after Ada Limón
if my lineage is forced into a white van in the middle
of their lives—if every family photo album i own is seized
by customs—if my abuelo doesn’t have a face when i speak
of him in this foreign language—if we call a thing
what it is not until it is—if history becomes a redacted text
book given to children—if the future is a shelf
of bricks—if i look on the nation & my voice becomes
a block of salt—if i have sunken so far
that not even harp strings can reach me & you are patient
as i climb back out—if i tell you this may be me
at my best & you do not leave—if we vanish into light
clinging to one another & still think ourselves lucky—
i will climb onto the moon, look back on the ravaged
world, reach my hand out to you, & say come with me. please.
TRIPTYCH FOR EARTH ON THE EVE OF THE FLOOD
the children are born to a world that is as hot
as it has ever been & having never seen
it any other way, believe it has always been
so. they cannot imagine a sky without gaping
punctures. they stand to inherit our empire
of smoke. its busted oil pipes spoiling
water, ransacking the bodies it passes through.
they familiarize themselves with an animal
through its bones. an animal whose fur
we as children had placed our small hands on.
we cannot show them the world
that exists in our memories, so we show
them photographs. in their palms: glaciers,
forests, & mountains vanish from film.
[an erasure of Barack Obama’s speech at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris]
the sea is faster
than our efforts submerged
more floods seeking
that future is one fragile
is here, we place our
skiffs pass between towering steel buildings jutting
from the ocean. skyscraper’s windows reflect
the sun. on some roofs, gardens. sea life
finds a new home in a library, a subway cart, a brick
building. in the desert, the opulent palaces
are abandoned to reptiles & even they do not emerge
until after the sun sets. here the paint peels off
every wall & sign. rows of houses lie empty.
in drought, the salt was taken out of an ocean
along with the ocean. somewhere there is an island
made entirely of garbage. if there is an after world
i am certain we will waste that one too. inside the last glacier,
the fossils of fish. when it melts, the fossils will be given
back their muscle, their sparkling scales, their ancient teeth.
Alfredo Aguilar is the son of Mexican immigrants. His work has appeared in Winter Tangerine, The Acentos Review, Vinyl, & elsewhere. He lives in North County San Diego.