What Rough Beast | Poem for April 30, 2017

Antonio Lopez

For Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos and her daughter Jaqueline

I close my eyes to hear the hems of the
pink dress we swooned over at La Moda Boutique
drag across the concrete pavement
of the Immigration Field Office. I try to tune out
the screams of protestors
chaining themselves to the tires, the tail bumper;
the file of fully armed officers holding their guns;
of my classmates armed in picket frescos of mariposas.

Mamá, I want to hear the clak of tight high heels
that I’ll take off half an hour after putting them on.
My father laughing, “Ustedes mujeres con sus tacones.
¡Se los ponen, y regresan del baile descalsas!”
I close my eyes to see
a ballroom no bigger than a hair salon,
padrinos bickering over who can drink more,
Father Sullivan beginning Mass by
stretching his mouth to say my last name,

Dear amá,
take my hand.
Let’s waltz at this church, to bless our tears.
Please mami, take my hand.
Let’s waltz here.
The padre offered us sanctuary.
They’ll never kick us out here.

I finally open them,
a large white van appears with the words,
“Homeland Security.”

She squeezes my hand again, kneeling to crane her head
inside the dark, cold backseat.
I stare at her through the window’s metal mesh.
She darts her eyes away from the
the flashes of cell phone recordings.
Her eyebrows just done,
face shone from the years of cook orders.

By morning, I must learn public speaking
by stuttering half a dozen cameras.
Estoy desvelada ‘cuz I spent the night before rummaging through freshly baked
clothes, asking myself,
“Is she gonna need this blusa more than my graduation gown?”
The quinceañera reception is this press conference outside the I.C.E. facility.
My chambelanes are the pot-bellied cameramen
that pan to my glasses,
looking for something hopeful.

Cada quien en su posición.
I am here to give my dedications.
“I am here, and I’m gonna keep on fighting
For my mom, for the other families.”

“Yo soy Jacqueline Rayos de García,
The daughter of Guadalupe.”
As my first appearance as a dama,
I decide to scratch the dress
and present myself to the country
in a pink shirt, discount jeans that Mom and I
debated for half an hour at Sears, where she first opened up the topic,
asking me, “What kind of dress you want?”
I said, “The one you think I look prettiest in.”

My mother crosses me in the front of St. Francis Parish
where she dipped me in the baptismal font.
To this day, she still laughs at how
I kept thrashing my feet,
“Ay mi’ja. It drove the padre loco.”
The ceiling hangs above us like the black shawls
old women wear on hot summer days.
“It’s just another check-in mi’ja,” she squeezes my hand,
“Me dejarán antes de la cena.”
She pulls me to kneel together.
Our elbows press on the cold wooden benches.


Antonio Lopez‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in PEN/America, Acentos Review, Hispanecdotes, Sapelo Square, and Sinking City. His nonfiction has appeared in TeenInk and The Chronicle. Antonio works at the intersections of language, faith, social justice movements, and education. His undergraduate thesis, Spic’ing into Existence, explored the concept of ethnopoetics as people of color’s artistic-political response to regimes of power. Originally from East Palo Alto, California, he is currently pursuing a Master in Fine Arts (poetry) at Rutgers University-Newark.

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