Jose Padua



In the summer of 1968
we had the riots.
I remember the smoke rising in the sky,
the sound of sirens and our next door neighbors
laughing as they came down the alley
carrying TVs, air conditioners, entire racks
of sportcoats, dress shirts, evening gowns.
Later we saw the shells of burnt out buildings,
the broken streetlights and the National Guard
patrolling the streets like soldiers in charge
of a conquered land.

We stayed inside while our friends
played with their new toys
and their parents tried on their new clothes
or watched their new TVs
with the sound turned up loud.

Eventually things were the same as before,
with the rich kids decked out in polka dots
and paisley in Georgetown, buying drugs,
playing guitars, chanting “om” and “hare krishna”
as our neighbors’ toys broke and the colors
on their new clothes faded away.

By September we were back in school
and our teacher introduced us to
The Great Works of Western Literature,
great American authors, black and white --
words we grew up with
while the girl next door got pregnant
and her brothers robbed stores,
mugged pedestrians,
and got thrown in jail.

Having seen the writing on the walls,
they were anticipating a future of kind words
and empty gestures, a future where there’s
no difference,
no change from the past they’d known
all their lives.

And remembering the riots
I can’t help but feel nostalgic --
those days when the chaos on the streets
lent support to the vision in our minds,
those nights when, after the smoke had cleared
and the sirens had faded,
you’d look up to the sky
and see a thousand and one stars.

Like passengers on a raft in the days
when men believed the earth was flat,
we felt like explorers,
riding bravely, peacefully,
to the end of the earth
and the next war
of the worlds.



At my 10 year
high school reunion
Carl Jackson
walks up and tells me
he dreamt
I was a Japanese torturer
in World War II.
Just then I remember
why we
didn’t speak much
in high school.



Though the Disney kids
wear clothes from Sears,
I’ll bet they never had to decide
on where to bury

their dead goldfish.
Me, I got my first guitar
at Sears. It sounded tinny
and made noise like feedback,

which was strange, it being
an acoustic guitar. I got
my first goldfish there too,
and they made strange noises as well,
especially when I plugged them in.



It’s animal torture hour
on the Disney channel
at Mike & Mary’s house.
Dogs are strung up in trees,
rabbits slit open from head to toe
and cats tossed into the white water rapids
as a bearded Frenchman in khaki shorts
sings his country’s national anthem.

We’re drinking beer & wine,
eating noodles and playing this card game
called Mille Borne. We start to speak
French. I cross my eyes and put my hand
inside my shirt. Mike & Mary’s
elder infant son walks around
the dining room with his finger
in his ass shouting,
“I have a hole, I have a hole.”

Outside, the snow has been falling
heavily for 5 hours now.
If I were to look out the window
I wouldn’t be able to see the stars,
but it’s all right. Their light
has taken a thousand years to reach me.
I don’t mind waiting another day or so
because I know it won’t be long
before the clouds roll off
and the bright blue sky shines
on me, the champion of the march,
great mind of the military, and
king of the world.



I feel a sense of wonder
in the heat of this kaleidoscope summer.
The show is on again in the streets,
and the sight of a sexy woman
in a tight leather miniskirt
strolling by with her man who’s in a tee-shirt
with the sleeves rolled up
to show off his perfect muscles
makes you believe
that evolution is working.
People probably look better now
than they did two thousand years ago.
They can run faster, jump higher,
eat better and live longer.
It’s a new and improved society
of Greek gods and goddesses
with people being
all they can be,
finding a better life through
aerobics, psychotherapy,
financial planning,
macrobiotic cooking,
while dressed in
what I think are
Bugle Boy Jeans.

But I’m not about to ask,
and somehow, when I close my eyes,
what I see is so much better.
A woman, a little older, her body beaten down
somewhat by strange weather
and words, touching me with a
gentle tap on the shoulder
and saying,
“Let’s go home now.
We’ve seen



Jose Padua’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Bomb,, Exquisite Corpse, Crimes of the Beats, Up is Up, but So Is Down: New York's Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992, and many other journals and anthologies. He has also written features and reviews for NYPress, Washington City Paper, and the New York Times. He has read his work at the Lollapalooza Festival, CBGBs, the Knitting Factory, Nuyorican Poets' Café, St. Mark's Poetry Project, and the Washington Project for the Arts. He lives in Virginia with his wife, the poet Heather Davis, and their daughter. He is currently at work on a novel.


Published in Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 2008.


To read more by this author:
Jose Padua: Evolving City Issue