It was the mask I wanted morethan fame, the tight turquoise leathertied with red shoestring around my nape,the thought of being someone elsewithout being anchored to a face,so as not to face the features in the facethat were slowly changing, growingstranger by the year. And there wasthe white complexion so different fromthe darker shades of skin around me,and the pimples unwilling to renouncetheir loyalty, leaving me to reinventthe candy-red bumps as chickenpox instead.Even if I didn't know the one-hit wonderof this disease, once I saw those Mexicanmen fighting on TV, I couldn't care lessif anyone else believed it, if I, like them,was putting up a front because a frontwas the surest thing to guise myself in,to carry my confidence further thantheir choreographed jumps, than their lunges,plunges, angelic dives, than the tiptoerope-walking as they back-flipped fartherinto the ring, or as their sweaty bodiesbegan to sync with the crowd's shockand awe, feed off their praise and screams.And there I was, bouncing off my bed,mumbling Spanish I could barely speak,and hardly able to drop-kick, eye-poke,cross chop, pile drive, head-butt, body slam,brain-bust, somersault, shoulder claw,slingshot or sleeper hold into my roleas rudo, the dirty-playing villain desperateto pin the appearance I no longer wanted,to wait for the count and finish offwith a headlock so I wouldn't have to take offmy mask, reveal to myself who I knewI really was.
Copyright © 2019 by Esteban Rodríguez
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Esteban Rodríguez is the author of the poetry collections Dusk & Dust, Crash Course, In Bloom, (Dis)placement, and The Valley. His work has appeared in Boulevard, Shenandoah, The Rumpus, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. He is the Interviews Editor for the EcoTheo Review, an Assistant Poetry Editor for AGNI, and a regular reviews contributor for [PANK] and Heavy Feather Review. He lives with his family in Austin, Texas.
“In Dust & Dusk by Esteban Rodriguez, the ordinary and the astounding enrich and enlarge each other. These poems shimmer with surprising phrasing and dazzling figurative language. We encounter ‘pews of dirt’ and the month of June becomes a ‘fugitive outrunning spring’s custody.’ There’s emotional range, too. Sorrow and wonder, and all their synonyms, darken and illuminate the poems. Rodriguez is a gifted poet who has written an impressive and memorable book.”
—Eduardo Corral, author of Slow Lightning
“A vivid and careful collection about growing up on the US-Mexico border, ‘straddled on the valley of two geographies,’ Esteban Rodriguez’s Dusk & Dust inhabits its own borderlands, the complicated space between ode and elegy.”
—Carrie Fountain, author of Instant Winner