You Get the Picture

︎︎︎ Chris Rubio-Goldsmith
︎ SEPT 30, 2021

This is a truth. It sounds like living in the
company of memories that have no purpose
and it probably addresses my faults
but it’s not at all like finding
out the ocean has a hole in it.

My final year teaching I called an audible
put the district curriculum deep into the desk
covered it with boxes of paper clips
erasers and chalk. All I wanted
were these heavy hitters Whitman Neruda Woolf
Allende Garcia Marquez Camus Joyce or nada

Last call final at bat home stretch
3-point buzzer beater
hail Mary relay anchor into the tape

My last dance
I choose the song
and boogie partner.
You get the picture.

Rudy was the way-smart sit in back cholo
estilo vato (creases to un punto, ese)
who listened carefully even though he
knew counting the holes in the ceiling tiles
created his camouflage of indifference. I looked forward
to seeing him every day after lunch. His slow strut
into his desk flowed to an imaginary funk beat
that followed him around. Just there for his there.

One day, a week before the end of school, my final week
as a teacher, the class discussing Joyce’s “Eveline”. The
lonely love story and Joyce announces an ambiguous detail,
“... (Eveline) felt elated as she sat in an unaccustomed part
of the theatre with him.” One student who may have really
read it carefully asked about the phrase. And
because school and this short story were so beyond
the priorities of almost everyone in the room a silence blossomed.
And we all just let it grow and grow into some wild unchecked
budding of orale. Then Rudy just ushered it out, slow audible
emphasizing the important sounds... “falacio.” After
28 years in the classroom this did not
surprise, but the class after giggling
did grasp Joyce’s intent. Except for Anna. Sweet straight
A grade compliant apple for teacher the little
Chicana princess who asked (and in my cabeza I
was imploring her not to ask) “Sir what’s falacio?”

I and all the other seniors knew she was serious. She
wanted an explanation, example, and that
lazy get to the end of the year class became
really engaged there. What was the
retiring teacher going to say? I asked Rudy to explain
his Joyce point. And Rudy true to the vato coolness that he
kept in his pockets for moments like this just smiled and
said “Orale, oral pleasure” as if he had waited the entire
reading of the story to share his critical assertion. The silence
that followed really was credit to all our maturity

and the respect the entire class had for Rudy but everyone could
see that Anna was still fighting with the words.
Then with the notion of a sudden wind or a car backfiring
Anna just called out “blow job” and in her reckoning, smiled
at having solved her language riddle. Her face
becoming the color of salsa picante.

You get the picture, who were you
before the world told you who to be.

Chris Rubio-Goldsmith
was born in Mérida, Yucatan, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and taught English at Tucson High Magnet School for 27 years. Much of his poetry explores experiences growing up near the border, being raised biracial/bilingual, and teaching in an urban high school where over 70% of the students were American-Mexican. His writings have appeared in Gigantic Sequins, The Laurel Review, Fourteen Hills, the anthology, America, We Call Your Name, and other publications. His wife Kelly helps edit his work.

Also by Chris: Who is Quien?