A Poem by Roy Guzman

Roy Guzmán

Roy Guzmán

Roy G. Guzmán is a Honduran poet whose first collection is coming out from Graywolf Press on May 5, 2020. Raised in Miami, Florida, Roy is the recipient of a 2019 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Their work has been included in the Best New Poets 2017 anthology and Best of the Net 2017. Roy holds degrees from the University of Minnesota, Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago, and the Honors College at Miami Dade College. They currently live in Minneapolis, where they are pursuing a PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of Minnesota.


    we sit in my stepfather’s 2000 Nissan Altima with a broken 

AC    me in the backseat     my parents in the front     of a pending storm

     sweating     reciting our overused interior monologue     this must be

 the last time we’ll take out a loan     we’ll have no use for future loans

         Mom & I get two weeks to pay the loan     my stepfather a whole 

month because he’s retired     has five credit cards left to resolve     he 

used one to come see me graduate     their first time in New England

         & I place my hand on my mother’s shoulder     I can feel the behemoth

 of impotence stomping inside her     a familiar trespasser     if her anxiety 

kicks in     her stomach gets upset     she falls from a cliff of what if I hads

     like glowworms during nights when the Honduran government

coordinates a series of power outages     & we break tortillas 

by the candlelight     drinking blowflies in the water 


                  crushed ice is trapped in the AC’s mouth     our sound 

financial adviser     won’t treat the air we breathe like a Ponzi scheme

         which is to say that even after sixteen years     the car has less than 100,

000 miles     we run upwards of 100,000 miles in an average lifetime

         within the corridors of our worst fears     as we seek some modicum

of salvation from there never being enough     & we ought to acknowledge 

that more often     we ought to drive back to the beach & throw ourselves

     in the water     anticipate the tropical storm always heading our way

         you get a customized tropical storm where I was raised     & you watch

as a cruise ship sails beside you     how many times have I seen dissenters

board that melancholic ship     & wave from the deck of confusion

     as though I carried an invisible heart     shaped camera 


                                                                               my mother 

is wearing a long-sleeved shirt     the sun is skating careless circles

      on our necks     my mother might roll a towel over her arm     one day

I said in a psychoanalysis class that I had a dream about her

breastfeeding me     & handing me off to my aunt because I bit

      off something that wasn’t her nipple     in the car my stepfather

 is hoping he’ll find a decent hobby before he dies     he used to sail

boats back in Cuba     lost his possessions as the revolution gained traction

      & I disappointed him when I showed no interest in fishing     my parents

do not believe in friendship since every apartment we move to is built 

with unheard screams     night lamps thrown across the room with shades 

of soft pink flowers     a jar of nacho cheese on the floor     my stepfather 

slipping & almost     landing on the shards     of my mother’s buckler


                                                         the payday loan shop 

needs its own parking lot     we pull up in front of the crater where we 

hired legal counselors to help us apply for green cards     how we have

      a firm connection to things that cause us trauma     is a story 

worth retelling     our citizenship like a dry spell     operation florid 

storm     social expendability     we carry blue passports everywhere we go

      to remind us of how others have been snatched from their dreams

         our skin callused from too much persecution     we don’t live

in Arizona     but we are Los afortunados     no longer like prohibited

liquor in a dusty one bedroom for two families     we are USDA approved

         pre-processed     GPSd     our liberties red     white     & blue 

police lights over a spillage of innocence     we are animals with eyes 

shaped like prison cells     but we can’t hold any more inmates 

because our vision has been incarcerated     if we swim underwater

     we can’t decide when to rise     to draw another breath     from harm 


                                                                          & the cops here

are evidently Latinos     will batter you when they catch you hustling

but dance     with you during pride parades     which are more like funerals

     their truncheons like limp bodies swinging     inconclusive     the white 

cops buying media luna sandwiches     sinking their teeth on what they 

mispronounce with pride     the Black cops enjoying Latin music     I know

 you want me     with my hands up     you know I want cha     legs

      spread apart     my parents teach me that when you labor     tirelessly 

God rewards you     but even Job knew that browns’ faiths won’t bring

back their dead     because we woke up this morning to face the mirror

of disconsolation beyond our eyelids     in nature there is an animal serving

      as scapegoat for all living things     a memory that consumes 

all others     I am that dollar bill greasy men must take spit

     index & thumb     to pull apart 


                                                         as soon as the other customers

begin to show up     in some hell even a cash advance stands for protection

         my mother says we should hurry in     she shrinks the distance     of a 

long & burdensome desert beneath her feet    & my stepfather worries 

that his car might get towed     in North by Northwest Cary Grant

     dodges a crop duster in an attempt to find the man with whom 

his identity has been mistaken     the bullets hit the ground around him

     & I remember when we used to hide from La Migra     I remember

making a carapace with my arms around my head when my boicunt

equaled deportation     so that fag was the only thing that could impale me

     a man once neared his nose to my neck & said     I can get used to

 you smelling like a child


                                         & now a long line of people

has started to snake around the shop     people who look like us who sound

like us when they say gracias     confidence is our rare species

     who yawn like us in the middle of a plead     & cross their arms

viejos with Styrofoam cups of coffee     who also cross themselves & scratch

their heads     grieve like us because our bones cry the same way

     & when we ask to use the restroom     without a doubt the restroom

is broken     they haven’t called the plumber     we acknowledge one 

another     say buenos días     cómo les va     usted es el siguiente     cuantos 

días tengo para pagar     no los hemos visto en meses (even though

     we were there two months ago     skipped a month)     the cash dispenser

is broken     sign here & here     & here & put your initials here     & here 

& here     don’t forget to fill out this information right here     how is 

your father     we haven’t seen him around here much (he too was there

     two months ago)


         the same woman stamps one sheet     stamps another     she

is enjoying her new life as a mommy     couldn’t take too many days off 

after she had the baby     her husband was laid off     & the shop 

is carpeted gray     you can tell where the café con leches have fallen

         a woman needs to buzz you in     they don’t see us like criminals 

but nothing says we can’t be     no seas malpensa’o viejo     no sean

malpensa’os     why must you think the worst about people

     & you should see us in the car on our way home     looking like 

we got paid     looking like we just went to physical therapy

     shoulders back in place     no more sore necks     we’ll pay the bills 

on time     won’t have any money leftover     my heart is a marathon

with no participants     my mother will ask my stepfather if he remembered

to take out the chicken from the freezer     leave it on the sink for dinner

     there is a comfort to preparing a meal together     even if you won’t

ever eat it     together


                                        we get home     our door opens 

to an apartment we can’t accept we can’t afford     it’s closer to work

      & we want to skip the morning traffic     our footsteps hit a floor 

that’s lost all sensation in its fingers     there’s been so much rain lately

     all our umbrellas can do is sink deeper     our furniture never belongs

to us     we are expecting its undetermined future owner to show up

     & load it to the back of his truck     dinner will be served     tasting 

a miracle requires disbelief we must steal from one another     we open

the fridge & a voice in our heads says everything in there     is a kind

      of mercy     the light bulbs need replacing     in there an unfathomable 

darkness     a stillness shows us how one replicates a body

     just to practice disavowing it


                                   as ritual     we count the time it takes us 

to walk from our bedrooms to the living room     from the living room 

to the bathroom     from the bathroom to the kitchen     a false sequence

     a false geometry     most days nothing     can find us in that untamable 

forest of dimensions     our minds can’t listen to themselves when we 

crawl away from each other’s gaze     my mother a warzone     my father

     a dismantled effigy for a country of fanatics     I was in high school

when my parents said we’d eat less that week so I could buy a book 

I felt I needed to read     because it appeared on a list of texts you perused

      to improve your verbal skills     I read it in one sitting     I remember

looking up when I was done     my stepfather fixed on the news

     my mother storing leftovers     I didn’t close the book until they both

fell asleep     afterwards I understood why certain books are banned

     why I distrust perception     why my parents praised walls so I didn’t 

have to see the abuse     or think in absolutes     that whoever claims

empathy     might be forging shackles for your ankles     somewhere