Volume Five, Issue 1

Ramon Jimenez

Trying to Tumbao

On top of the leather head
that has felt my pain,
I try to catch the
palm, tip, slap
and the tip, palm, tip
open, open.

Somewhere along the journey
I struggle to get in
like a jump rope that moves too fast.
I hesitate,
waiting for that moment.

I get the palm, tip.
Other times I miss the chance
to hit a sharp muted slap.

But when I hit the full sequence
I unlock a power,
a knowledge system not my own
yet parallel to my existence.
One born out of survival and secrecy,
stolen from a continent
across the sea.

For a second,
I can sustain it.
Drive a full orchestra in front of a roaring crowd,
guiding the salseros as they buzz around the dance floor.
Contradict those that said I had no rhythm or swag.
Transport myself to the shores of Havana and Barranquilla,
or a park in the Bronx on a nice summer afternoon.

And then I lose it all
when my slap fails to snap.
All I can do is start over
in my box sized Seattle apartment
where I am surrounded by evergreens instead of palm trees.

Music Was Always A Fight

I recall cousins pulling up to the driveway
with the bass in their stereo system
ringing from miles away
before they even made a turn onto our block.

Music was part of every baptism,
quince and wedding.
We had a DJ blasting banda, cumbia,
and meringue.
When we danced nights away,
we felt alive and liberated.
Forgetting that we got made fun of
for loving our parent’s music.

If we didn’t have a DJ,
we had my cousin’s husband’s karaoke machine
where all my uncle’s gathered around to compete
and show off who had the best rhythm,
the strongest voice and the greatest swag.
Sometimes we even had a full on mariachi band
with guitars, violins and trumpets
fiddling away the classic songs
because the older generations swore
that our modern music of money, sex and drugs,
or American English rubbish,
lacked deep emotional thought and creative lyricism.

It didn’t matter if we gathered in Inglewood
with the entire block in the backyard
dancing to banda until 3:00 am in the morning
or if we had carne asada in the suburbs of the Inland Empire
next to the neighborhood watch president.
For us,
music was always a fight.

From Sinaloa to Syria

Lead drops freely like sharp bouts of rain.
Battles over religion, ethnic differences
or routes for coke shipments are all resolved the same way.

Masked gunmen riding on the beds of pick-up trucks
firing shots at each other with the wildness of a gambler
who just put all of his wealth in a hand of cards.

The civilians on their way to work and school,
ducking and weaving like agile boxers,
avoiding the agents of indifference that fall from thick grey skies.

Whole city blocks engulfed in forest fire flame
that burns all living things standing in the way.

Ramon Jimenez: “I am a writer and educator who resides in Seattle, Washington. I was raised by my Mexican parents who came from Jalisco in the 70's in Inglewood, California. I now teach language arts and run a summer youth poetry program. I write poetry that focuses on immigration, culture and travel. I am interested in exploring locations and how they connect.”

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