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Two Poems


In Colorado My Father Scoured and Stacked Dishes

in a Tex-Mex restaurant. His co-workers,
unable to utter his name, renamed him Jalapeño.

If I ask for a goldfish, he spits a glob of phlegm
into a jar of water. The silver letters

on his black belt spell Sangrón. Once, borracho,
at dinner, he said: Jesus wasn't a snowman.

Arriba Durango. Arriba Orizaba. Packed
into a car trunk, he was smuggled into the States.

Frijolero. Greaser. In Tucson he branded
cattle. He slept in a stable. The horse blankets

oddly fragrant: wood smoke, lilac. He's an illegal.
I'm an Illegal-American. Once, in a grove

of saguaro, at dusk, I slept next to him. I woke
with his thumb in my mouth. ¿No qué no

tronabas pistolita? He learned English
by listening to the radio. The first four words

he memorized: In God We Trust. The fifth:
Percolate. Again and again I borrow his clothes.

He calls me Scarecrow. In Oregon he picked apples.
Braeburn. Jonagold. Cameo. Nightly,

to entertain his cuates, around a campfire,
he strummed a guitarra, sang corridos. Arriba

Durango. Arriba Orizaba. Packed into
a car trunk, he was smuggled into the States.

Greaser. Beaner. Once, borracho, at breakfast,
he said: The heart can only be broken

once, like a window. ¡No mames! His favorite
belt buckle: an águila perched on a nopal.

If he laughs out loud, his hands tremble.
Bugs Bunny wants to deport him. César Chávez

wants to deport him. When I walk through
the desert, I wear his shirt. The gaze of the moon

stitches the buttons of his shirt to my skin.
The snake hisses. The snake is torn.

Self-Portrait with Tumbling and Lasso

I'm drumroll and voyeur.
   I'm watermark
and fable. I'm weaving
   the snarls
of a wolf through my hair
   like ribbon. At my feet,
chisels

   and jigsaws. I'm
performing
   an autopsy on my shadow.
My rib cage a wall.
   My heart
a crack in a wall,
   a foothold. I'm tumbling

upward:
   a French acrobat. I'm judder
and effigy.
   I'm pompadour
and splendid. I'm spinning
   on a spit, split
in half.

   An apple
in my mouth. I know
   what Eve
didn't know: a serpent
   is a fruit eaten to the core. I'm
a massacre
   of the dreamers,

a terra cotta soldier
   waiting for
his emperor's return.
   When I bow,
a black fish leaps
   from the small of my back.
I catch it.

   I tear it apart. I fix
the scales
   to my lips.
Every word I utter
   is opalescent. I'm skinned
and Orphic.
   I'm scarlet

and threshold. At my touch,
   a piano
melts like a slab
   of black ice. I'm
steam rising,
   dissipating. I'm a ghost undressing.
I'm a cowboy

   riding bareback.
My soul is
   whirling
above my head like a lasso.
   My right hand a pistol.
My left
   automatic. I'm knocking

on every door.
   I'm coming on strong,
like a missionary.
   I'm kicking back
my legs, like a mule. I'm kicking up
   my legs, like
a showgirl.


Eduardo C. Corral

Slow Lightning
Yale University Press


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