Luis Lopez-Maldonado


But after depression it’s hard to love yourself,
and so I settled for substitute assignments in the public school district with the lowest scores in the country
Abstract Dream by Gene Kreyd

Part I: When People Say How Are You, I Say Good. But I Lie.

Let me try to explain:

because yesterday I learned about beauty & I found nada surprising.

my asshole has feelings too.

a groan a moan, I know my madre’s sounds when I hear an ayeee and huuhhhh,
her sorrow of mourning los suspiros she makes when we talk about her dead father
and mother and brother, sus lagrimas when she tells me she’s worried.

my body is compressed muscles against bone, soul trapped inside cocoon.

is it possible to die of sadness? i mean, really though? because i’m typing with
dead fingers.

memories | images dissolve into nothing, into everything, like the setting sun
who leaves my wounds behind like dust.

worried about my brother | stay-at-home boy that never blossomed, babysitting
my sobrina, his wife @ work military bitch making more than he.

because the sky bleeds mushroom gray and that ain’t okay.

Do I make sense?
No wonder the city has shitty scores &
graduation rates, dammnn Gina!
I mean, these so-called teachers treat
colored students like animals
maybe ‘cuz their President said it was okay
yesterday, maybe ‘cuz they’re threatened
by educated Spanish speaking kids
maybe ‘cuz their sex life is zero zip nada
& their 90’s hairstyle didn’t collaborate
w/them this morning, I mean fuucckkk,
estos kids just need a little TLC
a little intervention un poco de Tajín o flan,
pero they sure don’t need no white people in power
forcing them to flunk fail flee, no mental abuse
‘cuz they got enough at home, donde su mama
los regañan y sus papas toman todas las noches,
no les importa no les importa no les importa,
but even though all we have to do today
is answer Harry Potter questions & draw & color,
these brown hands y rostro y corazon
will be here to remind you you matter
& college awaits & failing this final is not
an option because we ‘aint no rapists thieves animals
because you can’t deport people in their native land
can’t can’t can’t keep telling us we’re over-tan
can’t spell can’t learn: we can, we will, watch us.
You tell me if I’m a SUB & I think no & yes,
I’m vers! but I knod & ask you to sit
repeat myself ten times before my face becomes numb
because your warm-up is easy like ditching & dropping-out
& calling me joto & you still don’t do it still don’t
multiply 588 by 11 & I smile & you’re confused &
uncomfortable, you ask me if I’m here ‘till Friday
& I say no, pretend to roll my eyes punch
your pussy-ass in the face, say only here
this afternoon for Ms. Padilla, not Pah-dil-ah,
but Padilla, you know I mean business &
I tell you you remind me of my students in jail
& how you’re headed there if you can’t focus
& then you think you think & I let you think:
you tell me your dad is in jail
& your mom left you with your abuelita
& I tell you some of my story
& you knod & start doing your work,
pencil in your left,
your right trembling in a fist.

Part II: Hanging On Before Depression Take-Two Hits

Birds fight in songs fit for kings & queens,
so I open door to sing w/them & behind
closed blinds are jail-like bars to keep
the good students in to keep them bad students out,

it’s nine in the morning & it’s still an empty room
damn birds, Shut Up! Only pencil against notebook
is what I hear, the moans & groans of my tummy too
my tattoos hidden beneath gay denim &
burgundy blooms Raybans framing brown face,
smile into frown; another day another day,

streets busier than this temple where on white board
I write, Welcome! Mr. Lopez-Maldonado,
“Safe-Space, Open-Space”
but they don’t care they don’t listen &

I shut & lock the door behind &
the only thing I did was write this poem,
the birds not really birds but a barely-working
AC system outside a broken classroom,
empty seats empty souls, & another day
another day, another day,

The sweet & sour chicken w/burnt rice
fills the room even w/the door wide open
but you don’t care, food must fill empty bellies
& the bell rings & y’all don’t stop texting flirting

humming laughing & I pretend to take roll & smile:
Mr.! Teacher! Eh! You remember me from last time

but you ask me again if I’m subbing & I say yes!
& you Snapchat & that fucking bell is still ringing,

I ask you if you guys have had a lock-down & you say:
yes! Yes! Yup! Last month! & I lower my tone &

demand you not forget it forget what to do where to go
because Texas just had a school shooting today,

10 dead shooter alive & the white girl pounds the desk
& we look & she blush to cheeks: I bet he’s white!

& I nod & you break your pencil, your brown faces
long w/disappointment w/fear w/violence &
I hand out a mystery picture graph work page
& my my: a picture of the U.S. flag, like if forcing

patriotism is going to silence us shut us up make us weak.
Nah! & short Mexican girl colors it w/every color available

& I smile & ask what happened to the red white & blue
suggested by the directions & you sigh & say:

yeah no, this flag ain’t for the few, it belongs to everyone.

and they tell me I don’t know shit
tell me when I’m gunna quit,

they come in half-assleep
come in referrals knee-deep,

ask, what are we doing today?
ask, can we use our phones?

and I kindly tell them, you tell me,
this is Math class not phone class,
but they don’t care they don’t listen,
fingers tap tap all period long,
Snapchat documenting them in class
not working flipping Friday-off,

they tell me if I’m rich
tell me if they can touch my Gucci,

they cough and yawn and boo
scream I don’t like you hate you,

ask when are you quitting
ask when are you quitting
ask why don’t you quit
ask why don’t you quit
ask why don’t you quit,

and I tell them, I don’t know
how to spell quit and when I learn
how too, I still won’t quit
because I still won’t know t
he meaning of fuck you.

Part III: Still Here And Queer And Surviving This Weird Chapter I Hope Gets Better

because we can’t undumb a system that labels every fucking face walking this stolen land, we can’t climb a tree if we ain’t got legs, we can’t pass and collect $200 if we don’t know the rules of the fake game, because retarded and stupid come from the same mouths that think women are still not equal to cocks hanging between two legs, from the same mouths that call the police when a little black girl is trying to make a difference and decides to sell lemonade on the street, from the same mouths that still think Obama is a Muslim and isn’t qualified to have been President of the United States, because all they’ve heard is retard stupid dumb special weird different sad and they believe it because they can’t speak up because their parents are in jail their parents have no papers their parents left them in a dumpster their parents touched them when they were smaller, because no one understands how their shoes feel if they’ve never walked in them; never asked.

because he comes to class hungry, didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, didn’t eat,
had to drive @ 10pm to pick up drunk auntie, far away; he’s 12

because she’s supposedly pregnant, always high larger than life, wants to make $ but no school, always wears same yellow sweater, eyes of water; she’s 13

because he’s trying to re-build this school and he white and they’re brown and they don’t care, tells me to control them, write-em up, securrrity!; he’s privileged

because they were born into a broken system rigged system racist system, a place where grass does not grow trees are dry, water is Flint Part II; they’re unlucky

because we us, we deserve the same need the same are the same, yet no one listens
and no one gives a flying fuck, push us to da side, lock us é hide hide; we’re fucked

because i-Teach i-Ready but they’re on their i-Phones, eyes wide broken, drones floating above us checking to see who punches who, who curses who, where the next referral will unfold like a used Christmas present; I won’t even have a Christmas because teaching as a sub doesn’t even pay all my bills; I’m 33


About the writer:
Luis Lopez-Maldonado is a Xicanx poeta, playwright, dancer, choreographer, and educator. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California Riverside in Creative Writing and Dance. His poetry has been seen in The American Poetry Review, Foglifter, The Packinghouse Review, Public Pool, and Spillway, among many others. He also earned a Master of Arts degree in Dance from Florida State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame. He is currently a co-founder and editor at The Brillantina Project.

Image: Abstract Dream by Gene Kreyd. Mixed media on canvas. 80 x 140 cm. 2016. By permission. Gene Kreyd is O:JA&L’s Featured Fine artist for April 2019.