By Vincent Cooper
Just a perfect day
– Lou Reed
A spontaneous Sunday drive with my family
To the ranch of my youth.
The farm roads pristine and water towers still there
I park at the front gate.
A man in a truck pulls up and asks if he can help me.
I ask if this was always his land
He says, “For the past 50 years.”
Do you know the Rivas family?
Mike Rivas? Lived here in the 70’s?
He shakes his head and points at a neighbor’s house
“Down the road.”
Ask if he knew everyone that’s ever lived in this area.
I call my brother for directions.
“It’s all different now… like it was never there at all,” he says.
Zarzamora Street has also changed.
The H-E-B grocery store at Zarzamora and Military Drive
Was where we frequented.
I’d sit in a red wagon with plastic luchadores (mil mascaras),
Flushed cheeks, chubby boy smiling for everyone. Grandma shops
Jefe walks along impatient. He is dressed to the nines. The clack of Stacy’s
–grandma’s broad shoulders.
They argue in each aisle.
Then back to el rancho
Where the house is quiet, stillness of the land awaiting our return.
This H-E-B Is currently an Ashley Furniture store.
And a Super H-E-B was built across the parking lot
Where I presently indulge in strawberry Horchata smiling at Viktoria
She massages ripening avocados.
I leer at her curves until I can’t take it anymore. I pull a handful of her hair
And we kiss. My hand slips down to grab her ass. Our children see.
Our passion will never cease!
Southcross and New Laredo Highway
Crease to Zarzamora St.
At the tip of the triangle is Los Valles mangonadas,
They are worth the Texas sunburn,
Across the street, at San Antonio Shoes,
You can also have pistachio ice cream cone for 50 cents
Next to a 64’ impala.
I’ve strode along these streets for lovers.
for familia, to catch buses, marinated carne asada,
a weary uncle with shades on.
All these streets have felt the prescience
Of my familia
They know Bebe’s son is the only one
Who tried to keep the spirit of familia alive.
My Bending. Their Folding.
Further down Zarzamora row
Wilted junkies scurry across the train tracks
Ask for change, water, food…saying God bless you
I give them all that I have.
After the 90 Freeway overpass,
The Handy Andy urbanized into an Arlan’s.
Same oldies music playing…
…I fought the law and the law won…
Chican@’s enter with their arms bandaged fresh from
Grifol’s plasma donation center
When Vincent Michael Cooper was born,
I sat among those watching Beetlejuice while
Filling a jug with my plasma.
To survive (or provide) by any means necessary.
On the corner of Brady and Zarzamora
A tecato pulls his penis out
Showing children and women passing by.
Cops come, handcuff him,
Take him to jail to live with other chomo’s
And the San Juan courts are remodeled graveyard of memories
Across the street, Remaining familia share the hallway of a senior living community home.
Once all were neighbors owning almost every house on Potosi St.
An 80+ year old Tìo Arturo says
“I don’t want to go back to L.A. I just wanna die here in the westside!”
In dreams I see the skull of my jefe yelling at his daughters to pick cotton.
Wants to end her days in another man’s arms, or
At Kickapoo, gambling the last of monies.
Their engines outlasted the reckless ones.
About a half mile past Brady,
Over the tracks, I am
Surrounded by white oaks,
Crepe Myrtles, elephant ears,
Banana trees, nopales. Stray dogs
Bark, chasing to nip at my ankles.
At Carmen Place,
The house of my blood,
A dinner table with fideo and papas is served.
I bought this house for my tìo’s
When they were alive
…and when they were deceased.
They were welcome to visit “in the flesh”
And even more so “in the spirit”.
Jody’s sinister ghost face shushes my boys while I write.
Down Hamilton St. a fence encloses B/r/e/w/e/r/ Elementary
A schoolyard where Jody almost beat a guy to death with his fists
Cinderella bakery on Saltillo St. still has the best churros I ever tasted,
Better than the ones at Disneyland.
Murals of the Treaty of Hidalgo, Aztec Warriors, and the symbols of Chicano heritage
…and Rubio, wearing his locs and fighter ‘stache, beautifies the Cassiano Park Homes with his child apprentice, Vicente.
Take a right on Laredo Street
And you’ll hit Zarzamora at Guadalupe Lumber Yard…
Andy’s Ice house became a restaurant, a bar, and refrigerator’s full of paleta’s.
Across from Cassiano Park,
The Chichèn Itzà de mi Familia Rivas y Valdez,
We barbecued and played dominos forever. Where Danny was chased by his carnales
For being a Greenbay Packer fan.
The new Aztlan.
They’d play shirts-n-skins on the basketball court,
Tattooed, sweaty, brown-skinned shimmers that had
Gorgeous Chicana’s gleam from benches fanning themselves,
Blackberries on their lips.
On Hidalgo Street,
Grandma once owned the corner house.
La Pepa lived across the street
She had over a dozen stray cats in her yard.
We lived next door to her;
Louis, my mom, me, and a cucuy.
It snowed here in 1985.
I remember tasting snow,
Fighting with Pelon and Chato, and Tìo
Danny showing up wearing a Santa Claus hat.
I attended David Barkley Elementary
Now a detention center.
Further up Zarzamora, I’d watch my brother play Pac-man at an arcade
And candy store
Now all shut down.
At Guadalupe and Zarzamora, the Popeye’s & KFC no longer there
Nor was place where I would stare at the tattoo around Tìa Mary’s freckled ankle.
Now a Chinese restaurant and Pizza Patron
Roaches finding shade, rats escaping.
Danny died a few blocks over at a yellow house,
Across from J.J.’s Tavern.
Further north, the molino where jefe bought barbacoa and lotto scratch offs
…still there. So is
Fred’s Fish Fry, Yo Pool Bar where Tìo’s and brother would hustle
The Malthouse soon becomes a 7-11.
I’d chase buses and power walk to the love of my life
(Before we lived together).
A dark-skinned Xicana writer, with
Exotic purple lips, stares at me
From the balcony of a house on Monterey Street.
I’d run upstairs to make sweet love to her,
As Elias slept in her belly,
She saved my soul. Elias saved us both.
…We float when we kiss…
Stirring in midnight bliss, it was
The Westside breeze and
Moonlit stray dogs that howled in approval of us.
We Cooper’s, Pennington’s, and Valenzuela’s
Are the Tribe 2.0-
Mine. Hers. Ours.
Zarzamora continues to Commerce Street
To Martin, to Poplar,
To Culebra where one-legged lesbians ask for
Money, drugs and sell their demos.
Woodlawn Park to the Decco is San Antonio’s Venice beach.
Has been the constant barrio – original.
Tierra de mi familia. ¡Con safos! -¿¡y qué!?
I am here. They are gone.
I stare at my home,
–Built in 1955.
A place that housed an elderly couple until they died.
They left no children. But now,
The house is filled with our children,
Most of all, our love
Vincent Cooper is Xicano poet living in the westside of San Antonio,TX. His chapbook Where the Reckless Ones Come to Die was published by Aztlan Libre Press in 2014. Poetry from his manuscript Zarzamora can be found in Huizache 6, AMP The Digital Journal of Hofstra University and Public Pool. Cooper is currently working a manuscript tentatively titled The Other Side of Semper Fi consisting of poems that span from Chicano’s in Vietnam, 1980’s Gangland Los Angeles, and Cooper’s tumultuous stint in the United States Marine Corps.