“Rally” by Rodney Gomez

Rodney Gomez


On my old physics teacher’s homemade poster
at a political rally for another crooked businessman,
is an angel-winged fetus & the phrase You Need Saving,
which means the government shouldn’t regulate
the number of thorns in a can of Coke,
& too bad if your faucet water is swan black,
or the cracks in your road sound like busted vertebrae.
He gave me a D because I couldn’t remember
the Law of Conservation of Energy, & no credit
for a decent guess: calling it a bastard offshoot
of the Force. He wouldn’t save me then. But we all
need saving: in my youth, in a housing project on Southmost,
the neighborhood kids would pool their change & share
an extra large bag of Rally’s fries, mouths
yapping after the hind legs of crunchy potatoes.
To this day, gourmet meals are crude approximations
of both that taste & brotherhood. My belly says
I should have gone a different way, but where else
for a bricklayer’s son? My physician warns
that if I don’t lose fifty pounds soon I will probably
suffer a heart attack, but I hold tightly to the hope, despite
the expired gym card, that I will rally. Who has time
for vegetables between the exhaustion of a job
they don’t want & a fusillade of snores?
And yet I force myself to replace corn chips with squash
& thinly cut wafers of yam. There must be something
I should save my body for, although I have neither offspring
nor a 401(k). I grew up on Underwood ham & Vienna sausages,
ramen noodles topped with shredded government meat, downing
bowls of it during Kojak & Hawaii Five-O, Dallas Cowboys games
I religiously followed, & I remember how they rallied once
from three down to win it on a pass from Staubach to Pearson,
those were glorious times, before the calculus had settled
over my point of view, before my arteries began their torrid affair
with collapse. Today it is difficult to get angry with anyone
knowing how soon sleep will rally for its final lap. And I tell my teacher
that heaven is itself an infinite regress, that any paradise
we can imagine is an inferior version of a further Big Brother realm.
In response, he calls me infantile, stupid, & lastly liberal,
which refers not to the books on my nightstand, but my propensity
to prefer luck & addiction to most theories of punishment. My father
went to prison because he took tomatoes from a grocery store
in Harlingen, & when presented the chance for parole if he’d just admit
regret, he said, “No necesito ser salvado.” He was beaten
by some blonde lawmaker’s deep sense of severity, how is it
that one sin can magically become a greater one through imagined
repetition, as if eating two bowls of Cherry Garcia means
you have eaten all the Cherry Garcia in the world?
Today I am an old stock car cruising Ware Road,
its bumper chin-strapped with duct tape. I can do so much
wrong if given half the chance, but I gave up Klonopin
on a night when there was no rabbit in the moon. If there are angels,
they are living. In laundromats and Mickey D’s and Dollar
Generals. They are hiding in the earth, waiting for their rally.

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017
Tribute to Civil Servants

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Rodney Gomez: “I’ve been working as an urban planner in local government for many years, specializing in public transit issues, especially mobility and accessibility. Recently, I moved into a management position at a new university—The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where I direct the parking and transportation program. I’ve loved buses and public transportation since I was a child—we were very poor, and our family of nine would use the bus to get everywhere. My poetry and career stem from many of the same concerns with family, place, and social justice. They tackle many of the same issues; the difference, of course, is in the method. I’ve confronted intractable problems at work that seem to have solutions in lines of poetry. But poetry can’t be used in a grant application, a survey, or a planning study. We are all worse off for that.” (twitter)

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