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Excerpt: MY NAME IS ROMERO by David A. Romero

In two poems excerpted from his new poetry collection, MY NAME IS ROMERO, David A. Romero pays homage to uncles who paint cars and grandfathers who just want more time.

 

MY NAME IS ROMERO

EXCERPT

"Micro Machines"

Mexican kid with the white skin and blue eyes
Knows a lot about art
This brings a smile to the white face of a museum docent
She asks the boy how he knows so much
The boy replies,
“My uncle is an artist”
The boy says this without a hint of cynicism or derision
This
To him
Is the greatest thing a person can be
An artist
The docent asks the boy,
“What’s his name?”
“Frank Romero”
“What does your uncle paint?”
“Cars”
“He paints old cars”
American cars from the 1920s through 50s
L.A.
Palm trees
Freeways
And familiar streets
As the background
Always bold in color
With a zigzagged impasto stroke
The kind of thing you see that immediately makes you say,
“That’s a Romero”
The boy suggests to the docent,
“Maybe he has something here?”
A pause from her, then,
“There’s an auto museum down the street
Maybe he has something there”
No, that doesn’t seem right…
“Maybe what you mean is – – he paints – – cars”
There’s a dusty wood and tin garage under this museum
And the docent has put his uncle into it
They call this aggression
But, really, it’s so easy, as she does it
But, his uncle doesn’t look the same there
His uncle
With bold, striped sweaters
Full, wild hair, and beard
Laugh, big enough to fill a room
Larger than-life-personality
Looks very different in the docent’s garage
To her, his uncle is a tiny uncle
With a shaved head
Brown Pendleton and Dickies
Navy work apron
And silver paint spray can in hand
He paints with that
In place of a brush
The cars in the garage
Are smaller too
They’re micro machines
And like them
The boy feels small
And getting smaller
His hopes
His pride
All the world and its colors
Shrinking to a vanishing point
Because he knows what she means.
I know what she meant
I couldn’t expand upon these ideas fast enough.
There is nothing wrong with painting cars
Painting pictures of cars
Or, dressing like a cholo
But, we are not all the same
You can’t paint us all with the same brush
Fit us all into the same stroke
Whatever the medium
There is nothing wrong with taking pride in your work
But, what is wrong
Is for anyone to assume
That we are a smaller people
A lesser people
It is wrong to assume
That any one of us can’t be acclaimed
Can’t hang
In your museum
Give him the top floor
Because my uncle is an artist
A painter
His work has hung in galleries the world over
You can find him in the Smithsonian
See his mural in L.A.
By the 101
And, yes
He, like me
Is a Mexican!
My uncle is an artist
A painter
Who’s been paid to paint cars
That were literally
Bigger than the Mona Lisa
My uncle is an artist
A painter
And like me he knows how to use
The principle of diminution
Which is making objects smaller in a piece of art
To help create a sense of perspective
My uncle is an artist
A painter
And he doesn’t get paid to talk about paintings
He gets paid to paint them
With checks
Bigger than your desperate attempts
To try and re-frame him
And I won’t let any of you
Make me feel small about any of us
Ever again.

***

"Grandfather Tells Time"

Grandfather
Baseball cap insignia, faded
Gray sweater, no hood
Blue jeans worn from use
Granddaughter
Puffy pink jacket
Bouncy hair and crayons
Grandfather tells time
Granddaughter eats her fries
“Finish your food
At one, we’ll go to the park
By two, we’ll be on our way to your Mom’s”
Grandfather tells time
Gray hairs cross his watch
Their time is short
He’ll have to drop her off.
Grandfather folds his arms
Son is doing time
He misses this time
So quickly, she grows
Grandfather takes time for Granddaughter
Maple leaves in wind
Granddaughter never wants their afternoon walks
Her evening bike rides to end
Sometimes Grandfather tries to tell her about Son
About his time
She never listens
She hums and rides on
Says, “Watch me”
So, Grandfather does.
Son never got enough time from Grandfather
So much pain before he left
Grandfather was quiet during the arraignment
Hugged Grandmother as Son was taken
It all seemed to last so long.
In the fast food restaurant
Grandfather wonders why
Why it was not enough to provide
To wake up each dark morning and work
For his family
As Great Grandfather had done
Great Grandfather’s sleep and silence in the evening
The silence of the open field
Within the cacophony of the worksite
Son never understood
That food was love
That working for your family was enough
Wasn’t it?
Grandfather wishes he had more time to think about it.
Granddaughter’s fries are done
So, Grandfather tells time
“Time to go to the park
Before I take you to your Mom’s”
Granddaughter wants to stay
Motions over at some noisy kids
A collection of brightly-colored plastic balls
Says she wants to play
So, Grandfather lets her
Granddaughter jumps in
Makes quick friends
Tells them all to grab a bunch of balls
And throw them into the air
Like an explosion
Like fireworks
Like a scattered pile of leaves
Grandfather doesn’t like this place
He feels out of place and contained
But he sits there in that plastic and metal chair
He takes time
He makes time
Looks at the time
Then pulls his sweater sleeve over his watch.

***

David A. Romero is a Mexican-American spoken word artist from Diamond Bar, Calif. His poetry focuses on family, identity, social justice issues, and Latinx culture. The author of MY NAME IS ROMERO (FlowerSong Press 2020), Romero was the second poet to be featured on All Def Digital and has opened for Latin Grammy-winning bands Ozomatli and La Santa Cecilia. Romero’s work also has been published alongside poets laureate Luis J. Rodriguez, Jack Hirschman, Alejandro Murguia and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Romero won the Uptown Slam at the historic Green Mill in Chicago, the birthplace of slam poetry. He has been featured at more than 75 colleges and universities in more than 30 states and appeared on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and 90.1 KPFT Houston.

View the original article HERE.

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