At daylight, he surrendered to the gutters’ 
thick cirrhosis, his trajectory 

half awake, half anvil from the glass to the killing floor
I was raised in, each thin thread tethered 

from the root of a nicotined tooth 
to the rusted bars of the slammer.  I couldn't tell you why 

Felix the Cat came to mind, totally inebriated, 
two Xs, bubbles popping, his gait 

a saint carried in a procession—Cherry Pink 
& Apple Blossom White, 1955—

except that my grandfather died 
with a bottle in his pocket, his Robert Mitchum

chin & pompadour distilled
from a banana republic in fire, a slow, steady 

drinker, perfect fulfillment to drown out 
his manhood. There's a certain kind of fix 

that falters precariously, 
a benediction when they allege 

one more drunk for the hood. He didn't matter 
to the dispenser nor the riffraff crowd. 

Nothing about him capsized, except his compound 
of cologne & corrosion.  All those rotguts. 

All those bums. They didn't matter 
to the nation, though they were the nation.

More by William Archila

Bury This Pig

Behind the cornfield, we scaled the mountainside
            looking for a foothold among the crags,

rooting out weeds, trampling on trash,
            the trek as if it were a holy crusade:

bodies armored, mounted on horses,
            banners fluttering in the air.

Then one morning, we stumbled upon the thing,
            dead, cramped in a ditch, covered in ants,

trotters grimy, a purple snout of flies
            and not a dollop of blood,

but a thick piece of hide, cradling
            about fifty pounds of hog.

Someone said, "Kush! Kush!"
            as if to awaken the thing.

I thought about the carcass, blood-slick,
            staggering into the room,

grumbling and drowning as if deep in the mud,
            eyes buckled in fear,

bones breaking down to the ground, open
            to the chop and tear of human hands:

pork and lard, forefeet, fatback cut into slabs,
            an organ fattened and butchered.

It continued for weeks, a few of us
            meeting in the afternoons

just to look at the steaming belly, maggots
            stealing the gray of the brain,

each time, one more barefoot boy
            probing the eye socket with a stick.

Some of us came back armed
            with picks and bars, shovels dusty in our hands,

 until the ground groaned with war.
            The sky fell and cracked the earth.

 How was I to know
            they would be hooked, hacked,

snouts smashed on the wall,
            their bodies corkscrews on the floor?

 How was I to know
            I would bury this pig, rock after rock?


Saturn’s Country

S for salt, for 
spoiling crops. S 
for worse or
no choice other 
than exodus or 
a territorial discourse.
S for stretched out
in a morgue, plastic 
bags like garbage 
you discard.  S 
for stinking hog, 
onions, frenetic 
maggots laying 
their baggage. S 
for still you're flesh, 
meat butchered, bootlegged
in the marketplace. S 
some might say
you're gas sloshed 
from a tank. Others 
that first blue 
God doused 
on a tarp, hated it
and left it to rot, or 
you’re that sound 
he loved so much, 
smaller than a 
cricket song.
S for scalp, for the soiled 
search of your god. S 
for complete 
utter darkness. S 
for success 
out of the carcass.
S for sloth, for 
sickle, for a solar system
beyond sable
incarceration. S 
for ES which is S
which is señor of a 
thousand choruses. 
S for savior, for
scavengers and sculptors
you throw out 
of the temple. S 
for so much white- 
noise pressure
even the cardinal 
won't canonize you.
No, not that bird, not 
that pontiff, nor your 
arsenal. S for still 
to this day in your
belly, in the dive 
of your mouth.

El Mozote

The photograph leads you to coarse lines 
crooked along weathered grains 
of a wooden tablet, probably painted

by a carpenter or wood cutter; 
loops around the bowl whitewashed –
the color of clarity. Anacleta, 
 
Amílcar, Macario. Characters branded 
for a monument of wood & rock.
The morning the deer roamed 
 
the thick of the woods, panels 
of the sky capsized; the stare innocent, 
the cut unclean. The bar, the stem, 
 
the height. Cayetano, Candelaria, 
Concepcion built like a house. 
The sacristy burned 

the way wood changes to fire. 
Out of rubble fire. Femurs 
afire. Like Milton's Late Massacre
 
they’re outdated to the jury, robbed 
of their own eyes, yet everything 
is archived in the clouds. Doroteo, 
 
Filomena, Facundo. Each name 
a chamber, a chapel, fragment of a line
like an off-rhyme or a shotgun blast. 

The only movement is the movement 
of the monument. The contour, 
the black metal. You turn the page

and the family rises. No arch, no thistle, 
the town remained denuded of its residents,
many years the very picture lost in the hills. 
 
Stunning, the number of shoes, 
tricycles mangled. The absence 
of the physical grace, the cadence 
 
of a well-tuned body. The bending 
& brushing. Insects, vessel-like roots 
reaching for foliage; Zoila, Clicerio, 
 
Olayo. Lines of a child. A minefield.

Related Poems

Cumbia de Salvación

Cumbia sabrosa cumbia, para ti yo bailo hasta el amanecer

Legs wrap around each other
es la culpa del verso,
on the floor, wood lodges
in the skin open at our heels.

Caderas to the right, to the left
hips swing swaying to el acordeón
hitting notes to the side.

What it is that en realidad
manda en mi país, no es,
el ritmo sabrosón del Salvador.
Es el peso, el dólar, el colón.
Paper currency o cualquier tipo
de intercambio.

Pedacitos of broken bone
splinter in our teeth. Spitting them out,
we count steps, sweep soreness
from the joints—wish I could say
oh, the dancing. Tired arms
scour the greed from resistant corners.

Watch my curves cut through the cadence
of my babosada spree at el 99.
I request all parts of the animal,
wrap red juice of tripa in new dish towels.
Are you watching? As I make deals
that keep me scrubbing to meet
the minimum on the statement.

Try to stack under my pillow
so when I visit I can dance
under neon duty free sign,
binge on brand names
sport a striped American feel.

Pa pa ra pa cu cu cumbia
Yes girl, it’s the remix,
not the record scratched
or skipping. Repetition
but of choreography, interpreting
where desire and wallet part ways.
Sellers nodding heads, unfolding welcome
mats—sold, for cheap.

Es dinero el que manda en mi país
Es el ritmo sabrosón del Salvador

Para allá para acá ay para qué,
did you hear about la fulanita,
out of work, never goes dancing
¿Y eso ? es que she danced
right into the store, slipped and fell
on her debt.

Cumbia de mis amores