WINTER CUMBIA WITH BROTHER AND SISTER
for Elias and Adanari
Drinking in different cities, all three of us
end up in restaurants where the air is synthesized
lavender and a steady bass line anchoring a sedge
of crane calls mimicked by a keyboard.
With our red eyes perched
on neon, elbows on yellow plastic tabletops,
we watch the night break apart in drafts
and coats through automatic doors. Weeks
have passed since we last saw each other,
and maybe this soft splintering is what comes
after grief allows us some form
of breath. But out here on my own, I
can still see the ways in which we try
to remind and connect ourselves with memory.
Tonight it’s by sharing the names of the songs
playing on the too-loud speakers bolted to the white
tile of these places, the times an accordion
unexpectedly completes a phrase and calls out
like a father in a sundown of reeds.
We will have to form him
for her—his arms some of us
will fill with sunflowers
or weigh down with steel,
brick and oak branches.
We may fill in what we don’t
remember with anise
or canyon prince, his face
half-shaded under crepe
myrtle in California,
huisache or pine in Jalisco.
We will have to figure out
how much of our grief we let
in. Or when. Some of us,
for the first time, will have to
learn to be the storyteller.
We may fall into his voice
or have to rely on his jokes.
Leave things for another time.
Apologize for not having
inherited everything, not even
the full richness of his skin.
In Santa Barbara, the shorts with a seven-inch inseam,
maybe shorter, and this is my dad, who wore slacks
to the beach as long as I knew him. Let me show you
I come from a long line of mustaches: look at the other
Juan, my mom’s brother, with his hand over
a bag of fries, the American dream. Sand-dried. They are
younger than I am now, but I can’t tell by how much. Ask.
Was this before the stints in Chicago and Texas. Ask.
What kind of work builds those chests and arms.
This is how time is told for them. Temporal blocks of labor.
No one needs to say the overexposed Californian promise of
eternity was never for them. These photos with the beach
towels and the buildings behind the sand border were always
rest breaks, breaks from other landscapes, resting backs.
-from Form His Arms (Ghost City Press, 2020) selected by Fall 2020 PoemoftheWeek.com Guest Editor Angela Narcisco Torres.
Gustavo Hernandez is the author of the micro-chapbook Form His Arms (Ghost City Press). His full-length poetry collection, Flower Grand First, is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press in March 2021. His work has previously been published in Reed, Acentos Review, Sonora Review and other publications. He was born in Jalisco, Mexico and was raised in Santa Ana, California.