is a field
as long as the butterflies say
it is a field
with their flight
it takes a long time
like light or sound or language
we have more
than six sense dialect
adjusting to time
the distance and its permanence
i have found my shortcuts
where i first took form
in the field
Copyright © 2022 by Marwa Helal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
All the public places I’ve cried:
airports, beaches, parking lots—
so many—waiting rooms,
parks, train platforms,
benches. Whose loss
is shed? The bluish distillate
in Rilke’s saucerless cup
was watered down with tears
to be more bearable.
In this morning’s coffee
tears dissolved like comets
into darkness. If I need a good cry
I watch that astronaut singing
“Major Tom,” playing his guitar.
Astronaut tears are Jell-O.
Even this physics makes my heart
confetti. You’re too emotional,
you said, as my eyes irrigated
the flower beds. In India, Colombia,
Chile, Japan, and the Philippines,
you can still hire a professional
mourner. Crying in public
ought to be easier. Designated
trees or hilltops might help.
Or an hour of tears,
when we can howl in unison
and then return to our
diluteness. I mean dailiness.
Crying is inevitable
when headlines read
like requiems. When
the conquest of Mexico
all she could do was cry.
Todos los lugares públicos donde he llorado:
aeropuertos, playas, parqueaderos
—tantos— salas de espera,
parques, andenes de trenes,
bancos. ¿La pérdida de quién
se derrama? El destilado azul
en la taza sin platillo de Rilke
fue diluido con lágrimas
para ser más soportable.
En el café de esta mañana
mis lágrimas se disolvieron como cometas
en la oscuridad. Si necesito un buen llanto
miro a ese astronauta cantando
“Mayor Tom,” tocando su guitarra.
Las lágrimas de astronauta son gelatina.
Esta física hace de mi corazón
confeti. Eres demasiado emocional,
dijiste, mientras mis ojos irrigaban
las flores. En la India, Colombia,
Chile, Japón y Filipinas,
todavía puedes contratar a una plañidera
profesional. Llorar en público
debería ser más fácil. Designados
árboles o cimas de colinas podrían ayudar.
O una hora de lágrimas,
cuando podemos aullar al unísono
y luego volver a nuestra
diligencia, a lo diario.
El llanto es inevitable
cuando los titulares suenan
como réquiems. Cuando
la conquista de México
lo único que podía hacer era llorar.
1. Does your child have poor eye contact? Does he stare from unusual angles?
Yes. Like a dark bird from a high perch.
Yes. With acetylene torches lit somewhere in the distance.
With eyes wide as the Morpho’s iridescence.
Yes. Wild and hot like fixed stars.
2. Does your child not seem to listen when spoken to directly?
We call it dappled thoughts. He is constantly dappled—
here and not here. He is a thrush hidden in the sage.
3. Does your child have excessive fear of noises? Does he cover his ears frequently?
With wind there are moments—agonies. Like the time
we found him covering his ears in a cement sewer pipe
during a storm or when he fled into the street, shocked
by the vacuum. Often we hold him hard to keep the world
from flooding in. Often the world is sirens.
4. Does your child seem like he is in his own world?
We mourn him daily. And yet he guides me by the hand
through the threshold of his room as one guiding someone
just off a train, gently and lightly, avoiding the gap between
the platform and the track. The heat from his hand,
combustion-warm. Old stove in which we’ve heated this house.
5. Does he lack curiosity about his environment?
Because the color of the red door renders it mute.
Because the color of the die-cast car is an empty blue
and the sound of our voices could be any possible starling
we are not here. He is not here. And what of the place you reside
if you don't reside in it? Where then does your body blink?
6. Do his facial expressions not fit situations?
Nulled into a thick disquiet. Mouth agape.
Agate of the eye catches quick the inseam and
no blemish. No, no turning away and no smile.
The contraption shuts its winking gap.
7. Does he cry inappropriately? Does he laugh inappropriately?
A soothing so honed it does not surface
or salvage the daily losses. Which are also sharp
vibratos of hums along the jawbone—the music’s
arrowing shot into the thalamus. A strobe’s command
and call. A conspiratorial ache.
8. Does he have temper tantrums? Does he overreact when he doesn’t get his way?
He is a dark and stabled bull kicking at the chained gate.
9. Does he ignore pain? For example, when he bumps his head, does he react?
If it strikes you can’t rescind it. Juncture to
the brain. Sharp cortical hurt into which
leap charges—synapse to synapse, but then a what?
A question asks its question. A hurt insists and yet.
10. Does he dislike touch? Doesn’t want to be held?
There’s something about proximity. The dutiful
belonging of atoms and how we relate
the world through our skin. The exposed parts
of ourselves and how those pavilions are brushed by
a plum tree’s wicked thorns.
11. Does he hate crowds? Does he have difficulties in restaurants and supermarkets?
Everyday he’s praying through the meanwhiles.
The sequences of. Not just aflutter, but alone
he sits on the periphery. Ears beside his little body.
12. Is he inappropriately anxious? Scared?
To soothe, the sound of humming through teeth. And so
a symphony of fears. The ventricular outbursts pleat
the clouds. The sky is always exploding
and in that delirum, a curdled tone.
13. Does he speak the same to kids, adults, or objects?
Remind us of our asymmetries. Who is that again? And what
smile to let the darkness in? I see him speak to the man
in blue work clothes and the way his face yields to
the light. To the way moments like this explode.
14. Does he use language inappropriately? (Wrong words or phrases).
The world is a network of minds. Think
of the tongue and the fibers that make
its muscles. The branching capillary network
enmeshed. Alive and cooled with a song
that slides away. Tongue jammed in its stirrup
thinking of itself and the blood red
amanitas pushed out of the earth.
Copyright © 2019 by Oliver de la Paz. This poem appeared in The Boy in the Labyrinth (University of Akron Press, 2019). Used with permission of the author.
1. Now that I can, I am afraid to become a citizen. I don’t want to become anything because I’m afraid of being seen. I am arriving, and departing, and later I will punish myself for looking over at the person sitting next to me on the plane, checking their screen and reading their email. For now there is no punishment. Today I have realized everyone is just as boring as me. Everyone in TSA had enormous hands. I still refuse to travel with my green card. 2. It is my mother’s birthday and I bought her merchandise from a school I didn’t attend but only visited. She, too, understands the value of cultural capital. Today I am wounded. I like to say wounded instead of sad. Sadness is reserved for days when I can actually make money from what I do. My mother raised me to make sure nothing I ever did I did for free. 3. When I land, Northern California is burning. We keep a suitcase near the door just in case. A man calls me three different names before giving up and asks if my son has begun coughing yet. Beneath all that ash, no one seems bothered if you cry in public. Sitting around a circle of grateful alcoholics, some of whom will leave the room towards a clear portrait of their ruin, which can either mean they will or will never return, a man tells me I have been selfish, and I admit I have. Sometimes I want every goddamn piece of the pie. A woman pulls aside her mask to smoke and says she’s going to look up what temperature teeth begin to melt, the implication being that if teeth melted, they won’t be able to identify her parents who are still missing in Paradise. When I pray, I don’t know who I am talking to yet. I take the eucharist in my mouth for the first time since changing religions and it is not as holy as I imagined. 4. How easy. How effortless. This breath. I’m here. I’m here. I’m right here. I want to say. I wish things were simple, like taking just one drink and not another, like not burning in a fire, like letting things be good without being holy. I wouldn’t have to pretend to try to resume the bounty of this blossom.
Copyright © 2019 Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. This poem was originally published in Quarterly West. Used with permission of the author.
“EL Sal-va-doh-RE-AN Salva-doh-RAN, Salva-DOH-RÍ-an,”
los mui-muis, we don’t even know what
to call ourselves. How to eat
a pupusa: ¿fork & knife? or
¿open it up & treat it like a taco? but
then, we’re betraying our nationalistic (read:
anti-black, anti-indigenous) impulse
to not mix with anyone else. ¿& what’s
with jalapeños in the curtido,
cipotes? ¿With using spicy “salsa”
instead of salsa de tomate? There’s too many
“restaurantes,” one side of the menu: Mexican,
the other, platos típicos. Typically
I want to order the ensalada, but then
they bring me an actual salad.
I say: cóman miercoles, they
want to charge me extra for harina de arroz. Extra
por los nueagados. There’s
nowhere I’d rather be most
than in Abuelita’s kitchen, watching her
throw bay leaves, tomatoes, garlic, orégano
into the blender, then chicharrón,
helping her sell to everyone that knows
she made the best pupusas
from 1985 to 2004. By then,
Salvadoreños became “Hermanos Lejanos,”
we traded Colón for Washingtón. By then,
Los Hermanos Flores looked for new singers
every time they returned from Los Yunaited
to San Salvador. Stay, no se vayan,
es-tei, no sean dundos, was all
those Salvadoreños could say.
We didn’t listen & came here
only to be called Mexican or Puerto Rican,
depending on the coast. We had to fight
for our better horchata, not
the lazy whiter one with only rice. & when
we didn’t want to fight
we tried to blend, speak more “Mexican,”
more ira, more popote, more
no pos guao. ¡Nó, majes!
¡No se me hagan dundos,
ponganse trucha vos!
When anyone wants to call you: Mexican.
You can just say: Nó,
actually, andáte a la M—
racista cara de nacionalista.
Copyright © 2020 by Javier Zamora. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
He sits, silent,
no longer mistaking the cable
news for company—
and when he talks, he talks of childhood,
remembering some slight or conundrum
as if it is a score to be retailed
and settled after seventy-five years.
Rare, the sudden lucidity
that acknowledges this thing
that has happened
More often, he recounts
his father’s cruelty
or a chance deprived
to him, a Negro
under Jim Crow.
Five minutes ago escapes him
as he chases 1934, unaware
of the present beauty out the window,
the banks of windswept snow—
or his wife, humming in the kitchen,
or the twilit battles in Korea, or me
when he remembers that I am his son.
This condition—with a name that implies
as if it owns him,
which it does.
Copyright © 2024 by Anthony Walton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.