Spilled Moonshine

 

In the month of May

we ski the debris:

dust, twigs,

broken branches

clumps of mistletoe,

pines cones and pine needles,

sun cups and sap,

everything but snow

it would seem

in the month of May.

 

But climb high enough,

doggedly enough,

and a sip of winter yet awaits

pooled among the rocks

like spilled moonshine.

 

–Tele Món, Shadowboxer II, 2020

 

Saving Bubba

Every day you train

to pull Bubba

down a mountain

covered in rocks and gullies

and caked in ice.

You do not hesitate to

ride the brake

and hipcheck the crossbar

looking for every advantage

against the great weight

of a slip sliding Bubba.

There is no flaming out

beneath this hot load.

No crumbling or folding–

the edges and thighs must hold.

Which is why you

train your legs to

Tele every day

in every way.

           — Tele Món, Shadowboxer II, 2020

Hearts of Many Colors

 

It’s January 22, 2017

and my youngest son is four.

 

After two years of requests

I have permission

to take him up north

for a wintry weekend

instead of our normal routine

of spending two days

in sunny Albuquerque.

 

He bobs his head to the music

in the backseat

wearing heart-shaped sunglasses.

 

“Happy days,” I tell him.

“Happy days,” he replies.

 

At the house I start a fire

and prepare some food

while he waters the plants

in the sunroom.

 

After dinner

I set an oil heater up

in his bedroom.

 

“Bona nit, Papa,”

he tells me.

 

“Bona nit, my son.”

 

After a breakfast

of granola and yoghurt

we head to Sipapu

where I ski patrol.

 

After a career in the military,

I enjoy the peace of patrol,

the peace that comes of helping others,

the serenity that comes of the outdoors

and the high mountains in winter.

 

My son can’t stop smiling,

giddy with joy,

happy to see so much snow.

 

He discovers a broom

at the patrol shack

and starts brooming the snow

with conviction.

 

He plays with Lizzie,

throwing a ball for her

attached to a short rope.

 

He totters around

bundled up in his

blue Burton onesie,

mittens and Peruvian hat.

 

Lizzie pushes her snout

into the snow

searching for her ball.

 

I call his Àvia to let her know

what a wonderful time

he is having.

 

He returns to sweeping the snow

with the broom, singing..

 

It feels like life

cannot get any better

for us.

 

We share some snacks in the patrol shack

and say goodbye to the crew.

I promise to bring him back

as soon as I can.

 

Back to the house we are driving,

past snowy fields,

past horses and their meandering tracks,

revealing the story of their day,

when he says to me

out of the blue,

 

“I want to see you more, Papa.”

 

If only I can return to this moment

and hold my tongue forever.

 

“Look at the beautiful horses,”

I could have said,

to distract him,

of even something simple like,

“Me, too, let’s be patient and

things will improve with time.”

 

But I blunder.

 

I catch an edge

on the hard ice.

 

“Have you told your mother?” I ask,

glancing at him in the rearview mirror.

 

“Yes,” he responds,

swinging his legs in his carseat.

 

Fate offers me another chance

to hold my tongue.

 

A chance to recover my balance

and avoid this fall.

 

But I blunder on.

 

Without thinking,

I utter the words

that send us tumbling

down into the darkness.

 

“Well, maybe you can tell her again,” I say,

turning the wheel of the truck

towards the road

that leads to a home

with a well in the front yard

and an acequia

that passes below two cherry trees

with cherries so tart

only the magpies eat them

and a front door

 

he will never see again.

 

Neither of us know it, of course.

 

We are both too innocent,

too innocent of his mother,

too innocent of the biases

and prejudice of a court system

willing to stand on the necks of fathers

whenever a white woman calls wolf–

 

especially the necks of

dark men,

colored men,

bipoc men,

native men

with dark braids

and service records

stamped with

airborne wings

and ranger tabs

and crossed rifles.

 

“Ok,” he replies,

“I ask her again.”

 

The following morning

we drive to meet his mother

where she works in the city.

 

Our 48 hours are up.

An unspoken sadness accompanies

the end of our weekly visits.

In the car we are both quiet.

 

“I’ll be seeing you again in five days,”

I tell him, reassuringly,

looking for his eyes in the mirror.

 

“I know,” he replies.

 

I’ve forgotten our conversation

from the day before

but he has not.

 

As soon as we get near his mother

he gushes excitedly:

 

“I want to see Papa more!”

 

He is singing with his heart

these words, using all his courage.

 

The pale face of his mother hardens.

She says nothing.

 

She pries his small hands

from around my arms

and from around my neck

and sweeps him up.

 

Unsettled at her silence,

he begins to cry.

 

Still she says nothing.

Quiet as stone she walks away.

 

He looks back at me

through tears.

 

I feel a great and awful helplessness.

 

“He needs us both,”

I call after her,

not knowing what else to say.

 

Four years have passed since then,

and my son has become a ghost

of a shadow in my life

and I a shadow of a ghost in his.

 

I send him a letter every week.

They are written in crayon,

with heart shapes

inside and out.

 

I am allowed by the court

to call him twice a week.

 

Sometimes he answers the phone.

Sometimes he tells me

he hates me.

 

His mother monitors

his every word,

observing him

for any indication

of tenderness.

 

“I love you,” I tell him,

“One day we will play again

among the tulips in your Àvia’s garden

and eat plums and strawberries.”

 

Every Sunday I write him a letter.

I draw hearts on the outside

of the envelopes.

 

He’ll be eight in November.

 

The letters are all

covered in hearts

of different colors.

 

— Tele Món, Shadowboxer II, 2020