When my twin brother tells me stories about hanging out
With his cholo gangster friends from high school, part of me
Doesn’t want to hear it. It’s not that I’m afraid: I’m afraid to admit
That I’m afraid and I play along. He doesn’t tell me to show off,
That’s for sure. He’s not necessarily trying to scare me.
I think he’s just remembering his time with his friends;
The few that he had. They all came from broken homes.
Their parents were drug addicts. Lived in low-rent apartments,
Like us. None of his friends ever brought their drama
To our home. Didn’t say bad words in front of my parents.
They were boys hiding behind baggy shirts and pants,
Because the world didn’t think much of them to ever
Give them a chance. I guess the reason I don’t like to hear
His stories, even though it’s good for him to remember and release,
Is because I’m afraid to know he was ever so vulnerable;
Almost locked-up. Almost thrown away. Almost buried, forever.
Copyright © 2021 by Jose Hernandez Diaz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
“I wrote this poem during my morning writing routine, at 5 a.m. with coffee. The previous day, my twin had told me stories of his youth growing up in the gang cultures of Southern California. Instead of telling him I felt uncomfortable talking about dangerous things, like gangs and drugs, I pretend to laugh it off as no big deal, but really it makes me wonder how close he was to serious trouble.”
—Jose Hernandez Diaz