
It’s a nickname for Carlos,
Which is a good name for a good man.
Sometimes he still rides the bus with us—
Getting off on the same stops I do—
Always wearing a different cachucha de beisbol,
Only this time, they’re all brand new.
Cacho also means “chunk or piece of something,”
Which is what he took the day she told me he left.
El Baño del Albañil
(The Bricklayer's Bath)
At night, things are as they are
During the day, but no longer hidden.
The sky— a canopy papier-mâchéd with strips
Of indigo, cobalt, and onyx—
Reveals animals unseen
Under the blind of day:
The colors, sounds, and smells they cowl
Themselves with smear into the blood of what they do—
Their purpose as stealthed as their pain— why do they even exist
If no one would miss them if they didn’t?
All is quiet: they work— voiced without voices,
Unwittingly willing, strong for their weak— we sleep.
The sun will smile again— but not for another fifth of day—
Their effort will be erased, blended away with the starry black.
To them, oranges are obsidian ball ornaments hanging off gunmetal coat racks,
Water is tar oozing into charred rib cage drains,
People are walking trees— or trees, frozen people
Moving only when you blink— splatter-painted by motor oil raindrops.
The dirge of dump trucks rumbling slowly down the boulevard,
As if mourning the death of a young princess who was to set them free.
Their vests— bondage in fluorescent-orange, sterling, and highlighter-yellow—
Sparkle as if their bodies were as precious as garden ants were indispensable.
Sign of the cross to Jesus— a skyward kiss eleison—
Trikonasana stretches to Shiva at the crater’s lips to avoid injuries:
Their blood for our honey, our vinegar as their water,
Insomnia as their life to have our amnesia lifestyle.
Forty-odd charcoal-feathered birds surveille as they roost—
A string of Tahitian pearls draped on milky-white moon flesh—
One cackles, and thrashes like a trash bag—
Its scowl as heartfelt as the back of a Polaroid—
In the smog, clear as air, and all remains as it was.
What would it be like to suffocate in the plentiful
Lack of space growing under their feet, lungs inhaled to raisins.
At night, the crow is just wind.
Jose Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a diverse urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share; those that often go untold.
His writing has been featured in Meat for Tea, Sky Island Journal, The Esthetic Apostle, The McNeese Review, and The Main Street Rag. His work has also been nominated for the 'Best of the Net' award and the 'Pushcart Prize.'