Oscar bermeo


Lorem Ipsum

Dolor Pulnivar

Estern Velces

Orevem Lorces


3 Poems


Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of four poetry chapbooks, most recently, To the Break of Dawn. From 2003-06, Oscar was the founding curator and host of the Acentos Bronx Poetry Showcase. He has taught creative writing workshops to at-risk youth in the Bronx, inmates at Rikers Island, foster teens in San Jose, bilingual elementary students in Oakland, and to adults through the Oakland Public Library’s Oakland Word program. Oscar makes his home in Oakland, with his wife, poeta Barbara Jane Reyes, where they co-edit Doveglion Press. For more information, please visit www.oscarbermeo.com.

Of the way they speak of the dead

Folks say the dead live in every part of Barrio Viejo

Sleeping in during the day to keep beds warm

While people are away at work

But at night, the dead walk around in search of

Card games, the last drops of liquor in bottles,

and chew on fruits, that at night have one name

In the open sun are called ___________

And in moonlight change back to fruit

The dead party most when the moon is dim,

Fog creeps through the streets, rum fills every cup

And the difference between the rich and the poor

Is withered down to a translucent veneer

Los Viejos are wary of these nights

And have a way of identifying these ghosts

They ask specific questions of the past

And of things that have yet to occur

If someone knows too much history

Or science, they are called "sabidos"

And denounced as ghouls looking

For extra drink and free beds

An even worse sin is to fall

In love with a "sabida"

Those who do not double check

And sleep with a ghost

Are ridiculed to the fullest

With motions of kissing

Empty air

This is the true belief–

When one is alive, they call him "bobo"

When he is dead, they call him "sabido"

They say el bobo appears often

In the forms of writing

But el sabido is elusive as a fly

In a hurricane

This is the true belief

Shared by all

Viejo y Modernista

They also know this:

The dead assume the form of

Padrinos, madrinas, primos

y compais when urgent

Messages need to be delivered

The fruit the dead eat are seeds

That were once bones

The dead never speak in the sun

Only by the moon

And to walk at night como un sabido

Is to know fear

Speaking with the Dead

There are sabidos who invade the living and seek to steal their memories. When this happens, the sabido will grab ash from a nearby fire and rub it in his hand, mix it with clay and mulch, and hide it in his mouth so that he can not answer when asked questions of time before and time after.

These sabidos will visit the weak minded, who do not speak of time now, sit with them and not say a word. The sabido will pull out some betel nut, chews and then spits, offering to pass some to the living. (Los Viejos know better than to accept a gift without asking the price, but the youngbloods are quick to grab anything that is handed freely without asking if it is free.) Soon the living begin to speak of what they imagined may have happened once or some miracle they wish to visit them in the future. The sabido just nods and keeps chewing on his betel nut, spitting on the ground, as the youngblood rambles. The spit has been known to take a life of its own, to form its own way, and mimic the mouth of the youngblood by stretching out, as if in prayer, or spiking erratically, as if in confusion. The spit may bounce in places, as if stuttering, or it may grow long, as if reaching out. These one-sided conversations between living and sabido may be only a minute but leave behind long scrawls of rouge and mud. Other conversations last for many days but only result in nothing more than a quick spurt of dirt and red.

These encounters all end the same way, with the sabido thanking the living (for what the living is never sure of), pointing to the marks on the ground, and saying, “Take good care of it.”

The Writing in the Earth

If a youngblood should pass by writing
Say, a trail of blood and spit on the dirt road

If he should take time away from his work

To connect these lines that form the land

If he should take time away from his family

To languish over the markings of the dead

If he would contend with sabido and bobo alike

And force them to acknowledge their origins

This youngblood, dizzy in translation, follower of

The mischief of writing must do the following:

First, in order to learn if the writing

Foretells the future or chronicles the past

He must observe the present world by

Drinking the muddiest waters

Smoking the strongest herbs

Eating the rankest animal flesh

Continue doing this until his own mouth

Rebels against him and speaks without pause

Rambles of all the clear drink, smooth smoke,

And finest tastes the world has yet to give

Go on many times, until at last the mouth

Speaks without reservation, full of detail,

Ripe with observation and nuance

As if he were one of the dead

Who can answer all questions

After he has spoken all he knows

He can begin to understand the scribble

There is another way–he can set a fire

Like those used for cremating the dead

Wait till the wood becomes live coals

Then take the coals into his own mouth

Extinguish the heat with dry earth

And let the coals simmer on his tongue

Until he is able to answer questions of

Past and present like a true sabido

Either way, he will not be able to speak again

Preferring now to let the writing speak for him