Scene with Walk Proud (1979) by José B. González


Robby Benson: we remember
His one on one dribbles. Baller
From a small town where cornstalks
Replace corner street signs. 

This time he is Emilio Mendez
With dark contact lenses, their
Hardness poking his blue-eyed genes, 
The brown makeup spray-painted
On his face like the sign of a crip.

To leave his gang of Aztecs, 
He has to get jumped out,
Walk down lines of street soldiers:
Punches, fists, departing gifts
For this Latin King.

But for Rolando, Jimmy and me,
Lying back on a sofa on a lazy
Sunday afternoon when even
The police don’t bother to take
Calls or circle around the block,
Benson’s jump shots release
Swarms of dreams and jokes. 

Rolando says:

And when we rewind the tape, 
The punches become Emilio’s
Punishment for the claims to be
What he is not. He returns
His low rider, tosses out his
Bandana, spits into beer cans,
And goes back to Kansas.

We continue by playing our
Own lives backwards:

Bus drivers give back nickels, Sub-
Ways rise off tracks, Jimmy’s father
Walks out of prison, his mother walks
Out her boyfriend’s bedroom. And my
Neighbor, the old man on the sixth floor
Poses for a picture with family at his side,
His front door open wide, a baby in his arms, 
His mouth swallowing his first slur.


Contributor Notes

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.