Gustavo Barahona-Lopez

Home, a Becoming

I remind myself that my legs are countries. The way
Borders are the hemlines of worn jeans.

How do you say goodbye to backyard pomegranates?
They demand remittances like body parts.

Lips and arms and cheeks to be kissed by monarch
Butterflies. I rip off the barbed wire across my spine,

Protection for the casa triste that lives on my temple.
How do you greet America? Like a lost lover

Torn from you by time or lust or hate?
Like a child not at peace with self?

I become the orchard and the railroad. I raise
The children, bury the dead. I make myself

A home. I build connection like water creates
Caverns, writing names on stone walls.

To Dream is to Mourn

The walls of the barn rot hungrily
Butcher hooks decorate
My body like lights
On a Christmas tree
Shallow light bounces off
My father’s crutches
He seizes in primordial pain
Seeing me he lifts
Himself to his feet
Hugs a support beam
My father knows he will die
He falls to the ground
Regrets and drunken tears
Spinal cord shatters
Flames birth flames
Scorch the darkness
I offer my broken body
My father is incandescent

A worn park bench sits
Cradling my father
And I on the shoreline
We look across emerald waves
Toward a man-made fiefdom
A thick layer of white feces claims
The island for the birds
Moldy bread brings the flock
Like a gentle poison
Frenzy ensues decisively,
My father snatches
A pigeon in rough hands
Pulls a pocket knife

I notice fishing line
Snaked around each crease
Of the pigeon’s feet
Two completed amputations
Three in progress
I search the ground for pigeon toes
My father cuts and untangles
He shows me groves
Not unlike those that cover
His body
He lets the pigeon fly
My father staggers on his crutches

I go lucid

All my questions
Flock into my mind
I am not vessel
Enough to contain them
I open my mouth
Feathers, beaks, and claws gurgle
In my throat
I shut my mouth
My father
Does not know
He is dead.

Atop a writhing sea a black
Granite base balances
There, escalators point to nowhere
Run perpendicular

My father waits in his wheelchair
I sail to him on a raft
Around my neck is a chain,
An anchor for my vessel

Holographic doors open
I push my father into the sea
He rematerializes behind me
Won’t let me touch him

He will not let me hold.

Gustavo Barahona-Lopez is a poet and educator from the San Francisco Bay Area. In his writing, Barahona-López draws from his experience growing up in a Mexican immigrant household. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Rattle’s Poets Respond, PALABRITAS, Cutthroat journal, Puerto del Sol, The Acentos Review, among other publications. When Barahona-López is not teaching you can find him re-discovering the world with his son.

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