What You Believed (In Memoriam: Luis Omar Salinas)

“Life is a lot to swallow, death is only a gulp.”
Miguel Hernandez

I’m getting soused under the full moon
in memory of you, Luis Omar Salinas.
I’m thinking of the angles of a crowbar
in memory of you. The graceful way
it has of curving in my hands . . .

Did your sorrow pay off
in the end, dear Luis Omar?
Was your death the woman you wanted,
the orgasm that sealed your faith,
the shoe that fit like a fortunate tarot card,
the noun that made your soul a bull in the ring,
or perhaps a flamenco tune?

I hope you finally made it
to the seventh heaven of death’s vulva.
It would be my mass for you, Salinas.
The litany of your beautiful lust,
the warmth of heaven’s mouth on yours,
on your cock or your drunkenness;
flesh of the beyond accepting
your spirit like a faithful wife and children.

Like the blues you heard in the cicada’s wail,
like the America that needled you to distraction
and turned your hat into an ocean of legs,
into a foot or an armadillo, Luis Omar;
into anything that sat on the wings of your decency,
any wrench or hammer made of the sun
pounding the fields of your Central Valley,
or crying the eclipse of your manhood,
or the life that left you nothing but death;
death and a handful of peonies
filling your front yard with the fiesta
of compassion and frustration commingled.

Luis Omar, nothing will convince me
you were not a man with two legs
two lungs one heart and one mouth.
These no doubt would have sufficed
for a portrait of you, a pint of your sex,
the inebriated sore toe you stubbed
a year ago, or the fox that ravages
your vines without mercy,
the bitter wine that comes from them.

Salinas, I remember your credit card
that bought me an hour of madness and joy
twice in Santa Barbara; you were invited to read
two years in a row, we loved you that much.
I remember your lips of ivory,
your tongue of longing,
your bird of spent alabaster,
the crushed fennel and annotated anxiety
you sprinkled on your cooked heart
before serving it to us or eating it yourself.
I remember your coffin of brush fire,
your heavy breath of a man with no future
but the breath the man the fire the pity
that built the muscle of your atlas,
the bright octopus that shone like faith
in the sky of a billiards-playing sea.

May you be, Luis Omar, what you have believed.
May you at last be the star you left
behind on your contented horizon.
The crab that pinches us when we read you:
the poem of a man without trousers or shoes,
always at his crucial element,
in his mercury of selves,
his storehouse of purloined Californias
and brazen Mexicos.

May you be for all time,
in sickness in health and in the poetry in between
that dances like an ape lost on its savanna,
may you be what you have always believed;
what disturbs even as it attracts us; what churns up our hot buttered nights and complacent days, O seed of Salinas,
sunburst flavor sprouting in our labial cemeteries.

You are the voice we lost in our hurry to succeed.

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