Nov. 2008

For Carrell

It happened, I think, at Ayala Triangle
In the back of a cab that said *Aircon* like
All the others. A necessity on a typically muggy
December day in Manila. Throngs of people
Released for lunch, 
Moving in-between the idling
Cars that make Roxas, Makati, and
Ayala look more like that Disneyland parking lot
We'd lost our car in during our first trip together
Than the three main arteries
Trisecting the heart of
Homeland's financial district.

I wish I could bring all of this home to you.

The hanging lanterns in the garden trees
Gleaming bright white against the
Verdant leaves in the sun.
The sharp smell of diesel mixing with the
Sweet scent of steamed rice
From the restaurants crammed with workers.
Cataloging the cart with the daffodil painted on the front
Selling the best *espasol* I'd ever had
On the way to Tagaytay
And the street vendors I’d met near Araneta
With these barbecue sticks laid thick with
That sugary-savory combination
Unique to our people
And the Sari Sari store my aunt owns
Where they all say it’s past time for me to
Find a wife. 

I choke back the melancholy of
Your absence with the silent promise to
Bring you back someday.

And so, it was there, 
In the back of the cab
Stopped in work day traffic at the foot of
The Child of the Philippines
That I realized I loved you.

St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church. 2014. Photo Credit: Melissa Mustafa. http://advtrcollective.com

St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church. 2014. Photo Credit: Melissa Mustafa. http://advtrcollective.com

Hometown Glory

For Hawthorne

I envision you in the glow of the rising sun.
Framed in gold and hands turned up
To receive these gifts and dispense them to
Black and brown faces meant to

Live grace.
But denied it
Too often outside
Your limits.
Find grace. 
Between Prairie and Imperial.
At Inglewood and El Segundo.
Saved for us ethereal

The blessings and sorrows, trials and narrow
Escapes - we’re scraped up but safe. Tomorrow
Was never promised us but you
Held us close.
Nurtured us to full grown artists -
Tending us to full bloom harvest.

You loved us; imperfect us.
You loved us. Hometown gloried us.
You loved us. And we love you.

Hawthorne, CA. 2011. Credit: AJ Joven

Hawthorne, CA. 2011. Credit: AJ Joven

Irreconcilable Differences

Job? Yeah, I knew him.
Nice guy, I guess. It’s just...
Look, I’ve gotta be honest,
We all make mistakes, right?
And, I mean, all things being equal
He *was* vindicated. So, I
Mean, you’ve gotta understand:
Eli, Bil, and I were just calling it like we saw it!
And, ok, he turned out to be innocent
But how could *we* have known?
If you ask me, he’s just
A bit sensitive.
What? I’m sorry -
I missed what you said.


We don’t speak anymore.

Asilomar State Beach, CA. 2017. Credit: AJ Joven

Human Capital

These hands are tired, 
Friend. Weathered after
Years of picking
Under the Delano sun.
A life spent setting your
Table that I might set mine.

This back is broken,
Friend. Weary and sore after
Decades stooped over fields
Of spinach and vines of grapes.
My health given for 38 cents a pound
To get my children educated at 50k a year.

I am too old,
Friend. With knees meant for
Treading on soft, moist earth,
Now creaky and sallow
From kneeling in dirt - in the shadow
Of your benign allyship.

Who will do the labor?

You value this work
But miss Me.
A history left across the ocean
Of schools and books and family and




Sunset at Asilomar State Park. 2017. Credit: AJ Joven

Sunset at Asilomar State Park. 2017. Credit: AJ Joven

Blast Center

I see the parcel drifting

Lazily against the burning sky.

The whites of the parachute

Contrasting with the purples and reds 

And yellows of the sunset.

Death, it seems, will ride in not

On a stallion, but like a hellish parade float:

Taking its sweet time.


I put down down my rake and search

For you. Your black hair flowing out

From under the sun hat I always tease

You about. Your back to me, delicate 

Shoulders taut and focus concentrated 

On the weeds choking your beloved orchids.

I touch your back, ask you to drop

Your spade and gather your familiar hands

Into mine. 


I never want to forget.


The parcel has dropped from view

And you look at me in that mix

Of puzzlement and mischief I fell for

All those years ago.  As the sky

Fills with thunderous noise and unnatural 

Light, I keep my eyes on you.


No, I never want to forget.


And as our world collapses around us

In a hail of earth and glass,

I pray you know you are l-