Most Injuries Are Self-Inflicted
I slice a crescent in my finger
while chopping carrots,
or trip on stairs taken at a run,
breaking my fall with my nose,
or accept a job which gives me a headache
the first day and go back for more,
or marry a man who does not love me,
or divorce him and consider it my failure,
or find cause for complaint in the names
of my parents or the manner of my birth—
or turn my face from the light.
is dark as a Mayan, fourteen,
reads and writes well
in English and Spanish, has
(I tell his parents)
the highest grade in class.
"Pero hay veces…"
His father offers:
"tiene mucha energía."
That's one way to put it.
The kids call him The Black Goose.
"El ganso negro," he mutters,
the only one who knows
how to say it, his face impassive.
He takes all the jibes that way.
"Coffee," Joe demands,
"how come you got no cream?"
Goose shrugs, goes on
surreptitiously throwing Westside signs
at the Northside girl, because
if he can keep it up undetected
another minute, she'll erupt
from her desk screaming and he'll be saying:
"I don't know what's wrong with her,
maestra, she just went off on me."
He grins and winks when I catch him
at it, signals that he's being good now
and I signal back, his ass is out of here if he's not—
all this while Andy stumbles through a page
of the story we're reading aloud.
"Thank you, Andrea. Gustavo,
what just happened?"
He makes a cogent comment.
"Read next, please."
He knows the place, reads smoothly,
his voice disinterested,
glancing at me as if to say:
Joe brushes against Tony
on his way out the door and Goose
yells, "Tony got fondled!"
Books slam shut, girls giggle,
Tony's on his feet, fists clenched.
I ask Goose outside.
Once it is just the two of us,
he gives his little boy pout,
the one which makes me want to ask
if this still works on his mother.
"I'm sorry, Miss. My fault,"
glazed droplets that melt
in your hand, disappear.
"Tavo," I want to say, but he doesn't like
my using the Mexican diminuative
of his name—it is something he saves,
like his father's memories of Jalisco—
Tavo, I hope you know your skin
is the shade of perfectly done.
I hope you know there will be girls
to swoon over your elegant face,
and carnales to elect you captain
for your speed on the ball court.
And I hope you know this—your mind
is rare and dangerous,
keen as a mosquito's whine,
forever drawing blood.