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Gustavo Hernandez​



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 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.

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