Konch Magazine - “The Things They Say: A Chapbooks of Poetry” by Danny Romero
The Things They Say
 
a chapbook of poetry

Danny Romero
 
 
 
 
Table of Contents
 
 
 
1.      About the Night Before
2.      Like a Basketball Star
3.      The Only Comfort
4.      One of Only a Few
5.      For Many Long Years
6.      Blackout: The Last Thing Remembered
7.      Enough to Carry On
8.      The Second Time Around
9.      Dark and Still
10.  The Things They Say
11.  Blackout: Comes the Night
12.  More Than One Should Know
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
About the Night Before
 
 
 
I’m stumbling drunk still 
when I exit a door
at 7th and Broadway
just as I was when the OPD
brought me in the night before
 
I collapsed in a heap
on MacArthur Boulevard.
I used words like “ese” and “orale,”
“chale” and “frajo.”
I was glad to have a seat
and eventually sleep
sitting up, the room filling
with a heaviness, dragging me
down further and further.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Like a Basketball Star
 
 
 
Reynold offers to skin pop me,
but I tell him, “No.”
“Go ahead and snort it,” he says,
preparing his own vein.
 
“But you need to take it all the way
to the hoop like a basketball star,”
the way he said that he once was                             
at some time in Harlem                                 
 
before his war in Vietnam
when lay-ups and jump shots
and pretty young black cheerleaders
made dreaming dreams still possible,
 
dreams that perhaps he said should
never have been dreamed at all.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Only Comfort
 
 
 
The summer sun shines down
on Apgar Street, hot
like the rest of Oakland,
especially on Reynold’s front steps,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     waiting for him to answer the door.
And this long haired Mexican                                  
in a black neighborhood
means drugs without question
 
are being consumed on the premises,
the only comfort being
the knowledge that half the block
are also smoking rock all over town,
 
and the OPD don’t have the resources
to jail everyone although they would try.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
One of Only a Few
 
 
 
I float on heroin in and out
of the circle of black grieving faces,
friends of his sister, all women,
gathered in a small house
off MacArthur Boulevard
near Telegraph Avenue,
 
one of only a few
he could trust in this world.
I stand and greet them all,
eat potato salad only and nod.
If he was there that day,
he would have done the same.
While only Reynold died,
we were all so close to death.
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
For Many Long Years
 
 
 
I wandered lonely as a cloud
of crack smoke that floats
on high over hill and valley
across Oakland west toward the lake,
walking the miles to save the dollar
for a bottle of fortified wine.
 
When all at once - I remember
Highland Hospital, the day before?
Or days ago? How long had it been?
 
Two coworkers:
Tom asked Walter Samashima to drive,
the only car in Glassware,
a look of terror on the man’s face
for many long years after.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Blackout: The Last Thing Remembered
 
 
 
Jimi Hendrix plays his “Star Spangled Banner”
on the 8 track player before
the next M-80 explodes the dark sky,
a glorious day full of wonderful sounds,
the last thing remembered.
 
They kick the face repeatedly
-splitting flesh, cracking bone- to shut that mouth:
four local hoodlums 
going through pants pockets,
two weeks pay, rent money,
apartment keys and wallet.
But no one can hear
above the guitar, interrupted
for just a moment in the night
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Enough to Carry On
 
 
 
The only item on the menu
worth buying: for just 2 dollars
or so and filling enough
a grilled hot link on a toasted bun
with mustard, lettuce and tomato
Oakland ghetto Korean burger stand
San Pablo Avenue
the first and only meal of the day
just enough to carry on
 
when late again to work but there
to collect the trash, sweep and mop floors
hoping no one says a word
about the backpack full of malt liquor
to ensure the night will carry on.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Second Time Around
 
 
 
The best tacos in Oakland
come from a truck
on East 14th Street and Foothill Boulevard,
El Taco Zamorano.
 
They sell tacos de asada y
 tacos de carnitas, tacos de lengua
o tripas, barbacoa o cessos, 
tortas y burritos, tambien.
 
They provide rabinos y cebollitas
y zanahorias de escabeche.
The food even tastes good
the second time around,
the black tar forcing it all up 
and onto the floor, still food fit for a final meal.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
Dark and Still
 
 
 
The shadow lifts after midnight
in a west Oakland schoolyard
 
an M80 firecracker skittering
a lopsided trail of sparks across the blacktop
 
before the flash and boom.
“Throw another one of those,”
 
laughs Reynold
The cigarette tip near my lip
 
the M80 firecracker in my hand
I see for the first time that night
 
a lopsided trail of sparks
skittering across the blacktop
 
dark and still
before the flash and boom
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
The Things They Say
 
 
 
There’s a murder of crows on the fence
outside my mother’s house
waiting for me when I get there
a sight never seen before by neighbors
 
They follow me across the city
miles away to a church
I had not attended
since I was a boy
 
now the last day
mother brother
grandfather all in a pew
The crows outside calling me
 
The things they say
I can never repeat
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Blackout: Comes the Night
 
 
 
After a long day of drinking
alone comes the night
with a darkness from
which there is no escape
 
The quart bottle cracks neatly
above the left eyebrow
a jingle of glass
a splash of malt liquor
 
another Oakland street
and spilled blood
the vatos all gathered
for the evening’s festivities
 
bifurcated now between
the living and the dead
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
More Than One Should Know
 
 
 
The voices come one night
down a long lab corridor
from the deep dark shadows
despite bright fluorescent light.
The voices come saying
more than one should know
 
about that Saturday,
Flo and Eddie singing
on a television show,
the sirens fast approaching
a crowd around the corner,
my father in the middle of the street
fallen down drunk and soiled once again
in front of everyone.