archives fall 2008



Paco’s Tacos

How I wanted to open up a taco shop in Motown,
my American dream slice (damn, haven’t had good
sweet potato pie since being poor in Milwaukee
where Laverne & Shirley lived but no people of
color colored in the blankness).  Smokey Robinson
was too falsetto, too soft for when I got hard up
as a freshman who wanted to be both fresh and
a man.  A taco shop with The Supremes blasting
and a clientele of ex-junkies and James Baldwin
boys and a clean place for the locos who would
show up with tamales in their trunks they didn’t
sell to Detroit car slaves and Cuba Libres in their
soul.  How I wanted to push the Happy Days tables
aside and reveal a secret dancefloor where we all
danced alone, together, while The Temptations
and Junior Walker kept stirring the saxophone
so we were alive.  Let the Holy Dove learn shake-
your-bones hallelujahs.  Be in the foreign country
of Paco’s Tacos where you get sunshine on a cloudy
day and where Motown teaches us the real English.


Learning About “I”

Jesse Jackson came into our elementary
school and made us chant: I am somebody.
I try to see myself sitting on the classroom
floor: I.  Am.  Some.  Body.  I had a body.
“Some” was a harder concept.  Am is soy.
Yo soy alguien.  But it wasn’t about who
I was, where I lived.  I chanted with the others
and applauded at the end.  Then he left, and
we returned to reading aloud.  More words.
But not one I.  I am.  I am somebody.  Me.
How amazing, and now I know our school
was one of many visits that day, year, era.
But when young, I thought all the messages
heard were for me: from Jesse, the winds in
backyard trees, the shy light in my bedroom
where I read in English aloud to the walls
and began my work to not be anonymous.


James Brown As Prophet

I’d pray for James Brown to dance on American
Bandstand.  He always offered me a new America:
someone not blond, blue-eyed, someone shaking
the walls of Jericho with his confident gyrations.
My prayers were translated by some distant power
who I needed to defy to gain muscle tone, earn
respectful scars and fete as my dearest enemy who
would become addicted to me.  James was a sex
machine who was the opposite of a martyr and I’d
dance along with him in my living room—suddenly
fluent in the body’s truths, the ones hidden in my
bones.  Soul music took the house apart, nail by
nail as I unlearned what school taught me about
the oversoul.  To be possessed is to be unowned.  


Rane Arroyo is the author of poetry, plays, and fiction, and has two new books of poetry out: The Roswell Poems (WordFarm Press, 2008) and Same-Sex Séances (New Sins Press, 2008). The Buried Sea: New & Selected Poems is forthcoming from the University of Arizona press in November, 2008, and The Sky's Weight is forthcoming from Turning Point Press in 2009. He lives and writes in Toledo, Ohio.