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Two Poems
Variations on Motherwell’Elegy to the Spanish Republic
I like the black & white. I like
the mirage they create. I like
            planes. I like stray dogs
who never forget where I come from.

I like when my mother flings
her bridal sheets over the clothesline,

she sweeps the canvas with a stroke 
so subtle, day light 

     blots out the night
and every flying thing breathes
its vertical breathing,
every breathing thing wakes
to the impalpable span 
     of another dark season.
I remember the morning serenity 
shattered the chandelier
a council of crows
clouded the twisted torso
     and over the lake
the composition of a young man 
like a mist breaks the waters.


What makes the light so white
the erasure of a town
comes to mind. No line 
     of trees left behind 
by a cluster of bombs saying
     here's God, or the lack of it, 
trapped in a throat
                               so narrow,
the whole cranium cracks
its own geometry.

Even evening gores 
its horns into the coppice 
of blackbirds, the tone 
     so precise the clatter 
of a building disperses
and is down like a monument.

Of those countries, the volcanoes
            remain the best.

What makes night fall out
like a tent? Catch the rain?

     Take the shape of a wave 
as if a wave could roof a mind?
What compost? What composition? 
     What clarity can I come to?
Everyone knows the bull
stumbling like a medieval god 
     wrecks the fabric 
of the furrow. The desolate plow
whispers to the ground 
     and the splendid soil 
feeds the gospel of the body.
In a road like this, one might understand
     the periphery of trees,
how they dot the skyline,
how the mind leaves out
     the gray, how it begins 
to sag, to tear, cracked feet, cracked 

hands come forth
to imply nothing’s fixed.

I like balconies, I like clocks.

I like Nicaragua
                                    and the songs
of my boyhood.

I remember mostly black & white.

ID documents from a log,
snapshots, mugshots against the wall

the partial arc of an official stamp
still visible, but zoom closer
            and the low resolution distorts,

every dot an organic 
stroke of grace           so light & dark

strong enough to bruise the sky

…Araceli De Paz…Carlos Armando Guillen…Giovani Dubon…Andres Duke Castro… 

Demetria Rosales…Rosa Henrique Otero…Isabel Rodriguez…Baltazar Antolin Flores

…Sandra Yanira Hernandez…Luis Mejia Sorano…Elsy Victoria Martinez…Orlando

Quiñonez…Dora Calero…Arsenio Gomez Cardenal…Maria Guadalupe Morales…

Ruben Gutierrez…Reina Maribel Ponce…Jose Manuel Garcia…Idalia Lopez Salazar…

Honorilo Lobo…Elena Juachin…Nicolas Escobar…Silvia Beatriz Hernandez Artiga…


Note: “Variations on Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic” takes names at random from Monumento a la Memoria y la Verdad, San Salvador, El Salvador.


When I Think of Aleppo

            for Zevart Bedikian (1937–2020)

I too lived a war, but I don’t think
I necessarily have to like the alternative 

for permanent residence. There are ways
to be cursed when a brother ends up

in a rival gang, and you must throw down
because the feud is on, the way of 

Polynices and Eteocles. It’s complicated 
the way I associate my mother-in-law 

with Aleppo, or the photo of two
Syrian boys sitting in rubble, one 

torn sweater-arm over the other’s 
shoulder, two years older than my sons

asleep in the darkness of another siren.
I think more and more in parallels now

because there’s a feeling in me
that outlives my way of thinking.

How do I articulate to the boys, 
stop shovelingit’s time to go. 

Time to drop the front loaders,
Stop shouting at each other. I think 

of the Syrian boys as if my thinking
can restore their bodies. What it is

is the insignificant feeling of a span
much too short. And what would I do

if it comes taking everything sweet as dirt.
To feel all night birds take 

over the sky, to murder the smudge 
of the stars. Not now, not ever, 

not for another barrel bomb will I
contribute to your faceless justice. This

is what makes my body hum at night. 
To elevate that which is broken,

bone & tendon, assembling the body
out of fragments. This is to say 

I got my boys going down the slide,
the way they pick their small bodies 

off the grass is an accomplishment.
I can’t tell you how many times 

I have lied for the sake of making 
logic work, believing that I’m all right, 

that I can stomach another grave.
It’s so simple, so obvious, but I go on

blind to the war, like that fool Oedipus
who concludes that All is well. 


William Archila’s The Art of Exile won an International Latino Book Award, and The Gravedigger’s Archaeology won the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize. He was featured in Spotlight on U.S. Hispanic Writers, Library of Congress. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, AGNI, The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Magazine, and Tin House.