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Reyes Ramirez




file in with fluorescent sneakers

chirping across a blue-grey chess

board. adults are all at work.

i chaperone. lunch

ladies load tired pennies

into cylinders. a man

mops a corner. gym teacher

queues a clean playlist.

no child must do anything

except what music inspires.

mira, this barely lit dance

is a nation of motion. i lean

against a wall & be its facilitator

a scheduled bell rings. the children recognize

one song, then another. those who know how

form a mass & sway to the beat of a 90s hit.

more children join in this stewing of joints

& sound knowing their dances like the milly rock,

the juju, running man. even ones before

their birth like the macarena, wobble, cha-cha slide.

each child becomes another. these must be inherited

languages since movement has been our truth

i witness a song’s lyrics progress until words

everyone has memorized plays. children sing

in one mind from many voices. i need not

be a member of this congregation to be saved by it.

the next bell rings. the children have grown

with ache & understand things end prematurely.

a song, a dance, this nation. the adults continue

their labors. i file children back into a line.

lunch ladies remove their hairnets.

that man mops that corner. gym

teacher is just a gym teacher. we go

back to class & learn math or

science or a history. in the face

of what needs change in this

country, i’m still a





              is surveillance-gray footage of a little brother & big sister

              smushed cheek to cheek, the pixels around their dimples

              grainy as gravel, fingers v-signed, proof of any relation in

              their bestowed mother’s lips that would be belly-pink like

              the innards of conches had the technology been accessible

              to colorize this 8.5x11’’ monument to an afternoon whim

              of wandering among facades, sipping from a shared cup

              of strawberry soda & never affording any shoes or books.

              but yes, $4.95 to make timeless timelessness, just focus

              eyes camera-ward, follow the hollow underside of a

              ziggurat cascading into a peephole silvering with

              potential. hold that breath, invoke a smile,

              be still a moment, be a people in an x-large Looney Toons

              shirt or black tank top & bleached jeans, tattooed

              eyeliner, blonde highlighted hair, mauve mouthed &

              dark necked, as though later the big sister will drive a

              poppy red sedan that clunks up concrete freeways, radio

              singing nuhnah nuhnah & the little brother will too. a

              giggle. a sigh. a bulb ignites. an eye shuts. oxygen

              becomes carbon dioxide again. what could not be done

              in color can be expressed by adding stickers (a cartoon

              heart, birds chewing ribbon, clouds, a rainbow) framing

              two faces conjoined by shadow. neither sibling blinked,

              so there’s four pupils staring at what must be a version

              of themselves in some other time in some other place

              from a bent document noting a tenderness in the blood.




                     can the radio play hip hop,

                     then cumbia,             classic

                     rock, then pop oblea sweet?

                                                                              there’s          conversations

                                                                              about a war, then prayer,

                                                                              swearing, someone asking

                                                                              why love can hurt so much.

                     is it cuz

                     the distance

                     between wanting someone

                     & them wanting you back

                     is so vast,              so great?

                                                                              i think it’s this gulf of yearning,

                                                                              this          tectonic plate of want,

                                                                              reminding us      not everything

                                                                              in short lives can be fulfilled, yes.

                     & starting anew

                     takes more life?

                                                                              oh for sure.                   it’s static

                                                                              interrupted by someone speaking

                                                                              in another language. then silence.

                                                                              look outside          the car window.

                               the freeway wall

                     forms a frame bottom

                     to an infinite painting.                 

                     the sky’s a bed of lavender

                     rusted by dying sunshine.

                                                                              aren’t those clouds up there

                                                                              actually loose feathers

                                                                              to a big bird          who takes

                                                                              people away with too many


                           just a graveyard

                              of creamsicles.

                     you’re supposed to

                         hold your breath.

                                                                              i’m looking equally

                                                                              at the other drivers.

                                                                              we all face forward.

                     is every windshield

                     a pair of glasses into

                     a soul’s      polyester

                     interior littered with

                            receipts & cups?

                                                                              every driver’s a city

                                                                              without ordinances

                                                                              for what’s needed.


                                                                              car’s its own riddle.

                                                                              like this grey sedan.

                     look! the bumper has

                     stickers of a team's

                     flag      a radio station

                     that doesn’t exist    or

                     maybe      bible verse?

                     & one that says if you

                                    can read this, suck my

                                                                              yes! the bumper is truly

                                                                              the windowsill

                                                                                                        to the soul.

                                                                              the trunk

                                                                                                   is the soul itself.

                     now look! in the rear

                     windshield, a kid plays

                     with die-cast toy cars

                     on the back rest.

                                                                              what a film he composes!

                                                                              one sleek car races another.

                                                                              a fire truck crashes

                                                                                                into a spaceship.

                     there's even a convertible

                     zig zagging between    the

                     headrests & seatbelt

                              straps.       his mouth

                              performs explosions.

                     will i ever be so lucky?

                                                                              i don’t know. maybe

                                                                              the radio sings through

                                                                              old men. maybe

                                                                              the radio speaks in

                                                                              spanish          about

                                                                              moratoriums. maybe

                                                                              radio’s broken.

                     still, he’s created this

                     universe of joy within a

                     city     of waiting within

                     a state of             waiting

                                                                              within a nation of violence

                                                                              within a continent of theft

                                                                              within this last world. how

                                                                              can we not be so lucky? tell

                                                                              me              what’s right out

                                                                                                     that window?

                     an atmosphere blotted like

                     fingerprints on a cake. some

                     painting                  continues.

                     to birds              we’re rows of

                     smelly cans & broken glass.

                                                                                         that’s good. here’s the exit.

                                                                              this stream        of consciousness

                                                                              tributaries. we’re breaking away

                                                                              from this mind.

                     were we floating in a river of

                     concrete, growling engines,

                     & blood?             

                                         first it’s hot then

                                         it’s too cold. booty

                                         & back so stiff, i

                                         want to be 


                                                                              well, the world persists

                                                                                      despite our desires.

                                                                              we’re all sitting            &

                                                                              trying to escape our

                                                                              dead-lined bodies.

                     how do we achieve what’s

                     next in our destinies?

                                                                              we enter another sleep. we

                                                                              won’t remember this dream

                                                                                                   when we awake.

-from El Rey of Gold Teeth (forthcoming October 2023, Hub City Press), selected by Spring 2023 Guest Editor, Gerard Robledo

Reyes Ramirez (he/him) is a Houstonian, writer, educator, curator, and organizer of Mexican and Salvadoran descent. He authored the short story collection The Book of Wanderers (2022), a 2023 Young Lions Fiction Award Finalist, from University of Arizona Press’ Camino del Sol series and the poetry collection El Rey of Gold Teeth (2023) from Hub City Press. His latest curatorial project, The Houston Artist Speaks Through Grids, explores the use of grids in contemporary Houston art, literature, history, and politics. Reyes has been honored as a 2020 CantoMundo Fellow, 2021 Interchange Artist Grant Fellow, 2022 Crosstown Arts Writer in Residence, 2023 Dobie Paisano Fellow, and awarded grants from the Houston Arts Alliance, Poets & Writers, and The Warhol Foundation’s Idea Fund.

Reyes won the 2019 YES Contemporary Art Writer’s Grant, 2017 Blue Mesa Review Nonfiction Contest, 2014 riverSedge Poetry Prize and has poems, stories, essays, and reviews in: Indiana Review, Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology, Infrarrealista Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, december magazine, Arteinformado, Texas Review, Houston Noir, Gulf Coast Journal, The Acentos Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere.

Reyes has also been a finalist for several honors, contests & prizes, including: Hub City Press’ 2021 New Southern Voices Poetry Book Prize; 2021-2023 Houston Poet Laureate; 2021 Jesse H. Jones Dobie Paisano Fellowship; Florida Review’s 2021 Jeanne Leiby Chapbook Award; Cosmonauts Avenue's 2018 fiction prize; december magazine's 2018 poetry prize; Indiana Review’s 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest; Texas Review Press’, Iron Horse Literary Review's and Gold Line Press' poetry chapbook competitions; Orison Books’ 2019 Prize in Fiction; and PANK’s Fiction Book Contest.


His other distinctions include: an Honorable Mention for Gulf Coast Journal’s 2022 Poetry Prize, Texas Observer’s 2019 Short Story Contest; Santa Fe Writer’s Project’s 2019 Book Award Long List; and Semifinalist for the 2021 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, Tupelo Press’ 2021 Berkshire Prize, Wisconsin Poetry Series' 2021 Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes, YesYes Books’ 2019 Fiction Open Reading Period and the 2020 OSU Press/The Journal Wheeler Prize for Poetry.

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