By Alex Z. Salinas
I’ve studied Shakespeare and read Hemingway.
I’ve marveled at Poe and Hawthorne,
Pynchon and Roth,
Murakami and King, too.
Philip Levine taught me the simple truth,
and Pablo Neruda showed me love and despair.
Rabindranath Tagore breathed light into my body,
and Juan Felipe Herrera turned me on my cabeza.
Bukowski? He just punched me in the gut.
Let’s not forget the ladies:
Dickinson and Harper Lee,
Atwood and Hinton,
Zadie Smith and J.K. Rowling,
and cold Ayn Rand,
who saw the world for what it was
These writers, thinkers, people—
their words all live
They speak to you
and speak to me,
What they told me was this:
You needed me.
It was over bitter black coffee
on Wurzbach, staring down traffic
watching an Indian woman cross the street
and a Hispanic guy take slow drags on his cigarette,
that I realized I’ve got to do this my way.
My way and no other way.
Because one day,
I’ll be dead,
and then you’ll wish
I would’ve done a little less reading
and a lot more writing.
Because you needed me.
It’s not easy,
this thing called writing.
It’s a firepool;
it dares you to jump right in
with the promise of nothing,
with the possibility that it’ll roast you alive
inside and out
until you’re scarred so bad not even
momma can recognize you.
It promises nothing,
but the thing is,
you needed me.
You called me.
So I’ve already jumped in.
I’ve already been scorched and burned.
I’ve consumed the flames
I’m spitting them at you.
Now, like a mighty Tolkien dragon,
I will scorch every last one of you
until my fire soul extinguishes,
until the earth and all of its lovely people
scream for release
and cry and beg for sweet mercy,
because in the end,
you needed me.
You need me.
San Antonian Alex Z. Salinas earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Mary’s University in 2011. His flash fiction has appeared online in Every Day Fiction, Nanoism, escarp, 101 Words, 101 Fiction, and ZeroFlash. He has also had poetry published in the San Antonio Express-News.