Kenneth Chacón

To Obed Silva, Profe, Escritor, Carnal


Kenneth Chacón is the author of The Cholo Who Said Nothing & Other Poems, published by Turning Point in 2017. His work has appeared in Huizache, Cimmaron Review, BorderSenses, among others. He lives in Fresno with his wife and children and is currently awaiting the arrival of his third grandchild. Kenneth teaches at Fresno City College and considers it one of his biggest blessings. He is currently at work on second collection of poems as well as a novel. 

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“Born in Mexico but raised in Orange County, Silva is a 32-year-old former gang member . . . who reinvented himself as a scholar. . . . He's teaching writing at Cypress College and tackling his own painful story in a book.” Los Angeles Times, September 2011

You don’t know me, but I know you. At least what the papers say about you.
Undocumented. Gangbanger turned Profe. Lover of the Word and its silent power. A
man who loves his gente, a puente, Si Se Puede spray painted in bright colors across the
whitewashed halls of academia.

I see you. All the way up here, tucked in the farmlands, I see you from a pockmarked
alley. This is where a young man was killed. A friend. Murdered. If you look closely,
you can see the blood trickling north, trickling south, until it stops here in Fresno
where the streets rock with a red wave and the cockroaches’ laughter sounds a lot like

You see, I was born in these streets, praying at a bullet’s altar like this one, a red paño
hanging from my back pocket, wagging like a tail on a rabid dog. You see, I was
brainwashed by madness, listening to wasps whispering lies, blaring “Angel Baby” and
ironing tight creases in my Ben Davis or spinning beer bottles as I sat on the soiled
floor of my living room, slamming caballo or puffing on a crystal pipe, ice melting my
desire for freedom, la carga imprisoning me in darkness, cucarachas providing the

I used to believe this gang shit so much, but God freed me. He showed me how the
Devil scratched new names on our foreheads in hideous graffiti, demonic calligraphy,
and forced idols into our palms that demanded sacrifice. And we gave it. From the
rolled down window of a ‘66 Chevelle, we gave it. From the crowded beer aisle of a
liquor store to the warm hand of a 16 year old girl, we gave it. From syringe to vein to
alleyway, we gave it. We forgot our names.

It’s time to remember. Mexica. Xicanx. La Raza. Recuerda.

Obed, I see you in East Los all the way from Fresno. I see your light shining down
Whittier Boulevard, through the Spanish architecture of Olvera Street, cruising
Crenshaw bumping gangsta rap genocide, hymnals sung in the tenor of generational
suicide, down Avenida César Chávez to the college. Few hear the jingling of handcuffs
pulled freely. Few hear the pushing of triggers. Few hear the swipe and snap of food
stamps. But we hear.

Obed, let’s make the call from the sidewalk in front of the taqueria with the good chile.
Let’s bring the homies to your momma’s pad and placticamos over dominos. Let’s
invite them to the lodge and let sweat fall like urgent prayer. Let them come from north,
from south, locos, carnales, following the exceptional scent of sage. Let them ride in
pimped out lowriders down freeways of Ollín, spreading through the Grapevine like a
creek through dry land. Let us welcome El Espíritu Santo to heal this land.
                                    Here, Aztlán
                                             Hear, Aztlán
Be cleansed, for the end is nigh.
¡Gracias a Dios! Revolution is at hand. Watch as the
Earth spits forth the dead for a final accounting. Watch as the wasps disperse before the
Lights turn on and the cockroaches flee from            the heavy                                                                                                                                      
boot of                    

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