The first time I’m in a theater in the U.S., the Jesus
Of gangsters fires shotgun chants at his Apostles
And stands at the peak of New York.
Colors fall unto his hands and each time he asks
Canyoudigit? The audience answers with raised arms.
The Warrior with woman’s lips carries spray cans,
Lets hunters know his gang lives, tag saint defends
Himself with paint. The Yankee Samurai bats miss
His head. As his brothers kiss the Sirens who carry
Pool sticks, the little man says no to a dance and
Warns his brothers about blades and guns. He
Makes it to the clanks of Coney Island, long
Enough for bottles to start rattling just before
Coming out and play.
The first time I use spray paint, I’m with Jimmy
Henderson and Rolando Rodriguez. The store
Clerk senses that our fingers are ready to pull
A trigger and picks out the colors. We carry
Our ammunition in our backpacks. Jimmy
Wants the first hit to be for revenge: the corner
Market that fired his brother for not showing
Up to work. Six times. Rolando wants us
To mark spots where the girls will see them.
We settle on a wall near the school, the side
Of a building that sells midnight fires. Rolando
Is the only one who has pulled a trigger
On a can before, so he starts us with the basics:
Twistthecap, andlineupthecannon. Shakethecan
Overandover. Makesurethecanisvertical. And
The wall is filled with a history of sunflower
Love that has been erased and repainted as
Park benches. That night we spray over
Our endless mistakes and corrections:
Cars turn into busses, clouds into oceans
Mountains into skyscrapers. Our full
Moon into half a sun.
That wall becomes our gallery, new shows
Every couple of weeks. We never paint
Dried, sagging raisins. We color hollow stories
Of beanstalks and cornstalks that touch
The top of Brooklyn Bridge. Cannons
In our hands, we kneel as we spray to our
God and exhale the dreams that movies
Paint up and down alleys, on the sides
Of crumbling walls, and on the end
Of streets that have been left for dead.
José B. González is the author of Toys Made of Rock. A Fulbright Scholar, he has been a featured speaker at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. His poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies including Theatre Under My Skin: Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry and journals such as Callaloo, Calabash, and Palabra. A member of the Macondo Writers Workshop, he is the co-editor, with John S. Christie, of Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, and is the editor of LatinoStories.Com.