ANTONIO LOPEZ | Three Poems
Trauma is weighted as follows:
Formal Essays (55-65%)
Write “Children of Immigrants” – 10% (doubled if undocumented)
Write “first generation” – 15%
Mention the color of the coyote’s van – 10%
Keep family in the past tense – 5%
Write birthplace next to its murder per capita rate – 20%
Don’t correct them when they say your name wrong – 5%
Go by Tony starting sophomore year – 10%
Stay quiet when they make fun of Keisha – 5%
Believe Tim when he says, “You just got in because you’re” – 10%
When it’s your turn to read, pronounce it like they do, gwa-da-mala – 5%
Turn to the person next to you:
debate your belonging
Because when Tío first cried,
I was already a man.
Porque aquí, lo que gana uno
diario, es un mes en México.
Because when his family left
and he had to stay,
we numbed our lips
with Fruit Loops.
Because when homeboys bent down
to tie their shoes, one of us
made a slurping sound.
Because Christian wore his shorts
a little too tight.
Because we all thought Mr. Fitch
was just being friendly to the girls.
Because Mrs. Fitch changed
her last name.
Because in Disney movies,
we’re always Chihuahuas.
Because when Darius and I dapped
—plum elbows shot up
from his shirt—
my chest flushed.
Because childhood was women
trying on tacones.
Because Vane laughed when I said,
the yellow pair looks cute.
To read of the ghosts
that haunted Macondo.
And see Moises’ head
stapled to a telephone pole.
His moms in a white scarf
handing out flyers to the fat
paleteros stalked outside McNair.
pero has visto- But he
just counts singles.
The boys whose hips
are already swollen
with dead presidents
and cold metal
—the only children he’s seen.
Root: To take “Literature
of Latin America.” And learn
you’re Moises, still missing
from the syllabus. You ask
these white novelistas,
and where am I? No answer
but an essay where Octavio
calls you, a tangle of contradictions.
First Known Use, 7th Grade: Ms. Nelson told the Mexican kids
to stop speaking Spanish, so I decided to live in the mouths
of Devonte, Michael, and the other black boys. Each mouth
a sanctuary city to hide from detention. At recess, the black
top sweltered with ciphers. Lips like purple spigots leaked
the hooks from their Nokias. They beat their chests,
taut drums that must’ve nursed beats from the studio
apartments where knuckles met flesh. I recited their bars,
each word curved
as it left me—
like exit wounds.
Born and raised in the East Palo Alto, CA Antonio López received his B.A. in Global Cultural Studies and African & African-American studies from Duke University. He’s received scholarships to attend the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, the Home School, Tin House Summer Workshop, the Key West Literary Seminar, and the Vermont Studio Center. He is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop, a CantoMundo Fellow, and a 2019 Adroit Summer Mentor. His nonfiction has been featured or is forthcoming in PEN/America, The Latino Book Review, and Insider Higher Education, and his poetry in BOAAT, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Adroit Journal, Puerto del Sol, Huizache, Tin House and elsewhere. He was runner up for the inaugural Palette Poetry Spotlight Award of 2019 and the recipient of the 2019 Katherine Bakeless Nelson Award in Poetry for the 2019 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He received his Masters in Fine Arts (poetry) at Rutgers-Newark. As a 2018 Marshall Scholar, he is currently pursuing a Masters in Philosophy in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oxford, where he is also poetry editor of the Oxford Review of Books. His debut collection, Gentefication, is the winner of the 2019 Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry, and is set to be published fall of 2021.