Dear Shame, Dear Doubt, Dear Regret, Dear Second Guessing, Dear Sadness, Dear Grief, Dear Misery, Dear Loneliness, Dear Rejection, Dear Anxiety, Dear Depression, Dear Not Taking Chances:
You will not win. I have already won. I am alive. The victory is in my heartbeat.
This body has survived. Despite however many triumphs, the trauma of being stopped and frisked is a chip I carry on my skin. This casual brutality has occurred over 30 times in my life, a routine groping many black and latinx men have had to deal with on a not so random basis while on daily rituals of work, school, home. On this day, I stare at myself in the mirror and appreciate all the wrinkles, embrace the greys, but understand that if I don’t take care of myself starting by forgiving the past 20 years, all this gratitude will fade to invisibility faster than the next session.
See I haven’t always loved this body. In fact, since a child, I have struggled with a terrible self-image. The salsa singers and actors on the novelas were far from possible, and it seemed like I was never Marc Anthony enough for my community. My Spanish has been rocky since a child, a better-faked acento over time. My dance moves consist of a hardcore 2 step and spinning myself in a circle under an imaginary disco ball. I’ve never been popular; more introverted and pensive around a group of loud folks.
When I dwell on shame, it almost feels like a best friend that has no need for you, but you shout out and name drop just to make yourself feel more official. It has robbed the better part of my twenties, took root during my thirties, then falls dormant until the least suspecting moments; right before class, a show, date night.
Today I tell myself to stay alive longer than before & begin living like each day matters. I cannot just write pretty words & then turn around & not live in harmony with every verse. I must be as holy as these poems.
Today is the most powerful remix of previous years’ failure. Your eyes open, proof of certain win over death’s plans to make your body disappear. Don’t be that sad – your biggest fan is forever chanting for your victory.
Wait a minute, I like my life.
In a matter of few blessings, let go of stress. Understand the sacrifice within all sights, how much are you losing & keeping by the same design? Thrive at instant shine, illuminate a precarious path, do not live ashamed. Recognize the joy surrounding cloudy aura while at most vulnerable, share air with rare company in order to separate from common threat, maintain a bold prescription of infinite props. Pray that zenith of litty stone doesn’t come too early for party.
Choice: be yourself, arrive aware of firm constellation, the mind is not your body, set of programs inherited from the block, commit to that discovery, proper conditions allow for flourishing, within that wind lies all things necessary to reinvent your potential.
Sink roughly y este humo will rise. Sometimes, even the lungs don’t want that much, how this fuse siempre sparked. Exit as you wish, release that oppressive impatience. Your breath is your homeland. Rather than waste seconds, building with childhood fools, reflections of boogie down remnants – there is a marvelous ascension afoot if dared take the first step.
How long can you hold that chuckle buckle note, wiping tears on page?
Still, places wish to go, still love yet to know.
No matter how much you smoke, the Clason Point Gardens you once knew is not coming back. Even if, you won’t be around to witness hood’s restoration. None of these bricks want to be fixed. Neither do you.
Who left to guess, all that accumulated anxiety done muddied withered grill & non-descript chest? No sorts of chisel or fleek fiesta nearest location. Grab poems from sky’s cloud fortune cookies. Lightning clapped, yo no sé qué es, pero es malo.
What was the mission, burn yourself invisible – prende con el sol, may a brand new way inspire one more chance for rebirth – all that sounds great, but what you got on the next cypher, otherwise step to available stage that might save, reject opinion – an unengaged life not worth opportunity to breathe. At ease with changing seasons.
Such a tendency to inhale rejection at most constant rate possible. If you never try to change, how can you complain? There is a shadow waiting on your transformational aftershock; instead there you are, stretched out on the couch, locked into mental prison early. Kids asking, why is papi tired? Wife ignores your snores.
Don’t let dreams die before started to apply the wisdom needed. Stop grieving lost years. If you keep replaying yesterday, troubles stack higher. Write a better departure, leading to your spiraling escape. Aware that love won’t always last, or better said, we all will die eventually, so quit beefing over smallest details, stare into each other’s eyes & find some reason still existing.
Already have nightmares before bed, so please don’t ask my credit score before the stroke of midnight, the pain of my public-school teacher salary has my pockets calculating their life expectancy. This is why I shut off any fantasy channel advertising how I am supposed to live. Sometimes I get happy by being alive. The thrill of a tragicomic aging Nuyorican poet walking pa’lante while looking over both shoulders, expecting the past to pop out bushes yelling freeze & remove the future for my family to flourish.
Who wants to lose this body? Not I, still figuring out how to live boldly not in fear anymore. Declare the skyline really ashore, the puddle as an ocean, tomorrow already happened & yesterday reminded of time, how long been born to build a never drying fountain of heartbeats & electric blinks. Master this skeleton until divine decides moment show stops. No need to tap reaper on the shoulder like we will meet, probably know my name.
The ceiba stands, buried in split rib cage & bees pollinate flowers blooming from dead mouth, brushing thin wings across nest buzzing in skull. Identify success, a rush stringing along universal thread of god within every essential particle, grateful for all the fuckups. Release your burden, when have you said out loud to yourself as clear as possible so no misunderstanding, I forgive you. I still love you. God’s grace is bigger than any regrets we might have.
Perhaps the ultimate high is solving the mystery of these seconds, not wasting any scrolling when you create these scrolls, listening to correct spells according to harmony of minor chords, dig into your ears to pick the wax you need to spin an everlasting groove. Don’t get caught walking dead like have no clues for life’s objective. If there is a flaw in design, realign blueprint for sustainable foundation. When your name is called, be ready for action. Improvise a liberation route leading to paradise 43 times, return & recover whoever was left behind, determined to arrive in freedom, not incomplete, but whole as healed.
Given the game we in, hard to emerge perfect. Much different playing Contra with 100 men versus only 3 with no cheat code. Tired of the trauma – entonces ya. Delete that loop. The human body reinvents itself every few hours, but if your mind stuck on 20 years ago, your soul will never prosper. This is the death of your childhood you never acknowledged. This is the burial for the man you used to be, just showing up without a greeting card, expressing your condolences. This is a block party most lit without your anxiety.
If this is the sum total of your problems, mijo, carry that cargo suave until you find a river on a cliff at your highest point, y ya, tiralo with the force you can muster, se fue y gone – the who, the what, the when, the where, not me, no clue. Gather pieces of self-left & start fresh. Face the rest of tomorrow prepared for everlasting infinity.
I am not ashamed today. On most days, I throw a smile on my face, right underneath is that shame mask that blocks all the secrets and struggles so that you can’t see them.
Today, I am feeling myself. I look good for almost 40 years. In my hood, my brothers don’t reach that age freely, many have landed in a cell, or worst, a permanent coffin. I have fallen in love with this dad bod, bien flaquito, but that belly has seen a few coronas and no sit-ups to save that core. I have grown up physically and have matured mentally. I stare at the mirror and no longer squirm at my reflection. My chest hair, once a fine patch of grass, sprouted in an overgrown vacant lot of broken dreams, with a sprinkle of white flowers blooming from my straining heart. My hair used to be flowing down to shoulders, now the scalp evaporated from too many nights, a scorched brain trying to decipher the complexity of simple breathing.
This is an exercise in staying alive. Stumbling past beauty sleep, watch out before unknown monsters try to grab you back into darkest past. Focused on clarity, can’t just be litty. Willing to stretch that deadline well past due. The world becomes yours the more you kindle love & raise truth. Memories of police, handcuffs, central bookings and courts no longer define me. Today I choose to live in my power. This is the hardest, heaviest lift I will do consistently to cultivate my happiness in my remaining life.
Anthony Morales is a Bronx born, Nuyorican poet/educator/father who currently resides in Maryland. His work has appeared in Aster(i)x, Hostos Review, Great Weather for Media, HBO’s Def Poetry, and MANTECA! An Anthology of Afro Latin@ Poets. He has self-published all his collections, including Vacio (2019), A Good One Must Go (2018) and Wandering Edge (2017).