Monthly Archives: January 2016

Home As a Function of the Intermediate Stages of Twilight

Photograph by Jose Padua
When I was around the age Julien is now, my brother Tony and I were on the Bozo the Clown television show in DC. Playing Bozo then, way before he became known nationally, was Willard Scott. Although I don’t recall all the details, I do remember that we were supposed to be sitting in some sort of circle—and that I wasn’t very interested in sitting. I kept getting up and jumping around, looking over here then over there, which prompted Willard Scott to remark, “Oh, we’ve got a wild one here!” Nowadays, I don’t jump very often—not physically, anyway. My mind, however, keeps making these leaps. Some of them are pleasant, some of them aren’t. And now Julien seems to be taking after my younger self, constantly moving, looking over here then over there. Being still, for him, is a dreariness he’d rather not experience. And experience, as far as he’s concerned, is best gained by staying in motion. In this photograph, taken two years ago in Ohio, I was trying to take a picture of him with his great grandmother on Heather’s side, but he wouldn’t keep still. As usual, he just wanted to move. And me, I like being on the road, going with my family from one place to another. Because although we have our house, home for me is also a place in my mind where nothing keeps still. And where everything glows the way the sky glows in those receding moments before dusk.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Meditation on a Creator of Sorts Written While Eating Sweet Confections in the Rain

Photograph by Jose Padua
The moment feels half decadent and half desperate,
these sugared minutes spent barely sheltered from
the wetness of the storm, within earshot of the noise
of thunder and as close as one needs to be to be struck
by sudden flashes of electricity and bold light.
It’s times like this when I pause to think of a creator
of sorts, not the vengeful dictator some believe
is the maker of all things nor even the mother figure
with gentle, guiding hands and eyes like pale light
surrounding a lush, dark focus of opal or moonstone,
but a spirit with knowledge of the essence of both
sweet blood and sour bone who looks at us
more as acquaintance than conquest. And these
days as I fall slowly from aloft to weary and
from sand step closer to clay, I consider this instant
of sweetness on my tongue, and how every flavor
is enhanced in knowing how soon it will be gone.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

A Poem About UFOs Ending with a Flashback to Days Long Gone

Drawing by Maggie Padua
Whenever time passes more quickly than I think
it should, I wonder if I’ve been abducted by a UFO.
I check if all my body parts seem to be in place;
I feel for the tell-tale signs that I’ve been probed.
There have been fabulous parties, long visits with
seldom seen friends after which I’ve felt my side
to make sure my kidneys are still there, that the
palms of my hands don’t now bear the brand of
some insect-like space creature’s human meat farm.
Sometimes after what should be a long drive back
home at the end of a long vacation I check for any
devices that may have been implanted beneath my
skin, ask my wife to check behind my ears and
all the other places I can’t reach to see if she notices
anything unusual but the only thing unusual she
notices is my poorer than usual attitude and my
fear of unpacking my suitcase. There are so many
signs of having been abducted, so many ways
for space aliens to cover their tracks and traces.
The stopping of clocks, cloaks of invisibility for scars,
the giving of human faces and names to the beings
who stay behind to study us all make it difficult to
know what’s going on, what’s happening in the world
now. I want time to pass slowly, love to be a force
for change when it’s time to change, and things to stay things
the way leaves cling to the beautiful parting of branches.
But we are stardust, we are golden amidst blue stars,
black lights, and clouds of healing, fragrant mist,
and the world is alive with progress and symmetry
and all the lovely ways we wander through the universe.

-Jose Padua

Drawing by Maggie Padua

Sometimes the Blizzard in My Head Makes It Hard to Find My Way Through the Snow

Photograph by Jose Padua
Twenty years ago during a fierce
mid-March blizzard in New York City
I walked two doors down
from my apartment building
to the China Wok carryout at the corner
of Avenue B and 3rd
and paid two and a half dollars
for a combination lunch/ dinner
of fried chicken and fried rice.
When I walked two doors
back up Avenue B
to my apartment building
I opened the door to the downstairs hallway
and saw my landlord who looked
through his horn-rimmed glasses
at the small brown bag
that carried the semi-sweet aroma
of pork fried rice and fried chicken
out into the dimly-lit air
at the bottom of the steps
and he looked up at me,
smiled and after
a slight pause said, “Chinks?”
And it had been a year
since I’d been laid off,
and the bad habit I’d developed
was for paying the rent late
and after being outside
for just half a minute
in the cold and the snow,
I felt cold like the snow
so I didn’t correct him,
didn’t say “The correct term is Chinese,”
and just nodded sort of timidly
mumbling, “Yes” or “Yeah” or “OK”
even though I was pretty
fucking far from “OK” with it.
And I don’t know
maybe it was that half minute
in the cold and the snow
because even though
I walked up the stairs
all fast and hungry,
inside I could have sworn
that I was moving like an infant,
on my hands and knees,
peeking up at the ceiling,
dirt smudged on my face
and at the corner of my slightly parted lips,
still learning to crawl.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Getting Away with the Days and Other Ways of Measuring Time

Photograph by Jose Padua
I was barely twenty-one
driving my car from the north
end of campus past the dorms
by the railroad tracks then
down the grassy lane
next to the stately
building where all my English
professors had their offices
and onto the wide street
on the east side of
the quad that lined the west
side of the library
which was where my full time
student’s part time
job was and on down
past the dorms on
the south side
of campus,
followed the entire
way by a cop car
who just before I was
about to exit university
grounds and drive onto
one of DC’s busy
avenues turned on
his bright lights and
stopped me,
asked me for my license,
looked at it,
said OK
then without a
word walked back to
his police cruiser
and drove off,
making me wonder
for maybe the first time
in my life
what would have happened
if I really were
up to something,
and giving me
reasons to consider
the many things
I might have to do one day
to get away
with being alive.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Still Life with the Wrecked Monuments of My Youth

Photograph by Jose Padua
First, the hospital where I was born was
torn down. Next, the building where I
went to grade school was no longer
a school and the apartment that was
the first home I remember became a
condominium and its neighborhood
a place where we could no longer afford
to live. The movie theater where I first saw
The Sound of Music in 1965 became
a CVS drugstore, then a half-torn down
building waiting to be torn down completely,
and after it was torn down completely
became condominiums too. There is something
to be said for progress and the so-called march
of time as demonstrated by changes in the
architectural landscape but this is not it.
The place where I went to church as a child
is still standing tall and stately in downtown DC
but I no longer go to church. The campus of the school
where I went to college is still green and tree-lined
but I no longer go to college. This is not to say
I’m not spiritual in my own way, nor is this to say
I’m not still learning every day because I am,
and the wrecked monuments of my youth stand
magnificently in a place not far from where
air escapes atmosphere and distance becomes space,
their dimensions vivid enough to be perceived
with closed eyes, their colors brilliant enough
to be read between these slowly written lines.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Stupidity Is Wasted on the Young

Photograph by Jose Padua
Stupidity is wasted on the young,
wisdom on the old and experienced.
If ever there was an age that called
for intelligence and discretion it’s
those years before one turns thirty,
those days when you’re a hot,
sometimes scary mess, your mascara
running, your trousers pissed and all
caution spilled into the warm spring
breeze. It’s better to be stupid when
you’re old, when your lack of mobility
prevents you from insulting the wrong
guy at a bar because you too tired
to go out to the bar in the first place;
when your bad hearing makes you
think the person saying, “Wanna come
over to my place?” is saying “I used
to be a member of the human race”
and you go home to your apartment
in the clean, quiet suburbs, sit limply
in front of the television to watch
the last hour of prime time programming
then fall asleep during the late news.
It’s that easy; no complex thought
is required and in the morning you
wake up to live another stupid day.
Meanwhile, today’s youth is out
in the cities dissecting string theory,
completing their first and best novels
between moderately paced sips of
their favorite libations. None of them
smoke, none of them stare vacantly
into infinite spaces vacant as their
brains, and at the end of the evening
they’ve developed fresh theories,
new equations, and beautiful words,
oh, their beautiful words. And as they
walk out into the darkness, they let
one step follow another, moving patiently
through an exquisite existence before
ever needing to catch their breath, before
stopping to stretch their slightly tired limbs.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

A Song for Sunshine

Photograph by Maggie Padua
This evening when I got home from the store
I laid a bag down on the kitchen table and
said to my wife and daughter, “Check this out.”
My wife opened the bag, pulled out what was
inside and said, “Oh, they’re apples,”
and I smiled. “But they’re not just any apples,”
I explained, and I paused so as to make my
great surprise even greater. (This is a technique
I learned on the city streets: pause if you want
to surprise the shit out of anyone). Then I said it,
“They’re not just apples, they’re Jazz Apples,”
and I pointed to the tiny purple sticker attached
to the red and yellow surface of one of the apples.
“See, it says ‘Jazz’—because they’re not regular
apples, they’re Jazz Apples,” I said, and I nodded
the way I do when I’m driving home a point and
swept up my hand toward the ceiling the way I do
when I’m blown away by the marvels of the world
we live in. My wife looked at me, then my daughter
looked at me and my daughter asked, “Yes, but
are they organic?” and I paused again (a technique
I learned to use in school whenever I had an answer
that I knew wasn’t the right answer), then said, “No,”
and repeated again, because I am a poet who on occasion
repeats a word, a phrase, a line for the beautiful music
it creates, “they’re not regular apples, they’re Jazz Apples.”
Then my wife said, “We can’t eat those, apples are
the worst for retaining pesticides.” And without missing
a beat, without taking the time to breath, much less pause
(a method I learned on my own, because as a poet I am
the inventor of marvelous things people don’t know
need to be invented) I said, “The best jazz is always
a little dangerous,” and my point was driven home
to my wife and daughter, and one day my son who is
still too young to understand will indeed understand
this, and what a great pleasure it is to live with me.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Maggie Padua

Whenever My Son Sees Horses

Photograph by Jose Padua
Whenever my son sees horses by the side
of the highway I wonder what it would
be like to ride them. To feel tall with
the horse’s added height and run faster
than I ever could on my own. I wonder
what it would be like to pilot an airplane,
rising higher and higher through the
atmosphere until the details of the ground
grow less vivid and its enormity a concept
I can almost grasp with the parts of my mind
that stretch and fold like arms. Whenever
my son sees horses I think of all the places
I’ve never been, beautiful distant cities,
long train rides over snow-capped mountains
where here and there people live while
tending warm fires and hot pots of soup
and where bread has no taste until it reaches
one’s belly and butter is an unhurried feeling
in one’s veins. And the brown and black horses
standing against a blue background of sky
remind me of the rough weight of struggles,
one foot after another, and the teaching
to generations of the difference between
a life’s pursuit and taking directions,
the resolve never to sweat to build fences
meant to hold you in, never to plant your feet
where there’s no easy way out, no horse
to leap with, and no paved gray road
glowing under slanted yellow light as
you make your way past the county line.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Night on Earth and the Labor of Our Efforts at Being Still

Photograph by Jose Padua
We were all there to watch the darkness
happen. The trains moved into it, the bums,
the losers, the lost and stepped upon
watched it rise above their tilted heads.
No more yellow, no more green, no more
calming white light, no King of France
bright madness in the lightness of air,
or bathing beauties on their wobbling yachts.
Just this, like a mouse standing still
on the kitchen floor before it moves
and is gone, a window shut and warm
before it gathers frost. We rolled up
our sleeves in the middle of a hundred
years of conflict. We put out the flames,
then waited for more. Listening to the wind
and rain, we wondered where would we go
when it was time to be perfect? What would
we do when it was time to be still?

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua