Turning Point

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Sample Poems by Kenneth Robert Chacón



107 Degrees

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
I were 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 be.

Along Tulare, cars chase each other, mock
each other, approach each other recklessly.
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 unanswered prayer.

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
and leaving 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
that 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 T-shirts
of Fulton, their heavy designs of black and silver,
of lowriders and cholos, of long haired women
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
who touches me softly on those nights when I can see,
so clearly, that the world is shit, the same woman
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
of the sun, the push it makes against my neck.

It's 107 degrees and the streets look drunk today
and every 20 minutes some puto tries to punk me
and whenever I look up there's a cop staring,
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
clean only 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 important.

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
shit.

I sit waiting for the good shit and a 1/2 empty
can 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 faithfully
at home. I think of my wife's smile, my son's
ears, my daughter's hair that smells of
fruit.

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
in 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
shit.


Oh Dear

I imagine when you first find me
like this, sprawled across our living
room floor, your big, brown eyes
will tear, but then, when you see
the glass pipe gleaming defiantly
in my cold, sweaty palm, your dark
eyes will tear with something else.

You'll be pissed.

And it's this terrific fear
of you, my dear, the fear of the harsh
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,
of how 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 empty lighter.

Even if I could resurrect,
I'd probably take another hit.

To The Drunk Black Man Who Gave Me 3 Cigarettes

I was looking out for the train when I
spotted you, a slender, dark man stumbling
near the tracks, a stain on the horizon.
I was sitting on a concrete bench,
irate with heat, when I noticed
your blue plaid shirt and blue cap upturned.
Crip, I thought and maybe you were.

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 pushing
his son towards a fight, demanding first blood.
These are the evenings that end in regret.

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 knuckles curled
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
pipe; I watched you act out the arrest, telling
the man, You know that pipe wasn't mine,
man. You know me, man!

Of course, the man didn't know and would never know.
Or maybe 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,
saw 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?

Back 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 eyes,
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.

I pushed the cigarettes back into your hand,
told you I didn't smoke. You shoved them back.
Just 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 and watched
you from my seat, fighting back tears, that I finally
take this chance to apologize.