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Eduardo C. Corral
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.
I draw the curtains. The room darkens, but
the mirror still reflects a crescent moon.
I pull the crescent out, a rigid curve
that softens into a length of cloth.
I wrap the cloth around my eyes,
and I'm peering through a crack in a wall
revealing a landscape of snow.
for Gloria Anzaldúa
For the past fifteen years, six days a week, at half past eight,
Jorge has biked into my checkpoint station. He hawks
over his papers, allows me to examine his lunch box,
& then wheels off to his twelve hour shift at the pallet & crate
factory. I'm close to madness. I suspect
he's been smuggling contraband, prescription or illegal.
He sports new toupees under a cap depicting an eagle
devouring a snake. He rides spit-shined bikes that I inspect
by taking them apart, checking inside the hollow
pipes, sometimes slicing open the tires, but so far, nothing.
Jorge always remains calm, & doesn't say a damn thing.
Yesterday, a few days from my retirement, I swallowed
my pride, & swore, if he told me the truth, to keep my lips tight.
The bastard smiled, & causally replied, I smuggle bikes.
INS transcript, Sofia: I kept my mother's advice
to myself. Before crossing the Tijuana/San Diego border,
in a bathroom stall, I sprinkled gelatin powder
on my underwear. We slipped through a fence like mice
& waited in a neighborhood park. Hourly, vans
arrived, & we were packed in, driven up river-wide asphalt
toward families, jobs. Sweat soaked our clothes, salted
our skin. Suddenly we stopped on an isolated road. Bandits
stepped from the trees. The men were forced face down
in a ravine. The women were ordered to undress at gunpoint.
I unbuckled my belt, lowered my jeans. Sweat,
gelatin powder had stained my underwear a reddish brown.
I was one of ten women. Our mouths were taped.
I was spit on. I was slapped. The other women were raped.
Sapo & I wait for the cool of night under mesquite.
Three days in the desert & we're still too close to Mexico,
still so far from God. Sapo's lips so dry he swabs the pus leaking
from the ampollas on his toes across his mouth. I flip a peso.
Heads: we continue. Tails: we walk toward the highway,
thumb our way back to Nogales. The peso disappears into a nest
but the hard-on in Sapo's jeans, slightly curved, points west.
I catch a cascabel & strip off its meat. Sapo mutters, No que no guey.
I bury its forked tongue: for one night our names won't flower
in the devil's throat. We're Indios but no grin-
go will mistake us for Navajos. Above us an owl grins
like Cantinflas. The arms of the saguaros strike down the hours
but the sun refuses to set. Sapo shits behind a cluster of nopales,
& shouts out our favorite joke, No tengo papeles!
-from Slow Lightning
BIO: Eduardo C. Corral earned degrees from Arizona State University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His debut collection of poetry, Slow Lightning (2012), won the Yale Younger Poets Prize, making him the first Latino recipient of the award. Praised for his seamless blending of English and Spanish, tender treatment of history, and careful exploration of sexuality, Corral has received numerous honors and awards, including the Discovery/The Nation Award, the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A CantoMundo Fellow, he has held the Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship in Creative Writing at Colgate University and was the Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University. He lives in New York City.