was trying to cook oatmeal

right now

nothing to it really,

boil and stir


as i crossed back and forth

grabbed a spoon, a bowl,

poured oats into a small pot


kept stopping by a notepad,

jotting down another question,

didn’t make sense

then again, never does


it went…


“who are you?  what do you do?

why are you hiding?”


searching for identity,

on the brink,

my latest winter


stirred the oats

to make them soft, not too watery

saw a face

rise out of the steam


put my glasses on, kept stirring

expecting a breakthrough,

something booming like,


“I am the great and powerful Oz!!”


read something, somewhere,

about me in the newspaper,

how good, how talented i was…


no, i take that back,

it was scrawled

on a bathroom wall,

near a broken urinal


ahh, now that makes more sense




the house on 12th


growing up in Merced

various rentals, all rundown

the most memorable, 107 West 12th

the address engraved in my mind

the white house at the corner,

with the cracked front window, wooden porch,

the willow and chinaberry trees on the side

a half block from the 99, on 13th

across the street, opposite direction

the holy roller church, and a block further

to the cyclone fence surrounding

the Merced Fairgrounds on 11th

near Papa Alonzo’s house, next door

to my godparents, Adela and Juan Vega

everyone and everything, near and around us

Huizars on the left, Campos behind us,

Porras on the right, Velasquez down the alley,

Valdez a half block from there, near La Perla store

down 12th, two blocks left, G Street Tavern,

a block from there, the Madayags, 

going right, towards J street

Buyright Liquors, Beacons, to Food Center

where i walked barefoot a thousand times,

to buy Abba Zabbas, and Big Hunk bars

Javier Solis on the record player,

food constantly steaming on the stove,

chasing Lola through the house,

swinging, slamming the torn screen door,

dogs barking, Mama yelling


i stare now, towards the lights of the fairgrounds,

and the emptiness of all it used to be

the swirling dust from the car races,

the giant cactus that surrounded grandpa’s house

like a fortress, smells from the kitchen,

sopas, beans de la olla, and fresh rolled torts,

early evenings, sitting on the porch in Mama’s lap,

telling her all about my wild adventures,

holding tight


when i dream, i dream this house



© Charles Mariano