Elegy for Don Lalo’s Gold Tooth

The streets near abuela’s would crumble with
each step so we’d run the two

blocks to Don Lalo’s bodega, where
we’d snatch tamarindo and Rancherito’s

from plastic shelves within our reach and pay
with smiles and small-handed pesos. He’d smile

back, his gold tooth a flash
of every hissing summer we’d spent

chasing frogs around the nearby lagoon. We never
knew the deepness of those waters, only that the surface

would break easy with the flick of a rock. Eventually
we replaced his sodas with our cousins’

beers. Still, he’d ask when we’d return, gifting us
with dulce, our American hands taking whatever

little he could offer. He never made us feel
little, our foreignness a bridge he’d cross

borders with. One year we visited and his family broke
the news about his burial. The streets seemed to blister

with potholes that night. How we’d only wanted
to run our route to abuela’s rooftop and eat

our candy, the awkward chewing before a gospel
of cavities hymned themselves from our mouths.

 

Alan Chazaro is a high school teacher at the Oakland School for the Arts, a Lawrence Ferlinghetti fellow at the University of San Francisco, and an alum from Poetry for the People, the arts and activism program founded by the late June Jordan at UC Berkeley. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in various journals, including BOAAT, Huizache, Public Pool, Borderlands, Juked, and Iron Horse Literary Review. A Bay Area native, he can be found wearing a Warriors jersey and listening to West Coast throwbacks.