Two Poems by Daniel Romo

 

Photo Credit: Amy Millios

Photo Credit: Amy Millios

GENETICS

Night funnels into morning and my hands
become my dad’s.
He didn’t need much sleep, either,
doubled over his drawing board in the garage
crafting precise line after precise line,
a steady hand drafting blueprints for homes
much bigger than his own.
He also created when his family was
hours asleep.
When the only sound in the house
was the sporadic settling.
And maybe that was the foundation’s way
of warning us that the dynamics in this family
were drawn from finite lines in the form of
silence.

He took me to school every day;
neither of us spoke,
the only voices in the car
emanating from a.m. talk radio,
strangers calling a host in order
to be heard.
But the silence between us was not awkward,
we were a father and son
used to the static.

He was my catcher before I started throwing
too hard for his hand,
and he sat in the bleachers,
grinning with each of my base hits
and wincing with each error.
But the rides home were neither condemnation
nor congratulatory,
sans advice or hi-fives,
simply,
rides home.

Today I am more chauffeur than father.
It is my son who doesn’t speak to me.
I drop him off and pick him up
from the movies when his friends lack
gas money to to take him or bring him home.
And because he quit playing baseball
earlier than I did,
I never had the chance to squat in our front yard
and catch him,
to savor the sound of my popping mitt
as if each pitch were a ten-year’s attempt
to reach home plate before
anyone had the chance
to swing and miss.

Tonight when my family dreams of a life
bigger than what I’ve been able to
provide them,
I’ll go into the garage,
sit at my makeshift desk
and compose poems,
breaking in between to study
the steady hum of midnight,
clasping the heredity in my hands,
I’m afraid
will never die.

 

PICK-UP GAMES

The gym is free for students to hoop in,
but I know my body will pay for it
tomorrow.
I simply intended to take a self-guided tour
of my alma mater, a Saturday stroll
to relive the sound of intramural soles
scuffing the court.
And because I still look young enough to be
some kind of student,
the attendant lets me in without asking
for any ID.

I’m content to watch from the sidelines,
my cautious mantra as I’ve aged,
an observant spectator mindful of my bum knees,
more so than former reckless participant
who attacked the basket as if his limbs
would never ache.

But being older is boring.
And the other team needs another man,
and in that instant,
I need another team.

They ask what my major is; I tell them English
and I graduated years ago, though I leave out the part
about it being not too long after they were born.
They say they’re sophomores and English is their
second language. And I quickly see,
basketball is not their first.

They don’t fully know the rules
and play a sloppy game, the way I might’ve
in fourth grade.

So I become the star.
And the bottom of the net remembers me,
doesn’t discriminate based on the
newly sprouted grey that now appears
in my unshaven face.

Each twenty-foot swish is a stat to add to my self-confidence.
Each turn-around jumper replaces lost testosterone in my box score.

They chatter back and forth between baskets,
most likely chastising and congratulating each other
for overthrown passes and successful, unintended
bank shots.

But I only see Middle Eastern, idealistic, young men
scurrying around the court,
speaking a language, a code, I associate
with bombing.

And I hate myself for thinking they might be
enjoying a final pick-up game before becoming martyrs,
before trading in Nike logos printed on their chests
for suicide vests strapped to their bodies.
I’m disappointed that as I was thinking about
ways to dominate in the low post,
I thought there was a possibility they might soon
be carrying out a terroristic game plan
of their own.

My team wins every game.
Afterwards, we shake hands and bump fists
as a sign of sportsmanship

I walk back to my car, satisfied: knowing
I could still compete with college kids,
defeated: realizing this was a victory
I didn’t really
earn.

 

 

Daniel Romo lives and writes in Long Beach, CA. He’s the author of When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014) and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). He teaches creative writing and is the Head Poetry Editor for Cease, Cows. More at danielromo.net.

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