B&W circle


Esteban Rodríguez

Because secrets age into gossip
              my mother tells me that weeks ago
when they got home my cousin went
              to the bathroom and in the tub
scrubbed himself with bleach soap tried
              to clean and wipe off this skin
because the darkness he claimed was ugly
              wrong was so different from
the white people he saw in Harlingen
              My mother laughs says how ridículo
this sounds but she too must have thought
              once before what I’m thinking now
that my skin is lighter than hers that I
              on certain days can pass for white
or at least as someone undefined a shade
              that doesn’t assume I speak my mother’s
tongue but that paints me as something
              between exotic and other a boy who may
or may not look at himself in the mirror run
              his hand along his neck chest
and wonder as he digs his nails in what flesh
              he can uncover what body
he’s long oppressed

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And with no insurance no savings
              than what remained from my father’s
paychecks she’d return to her home country
              take me with her explain the longer
you neglect something the more it becomes useless
              And though I was unsure why she described
her teeth like this or why when we arrived
              at the dentist the lobby smelled
like cotton candy I remember Progreso the city
              before Mexico the way it rose into view
like a lost civilization buildings graffitied weathered
              cars parked on the side of the road sunburnt
and abandoned And there were the stands before
              the bridge the one that sold pottery
the one that sold piñatas the one that your mother
              would stop at study the maze of random
objects the car parts jewelry the necklaces
              you wanted to touch thinking the shells
were really bones and that the woman who owned
              the stand had found them buried in this stretch
of earth wanted to show if just to herself that the dead
              could be resurrected that things
could go on living if we believed they could

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Nuevo Progreso

No bridge this time No sun signing its spite
              on our faces necks No walking like fugitives
watching the seated and serape-wrapped women beg
              or saying no to the boys selling candy chiclets
or ignoring as best we can the old legless men in wheelchairs
              shaking their cups on the corner mumbling
what I think are prayers but are probably visions
              prophesies of what this earth will soon become
if it can become something more than the hum and honks
              of idle cars than vendors outside their shops shouting
like they have secrets to auction off No this time we sit
              in the van drive from the bridge into town
pretend the AC works pretend that we’re here because
              we have a choice that my mother has insurance
doesn’t need to see a doctor that the bed rest Sprite
              and prayers worked and that the expired pills
she took as a last resort made the coughing go away
              Yes this is just assurance a trip to put her mind
at ease and to remind herself no matter how much
              it isn’t true that because she no longer lives here
she can manage how her body heals

Esteban Rodríguez is the author of Dusk & Dust (Hub City Press 2019), (Dis)placement (Skull + Wind Press 2020), and the micro-chapbook Soledad(2019). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. He is the Interviews Editor at the EcoTheo Review and is a regular reviews contributor at PANK and Heavy Feather Review. He lives with his family and teaches in Austin, Texas.