A TOAST TO THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH
The waitress tending our party of three dips her tanned
torso over the table as she grabs the menus from us men. Well,
men minus one, since it appears that I’m the only guy
not looking. Not looking at women anyway. The gold
crucifix on her necklace rubs against my brother’s straw
as she withdraws and Jesus ascends again to the heaven
of her breasts. The Motorboat is what I order, described
as something between a porter and a stout—now that’s
my kind of cross. My father says there’s no such thing as sin
that’s large and sin that’s small. Drinking too much, he says,
is the sin, not the drinking, as he peers through our waitress’
knapsack crop-top. There’s no such thing as small or large
sizes here, the waitress says, man size is large, girl is small.
Do you really want to order the girl size? Fine, I want the girl
size. My brother laughs and my father looks away. It’s stupid,
my brother says. But are you really telling me her body
did nothing for you? My father looks at me like God
looking for the smallest redemption in Gomorrah, looking
for any reason in Sodom not to raze it. There is no reason
for how things are sometimes—better to accept. My father
didn’t raise me to be a girly man, a fact that might bother him,
except for the other fact: he didn’t raise me. It bothers him.
Some people are beyond saving. Me, I tell my brother, as I look
over his shoulder at the bearded roughneck going gaga
for our waitress as he sips from his bottle, there is nothing
straight about me, except maybe my hair, and even that
has gotten kinky with age. I drink beer because I’m thirsty
when I eat pretzels. I don’t have a prayer when I say amen.
Go ahead and call me what I am,
call me: faggot, homo, joto, pinche puto.
Unhusk me if you must, call me
acquired, call me dirty, call me corn smut.
Though it looks like a prostate rolled in soot, huitlacoche
at the farmer’s market sells as Mexican Truffle.
Yet farmers in your heartland treat it like a sickness.
And because disease can decimate a monoculture,
they are afraid. That’s why they bundle and they burn it,
a literal faggot. I said it and I’ll say it.
Call me what I am, and if you can’t pronounce
my surname, I’m supposed to say don’t sweat it.
Don’t sweat it, because even huitlacoche is a corruption
of the Nahuatl cuitlacochin, which
is a corruption of cuitlacochi. Tongues
make mistakes, and mistakes
make languages. Like I was saying, for a long time
I couldn’t pronounce them either, the things I like.
As with any delicacy, it’s best
to start slow. Sound it out. Huit—
la—co—che, an—u—lin—gus, mas—
tur—ba—tion. When you master
saying them out loud, it’s time to rub any two
syllables together: cock, suck; pussy, fuck; ass, lick.
Relax. They are only words. They are the only words
you need to insult someone
or to have sex with them
no matter what country you find yourself in.
Words have their luggage like immigrants
have their customs. Huitlacoche, mariposa, maricón.
Now that I have put it in my mouth,
I am proud to be a faggot.
But it sounds so hateful when you say it,
a coworker really said this to me, I said
because that’s the way I always heard it.
How do you speak such good English?
Smile—say nothing—don’t sweat it—he aimed it as a compliment.
Faggot, wetback, huitlacoche, all my life I’ve heard it.
Learning English, it hurted is what I would say
when I wanted to say it hurt. Not anymore. I know
all about tense agreement, just tell me where and when to conjugate
and I will. Shut your mouth—when I’m talking
spores come out in droves like mosquitos
birthed for blood—or I’ll give you what I got.
Huitlacoche in America is know as ‘corn smut,’ where it is considered a disease. It can be very dangerous to farmers because the American agricultural system depends on genetic clones. One disease could threaten a whole supply, whereas in native Mexican cultures, huitlacoche does not pose a danger to crops because genetic diversity is encouraged. Huitlacoche was also a diet staple in pre-Columbian cultures because the fungus provided an essential protein that corn alone could not make.
The Darkest Lashes by Benjamin Garcia
A wrought iron fence in her
gaze. She jumps it to save
ten minutes walking home
after work. I slip through the bars.
If you think she is a doe, don’t
mistake her for a doe. Don’t
forget, that is the summer
she would teach you to be the mother
of the baby chicks whose mother
we ate—grinding hard, raw rice
with our teeth, letting the young peck
from the tips of our own tongues.
She is tired from sacking potatoes.
School is out, I couldn’t be more
than six years old, tired of walking.
“Carry me,” I say. Her arm belts my waist,
pressed against her, hip to hip. She says,
“Así, como un costal de papas.”
The train-yard’s fence shrinks behind us
to the size of a man’s comb. I am ashamed
of eating potatoes and my mother,
an ordinary laborer. I didn’t know
what hunger was then. Memory is quick to
whip me for what I did and didn’t do.
-from THROWN IN THE THROAT (Milkweed, 2022, Finalist for the 2022 Kate Tufts Discovery Award), selected by Fall 2022 Guest Editor, Michael Walsh
Benjamin Garcia’s first collection, THROWN IN THE THROAT, won the National Poetry Series and the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize, in addition to being a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He works as a sexual health and harm reduction educator in New York’s Finger Lakes region, where he received the Jill Gonzalez Health Educator Award recognizing contributions to HIV treatment and prevention. A CantoMundo and Lambda Literary fellow, he serves as core faculty at Alma College’s low-residency MFA program. His poems and essays have recently appeared or are forthcoming in: AGNI, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, and New England Review. His video poem “Ode to the Peacok” is available for viewing at the Broad Museum’s website as part of El Poder de la Poesia: Latinx Voices in Response to HIV/AIDS.