I was born in Mexico. I moved to L.A. in 1978. I became a USA Citizen a few years later. At the citizenship ceremony, I had to swear that I would fight against all foreign enemies (including Mexico) in favor of my new country. I beg God that never happens. I love music, Rock, funk, punk, soul, pop. Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, The Clash, The Temptations, and all you can fit in between. Playing pool, listening to rock, and having a beer is great, but reading a book, writing a story, or watching a good film is even better. I hate guns, bad people, and evil leaders. I thank God I'm not a racist person. I hate all kinds of injustices. I love good people. I would give my life in a second to save any child. Children are the most precious thing in the world. My ultimate goal is to shoot a feature film based on one of my stories. Every day I work a little more to be able to reach that goal.
Visalia grapes are of the best quality in Central California and certainly in the entire State of California, probably better than in the entire USA and possibly in the whole world, without falling in the awful sin of exaggeration.
At least that’s what Juanito thought. Juanito was a third-grader at Elbow Creek elementary school. His dad worked in the fields where after a ten-hour work day, each worker was allowed to take a free box of grapes. That day, his dad proudly gave it to Juanito and said, “Here son, the whole box is just for you. You don’t need to share it with anyone. You have my permission to be selfish just this one time.”
Juanito ate three of them and thought it was the most delicious fruit he ever tasted in his entire short life. The grapes were as big as walnuts.
But Juanito wasn’t selfish. Before taking another one, he thought about his P. E. teacher. He liked him a lot because he had been paying special attention to him. Juanito had been losing weight. He was feeling better about himself. He was almost at his normal weight, so he decided to give the box of grapes to his teacher Mr. White.
Mr. White appreciated the gesture, and that gave him more strength to continue doing a good job. He ate three grapes, but before he took another one, he thought about Mr. Red, the Principal, and how he had always supported him; therefore, he gave the box of grapes to him.
Mr. Red, who loved the democratic ways of a fair institution, thanked Mr. White effusively and tasted only three grapes. He thought they were delicious, but before he was tempted to take another one, he thought about Mr. Grey, the Math teacher. Mr. Grey had nominated him for the Principal of the Year Award, he thought he deserved the grapes.
Mr. Grey, the Math teacher, counted the grapes. He made some numbers and calculations and concluded that he could also take three grapes. Then Mr. Black, the Science teacher, came to his mind. After all, he had recommended him for the post. Because of him he had obtained the teaching job, he gave the box of grapes to Mr. Black.
Mr. Black was very thankful and tried to figure out the shape, weight, configuration, evolving time from seed to maturity, its nucleus, and particles by tasting three of them. Before grabbing another one, he thought about Mr. Blue, the History teacher, who had been his temporary replacement while he was in the hospital and had done an excellent job with his kids.
Mr. Blue was grateful and immediately thought about the Mayflower, the pilgrims and the Indians, and about the graciousness of historical figures who gave their all to their countries. After he took the last grapes, he thought about Mr. Pink, the janitor, and gave him the empty box of grapes and told him, “Mr Pink, would you please throw this box in the trash?”
Mr. Pink wasn’t too agreeable to comply but did it anyway. Although he was happy with his job and had made a decent living, he said to himself, “If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, I’ll make sure next time not to be a High School dropout because I don’t want to be in charge of the trash.”
Young and daring freedom loving fearless punk Addicted to excess school he flunked Found love early the free bird also found a cage Never ending bliss decreased he then turned to rage
Went to Vegas risked it all and lost even the house Defeated he returned feeling smaller than a mouse His pride he also lost but one thing he gained . . . a divorce Now he lost his mind his soul and all there’s nothing worse
Pawned his ring and bought a gun Put it against his temple now he’s gone Better learn a lesson my son Simple truth I’m a bad example now I’m in hell Just concentrate do the opposite and you’ll be well
Born from the same genes and innermost Sperm and ovaries, root and soil Equal and yet so different Unequal and so indifferent Same blood both ways Separate litter, separate mind, soul, and all else too Nursed and bred by the same hand and rules Heartless and faked yet sometimes Humble and straight Some handsome outside And handsome inside Some pretty in and out Although not all the time You could forget you are good When you remember you could be mean and cruel And all the while remain impeccably firm As you convince yourself how flawless you are However, you never say it Clearly, you have your favored precious Thank God they are interchangeable Not as a son or a daughter Where you could never decide or proclaim Who your favorite is Fraternal love eternal and ephemeral It could be applied in the same sentence Pleasure and pain, love, and indifference Love them all is your final recourse A gift from God could also mean A Satan’s curse Nevertheless, the plague can eventually fade away But you will never dissuade Satan of course Relatives, kin or blood, you can never escape Like it or not you are stuck You cannot repel or refuse My best advice, enjoy and ignore Alternatively.
Dedicated to my seven brothers and sisters. I love you all.
EDMUNDO BARRAZA Visalia, CA. 05-28-2012
“I sought my soul But my soul I could not see I sought my God But my God eluded me I sought my brother And I found all three.” – William Blake
Me gusta la poesía en prosa Porque no tengo la obligación forzada de encontrar Palabras con un final similar Y también la otra clase, la poesía en rima. Más bonita y más difícil La que le habla al amor y el amor escucha. Por cada cosa que me gusta alguna otra me disgusta . . . Me disgusta el orgullo inútil, patriótico e inservible De la gente enamorada únicamente de su propio país Que egoístamente piensa que el suyo es el mejor Cuando la humanidad debería ser una sola familia, un solo país Un solo mundo sin fronteras sin barreras ni muros de separación Me gusta la democracia que permite cada seis años Cambiar a un bruto por otro bruto. Me gusta el Dios de todos, el Dios bueno, el que pone atención El que nos protege y nos ayuda a no cometer errores irreparables El Dios bondadoso, real y constante y siempre presente. Me disgusta el Dios que te exige que no trabajes un día a la semana para que lo veneres El Dios que te obliga a una vida imposible con sus reglas y mandatos El Dios que trabaja sólo seis días y luego desaparece. Me gusta el Dios de alma pura el que le asigna un angelito a cada niño Y que nunca permite que se vayan a dormir con hambre o que mueran chiquitos Me disgusta el Dios que te hace a su imagen y semejanza; lleno de errores, egoísta y celoso Me gusta la vida al principio con su inocencia infantil —que después los adultos contaminamos Me disgusta la vida al final Cuando ya sin energía iniciamos otro ciclo y de nuevo exigimos ayuda. Me gusta la oportunidad que todos recibimos al nacer Oportunidad de aprender, crear y decidir Me disgusta aceptar la realidad . . . que la mayoría desperdiciamos esta oportunidad Me gusta saber que hay esperanza en el Mundo y que constantemente nace gente admirable Me disgusta saber que por cada ganador del premio Nobel Nacen millones de idiotas que probablemente echarán a perder todo en un instante Me gusta la Madre Naturaleza que sabe como defenderse de su peor enemigo . . . el hombre La Naturaleza indestructible y capaz de sanarse por sí sola. Me disgusta el hombre insensato e irresponsable El cual inevitablemente encontrará la manera de arruinarlo todo Me gusta dar mi opinión y me disgusta que la ignoren —inevitable también Me gusta tener razón y me disgusta ser irrazonable Me gusta la gente inteligente y la que no es también, pero sólo cuando tiene excusa Me disgusta la gente tonta cuando tiene en su poder la capacidad de evitar serlo. Y dentro de mí hay todo esto Y me gusta y me disgusta.
Killing an ant with a nuclear bomb, total exaggeration Stoning a woman right after she’s been raped, abomination Creating the final solution to exterminate a wandering nation Inexplicable and contradictive, killing cancer with radiation Tormenting and torturing without mitigation
Crying at the bottom of the sea to drown your sorrow Fighting foreign wars all over the world, non-stop in a row Committing suicide today for things that will disappear tomorrow Saint Sebastian expiring and receiving another arrow Asking money from a beggar, when he has nothing to borrow
God never lies you can’t insist Begging God to make me believe he doesn’t exist Asking God to become friends with Satan so evil can cease to exist Declining access to hell even if I persist or desist Satan always lies he can’t resist
There’s no solution or substitution for disillusion There’s no compensation or restitution for revolution Brain surgery needed for a mind so narrow And heavy, impossible to carry in a wheelbarrow Angry and nonconformist, I raise my fist Only to be censored, disqualified and dismissed.
The middle is a convenient and easy place to be, where no arguments or controversies exist. The middle is a comfortable neutral point where conformity shares space with submission. The middle is a tedious place where no one, voluntarily should remain for a long time. Life is meant to be a continuous experiment. The middle is fine, but only temporarily. I must go to the extremes, both extremes. I should never be static, I should never allow myself to be overtaken by docility or mediocrity. I would rather be invisible than mediocre.
If I ever get lost, I should dig deep inside in my mind to find myself again, and break on through to the other side, to my inner light where my subconscious remains in the midst of heaven and hell. Limbo? Then while there, I should visit my personal storage dump, where all my repressed memories lie, and cleanse myself of regrets, fears, and sins too. And reconnect the mind and soul with my spiritual mortal body.
I should also distance myself from all human suffering that obscures my individual enlightenment, by crossing the abstract threshold that leads to the path of my intangible insight that helps me to assimilate the objectives of a meaningless life. I would also liberate the confined beliefs that could help me realize that suffering is never inherent to any situation. My good deeds will eventually guide me to my karma and to my final encounter with the ecstasy of reaching my own nirvana.
I need to find the point where the past and the present collide to avoid an unmerciful future. I need to push the button to pause all brain activity so I can counteract a severe burnout.
Nihilism will cease to exist. My zenith will rise above my nadir. My reborn optimism will help me to obtain the best of all possible worlds. Now that I reached the highest happiness, I will create my perfect destiny. The ominous part of reaching Nirvana leads to a downward spiral to the depths of hell. Once you reach total spiritual bliss, total euphoric ecstasy you will crash against a wall of confusion . . .
Damn! I can’t continue. I ran out of weed, that was my last joint. Now what?
Before I signed the rental contract, the landlady told me that an eighty-six-year-old man had died in the first bedroom. She said she needed to disclose it before I moved in so I wouldn’t quit suddenly without a thirty-day notice.
At the time I didn’t pay any attention and disregarded the comment as useless and unimportant. Later on, through the neighbors, I learned that the old man had lived there for fifteen years. After that, three new tenants moved in and out in rapid succession.
The house was old and unattractive, with a garage attached to the kitchen and living room. The family room was next to the dining room with a narrow hallway and three bedrooms. The floor plan was terrible. It had dark brown paint, dark brown carpet, a dark brown vinyl floor in the kitchen and dining room. This could be the ugliest house on the block. I just couldn’t find anything attractive or pleasant about that house, but I’ve never been a person with many demands. Therefore, I signed the contract.
After a few weeks, the house was finally home, I didn’t care about how ugly it was.
One time, I was alone in the house watching TV in the living room. The volume on the TV was low; it was early at night when suddenly I heard the radio go on in one of the back rooms.
I heard a male voice for a couple of seconds. I turned the lights on and went to investigate. I checked in my bedroom where I have an alarm clock, but it was off. I had another radio, but it was unplugged. I thought it was very strange but I returned to watch the television.
As the days passed, my wife and I kept hearing noises, normal house noises like wood shrinking and swelling, or wind slamming doors.
Another day, I was reading in bed around 2:00 am when I heard the patio sliding door vibrating for a few seconds. I thought it was an earthquake, but nothing else shook. I convinced myself that it was my dog Diego pushing the glass door. I didn’t want to go across the hallway and pass the old man’s room at 2:00 am.
One morning, my wife was cooking in the kitchen and listening to music on the radio. I was in my room when suddenly the music got too loud. I jumped and ran straight to the living room. I was ready to scream at her, but she was paralyzed with a look of terror. I could see from the kitchen the stereo system volume knob turning up by itself as far as it could go.
When my daughter and my ten-month-old grandson Damian came to visit for a week, I put them in the old man’s bedroom. At first, she said it was warm and comfortable, no complaints. They were happy, and I was happy. My grandson was handsome and smart, like his grandpa.
On her last night, my daughter came into our room carrying her son.
“Dad, somebody’s moving our bed, even Damian woke up. We’re staying in your room now.” then, she asked me to get the portable mattress we had in the living room for Damian to play on. I stood up very brave and self-confident, but when I went past that ‘room’, my knees were shaking.
The following day, I knew I had to confront the old man. He needed to know I wasn’t afraid of him. And I wouldn’t be running away like the other tenants. After all, he wasn’t the one paying the rent. I moved my computer from the garage to ‘his room’. That way I had to spend a lot of time in that room.
After my wife left for work, I asked him why he was still in the house. I kept talking to him for a few more days, sometimes even in Spanish, but it appeared he was gone. Or maybe I scared him off, or maybe he never existed.
Just when I was feeling relaxed and comfortable I saw him.
There was a mirror hanging on the bathroom door, when it was shut, I could see that mirror and the one above the cabinet sink. So I could see my body, front and back at the same time.
That’s when I saw him. I was in shock, but not terribly afraid. Of course, it took me by surprise; I jumped back, and in a blink of an eye he wasn’t there anymore. I saw him, but I wasn’t sure whether he was inside the mirror or behind me. He was wearing a light blue suit and a tie. He looked harmless.
“So you’re here after all,” I said, “I hope you’re not shy. What’s your name? Come on man, I know you know my name already, tell me yours.”
“My name’s Peter Shelby,” he answered in a soft, cavernous voice. Instead of getting scared, I got genuinely excited.
“Tell me, are you with God, have you seen Him?” I asked him.
“Ha! I was eighty-six when I died. I was baptized and had my first communion. I gave the church a small fortune in donations. But God was nowhere to be seen. I tried all my life not to break the Ten Commandments. And it was all for nothing, I still hope he shows up.”
“You might be in Purgatory, and God could be undecided on what to do with you. Maybe you’re paying for some pending sins. Who knows?” I said.
“I hope you’re right because it’s boring here. That’s why I was making noises and trying to manifest my disappointment, I wasn’t satisfied with this situation.”
“But why did you have to scare my daughter?”
“You were not paying attention, and that was frustrating. Being alone, bored, and ignored, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Tell her I’m sorry.”
“No, you tell her yourself. No, wait, just leave her alone, never mind. But answer me this, what’s your purpose in life? I mean, in death?”
“I have no idea, I think I need to do something but I don’t know what. My wife died three years before me. We were happy in this house. We spent our best years here.”
“And where do you think your wife is?”
“She must be in heaven; I guess. She was a much better person than I was. I wish I could communicate with her, be with her, and then maybe, I can ‘die’ in peace.”
“Okay, next question, do you eat, sleep, take showers, brush your teeth or go to the bathroom?”
“No, no, no, no, and no.”
“Can you cross walls or doors? Can you touch me or hit me? Do you touch the floor when you walk?”
“Yes, I can cross anything. No, I cannot hit you, although I tried a few times, ha, ha. I just float a couple of inches above the surface; I don’t need to sit or rest because I don’t need any energy. I’m dead.”
“I just need to tell you something; you cannot appear or manifest yourself in any way while my wife is here. Otherwise, she’ll bring the priest with his holy water and won’t rest until she makes you disappear for good.”
“But she seems to be such a nice lady.”
“Well, just consider yourself, warned. Oh, one more thing, how should I call you, Peter, Mr. Shelby, Poltergeist, Mr. Ghost, or what?”
“I don’t care; it’s not like I’m going to get mad and hit you, let’s just be friends and make the best of it, okay?”
“Okay, Peter. Oh, one last thing, is there anything I can do for you? You know; to help you do something, find something. This is so weird man, talking to a ghost, no one would believe me.”
“If you start telling everybody that you can talk to a ghost, they’ll put you in a mental hospital. Oh, and yes, you can do something for me, I’d like to go to the cemetery and see what kind of grave my family bought for me.”
“Okay, it’s a done deal; we’ll go tomorrow morning. What time you want me to wake you up?”
“No need for that, I’ll be ready anytime.”
“Alright, see you tomorrow Peter.”
“Yeah, good luck with that.”
In the morning when I went out of the front door, I left it open for a few seconds, then, I softly whispered, “Are you out, Peter?”
Then, I opened the passenger door and after a few seconds I asked, “Are you in Peter?”
“Yes, I am. Thank you.”
“Okay, now, shut the door,” I said.
“How?” he replied.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” Then, I went around and closed the passenger door.
“Okay, Peter, put your seat belt on.”
“Oh, you’re funny!”
“Peter, you want to drive?”
Then, ignoring my last question, he said, “Man, you need to replace this old piece of junk.”
“Do you want to walk? Do you want me to call you a taxicab, or you want a limousine or . . . ?”
“Sorry, sorry, can we just go, already?”
As I started to drive I asked him, “Hey Peter, do you go out of the house, to walk or float around town?”
“I tried a couple of times, but I think the dogs can see me. They bark at me and I can’t stand it, it’s very annoying. They want to bite me and I want to kick them. Your little dog, what’s her name? Yes, Frida, when I go to the backyard she won’t leave me alone. She follows me around and barks and barks, it’s so fastidious. I just don’t go to the patio anymore, but Diego, the other dog, he doesn’t know I exist. And he’s right.”
At the cemetery, we had to look for his grave because he couldn’t remember where they buried him. When we found it, he said, “Those cheap bastards! Look at my wife’s grave! I bought her a top of the line tomb, now look at mine, the headstone looks second hand, so small and ordinary. But at least someone brought me flowers, and they look fresh. There’s a note in them, can you please read it for me?”
“Yes, Peter. It says, ‘I miss you, Uncle Peter. I hope you’re happy wherever you are. I will always love you.'” signed by Nancy Shelby.
“Oh, my dear Nancy. My favorite niece.”
Back at the house, he asked me to write a letter addressed to her.
“My dearest Anais Neess:
I miss you more than you can imagine, please don’t disregard this note thinking it’s just a joke, and please don’t be afraid. I’m still at the house. I don’t know why, but I’m taking advantage of it to let you know that I left some money for you. You’re the only beneficiary. I found my last friend in the person who’s writing this note. He will give you more details on how to get this money. I didn’t put this in my will because I didn’t want the rest of the family to know about it.
I will keep you in my heart forever. I love you, Nancy.
After I searched for a few minutes on my computer, I found a government site for unclaimed money. A Savings account under the name of Peter Shelby, $45,000,00 I wrote down some account numbers and other details and put a separate note along with the letter, and sent it to an address Peter gave me.
He said Nancy was a nice girl and that she might give me a commission for helping her get this money. I said I didn’t care. Then, I asked if he could show himself again like he did in the bathroom mirror and he said, “I have no idea how that happened, but one time when I was watching the TV with your wife I saw my reflection on the TV screen.”
“You watch TV with my wife?”
“Yes, all the time. I sit right next to her all morning, but when she changes the channel to her Mexican soap operas, I just disappear from there. I like it when she listens to her music while cooking. We like the same kind of music except for her mariachi songs.”
“And how can you move things around, or make noises? I mean if you say you can’t touch anything.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I guess when I get too desperate or frustrated, I might have telekinetic powers, but I don’t know.”
I wanted to try another experiment with Peter, and I asked him to come out with me to the backyard.
“Okay Peter, with your permission, I’m going to paint your body, soul, or ghost or whatever it is. You just stand right here in the middle of the patio; I’ll bring my spray paint gun and some white paint and see what happens, okay?”
“Okay, that sounds like fun,” he answered.
After I got all the stuff I needed, I asked if he wanted a mask and he said, “What for?” and then I said, okay, close your eyes, and then he said, “What for?”
“Okay, okay, just standstill,” I said and started painting him. Then my little dog Frida came and started barking around him. We couldn’t stop laughing out loud. That’s when my neighbor’s head appeared above the fence and asked, “Hey, why are you painting your dog for? Are you crazy or something?” Then, I realized he was right, Frida was painted all white. I didn’t know where Peter was and I couldn’t stop laughing.
Before my wife came home from work I asked Peter if he wanted to do something the next day. “Yes, if you don’t mind I’d like to go to church and have a talk with God because I don’t think he’s in this house.”
The following morning, after many years of absence I went to church again. I guess, I had been busy doing nothing. But the truth was I didn’t need intermediaries, or priests, or churches to talk to God.
When Peter finished with God, he whispered in my ear “Let’s go, I’m ready.”
On our way home he said, “I have a feeling that pretty soon we won’t be able to be together or communicate anymore. I want to tell you that I appreciate your friendship and your companionship very much. I hope someday I can see you in ‘my house’.”
When we went back home, we found a woman knocking at the front door.
“Hi, I live in this house, what can I do for you?” I asked. She seemed to be in her thirties; she had a quiet and tender beauty. She appeared to be a little shy.
“Hi, my name is Nancy Shelby, I believe I received a letter from you. At first, I thought it was a tasteless joke, so absurd and incredible. But when I checked the account, I knew that it was true. I wanted to tell you how fortunate you are to be able to communicate with my uncle Peter. He was such a good person. At his funeral, my mother told me that my uncle Peter paid for all my college tuition. I knew my mom didn’t have the means to afford it.”
“But who’s Anais Neess?” I asked her.
She answered with a smile, “It’s a game of words, Anais Neess, or ‘a nice niece’ I always loved it when he called me that.”
After that day, Peter disappeared from the house. I went crazy talking to him in every room, to no avail. No signs or signals from him. I missed him a lot. Then one day, I received a letter from Nancy, a note with a few words, a check for $5,000.00 under my name, and the most important thing, a picture of Peter.
Now I keep that photograph on my desk, next to my computer. In his room.
Squeeze my lemons trickle down social insecurities third world project criminal justice injustice three strikes or a home-run prison system mutual terror bucket list priority destroy the world total absurdities my mother was a fish as I lay dying experiment stream of consciousness extreme mind fuck non-required grammar uncensored thoughts under subconscious and comatose dreamlike visions dormant and inert subliminal messages from the dark side both dumb and smart need not apply a comma here a period there absent and dismissed obsolete comprehension send me to hell he’ll laugh from there while others remain in heaven bored to death pitiful pride useless words inhumane humans voting against earth republicans ignoring democracy conservative donkeys living in the past way in the past centuries behind implanting fear bible in hand frustrating progress preventing advance stampede of fools proclaiming preposterous promises while the opposition opposes most propositions cut to flashback to the future where non-existing scripts kept unedited in perfect literary freedom analyzed and approved with uneducated brilliance free flowing upstream rivers containing regrets that will get stuck by the stubbornness of indifference deviate back to my naked impure thoughts where people will always find meanness in the words offensive and crude the interior monologue never meant to be heard struggles to find the next line stolen by a ghost writer wrestling to avoid a block that impedes his own free flow a conflict of minds trying to invade and plagiarize universal letters and words without legal ownership voicing internal feelings senseless emotions unobtainable dreams reserved only for exceptional persons with genuine talent that cannot be bought or taught eternal envy of simple minds abundant in a world of mediocrity where billions of people swim unaware of misery or wealth but happier than the rest conformism attracts health and joy stream of consciousness think and write whatever comes to mind unfiltered and uninterrupted unafraid of failure absent of objectives aimless freedom oblivious of pleasing results and disregarding unpleasant goals arrive without traveling see all without looking do all without doing and never become a pirate no end in sight no subject is forbidden except nonexistent exceptions majestic graffiti adorn the walls of a dark tunnel wasted space a desert on the ocean floor as might as well describe my organs too heart still palpitating reversal of misfortune tune for miss American imperialism capitalism colonialism domestic love universal hate continuous flow the stream found a dam unanswered dialogue voiceless speaker overheard thoughts one way conversation never boring and never clear I could go on forever until I die whichever comes first theories that violate logic a brilliant mind required with bizarre succession of ideas the hell with logical sequence I lost my virginity to a whore this is totally inconsequential and irrelevant but that’s the point if an acquaintance is reading I guarantee this is fiction the rest of you consider it true you lose your virginity once did I mention you’ll never find it back question marked with a perennial tattoo inserted in the interior walls of my eyelids one thing leads to another resume the obsolete task of building a lifetime of useless resumes describe your failures instead it’ll be more accurate nothing makes sense when you write an autobiography that belongs to someone else young and daring freedom loving fearless punk addicted to excesses school he flunked found love early the free bird also found a cage never ending bliss decreased he then turned to rage lost is the name such accomplished ignorant no more crying I heard daughter downstairs indicating wise advice to kids