first appeared in Stirrup of the Sun & Moon

It starts with seeing my own eyes

reflected in the sun-glittered chrome

of an old truck’s back bumper.

Eyes, and the turquoise sky behind me,

as I kneel, bent low,

changing a license plate that reads: Lobo.

A little voice calls out from behind me, “Papi? Papi?”

“Over here, button…,” I respond.

It’s my daughter.

Six years old.

Nothing more precious to me.

Black curls poke out from under her wool hat.

It’s morning.

Autumn weather has arrived early.

Her breath sends little cloud puffs skyward

into the cool desert air.

It’s her first day of school.

I help her into the truck.

She buckles up, then goes back

to eating a strawberry fruit roll-up.

She wants to know what school will be like.

We talk about art, reading, learning math.

We talk about following the teacher’s instructions.

I warn her about boys.

She looks at me and winks, “I already have them figured out.”

Then she lays one of those questions on me.

“If you could start over, Papi...if you could go back

to your first day of school...what would you do differently?”

I twist my mustache and scratch my beard.

“Honey, I would try to figure out a way

to do the things I really wanted to do.

This is what you should do.

Don’t be like me.

If there’s one thing you learn from me, blossom,

it’s this. Set up a ruckus.”

She scratches at her chin, mimicking me.

“A ruckus?”

“Yes!” I tell her. “A ruckus. Set up a ruckus...for beauty.

For the things you believe in. For the things that inspire you.

Set up a ruckus and go after the things that make you happy!

You want to act? Set up a ruckus! You want to make art?

Set up a ruckus! You want to sing? Set up a ruckus! You

want to be a scientist?...”

“Set up a ruckus!” she chimes in, raising her

pink mittened hands.

I wake up.

It’s winter.

My body feels like a stiff corpse.

Back in the waking world, I mouth the words:

“What would I do differently?”

Then, it occurs to me…