Sample Poems by Kenneth Robert Chacón
It's 107 degrees today. What more can I say?
Fresno streets beat a
steady pulse into my head,
possessing me like a demon. Downtown, wishing
drunk, but still I search for you in the gray
pavement haze and darker asphalt. It's this search,
this aching, that will lead me to the other side
of high where you must know I want to
Along Tulare, cars chase each other, mock
each other, approach each other
Oncoming. Careening. Moving dangerously
close to the road's yellow
heartbeat. I feel
the hatred that shoots from their exhausts
like curses from a lover's
mouth. It's as real
as murder and the 6-inch knife I carry folded
in my pocket like an
Past Van Ness is the Fulton Mall. Many
of the buildings have
also been abandoned.
They've had to watch as their doors closed
for business, store
owners packing what no
one wanted, stripping walls bare in an evening
forever the next morning.
There's joyerias and taquerias and the swap
mall filled with the
suits and stares of gangbangers.
This is where Koreans sell the sequined sandals
beautiful brown mothers of beautiful brown
babies wear when they dance or when they walk
the slanted streets towards bus stops, county
offices, or the jail's concrete visiting rooms,
pushing strollers along as if they were trophies.
I look for you inside the 3 for $10
of Fulton, their heavy designs of black and silver,
of lowriders and cholos, of long
and clowns who weep, of guns, and sad eyed
jesuses who bleed from the
head. Before long, I
forget what I've been looking for. Am I looking
for God's hiding
place within the heat and concrete?
Or am I looking for the mother of my children
touches me softly on those nights when I can see,
so clearly, that the world is shit, the same
who slipped through my fingers last night when I
watched my hand shrink into a
fist? Or am I looking
for the simple pleasure of a rock to fill my pipe
to begin my easy
descent into an early heaven?
I don't know the answer. All I know is the weight
sun, the push it makes against my neck.
It's 107 degrees and the streets look drunk
and every 20 minutes some puto tries to punk me
and whenever I look up there's a
and I can't help but think of my son, my daughter,
expect to see them in an
alley, the bottoms of their
feet caked with mud, their hair matted, their faces
where their tears have trailed.
Damn this sobriety. Each time I'm sober the city sings
to me of a new city that sleeps, under all the heat,
under all the cement that's been freely
poured the way
I've heard God's spirit is poured on Sunday mornings.
I start to sob
because I know it must be peeled away,
this stubborn city, to reveal what is truly
But it's 107 degrees and I've forgotten what I'm looking
for. The streets
are drunk, swaying back and forth
like liquor. Passing by a corner store, I smell whiskey
and dust and 3 bums sitting in front yelling, I Love You
to any woman. I sit down beside
them and enjoy the graffiti.
Where Will This Addiction Take Me?
Tonight it takes me to a liquor
store parking lot,
corner of Fruit and Olive. Minutes ago, it took
me, my car, its worn-
down tires, into a ripe
nail, starving for attention. And in this night
that refuses to play
nice, to fold softly away
and breed daylight, I sit on the pockmarked
concrete, waiting for
the dopeman's good
I sit waiting for the good shit and a 1/2 empty
of Fix-A-Flat he said he might have, praying
it'll be enough to patch. And in between breaths,
beseeches to the Lord God who resides resolutely
in the sky, I think of my family waiting
at home. I think of my wife's smile, my son's
ears, my daughter's hair that smells
I should be above all this, above glass pipes
that shatter, above 20
rocks that are never enough,
above the dark harvests of stale things grown strong
moonlight, shadows spreading like dandelion,
the darkness blossoming into street corners
and liquor stores where men cradle porn.
But the time is not right, water not yet wine,
and I sit waiting for the dopeman's good
I imagine when you first find me
like this, sprawled across our living
floor, your big, brown eyes
will tear, but then, when you see
the glass pipe gleaming
in my cold, sweaty palm, your dark
eyes will tear with something
You'll be pissed.
And it's this terrific fear
of you, my dear, the fear of
words you'll hurl at me forever, the fear
of seeing your face with that severe
expression that shows the exact weight
and measurement of my sins,
thoroughly I've disappointed you,
yet again, that almost makes me want
to come back.
But your anger is a shadow.
Even now it fades like smoke,
like the weak flame of an
Even if I could resurrect,
I'd probably take another
To The Drunk Black Man Who Gave Me 3 Cigarettes
looking out for the train when I
spotted you, a slender, dark man stumbling
tracks, a stain on the horizon.
I was sitting on a concrete bench,
irate with heat, when I
your blue plaid shirt and blue cap upturned.
Crip, I thought and maybe you
It was summer, late summer, on one of those
evenings when the sun feels evil
and you can
do nothing but accuse it of instigating
violence like an unshaven father
his son towards a fight, demanding first blood.
These are the evenings that end
I pulled the red rag from my back pocket
and flung it over my shoulder as
if I'd won
it in some manly sport. I watched you walk
toward the station and my
into fists. I imagine them now 2 angry bulbs,
aching to bloom, but you
didn't notice them.
Instead you spit a loogey like only a smoker
could and approached a
man who looked anxious
and told him a story about you, a cop, and a crack
watched you act out the arrest, telling
the man, You know that pipe wasn't mine,
know me, man!
Of course, the man didn't know and would never know.
I've got it wrong. Maybe he thought
of you years later as I do now and has already written
a poem, offering it like an olive branch, hoping it'll soothe
like a lozenge. Who can
know? But it wasn't long until
you caught me eyeing you. You walked towards me,
the tattoo across my forearm, scoffed. What did you see?
Did you see me running? Did you
know about my problems
with dope, cops, and the color blue? What was it?
then, I thought myself formidable with no fear,
but when you sat on the bench next to me,
breath like peppermint, I wanted you gone.
I'll never forget how you looked into my
your own ready to roll back into your head, and said,
I know you, man. You're a gangsta
gonna turn god.
You reached into your pocket and pulled out a crushed
box of Marlboro
reds. You forced 3 cigarettes
into my hand and said, Take 'em and when you get
to heaven, my
man, tell Him a poor, black man gave
you his only treasure. Tell Him a poor man did.
the cigarettes back into your hand,
told you I didn't smoke. You shoved them back.
take 'em. Smoke 'em. Sell 'em. Do whatever.
It's a gift. And it wasn't until long after I hit you,
long after your nose ran red and my knuckle bruised
blue, long after I boarded the train
you from my seat, fighting back tears, that I finally
take this chance to