ELEMENTS OF LATINO LITERATURE by Antonio Lopez

Soliloquy: When right at the stoplight, your favorite Los Temerarios song is on and you

turn up the troca’s naked volume dial,

crooning to the anciana in a turquoise Thunderbird,

the monologues in every 80s Mexican song

“Como ha cambiado mi vida.

Desde que tú no estás.”

She pulls her roof back on y le gritas

“¡Wa- Wait! ¡Pero it’s a classic!

 

Onomatopoeia: When abuelito Güicho

hoisted nieta Mariana in the air, weighing at 10 kilos.

He bares his grizzly dentures—half pa’ asustarla, half por su peso.

Sunk in the green sofá, he squeezes her polka-doted lonjas

Until she summons a smile, y le contesta,

“Ahhh.”

 

Tragi-comedy: Watching Groundhog Day,

an allegory white people can stomach,

where for us, days seem to repeat;

to see snapshots of Watts and Ferguson,

and not know which year is which.

 

Still life: A genre depicting mostly inanimate subjects frontin’ mobility,

typically commonplace hoodrats which may be either natural

(bumwine winos, coke fiends)

or man-made (redlining, mass incarceration).

With origins in white flight, famous works include

:“Rogelio closing in on a crush,”

“Alberto selling drugs on the side,”

“Jessica playing unofficial interpreter for her single mother

as she picks up their monthly WIC stamps,”

“Mrs. Hall standing courtside

to the third playground fight of the week,

watching her fellow children of the sun

beat the living shit

out of each other.”

 

Prestige: To bury me on the 3rd subbasement of the New York Met,

6 exhibitions away from the Mesoamerican gold

where the Columbian custodial lady

will spray Windex and sigh,

“Mira todo el oro que nos robaron.”

 

Solidarity: Laying down next to me,

the fading grimace of a sarcaphogus

cursing the cardigan-clad surveyors,

three weeks into a wheatgrass diet.

 

Tokenism: The alternative ending to Apocalypto, where the Aztec body

(of work) came tumbling down from the Tenochtitlán templo

further, further until un dia gana el honor

to hang in art galleries, thousands of supplications

away where bespectacled, MOMA-bound gizzards

flock on the floorboard acrage, flare their divine-right hocicos

to declare,

“Yes, that’s

worth me looking at,”

gargling wine and cheese,

over this poem’s altar.

 

Orgullo: When my father admits to me,

as he passes the bowl of cebolla picada for my mole de olla,

that he teared up when mamá played the first three minutes of my

poetry reading “en su iPhone’s e-speaker,” and the words, “lo que caiga”

boomed from a privately-endowed lecture hall, and into the

stains of his white cotton shirt

so that at work, when he marched up the hotel’s

carpeted halls,

he heard his chest sing

un himno indocumentado.


Antonio Lopez is a poet.

LAS CHÁCHARAS THEY CARRIED by Antonio Lopez

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.