Octavio Quintanilla is the author of the poetry collection, If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014) and the 2018-2020 Poet Laureate of San Antonio, TX. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas and is the regional editor for Texas Books in Review and poetry editor for The Journal of Latina Critical Feminism & for Voices de la Luna: A Quarterly Literature & Arts Magazine. Octavio teaches Literature and Creative Writing in the M.A./M.F.A. program at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas.
He heard ho-zay. Every time a mispronunciation.
José can you see, after twelve hours in the foundry?
The foreman says, owls like the heat. No
need to dirty a fresh faced white up there, where the iron
melts men. When spilled, the metal beads like mercury and burns through flesh.
Count what the rocket sheds, the propellant which lets it fly from atmosphere to space.
Without sun Michigan sounds like Michoacán where his eyes didn’t need shielding.
An engine block sealed shut in the beautiful body of a Buick.
No one will wonder who made this cylinder block and how it will remain
after the nocturnal silences us all. The continuous hum of the line
shaking a path through darkness is the pulse of the owl. He hears it
as he flies home and strikes a second time on the first song bird of morning.
Monica Rico is a second generation Mexican-American who grew up in Saginaw, Michigan alongside General Motors and the legend of Theodore Roethke. She is an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program and works for the Bear River Writers’ Conference.
like a bulwark / like the tie that binds // You mattered to me like the lion and the lamb // Like metaphors and meter // Like the doorway in a dream / like the key to that door / tiny like the needle’s eye / like a rich camel passing through // Like winter in spring / like lilies with their gold unerring stain // Like territory claimed // Like wandering / like walking over desert coals // Like leaps // Like the language I first understood to mean you were meaningful / fully mounted on the mountains / overlooking all the plains // You planed the planks / you pried the parables / loosed unwilling tongues / only as damning as the damned deserved // You danced on the heads of pins I used for holding up my hems // You hymned / you hummed // You saved the blood to wet the scraps // I knew I’d never fool a real god // With you I had a chance
Emily Pérez is the author of House of Sugar, House of Stone, Made and Unmade, and Backyard Migration Route. A CantoMundo fellow and Ledbury Emerging Critic, her recent poems have appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, SWWIM, and Copper Nickel, and she is a regular reviewer for RHINO. Find more at www.emilyperez.org.
Pink meat sizzles on mortar bricks and metal brackets: blood sausage shanks intestines lengua, a word for language, loved by my father, red from corralling young calves with Abuelo, smoky, dark now fat around the edges, my father, who ate river fish fresh this morning, who snapped photographs as my uncles slaughtered dinner at dawn, to hear him speak, English at least, to hear him speak of unboned eel and rows of chorizo, but for bistec, pollo, the porcine screams, the parrots cackle —they mock us and sound human— to hear him speak his native tongue at the table, like the only time I heard him in public, Toastmasters ’97, nine or ten at the time and mortified, alive now, as we lay to rest, alive as Orion deep in purple skies, mis primos trained on tiny limes to slice and squeeze and pluck mas from the bower, from the head: ”everybody bow,” in Spanish of course; a toast, he makes a toast I don’t, thunderheads roll in, ash disburses in the breeze, hot orange coals, cold orange cola, Mister, el perro, snaps up scraps when cousins or primas or tía his sister my mother serves tongue to my father, his favorite: fat drips from the grill, flames and the fire snake up this gristle. Father, grace this meal.
Diego Báez is the recipient of fellowships from the National Book Critics Circle and the Surge Institute. He writes regularly for Booklist, and his work has also appeared in The Rumpus, The Acentos Review, The Georgia Review, and others. He lives in Chicago, and teaches at Harry S Truman College.
I am a Rio Grande espiritu
lost and trapped en el agua
canto y lloro solo y triste
I am el gallo pinto
I am ready to live or die
sharp metal talons
are tied to my feet
I am a nopal viejo
with roots that reach
down into my father’s corpse
my bones have been tied
with alambre de puas
concertina wire coils
around my corazon
soy un pajaro rojo plastered
with chiles tamulados y un puño
de tierra roja de panteon de Huhi
I am el padre, el hijo
y el espiritu santo trapped
inside of a corn husk
I am pomogranade seeds
spread over chiles rellenos
I am thunder that strikes
El diablo en la nopalera
soy culebra vieja that slitters
in between dreams
I am the wind;
Gerardo Pacheco Matus is a Mayan Native, and recipient of the Joseph Henry Jackson Award, and fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and Macondo. Pacheco’s writings have appeared and are forthcoming from the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, West Branch Wired, The Cortland Review, Nashville Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, and Tin House Magazine, amongst others.
for G. Jean-Aubrey
Bridge upstream bridge downstream
the rain’s out for a stroll
The river unfolds my wings
and birds flash their lights
All of us are gloomy and sad
All of you are too
O when will spring arrive
to skate along this walkway
Winter passes and passes
river downstream river upstream
The miller’s wife has seen it
pensively wade across
Trees shut their umbrellas
My hands spread the cold
Old birds and stars
mistake each others’ nests
The rain reaches the opposite shore
I will not dismiss it
It quickens the mill
and regulates the clock
Tomorrow the sun will un-rise
and hollow drops of rain
swoop into the bell for refuge
Francisco Aragón’s most recent book is After Rubén (Red Hen Press, 2020). His books as a translator include four volumes by Francisco X. Alarcón (1954 – 2016). His translations have appeared in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Chain, Chelsea, Jacket, Nimrod, and ZYZZYVA. For more information, visit: http://franciscoaragon.net
Gerardo Diego (1896 – 1987), a member of the “generation of ’27”, was the Spanish poet among his peers who first became interested in avant-garde poetics. The piece published here is from Handbook of Foams (1925). An accomplished pianist, music critic, and editor, he shared the Cervantes Prize—Spanish letters’ highest honor—with Jorge Luis Borges in 1979.
The belly of the forest exhales— all the wrens & doves & robins & dunnocks & thrushes gather as one singular wing to beat in torrent across the pastures, against the scaffolds of this barn. These birds in stun, their bodies frozen in dizzying flap, mourn relinquish of their unguarded flights & begin to weep; a story, not unlike your story, wedges in their gullets, a lodestone they cannot swallow; their tears release in surge of air to pelt panes, shingles, edges of stone where walls meet the earth. You brought this with you in tuck of flesh, in arc of finger bone, behind the ear drum; wind huffs below the slatted planks of flooring, in the knot holes whistling; ocean of sky upon which your fragile vessel of organs floats; how buoyant must you be now? Polarity a fickle want & aridity unclothes us, bares us nude to the elements, raw & lustful to be carried home in any sort of measure. & in the rattle of saucers, you remember the space between her palm & your cheek, the millimeters in count on your lips now; how calm then rapid, then sting, then regret; the butter dish’s tink & clap, parade for the lonesome, summons you into the night; we all more astute in weather—that in which we cannot control; how wings, wings now; how a gale so violent caresses you, catches you on you haunches, burying your wounded lungs into the wounded storm.
Felicia Zamora is a poet, educator, and editor living in AZ. She’s the author of five books of poetry including Quotient (2021 Tinderbox Editions), Body of Render, 2018 Benjamin Saltman Award winner forthcoming in April (Red Hen Press), and Of Form & Gather, 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize winner (Notre Dame Press, 2017).
I gaze into your eyes
and we are same looking into same
since the time before we were born
Your blue eyes wander right and left
we look past time and space
the neighboring houses
all the way to the galaxy and the Big Bang
Is this the same awareness
since before humans existed?
Is this the same awareness
since before we were born?
If animals and rocks share
why hunger, why war?
I gaze into your eyes
and see me, see all of us,
see my Neanderthal ancestors
my DNA branches splitting
in one unbroken chain.
Liliana Valenzuela is the author of Codex of Love: Bendita ternura (FlowerSong Books, 2020) and other works. She is also the acclaimed Spanish language translator of works by Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, Denise Chávez, and other writers. A CantoMundo and Macondo fellow, she lives and works in Austin, Texas.
(from the word coquette: a woman who flirts lightheartedly with men to win their admiration and affection; from the Spanish word: a dressing table; a vanity)
Nestled in a red chestnut box
rain droplets carved out
so its contents can breathe
my wedding ring resides
I hold it in my palm
like I did our children’s feet
examine their diminutive size
knowing they wouldn’t fit there one day
today the surface of my dresser, coqueta
as my abuela calls it,
is covered in rings I have bought
since I took off the gold promise of a twenty-four-year-old
etched with a heart and initials
rings from flea markets in New Orleans
wooden ones wielded from the oak bark of another man’s house
copper ones with the petroglyph of el coquí burned on
ostentatious rings that glitter and shine in the sun and moonlight
Nordstrom Rack bargains that cover two of my fingers
knuckle busters my coworker calls them
always on my right hand
anything on the left feels awkward like first dates
I collect rings like paramours and dalliances
pull them off my fingers and leave them on my coqueta
my hands are mine now.
Luivette Resto was born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico, but proudly raised in the Bronx. Her books Unfinished Portrait and Ascension have been published by Tía Chucha Press. Her latest poems can be read in the anthology What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump.
A man at a diner says, Never readthe newspaper, and continues to drink
his coffee and draw circles on want
ads. No one is walking out, every bird
in the state is regressing. They forgot
how to perch, slept in fields, blocked
the roads so The Leavers could not
leave for fear of flattening. They forget
feathers and abandon flight midsky,
plummet. The sound of a chest
cavity crumbling can be confused
with the explosion of a dirt clod
until you witness the liquification. No
one is walking out, the sky’s in the middle
of descent. A man at a diner laughs,
says, See, they’ll prolly say it hasn’t rainedin months.
Anthony Cody is the author of Borderland Apocrypha (March 2020), winner of the 2018 Omnidawn Open Book Prize. A CantoMundo fellow, he is an editor with Noemi Press, and a fellow in Juan Felipe Herrera's Laureate Lab. His poetry has appeared in Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, TriQuarterly, among other journals.