unwritten rules

one of the first porches i sat on was yours.
your papá built it himself. he painted it red,
white, a pale yellow–explosions of color on a
roll of film, the black and white silhouettes being
our homes. your mother brought us quesadillas
she coated with butter and toasted in the oven,
and after i had the first bite i told you a secret i
unwillingly hid from the world. i want to go to one
of the best colleges in the u.s. i’m going to go
far, because i like adventures.

you noticed i didn’t laugh with you,
so you explained the joke.
if my family couldn’t even own property,
how could i own an education?

prairie dreams

i had imagined that you would have come
and spiraled onto the prairie of the first college
you ever touched. you would have
drinked the spell of higher education
that pounded in campus buildings
and wrapped your sister, transforming her
into a tree you now want to climb.

you’d inhale the scent of spring manure and
briefly exhale the smog created by hands
you rubbed with coal. the empty, flat land
would encourage your love for the city of angels
but open the night-time fireflies, glowing
with probable futures.

the reminiscing of me as a child as your hands
held your hips would have sparked a string of
darkroom photo prints, where paper memories are
dipped in a tub of chemical for depth. you would
have kept telling stories until no one questioned
their accuracy, until we all agreed to sit in the darkroom
and remember with you.

you would have sat quietly in the audience
and thanked god for permitting my college
graduation, and as you read my diploma you’d
stumble over the words, like white dandelion leaves
gliding past flowers fastened to the ground.

wouldn’t have felt like a starfish laying
on empty sand, waiting for the frothy waves
to remember me.