Reading

By David Dominguez b. 1971 David Dominguez

—For My Students


Breakfast, and I’m eating plain yogurt, figs from my garden, and honey.
             I’m sitting in a lawn chair on the backyard patio—

life is good, and the sunlight warming my lap and the pages
             of a book remind me of Tucson

and the subterranean apartment I rented alone and far from home.
             There was a sofa in front of my one window

where at noon the sun burned briefly on the cushions as starlings
             stirred in the trees with their admonishments.

Stepping back there now, I remember feeling hopeless after reading
             Lorca’s “Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías.”

I recall how I put the book on the coffee table and closed my eyes
             and saw blood glowing in my arteries.

In the leaves, the starlings went on with their disconnected chatter,
             and I said to myself, “I’ll never write anything like

‘And the bull alone with a high heart! At five o’clock in the afternoon.’”
             For three months, I didn’t write one word

but instead passed the days swimming in the public pool where,
             from my half-closed eyes, I watched light ride

the splashing water or resting on the surface when I floated, face down,
             sinking with fear: “What do I do now?” I asked.

Some nights, I filled my red truck with gas and drove west on the 19
             until my headlights flooded the desert, and when

the city was less than pinpoints of glitter, and when all I could hear
             was the whine of silence in my ears,

I parked alongside the highway, leaned against my pickup, and stared
             at stars so sure of themselves as they shone

that I believed they couldn’t help but give me something that would
             make me sit at my desk and write.

I felt directionless and wanted to walk out into the landscape,
             but I feared snakes and scorpions

hiding in the buckhorn and staghorn as I recalled my father’s words,
             “You’ll be lost forever on the far side of the moon”—

words that haunted me as I imagined slipping into lunar shadows
             that no human telescope would spot

as I wandered lost and ripped with nostalgia for the nights I read
             in used bookstores on Campbell—a time when

the future seemed so clear I smelled it in dirt that somebody
             rinsed from the sidewalk as I walked home.

Then, one night while sipping black coffee along the side of the 19,
             I remembered lying on the living room floor

as my father and I listened to Brahms’s “Lullaby,” which inspired me
             to practice “Away in a Manger” on my trumpet:

“It’s a lullaby. Play it like that,” my father said as my sixth grade lips
             struggled to phrase notes that would

please a child under the beating stars, and remembering this,
             I looked up to the oblivious heavens

and tied words to images—Cassiopeia, Perseus, Cygnus, Pegasus—
             and let them sing clearly through my mind.

David Dominguez, “Reading” from The Ghost of Cesar Chavez. Copyright © 2010 by David Dominguez. Reprinted by permission of C&R Press.

Source: The Ghost of Caesar Chavez: Poems (C&R Press, 2010)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet David Dominguez b. 1971

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Living, Life Choices, The Mind, Activities, Eating & Drinking, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Music, Poetry & Poets, Reading & Books

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

Biography

Poet David Dominguez earned a BA in comparative literature from the University of California at Irvine and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona. He is the author of the collections Marcoli Sausage (2000), published in Gary Soto’s Chicano Chapbook Series; Work Done Right (2003); and The Ghost of César Chávez (2010).
 
A resident of California’s Central Valley, Dominguez writes poetry that reflects life in . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, The Mind, Activities, Eating & Drinking, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Music, Poetry & Poets, Reading & Books

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.