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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 91 — Jonathan Acuna-Lopez, Jonathan Korns, C. M. Mayo

Jonathan Acuna-Lopez

Winner of the 2016 Ventura Valdez Spanish Poetry Award

El Hijo

Mi madre huele a sangre.

Mi padre huele a cenizas.

Hablan palabras que son como humo,

Palabras que tienen sabor dulce

Pero me ahogan.

Hay que morir, para vivir.

Hay que morir, para vivir.

Yo soy el hijo

El hijo del sueño americano.

Ay sí, ay sí.

Pero el verdadero sueño americano,

Es conseguir tiempo para dormir.

De mañana hasta noche trabajando.

Me muero, sudando.

Pero eso es el destino de mi gente

Sí, sí.

El destino de mi gente,

Transparente y azul.

Ya no puedo caminar

Uso mis sueños y memorias

Como bastón.

Porque yo soy el hijo transparente,

Nadie escucha mis gritos

Nadie mira mis lágrimas.

Yo soy el hijo,

Yo no puedo llorar o gritar,

No me puedo escapar.

A veces oigo

Ton, ton

El clavo y martillo

Ton, ton

Están clavando el carpintero.

Yo soy el hijo milagroso

Poderoso y maravilloso,

Un misterio,

Nadie me puede tocar.

Soy el sueño de mis antepasados.

Pero en verdad,

Es una pesadilla.

Sí, sí.

Una pesadilla.

Entre tus manos señor,

Entre tus manos señor.

Hay que seguir la lucha,

Este es el destino de mi gente.

Hasta la victoria siempre.

Hasta la muerte.

Yo soy el hijo de mis padres.

El hombre que

Carga las décadas

En su espalda.

Lo he aceptado.

Me canso.

Copyright ©2016 by Jonathan Acuna-Lopez.

About the Author:

Jonathan Acuna-Lopez is a student at Montgomery College who has been studying Spanish along with his other course work before he transfers to a four-year college.

Jonathan Korns

Winner of the 2016 Ventura Valdez English Poetry Award

Mononormative Kaddish

for Allen Ginsberg

and Shawn Christian

Here is one million and one

for every time you will have

fun or every time you wanted

to have fun but instead got pea-

nuts busting into buttered corns

popping off at the slightest sound

of “monotony.” Though audibly sin-

gular, this can mean many things like

how we always did the same things or

how you always sounded the same while

doing them. Moreover, monotony rhymes

with monogamy, which sounds like a type

of wood. Would you rather you grow greatly

and tall into celestial heights like a tree or cut

yourself down for what is inside? Primarily we

pride our independence but rely on everyone for

everything. Pride and independence are for princes

and we are animals changing shapes to hide in places

we don’t belong. Songs sound more like Kaddish these

days, mourning something Darwin overlooked or Freud

was too afraid to explore. Before you judge me for want-

ing something real something tangible something tradition-

al-ways remember where you come from. Do not get lost in

the twisted backstreets of who you are coming for or who you

are coming because of. Because love comes rarely and when it

does it comes blindly black and blue on a battered phonograph or

instantly with a lossy compression algorithm a beat-up shoes rhythm

and a hue of Ray Charles. Aren’t you tired of using heroin, Mr. Charles,

instead of being the hero-in my dreams? Aren’t you tired of the quick fix

nickels on your bedside tables and dime bags in your hollow pockets, soup

spoons scooping out chopped liver cirrhosis like sliced apple charoses charred

roses choked Moses in a red wine soaked sea? Aren’t you finally ready to be set free?

Haven’t you realized yet that everyone out there wants to take a piece of you and leave

nothing in return besides leaving? Hasn’t the heavy breathing of being alone outweighed

the faint enchantment of tantric panting in a stranger’s panties in the dark?

Aren’t you afraid one day there won’t be anything left for anyone to take?

Pharaohs, angels of death and first-born souls are passing over my cottage

in the Western night, where I am waiting for you. Don’t you want to come


Copyright ©2016 by Jonathan Korns.

About the Author:

Jonathan Korns is a student at Montgomery College who has been studying poetry along with his other course work before he transfers to a four-year college.

Agustín Cadena translated by C. M. Mayo

The Coco

by Agustín Cadena

Translation by C. M. Mayo

Dark, pock-marked, with an Indian’s armpit of a mustache: that’s how we imagined the Coco when we were children, there in our neighborhood on the República de Nicaragua Street. Of all the children, I was the most nervous, the easiest to frighten. My mother would scold the other kids: “Don’t go around scaring my boy,“ she would say, “The Coco doesn’t exist.“ But I believed them more than I believed her.

The Coco was attracted to the sweet smell of little children and he was perverted, pitiless. He would hunt children and bring them to his woman, the Cocotrix, so she could stew them in green chile sauce. This is why his hands were large and calloused. He wore denim overalls and a black wool cap and he would walk around in tennis shoes so as not to make noise. He carried his sack on his back and inside that, an onion knife which he would use to cut his victims into pieces so they’d fit in there and no one would notice. And sometimes, to dampen or kill his hunger while he was grabbing something, he kept his pants pockets full of peanuts.

Because he was everywhere, the Coco lurked in every dark corner: in the apartment at the entrance that was slowly falling down, and so no one would rent it, on the flat-roofs, in the clothes closets. At night his domain extended to the old stone staircase and the back patio, where laundry was hung. Of course, in any of these places, he could be warded off either by squeezing one’s eyes shut or, in the most serious cases, making the sign of the cross with one’s fingers. But where he was absolute lord was the street. The streets completely belonged to him. Sometimes, if he wasn’t very busy eating children, he was at his knick-knack stand on Correo Mayor street. He was lazy, like my father, and he liked his booze. When drunk, he beat the poor Cocotrix. That’s what my sister told me, and she was never scared of him.

# # #

Copyright ©2016 by C. M. Mayo.

Agustín Cadena y Amélie Olaiz, compiladores,

Cuentos pequeños, grandes lectores, La minificción explicada a los niños

Confradía de Coyotes, Instituto Mexiquense de Cultura, 2014

El Coco


Agustín Cadena

Prieto, cacarizo, con bigotes de sobaco de indio: así nos imaginábamos al Coco cuando éramos niños, allá en la vecindad de la calle República de Nicaragua. De todos, yo era el más nervioso, el más asustadizo. Mi madre rega˜aba a los otros chamacos: “No me anden espantando a m’ijo“, les decía. “El Coco no existe“. Pero yo les creía más a ellos.

El Coco se aparecía por el aborregado olor de la infancia y era perverso, despiadado. Cazaba niños y se los llevaba a su mujer, la Cocotriz, para que ella los guisara en salsa de chile verde. Por eso tenía manos grandes y duras. Vestía overol de mezclilla y un gorro de estambre negro y caminaba con tenis para no hacer ruido. A la espalda cargaba su costal y, dentro de él, el cuchillo cebollero con que cortaba en pedazos a sus víctimas de modo que le cupieron sin notarse. A veces, para despistar o matar el hambre mientras agarraba algo, traía las bolsas del pantalón llenas de cacahuates.

Gracias a su ubicuidad, el Coco acechaba en todos los rincones oscuros: en la vivienda que se derrumababa lentamente en la entrada del edificio y que ya no se podía rentar, en las azoteas, en los roperos. De noche, sus dominios se extendían a la vieja escalera de piedra y al patio del fondo, donde se tendía ropa. Por supuesto, en cualquiera de estos sitios podía ser conjurado, ya fuera aprentando los ojos o, en los casos más graves, haciendo con los dedos la señal de la cruz. Pero donde sí era señor absoluto era en la calle. Las calles le pertenecían por completo. En ocasiones, si no andaba muy ocupado comiendo niños, atendía un puesto de tiliches en Correo Mayor. Era desobligado, como mi padre, y le gustaba empinar el codo. Ya borracho, le pegaba a la pobre de la Cocatriz. Esto me lo contó mi hermana, que nunca le tuvo miedo.

# # #

Copyright by Agustín Cadena.

Rose Mary Salum translated by C.M. Mayo

Someone is Calling Me

I get up. I drag my feet on the rough carpet all the way to the mirror, the one my father nailed to the back of the door. There I am. Ismael. That’s me. I can barely make out my face, still groggy, I cannot shake off my tiredness. I hear my mother’s voice. I tilt my head, trying to concentrate, to make out what she’s saying. I notice that the echoes of her voice carry my name: each letter falls on my body. The “I“ slips down my neck, the “S“ hangs on the rim of my ear, the “M“ sticks in my hair, the “A“ staggers down my nose, the “E“ wheels on my back, the “L“ slides all the way down my chest to sink into my bellybutton. I yawn. I can still see the pictures from my dream; they haven’t yet faded. I am in a boat that weighed anchor at midnight. It slides over the waves that have calmed with the morning breeze. I take the toothbrush, I brush my teeth. “Ismael!“ she calls out again. The letters embark upon the concavity of her exclamation’s echo and spill with the drops down the drain. It’s still early, I’m sleepy, I should hurry, but I let water lull me. I get out of the bath and, in the middle of the bedroom, I see a ship sailing toward the window. The captain orders me to climb aboard; he turns the rudder, changing course toward the south. The sailors raise the sails, and one of them rotates the mast. The ship advances and, at times, jumps from one wave to the next. In between, it cuts through the crests of the waves, which then submerge the deck. And so goes part of the morning until we come to some rocks. It would be common sense to avoid them, and we do, until the sky becomes threatening. Jet-black clouds drift overhead, and there are so many, they cover the entire country. Rain begins to pound, and so sharply that it seems instead of water, pieces of the sky are falling. It’s a storm and even though a great river runs on the deck, everyone is trying to control the ship’s course. I run to the bridge to help the sailor, water blinding us to the horizon, and the outlines of human figures go slipping past the window frames. “Ismael!“ the captain calls me, “If you don’t hurry up we’ll be late for school!“ I go back to where the crew members are, to help them. In the sky the black clouds light up; lightening has started. Each thundering lights up the place, the whole neighborhood. The captain tells me not to forget my homework and he threatens to send me to jail if I make him wait one more moment. One of the thunderclaps has hit close, charged with bursts of nails; some sailors, frightened, raise their hands to their face, their chest, their stomach. The sound of the waves is now that of ferocious noises. The ground rumbles, windows shatter, shards bury themselves in the walls. They’ve attacked us, I think. The captain comes up the stairs, his voice trembling like the floor beneath him, he gives the order to leave at once. He won’t allow me to answer or explain why I am late. He takes me by the arm and tows me overboard. The water carries away the structures and fire devours a large part of the ship. Again, there is a roar. The captain goes faster, dragging me: I cannot keep up without stumbling. Out there, everything is an inferno, the ocean has dried up, sailors thrown down on the streets, trees broken in half, women scream, we go on running. I don’t know where we are going, nor where the bombs are coming from, the boats have disappeared, a sea of screams interweaves on the pavement like a fishnet. The highways have become black tunnels, wherever we go. Constantly, the captain looks one way, then another. I only allow myself to be guided, it seems we are going to Albert’s house, but I am not sure, I can’t make out the street, I don’t understand what has happened to our ship, the rest of the crew, the ocean, the screaming women, the streets, the houses, the whole neighborhood. The blast from another bomb throws us to the cement, my legs don’t work anymore, I look at the sky, it’s wet, there are puddles, maybe the ocean is trying to come back. I take a little water to calm my bread-crumb tongue. Someone must be calling me because I see my name trying to fall onto my body again. It’s hard to look up, there is a very deep pain there below, in my legs. A gigantic boat has run aground on top of them. I cannot stand the pain, it’s as if all the navigators of another country have fallen upon me with a handsaw and they drag it through my muscles. The captain, where is he? There’s smoke, I speak to him, I look for him, but he’s gone. “Ismael!“ They shout at me, because I see the letters of my name carried over a blast of fire. Part of the “m“ has burned up, leaving only an “r“ in its place. I try to move so the burning pieces don’t fall on my back, so they can avoid the bullets. I cannot, I’m paralyzed.


That is not me.

Copyright ©2016 by C. M. Mayo.

Alguien me llama

por Rose Mary Salum

Me levanto, voy arrastrando mis pies sobre la alfombra erizada hasta llegar al espejo que mi padre instaló detrás de la puerta. Allí estoy. Ismael. Ése soy yo. Apenas distingo mi imagen, sigo modorro y no logro dejar el letargo. Escucho la voz de mi madre. Inclino la cabeza con el afán de concentrarme en el oído para saber lo que dice. Observo que los ecos de su voz transportan mi nombre: cada una de sus letras va cayendo sobre mi cuerpo. La I se escurre por mi cuello, la S se cuelga de la orilla de la oreja, la M se atora entre el pelo, la A cae escalonada sobre mi nariz, la E rueda por la espalda, la L se desliza a lo largo de mi pecho hasta hundirse en mi ombligo. Bostezo. Aún puedo ver las imágenes de mi sueño que no acaban de esfumarse. Estoy en un barco que zarpó desde la media noche. Se desliza por las olas que se alebrestan con la brisa de la mañana. Tomo el cepillo de dientes y me lavo la boca. ¡Ismael! llama de nuevo. Las letras se embarcan en el eco cóncavo de sus exclamaciones y se derraman con las gotas que caen de la regadera. Aún es temprano, tengo sueño, debo apurarme pero me dejo arrullar por el agua. Salgo del baño y veo un buque a la mitad de la recámara que avanza hacia la ventana. El capitán ordena que me suba y cambia el giro del timón que provocará un viraje hacia el sur. Los marineros levantan las velas y uno de ellos gira el mástil. La nave avanza y en momentos salta de una ola a otra. En su transcurso recorta las crestas y las cubre con el cuerpo del navío. En ese vaivén transcurre parte de la mañana hasta que encontramos algunas rocas. El sentido común nos pide esquivarlas y así lo hacemos aunque el cielo amenaza con mal tiempo. Las nubes azabache se colocan sobre nosotros, son tan extensas que cubren al país entero. La lluvia comienza a golpear muy fuerte, es incisiva, como si en lugar de agua cayeran tachuelas del cielo. Ha iniciado una borrasca y aunque a bordo se comienza a formar un río acaudalado, todos siguen tratando de controlar el curso de la nave. Corro a donde el timón para ayudar al marinero, el agua no deja ver el horizonte y las líneas que definen las figuras humanas se van escurriendo sobre el lomo de las ventanas. ¡Ismael!, me llama el capitán, ¡si no te apuras llegaremos tarde a la escuela! Regreso a donde están los tripulantes para continuar con mi labor. En el cielo las nubes negras se electrifican; los rayos han comenzado. Cada relámpago alumbra la estancia, la colonia entera. El capitán me dice que no olvide llevar mi tarea y amenaza con mandarme al calabozo si lo hago esperar más de la cuenta. Uno de los truenos ha caído cerca y viene cargado con racimos de clavos, algunos marineros, asustados, se llevan las manos a la cara, al pecho, al estómago. El sonido de las olas es sustituido por ruidos feroces. El suelo palpita, las ventanas estallan, los cristales se entierran en las paredes. Nos han atacado, pienso. El capitán asciende por las escaleras, su voz trepida como el piso que lo sostiene, da la orden de salir de inmediato. No permite que le dé una respuesta o que le explique el por qué de mi tardanza. Me toma por el brazo y me remolca por la borda. El agua remueve las estructuras y el fuego devora buena parte de la nave. Otra vez se escucha un estruendo. El capitán acelera el paso y me arrastra: no logro seguirlo sin tropezarme. Afuera todo es un infierno, el océano se ha secado, los marineros están tirados por las calles, los árboles se han doblegado, las mujeres gritan, nosotros seguimos corriendo. No sé a dónde nos dirigimos, ni de dónde salen las bombas, los barcos han desaparecido, un mar de gritos se entreteje sobre el pavimento como una red de pescados. Todo se mueve de prisa, nosotros también. Las carreteras se han transformado en túneles negros por donde rodamos. El capitán mira constantemente de un lado al otro. Yo sólo me dejo guiar, parece que vamos a casa de Alberto, pero no estoy seguro, no distingo el camino, no entiendo qué le ha sucedido a nuestra nave, al resto de la tripulación, al océano, a las mujeres chillando, a las calles, a las casas, al vecindario entero. El impulso que surge de otra bomba nos avienta al cemento, mis piernas ya no responden, miro el suelo, está húmedo, hay charcos, quizá sea el océano que busca su regreso. Tomo un poco de agua para calmar mi lengua empanizada. Alguien me debe estar llamando porque veo mi nombre buscando derramarse otra vez sobre mi cuerpo. Me cuesta trabajo levantar la mirada, hay un dolor muy intenso allá abajo en mis piernas. Una embarcación gigantesca ha encallado sobre de ellas. El dolor comienza a volverse insoportable, es como si todos los navegantes de otro país descendieran con un serrucho y lo mecieran sobre mis muslos. El capitán, ¿en dónde está? hay humo, le hablo, lo busco, pero no aparece. ¡Ismael! Me gritan, porque veo venir las letras de mi nombre transportadas sobre una ráfaga de fuego. Una parte de la m se ha incinerado dejando sólo una r en su lugar. Intento moverme para que no desciendan calcinadas sobre de mi espalda, para que logren esquivar las balas. No puedo, estoy paralizado.


Ese no soy yo.

Copyright by Rose Mary Salum.

About the Authors

Agustín Cadena is a Mexican novelist, short story writer, essayist, poet, and translator, as well as professor of literature. He is the author of more than 30 books and has contributed to more than 50 publications in various countries. He has been awarded numerous prizes, both national and international, and some of his work has been translated into English, French, Italian, and Hungarian. His books include: Tan oscura (México, Joaquín Mortiz, 1998), Los pobres de espíritu (México, Patria / Nueva Imagen, 2005), Las tentaciones de la dicha (México, Editorial JUS, 2010), Alas de gigante (México, Ediciones B, 2011), Operación Snake (México, Ediciones B, 2013) and La sed de la mariposa (México, FCE, 2014).

C.M. Mayo’s translations of Cadena’s short fiction or poetry have appeared in Chatahoochi Review, Exile, Literal, Tameme, Terra Incognita, a chapbook, Carne verde, piel negra / An Avocado From Michoacán, and the anthologies Mexico: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (ed. C.M. Mayo), Three Messages and a Warning (eds Eduardo Jiménez Mayo and Chris N. Brown) and Goodbye Mexico (ed. Sarah Cortez).

C.M. Mayo is the author of several books on Mexico, most recently, METAPHYSICAL ODYSSEY INTO THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION: FRANCISCO I. MADERO AND HIS SECRET BOOK, SPIRITIST MANUAL, which won the National Indie Excellence Award for History; and the novel based on the true story, THE LAST PRINCE OF THE MEXICAN EMPIRE, which was named a Library Journal Best Book of 2009. Her collection of short fiction, SKY OVER EL NIDO, won the Flannery O’Connor Award. Her fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry have been widely published in literary journals, among them, BorderSenses, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, The Paris Review, and Southwest Review. A long-time resident of Mexico City and a noted literary translator, she is editor of MEXICO: A TRAVELER’S LITERARY COMPANION, a collection of 24 Mexican writers.

Rose Mary Salum was born in Mexico City in 1964. She is founding editor of the bilingual literary magazine Literal: Latin American Voices and editor of the anthologies Delta de las arenas, cuentos árabes, cuentos judíos (Literal Publishing, 2013; Vigía, 2014) and Almalafa y Caligrafía, Literatura de origen árabe en América Latina for Hostos Review (2009). Her works include Entre los espacios (Tierra Firme, 2002) and Vitrales (Edomex, 1994), and El agua que mece el silencio (Vaso roto, 2015), the first chapter of which was published in translation by C.M. Mayo as “The Water That Stirs the Silence“ in Origins. Her awards and recognitions include Author of the Year 2008 for the Hispanic Book Festival; the Hispanic Excellence Award; four Lone Star Awards; 2 Council of Editors of Learned Journals Awards; St. Thomas University’s Classical Award; a recognition from the U.S. Congress; three nominations for PEN America’s Nora Magid Award; the Ana María Matute in 2008, and the Maggie Award in 2005. She is a member of the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua.

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