For Rubén.  


I never invited him,


Inconvenient as only he can be.

An insistent, miserable bastard.


Way back and in between the marbles and spinning tops,

the carob and its seeds.

Weapons of happiness-conjured war; our gallitos.

Helado de coco or piraguas in hand, 

fighting their own war with the relentless summer heat.

Throwing myself down those lush green steep hills,

dangling from branches older than my earliest memory.

Older than any of us.


I excel at getting into that good trouble,

spinning an apology after the deed, rather than asking for permission.  


And then I feel it.

His cold hand on my shoulder once more,

breathing new life to memories long gone.


She’s here as well.

And they’re not alone.

Together, they plant themselves deep and permanent,

like roots.  


They’re closer now,

to me and mine.


A peek at first,

now a quiet, violent stare,

so solemn yet aggrieved.

They behave like old teachers tired of delivering the same lesson

and I am the student that refuses to learn.


They twist my arm

and with a jerk

with a push

and under duress

I’m forced to remember.  


In festive arrogance he arrives.



Uninterested in my concern

or my fear

or your fear.  


With a blink the distance grows; so quickly taken.

And taken so far.  


The voices

-so many voices-

and their faces.  


Memory fails me once more,

but my heart remembers

and whispers a jolt straight to my soul.


Their names,

their smiles,

the enveloping sense that they stood in this place.

Right here.

Right there.


I swear they were just there.  


My heart.

 It relents.

I remember.


The meals shared under a tree,

running faster than we should have

and falling harder

and hurting more than I led on.


The white lies and dark secrets.


Everything was sweeter

and as bitter as it was sweet.


It was more real,

the genuine article.  


And that greatest of teachers,


Carries on with this,

her long lesson,

beating me into submission.


At once, I remember

her loving, wrinkled hands.



Her sweet, worn and weathered voice

made gentle through her own lessons learned.

She was a student of Pain and grace.


Singing her heart out to the caldero,

wielding la candela,

she kept us fed,

kept us safe.


A friend’s smile slips in

and I can see now.

They say that when it rains, it pours.

But this is a flood,

a storm,

a disaster.


This is a goddamn tragedy.  


And now I sit here

in the presence of Mourning.

This used to be a rare occurrence

but now he ventures in with routine delight.

Shit, he probably has a key to the place.


See, It’s not the quantity

but the quality of the Pain.

In these parts we mourn like it’s a sport,

we suffer like it’s going out of style.  


It rains,

it pours,

it floods,

we drown.


The storm,

it doesn’t pass and this doesn’t end.

And it becomes a part of me.

Old hat, you see.


The cruel way Mourning lingers

and does as he pleases.  

A thief even!

So hungry,

so starved

that he’s capable of consuming it too,

that last part of you I hold close to me,

my memory of you.


And how am I supposed to survive,

never you mind live,

riding out this never ending storm.  


And then he looks down at me,

he reminds me

-teacher as he is-

that we all lose,

that I don’t have an exclusive right to Pain,

that time passes the same for all of us,

the great equalizer.


That Remorse,


or even Mourning,

they do not get to escape Pain.  


Time arrives disguised,

and I observe Mourning follow suit.

Memory makes itself known

and all of the details come roaring back, technicolor.

And without so much as a hello, 

certainly uninvited,

they arrive to do what they do best.  


And my hands begin to shake.

And I give in, I welcome them

with a kind of practiced apathy

that hides the wholesale terror that lies within.

And I accept their parcel.

They sit beside me as I try but fail to find my footing.


With that non-gesture of theirs,

they inform me that I’ve lost another one.

Another vacancy.

The sum of all love in this recalcitrant world drops sharply.

And they keep me company,

Pain takes my hand as he has done so many times before.

I find that horrible familiar solace in his.

This time, they vow stay with me, forever.



Christian Alexis  

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