Reino or I See My Grandfather by The Side of The Road, About Where He’s Buried, but He’s Wandering Around with a Flag of Vertebrae

I mean, he is dead, though
      doesn’t this make him American
enough to demand the land
      he was buried in is his?
Doesn’t this entitle him to break
      bread with gods
whose names fill
      the sky with anvils?
Or was he just buried
      in random earth—
because I saw a truck
      drive over his grave
like that isn’t how people
      get cursed—like that driver
isn’t going to crack open
      their jaw tomorrow & spill out
ratones, conejos, cucarachas,
      & all their teeth.
Who’s to say this soil
      is American anyway,
like have you asked
      my grandma?
She once swore
      the whole of California
belongs to her
      mother & my father still
calls this dead man
      Reino. That’s right, the whole
damn kingdom. Grandfather was,
      after all, an unruly man
he once pulled his spine
      out of a screaming mouth
& carried that hurt
      until the end.
Who’s going to tell him
      he can’t still reign
from the dirt?
      The U.S. government
denied my grandfather
      a military funeral,
denied they ever held him
      against a gun
& called them by the same
The official reason they gave
      was my grandfather
did not join the marines
      legally, & fine
but he still volunteered
      to walk into any slaughter-
house with a crown
      of bullets in each hand,
they could have
      at least sent a flag,
or the name
      of that truck driver,
or a throne.

Brandon Melendez is a biracial poet born in New York and raised in California. He is a National Poetry Slam finalist, Rustbelt Poetry Slam finalist, two time Berkeley Grand Slam Champion, and he has won “Best Poem” & “Funniest Poem” at collegiate national poetry competitions. He received a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley and is currently an MFA candidate at Emerson College.