The 50’s


                                                             “Decades of Life”

                                                                 The fifties

The school day begins with a game of tag

Running and chasing the joy of the game

Words from home soon forgotten

“Don’t get dirty or I’ll spank your bottom”

The sound of the bell calls order

Lining up in rows, remember your place

Tan shirts, brown pants all in a row

Nuns in black habits, calling the roll

I started school to learn and obey

We prayed everyday for God is the way

I learned to read, I learned to write

I learned about sin, I feared the night

To mass every Sunday, I had to go

I walked with my Abuelita, her hand to hold

Hers words were firm, but not very strict

Now stand, now sit, now kneel for a bit

My Abuelita’s wish she shared with me

Someday for me, an altar boy be

Latin for mass I had to learn

Study and practice, the priest was stern

An altar boys’ vestments I did wear

I moved on the altar, Abuelita stared

I did not falter, I moved with care

I served my first mass for only her

Her eyes filled with tears, her heart with pride

She said she saw an angel stand by my side

She walked by my side and whispered

Promise me this and only this

Serve my last mass, this is my wish

Dressed in my vestments, crucifix in hand

I met my Abuelita at the door of the church

Her coffin behind me, I guided her in

The cold box held my loved one within

I wanted to cry, I wanted to weep

But my pain I would keep, her voice did speak

“A man does not cry, nor does he weep”

“A man stays on his feet, his pride he keeps”

Her coffin follows to the foot of the altar

I served her last mass, I did not falter

My first mass for you, my last one as well

A Dios Abuelita, I bid you farewell

You taught me of life with all its strife

I will not cry, nor will I bend

En Nomeni Parti until the end

The end of one life, another begins

Tan shirts, brown pants come to an end

Five pleated shirts starched khaki pants

Spit shined shoes, bleached white T-shirts

A new look, a new walk, a new talk

Pachuco, Cholo, the old women squawked

Y que mi vida, I mocked

Hanging out at the park till it got dark

The local pusher would start to bark

Reds, yellow jackets, chiva, I got

What do you say Vato, you want to get stoned?

Chale carnal, I’ll leave it alone

“Hey vato what do you say, you want in”

“You can be in our Barrio, we’ll jump you in”

Chale carnal with all due respect, I’ll be from nowhere

And not in your debt

Ta suave carnal we still call you friend

Respect given, respect received, that’s how it was back then

Dressed like a vato, I learned many things

Dancing a slow one was one of those things

In the still of the night, I held her so tight

Turn off the lights ese, let me kiss her tonight

Decisions I made away from home

I made for me and me alone

I learned to survive the streets of scorn

No fear no shame, all part of the game

Becoming a man did come with pain


Roberto Juarez

This entry was posted in boyle heights, poem, Uncategorized, urban life and challenges, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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