Tim Perez

thin skin

we met in the marrow of a great bird’s bone.
no you didn’t.

between the heart and breast plate.
no you didn’t.

between the floating rib
and melancholy.

what’s melancholy?
you know every time your mom smoked

that nasty stuff she blew out?
yeah, i said.

that was it, he said and stomped off.

i wandered to mom’s bookshelf.
he had yet to get rid of her books;

i took one crammed on top of the others;
it was thin and purple as onion skin.

when i opened it i found strands of her hair
taped to the inside.

when father caught me with the book he said,
quit looking for answers.

anyway you weren’t born, you were made.

like a sandwich, i said.
yeah, like a sandwich.

what kind of sandwich? i asked.
white bread with sardines, he said, now get outta here.

i trotted off, but before i turned the corner
he said, and leave the book.

i dropped it and slowly backed away. from around
the corner i watched father pick up the book and gently

lift a strip of yellowed tape with hair clinging to it.
i watched as the words ripped from the page

and they writhed like so many fishes and i watched father
drop the tape in his mouth and pull it out

like a chubby cartoon cat. the hair and the words zigzagging
down his throat

and i watched the glow in his chest somewhere
between the ribs.


when he brings in the dogs

no one talks about the one they would’ve
taken him for anyway.

told him his skin was too brown for anything
better than carrying a gun.

when he got there they made him a machine
gunner, but when he came back with his trophy
of tongues they let him alone.

and after he was through with his duty
and the damage was done they sent him
and his knife home.

and soon the terrors showed up in his morning
cereal and they’ve been showing up ever since.

independence day is coming which terrifies him
the most with its snapping of bones, so he brings
in the dogs says,

i have to bring them in or they’re just gonna
bark all night. but i know he huddles the dogs

on his bed surrounding himself with furry bodies
like ruck sacks.

his eyes just peering over them like a swamp
gator and he waits for the bombing to begin.

his teeth glowing like polished tombstones.
his favorite knife unsheathed. his dogs quivering
against his throat.


Tim Perez currently resides in Long Beach, but works in Corona. Twelve years ago Crooked was published by Gary Soto’s Chicano Chapbook Series. In between he became a high school English teacher, got married and brewed a small batch of children. Late this year Moon Tide Press will publish The Savagery of Bone, his first full length book of poetry.