Why I Decided to Stay In School

by John Olivares Espinoza

I’m writing a poem
in the dim light of my living
room, when Albert, the youngest
of my brothers, walks in
complaining about his job
at the Metro 8 Cinema,
and tells me about
sweeping the floors and
pushing through the tidal surge of
popcorn, Milk Duds, Good ‘N’ Plenty,
and the remaining few soggy tortilla chips
left over from a large nacho
a customer spilled along with his Pepsi.
He tells me about
the difficulty of the cleaning
the kernel popper every night and
how the chlorinated smell of semen
from a high school blow job
during the matinee makes
him want to puke, and how he leaves it
for Carlos Padilla to clean
on the next shift.
He tells me of his eight hour day
at four-ninety an hour
and the demanding voice
from his menthol-breath supervisor,
echoing in his ear.
And he tells me how
on his break, Juan Ortiz,
the Junior class bully,
called him out to a fist fight
‘cause they don’t get along in class.
He shows me the lump on his
eyebrow caused by a stealth blow,
but tells me how he proudly finished
the asshole with four of his weakest jabs.
He tells me how he missed dinner
‘cause of work
and how they tried to feed
them a microwaved ham, and
how he was glad he refused
to eat it because it made
everyone sick in the gut.
He looks in the fridge
and complains about there being nothing
to eat but cheese and vanilla pudding.
So we drive off at 10 pm
in his ’89 Beretta for a late dinner
but nothing is open in Indio.
Not McDonald’s, Del Taco, Burger King,
or Jack-In-The-Box.
He swears at the desert night
as his stomach growls like one
of its coyotes,
and I tell him nothing is open
because it is Thanksgiving night.
“I forgot,” spills out from his lips,
and we disappear
away from the crime lights like ghosts.

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