Discount shaving cream. Tortillas wrapped in black plastic bags. “¡Alto!” Memorize the telephone number of USCIS. Hojas de barquilla pa’ los hongos de tío Armando. “¿Señora, qué declaras?” Un bolsanón de Chetos pufs. Dusty knees from praying. Hands chalked with car grease. Water-resistant shoes. Fake social. A child stirring awake since the Nyquil’s starting to wear off. Vaporub in Spanish translates to “comprehensive health care.” His father’s sombrero that he promised to never take off the wall. “What’s the intention of your visit?” Abuela’s porcelain muñecas atrás que juras a Dios were extras from The Shining. The backyard pila to duck your newborn’s head in, next to the soap camouflaged as sea salt. Before LUSH, there was VO5 champú. “If I search your vehicle, will I find anything?” The first and only good pair of chones without holes that your marido will see si se porta bien. Dreamworks presents: How to Train your Sancho. “Ma’m, please step outside to gaze at the madrugada whose bordertown haze stains your mother’s favorite dress.” Your child’s sudden nosebleed in the camioneta’s backseat to match your red overalls for the primaria’s portrait day. Stale bread to feed los patos, leftovers when my father stops asking for sandwiches and cooks for his own damn self. An analog TV set to plop your chubby brown hijo in front of Sesame Street so in workshop he can (mis)pronounce brillo pad as brillo, since primera comunión pamphlets were the first Spanish que has leído y consecuentamente, tu mamá te instruyó, la doble ‘l’ se pronuncia como ‘y.’ The customs agent switched his nightstick for a number two pencil and asked, “I’m not sure what this word means here. Does anyone know?” A cutting board to butcher my tongue and hope bleeding is a universal language. A bilingual dictionary—kept abreast like the Khan family’s pocket constitution—to search the English word for the Aztec adage: “It takes 3 seconds to google my shit.” A book of poems to hand my father, the edges smeared in molcajete and refried beans. Webster traces the origins of footnotes as: “When Zapata’s messenger used to carry ejército orders in his huaraches, the thousands of kilometers mummified his feet.” My tears as apá strains his chords to read my hymns for him; so the ink of my manuscript and his cook orders can smudge together. Next year, I will wear his baby blue dress shirt and tattered slacks to tell my MFA thesis committee: “It’ll be bilingual. To ask me to write in English is to amputate my arms and still expect me to touch the keyboard.” A voice recorder so I can replay his voice in the hollow walls of my Newark apartment until I finish singing the Barrio Beatitudes. His question: “¿Hijo, cuándo vas a regresar?”
Antonio Lopez is a poet.