Irving and 5th

There’s a magistrate in the fridge: 

It’s time to get rid of these old ass tamales. 

Freezer burn babies of beef and cheese and I step into quiet wasteland. 

Not a desperate land for Mad Max. Just cold emptiness like Gravity. 

Big, Snorlax man outside the market. Beard like Klaus. Fingernails that pulled flowers from Golden Gate  Park. 

N95 masks headed in and out as though tear gas wailed around like the Kashmir Valley. I’ve microwaved the leaf-wrapped vessels of my heritage – this nomadic neighbor will be ecstatic. 

When I offer, he takes the folded brown paper bag, rubber banded like a deck of cards, and asks: “Do you have room?” 

I pause. 

“Do you have a room? For me?” 

he spreads his hands up & down the street like a sultan’s claim. 

“I see so much but so quiet.” 

I tell him I rent, that my landlord is not nice. 

His prayer-soaked, ball-player mitt hands collect rain-wet magazines written in Chinese from near his  shoes. 

“Do you want these papers?” 

I nod & thank him. I go home and I’m sitting inside and I’m thinking about all the birthday cake I ate just  a week ago, purple frosting on a fish shaped chocolate cake, and all the strangers who came to my home  for the birthday party, room enough there for anyone who might praise me, and all the Whiteclaw in the  recycling bin the next morning, and the drugs those strangers gave me that I put up my nose like  snowballs balancing on brass, til they melt, and I’m feeling like an idiot. 

Like during a pandemic is when I finally bake blueberry coffee cake for somebody who isn’t my high  school girlfriend. Like I could take all the preserves on my family farm a few states north and dump them  into the street and let the Sunset run rhubarb pink and it wouldn’t be enough. Like freezer burn pieces of  my abuela aren’t even close.