Four Poems

The Ghost Racer

I’ve unlocked all the races, all the kart customization options, and yet you linger in a code that leaps from screen to screen. Always capable, driving with precision and ingenuity, you lap me even when I’m miles ahead. I imagine the dust, the asphalt sputtering as you churn out papers, assignments, and lesson plans with ease. This was never about success. You are the ghost racer, undetectable bit by bit exceeding me in all capacities, locked onto targets and shooting shells before I’ve even reached the item box. Is this what perfectionism dares to look like when I dream in double dash race tracks? You are optimized integrals and algorithms without a bedtime, without friends or YouTube videos to watch, while I exist in this body with organs, yours without, the rhizomatic tendrils of an imagined player, a threat, a test to improve my own play style. This was never meant to be self-sabotage.

Walkthrough (Age 8)

Life moves in four directions,
waddling along the boundaries of 32-bit graphics,
chess practice and gymnastics.

I dictated my first videogame walkthrough
illuminated by a GBA worm light attachment
while my math superstar addled mind cranked
out a new type of calculation under the cover(s) of night.

Following lines, navigating colors,
I still feel the indentations and paths in
painted bricks lining primary school halls.

Is this where I can obtain a powerup to grow taller?
Is this where I can walk through the walls,
clipping through the bounds of
my classroom…
gradually leaving the physics of the game,
of a high achieving childhood altogether?

I gave up the walkthrough as soon as it started,
no longer willing to rehearse the obvious stages
of a game for children, for my precocity
got the best of me, and I saved the survival guides
for adolescence.


Too many people have said, “politely,”
that I look like someone they know,
as if having doppelgangers were not
double-edged compliments for us multi-hyphenates.

You saw my last name on the headlines,
half-remembered immigrant stories
from Guatemala to Ciudad Juarez;
my name has traveled
walking the soles of my ancestors,
and their brethren.

Yo no soy esa, ni aquela, ni fulana de tal…
I’m not that one, not her, not so-and-so…

You never saw me, an NPC coded
for a certain ethnicity,
always asking, always pretending
to flatter me to clear away
the uncertainty of your assumptions.

Rompo las barreras y bato records con tan solo una mirada.
I break barriers and records with just one look.

I become a face in the crowd,
body not even animated as I sway
to the flute songs of an in-game Sakura festival.

I look like the girl in the background,
almost an afterthought of programming,
always cleaning the inn, never the
blond bachelorette waiting for her cutscene.

If you saw my avatar, would I look recognizable?
Would I look like a leader, an authority in my field,
or would dark hair fade into the background,
for I pay too close of a resemblance
to peoples and places
whose altiplano, desert, river basin landscapes
color our features?

When I Found Out the Rockets Never Left

My clumsy consciousness of burgeoning sentience, all seven years of it, waits to be tucked in with a bedtime story. Tell me about the time we turned chemical rockets into next generation fusion technology to soar through the Oort Cloud, our protective crèche. Regale me with stories of the first exoplanets, how we eschewed terraforming and created symbiotic worlds one AU from their nearest star, perfect in every way. I wait, for the stories not yet known of old, nor written in children’s books teaching about planetary orbits. You see, I am alive many centuries too early; whatever portal I tumbled through sent me straight to a world where Space Shuttles send up only the elected, and us civilians watch and marvel at how far rocket propulsion will one day take humanity. I am too short, have corrective vision and a distaste for the bathroom arrangements on the spacecraft, but one day nimble voyagers will adapt breathing apparatuses and grow maize and cassava, the pride of many civilizations. One day, when I am not here to portend an exodus, the rockets may arc across light years, retelling the stories of the very constellations that once guided our wayfaring. Even if they never leave in truth, our stars and elders will help claim new worlds in young minds.