Something to Read

Two poems from Neighborhood Odes by Gary Soto

Ode to the Sprinkler

There’s no swimming
Pool on
Our street,
Only sprinklers
On lawns,
The helicopter
Of water
Slicing our legs.
We run through
The sprinkler,
Water on our
Lips, water
Dripping
From eyelashes,
Water like
Fat raindrops
That fall from
Skinny trees when
You’re not looking.
I run como
Un chango,
In my orange
Swimming trunks,
Jumping up
And down, pounding
The mushy grass
With my feet.
One time a bee
Stung my toe,
The next-to-the biggest
Toe. Then that toe
Got bigger
Than my real
Big toe,
Like a balloon
Filling up.

I cried and
Sat on the porch,
Water on
My face was not
Water from the sprinkler,
But water from
Inside the body,
Way down where
Pain shout, Hijole
That hurts!
Mom brought me
A glass of Kool-Aid.
I drank some
And then pressed
The icy glass
Against my throbbing toe.
The toe shrank back
Into place,
And on that day
I began to think
Of Kool-Aid not
As sugar on
The tongue,
But as medicine.
And as for the bees,
You have to watch
For them. They buzz
The lawn for
Their own sugar
And wet play.

Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoes

They wait under Pablo’s bed,
Rain-beaten, sun-beaten,
A scuff of green
At their tips
From when he fell
In the school yard.
He fell leaping for a football
That sailed his way.
But Pablo fell and got up,
Green on his shoes,
With the football
Out of reach. 

Now it’s night.
Pablo is in bed listening
To his mother laughing
To the telenovelas on TV.
His shoes, twin pets
That snuggle his toes,
Are under the bed.
He should have bathed,
But he didn’t.
(Dirt rolls from his palm,
Blades of grass
Tumble from his hair.)
He wants to be
Like his shoes,
A little dirty
From the road,
A little worn
From racing
To the drinking fountain
A hundred times in one day.

He loves his shoes,
Cloth like a sail,
Rubber like a lifeboat
On a rough, rough sea.
Pablo is tired,
Sinking into the mattress.
His eyes sting from grass
And long words in books.
He needs eight hours
Of sleep
To cool his shoes,
The tongues hanging
Out, exhausted. 

These three poems are copyrighted by Gary Soto and may not be duplicated without permission from the author.