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Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Night Tito Trinidad KO'ed Ricardo Mayorga

I'm always pleased when somethng we've published in the CRB turns up again on my desk bound in book covers. I was particularly pleased last week to get a copy of The Night Tito Trinidad KO'ed Ricardo Mayorga, a new chapbook of poems by the young Puerto Rican writer Kevin A. González. Some of you, dear readers, may remember we published Kevin's poem "Cultural Scheme" in the February 2006 CRB. It now re-appears on page 17 of the chapbook.

For those of you who missed it, and to encourage you to look up more of Kevin's work, here's the poem again.

Cultural Scheme

You first walked on Halloween, 1982,
in the devil costume your mother sewed--
your father aimed the lens at your feet
& closed-up, tilted the camera:
a forked fire-coloured tail snaking
behind you. It’s 2004
& you live in Madison, Wisconsin,
with a girl you met in a gay club
in Pittsburgh, & you can’t remember
what you were doing there
in the first place. It was Halloween
& her halo lay at the foot of your bed
for days. When you took her to Puerto Rico,
promising the bracing taste of a piragua
& a history as dense as a cobblestone block,
the Plaza was closed-off
for the filming of a Burger King commercial,
a salsa jingle blasting Old San Juan.
How many bumpers
did your father wreck
at that 24-hour Drive Thru in Isla Verde,
the weight of his drunken foot
shoving the wrong pedal? The Bronco Lottery,
the Burger King workers called it,
though they weren’t as appealing
as the ones being filmed in Old San Juan--
the white, white girls in flower print
dancing in the staged fiestas patronales,
holding Whoppers instead of pinchos,
Cokes instead of Medallas, & when
they smile, their teeth are smooth tombstones
reserved for future lovers, & when
the director yells cut, their bodies droop
like soggy french fries. Your father
kept filming into All Saints’ Day in 1982--
you asleep in your mother’s arms,
always in your mother’s arms.
She mailed you this tape, bound
in bubblewrap, & you imagined her alone,
playing & rewinding it, & maybe
picking up the phone to dial your father
& hitting a few numbers before hanging up,
tiny air bubbles going off in her chest.
Do you remember the chime
of clothes hangers dropped onto the tiles
the night your father taught you chess,
his two fingers like parentheses
slipping from the torso of his queen,
before your mother packed you
into her Volvo & drove away?
In the video, what you first notice
is the carpet: the small mounds on the fabric
your Matchbox cars would flip on,
how distant it feels under your steps.
There are layers of your childhood
meant to be forgotten, & these are the layers
that bloom in the back of your throat
when triggered by the smallest things.
Sitting beside you, your girlfriend
peels an orange. You never know
what you’re doing anywhere
in the first place. Madison, Wisconsin.
Your neighbours keep insisting
on a pyramid scheme, & you’ve spent weeks
rehearsing the firm No!
& still can’t bring yourself to say it.
Where’s that devil costume
when you need it? What Drive Thrus
does your father tread now? What happened
after you left in that Volvo,
the live game of chess--Did he concede?
Are both kings still standing?
Your father doesn’t want you writing
any more poems about him,
but it’s Halloween, & you’re disguised
in the second person, your girlfriend
tending to children at the door.
You are sitting in front of the screen
in Madison, Wisconsin--popping
that bubblewrap until no breaths remain,
waiting to see yourself trip
on that forked fire-colored tail, thinking
I am so close to being born.

The Night Tito Trinidad KO'ed Ricardo Mayorga, by Kevin A. González, with an introduction by Terrance Hayes, is published by Momotombo Press.

[Read the title poem, and hear Kevin reading it, at From the Fishouse.]

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