In the Light of the Bas-Relief
—for Gio Luciano
Everything in the human body
Was meant to perish, run out or break:
What do you expect?
God made it in one day—
On one of the last days of Creation—
And, unlike all of the amazing
Abilities She gifted other animals,
She gave us the ability to believe,
To speak and name things as we saw fit,
And the ability to tell time—
Not how much of it we have,
But to know that we have very little.
Yet I lie awake in disbelief
That you’ll be as real as me;
Making lungs, heart, mind and soul
Out of me as iron that rises
From the core, frozen as rock:
Molten, beaten and pressed,
Reshaped into something useful in the home,
Someone you’ll grow to understand
As he shapes your habits
And you shape his nature
The way the Pacific swallows earth’s crust
Only to graft new land in the Atlantic.
And as I am only man,
Not a wondrous beast or all-knowing god,
I will give you a name
That neither life, nor time, nor death
Can ever take from you:
My son you will always be known as.
We were also given the best lips to kiss with,
And I will use them to kiss you all the kisses
That my time with you
Will give me to kiss.
Cast as your father—
A role sparing you from meeting
The men I pretended to be—
We’ll love our lives and learn
Trust from our eternal mother, Time,
Who always knows best
Because she knows all
And will help you know you.
We’ll enjoy her fullness
As sun warms us from within and without,
Seeing how you think up things
I would’ve never thought of,
Stowing them away in my thoughts
Where you’ll always live—
As when you were but a mere thought in my mind—
Until I’m nothing more than a thought in yours.
Prisoner of Memories That Never Happened
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. —Psalm 126:1-2
When he asked me to write him a letter,
I commended him a song in cries he failed to recognize.
When he asked if I could make myself his son again,
I made him a grandfather.
When he asked me why I stopped writing to him in prison,
I told him I no longer believed in God.
When he told me I owed him my life,
I asked him for the bill.
When he asked me to reconcile with Jesus,
I showed him my wounds.
When he asked me why I hadn’t visited him in prison in over 10 years,
I grew patchy facial hair—more fuzz than mane—to blur our resemblance.
When he asked me what we did with his pills,
I told him that—as he had done—God had forsaken me.
When he said that I looked more and more like him,
I told him I grew my beard to look more like the Son of Man.
When he was just curious to know when I stopped believing in God,
I asked him what the pills were meant to numb.
When he laughed at me for not knowing how to swim,
I told him I stopped believing in God
Right after I stopped believing in him—
Around the same time he stopped believing in me.
When he begged for forgiveness,
I still didn’t know what the pills were for;
We were prisoners of moments
That we never lived together,
Liberated from memories we missed.
When his tears asked my guilt why I never took his long distance calls,
I walked into baptismal waters because I wanted to be clean
Of something he left inside me—
When he placed me inside of Mom—
Something I needed to drown that was drowning me.
When he finally asked how his grandson was doing,
I told him—wide-eyed gurgling—as he plucked out my beard,
That he would grow up with a prodigal grandfather.
When he asked me to write him a song,
I swam in a river of colostrum that washed away our sins,
But not our thirst to remember.
Lying flat on cracked asphalt flesh—
Perpetually in mourning
For those who lose their lives on its cheeks—
An opossum rested tranquil as leaves
Commending themselves to oneness with the road.
Brimming from its deep set eye-socket,
A melancholic compote
That dug its claws
Into my sacrum holes
As I crossed a deserted
Two-lane street onto the sidewalk,
Skipping over scummy rainbow-oil puddles.
It was the glint in its eye—
Bouncing streetlight as it cried—
That rippled in mine:
No matter how worthless
Others might deem
Your charred pelts to be—
When the best of you falls short
Of anything anyone ever wanted—
It still hurts to die
Knowing that no one cared.
An angel’s spirit with Satan’s teeth—
Bone polished sharp,
Stalactites and stalagmites
Packed tight, void of might—
Chalk marks of days counted down
To this Monday night
Whose moon chose to
Betray your crossing
As vulcanized rubber screeched
Erratically, wedging the threads
You wear as nobly as a king’s surcoat.
White fur waving freely
As the final whiskers of steam
Rose from all the things you could’ve been,
Your guts and blood, your oblation
Waiting to be delivered
As melting snow on hallowed ground,
Evaporating into smogged ether:
How many orphans did you
Abandon shrieking in the night
Without one to love them
As much as you do?
To think that I didn’t see myself in you
Would be a lie as false as the memory
Of you as my pet who ran away
To form a family of your own,
In a land where people weren’t cruel
And those who had mercy to give
Gave it to those who needed it most,
And animals were respected
For the purpose they served
Not the misconceptions
Created by their appearance.
One in which you’d make it
To the other side of the street—
On this very place—
To mourn the brown stain of me,
And the marsupial burrowed
In my cramped apartment
Waiting for me, our rat baby
Pouched warm in her womb.
Fellow traveler and jaywalker,
I’ll remember you
As you were—a portrait
Of an apostle’s beard
Minutes after martyrdom—
To be wiped away in the morning
As tears from a dream
You should’ve never woken from
Hanging upside down a tree
Rooted in an upside down world
Dirt to my upside down rain,
Fading into the darkest cave on earth:
A smile gripping to life.
I find that meditation has given me the tools, emotionally and spiritually, to deal with the PTSD associated with an abusive upbringing. As I began to explore meditation and incorporate it into my daily routine, it allowed me to channel all the negative energy within me into something positive through my writing and every interaction I have with every person I encountered. I found that by cultivating mediation’s restorative power within myself, I could spread the feelings of love and kindness that began growing inside of me once I released the weight of anger and self-loathing rooted in violence.
Ultimately, meditation has allowed me to find peace and quiet especially when my surroundings are not. At the start and end of my work days, I take deep breaths to connect with any negative feelings I’ve been carrying. I repeat a phrase based on a yogic or philosophical reading that best responds to the issue I’m dealing with. By the end of my meditation, I’m able to stop blaming myself, to stop blaming others, and to start changing my relationship with the world by changing the relationship within myself.
Jose Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a primarily immigrant, urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share. He seeks to write about the accounts in marginalized people’s lives that often go untold, and the beauty in the urban landscapes that goes overseen.
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.
More on Jose Oseguera’s work can be found on our Links page.