During the month of March, coalition members CantoMundo and Letras Latinas are partnering to present guest posts by CM fellows at Letras Latinas Blog that will include essays, creative non-fiction, micro reviews and dialogues between writers. This year’s theme borrows a line from U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem, “Borderbus.” Please return to this space and enjoy all the pieces in the series, and leave comments to participate in the dialogue.
Barbara Curiel, CantoMundo
Francisco Aragón, Letras Latinas
Because We Come From Everything
by Michael Torres
It has to be mapped. Here and now. Right here and right now because my homie Miguel once said to me, you have to write about us, so they know who we are. And he was talking about my poetry so I marked up where we were from in my mind. And now I keep thinking: they have to know we come from fathers who come from far places we can’t pronounce. That we come from the chipped paint on garage doors we lifted to practice breakdancing. Our worm. Our windmill. I have to say, we come from running past a front door swelling before a washroom carpeted with newspaper pages trying to hold the rainwater because it doesn’t usually pour like this. We come from 5 o’clock fathers. Quiet fathers. Out-trimming-the-trees-on-Saturday fathers. We come from their Spanish laughter over the fence, talking to the men who are our best friends’ uncles. We come from those men too, their teeth stained and streaked from Marlboros, their hands smoky and rough like snapped branches when they shake ours and tell us to speak to them in Spanish, calling us cabrones when we can’t. We come from the sawdust of dreams, the broken toolshed doors we ran away from, hoping not to get caught. From the empty 2-liters and aluminum cans collected next to the chicken coop so we could have a makeshift bowling game. We come from the stray dogs we whistled for and took in, filling our cupped hands with hose water for them. We come from the Disney names we gave them—Nala, Balto, Copper. We come from commands of not to cross the street, ever. But also: cross the street and drop off the movie at the video store. We come from Our Sons Plaza on the corner of Reservoir Blvd., where we ate at Tom’s Burgers #18 and waited for the waitresses, who we were really, I swear, just about to ask out before their boyfriends came to pick them up after work. We come from cuss words that got us into shit the quickest. We come from parking lot fights that someone, we don’t know how, got a VHS tape of, and who plays it every time the homies come through after it’s been a long damn time. We come from our first cars—a bucket Toyota hatchback with no A/C or power steering that overheated on the 60 fwy but still got us there. We come from flattened ketchup packets on the blacktop and a homeless man telling us he’s going to be honest, that he just wants the dollar for a beer. We come from not knowing any better and everyone telling us we should’ve known better. We come from school, even when we didn’t want to. Except for when we really didn’t want to, then we came from the ditching party at Bloom’s where we smoked bud for the first time and came home driving stupid, stopping so many yards before the STOP sign. We come from the police radio scanner one of our father’s owned and used to tell us when to get the fuck out of wherever we shouldn’t have been in the first place. We come from fathers, even when they didn’t say much but left us to learn in the streets. Even if they weren’t there, we come from fathers. We come from church on Sundays, barely—our mothers telling us we could choose to attend or not once we turned 18. We come from our mothers but don’t like to disappoint them so we come from our fathers most of the time. We come from magnified manhood, from not giving a fuck even if we did, from being down for whatever, even when we weren’t. We come from Mexico because we call our grandparents abuelo y abuela even if that’s the only Spanish we got. We come from ranchers and curanderas and brujas and they-always-wanted-to-be musicians. We come from fathers raised by their tias, like in the black & white I have of mine. He is a boy still, maybe three. Standing on a chair so his head meets her shoulder. They hold hands and stare at the camera, serious like all old-timey photos—the weight of history never letting any of us smile. My father is holding a bucket where a tiny sailboat is painted on, making its way around the world.
Michael Torres is a CantoMundo fellow, born and brought up in Pomona, California where he spent his adolescence as a graffiti artist. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Green Mountains Review, Huizache, Tinderbox, and cream city review among others. He has been awarded grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation. Torres is a 2016-17 winner of the Loft Mentor Series and the 2017 CantoMundo Distinguished Fellow for the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Currently, he resides in Mankato, Minnesota where he teaches creative writing and hosts art workshops for homeless youth at the Reach drop-in center through Good Thunder Reading Series Community Outreach.