I run from myself and my body aches / To Those That Came / How to Make a Man


I smash mirrors. No eye wear protects me from my crafting. I am adobe sun
amalgamation straw and dirt. Heat becomes itself on asphalt.
Stomach rolls like landscapes. Angles a national monument. My joints
naturally begin to decompose. Family medical history hunts like a leopard. Consume the body as something to hide. With so much mutation why can’t I be superhuman? Instead, scalpels are the paint brushes of my future body as calamity as breathless canvas. I shorten my life with pleasures, the unconscious tutelage of my parents. Only mangled steel away from expiration. What if my cuts never healed? Would I slice myself like an invitation? I turn into desiring object desired jagged shards gnawing my reflection.

To Those That Came

Before me, I see dandelions
displayed like jewelry.
Each atop a hand
carved wooden stand.
I blow into each in turn.
Some make declarations, some scream
or roar, some converse and others lecture,
others say nothings
in the ear.
Upstairs I examine
the stems. I run
my thumb making
out letters by touch.
Gasps escape as I recognize
the names. I gust through the room.
Heave oxygen like discordant
chatter. Seeds float, linger
like a San Francisco fog.
I collapse on hardwood
floors, starfish looking
up at a roof that is
older than my particular
constellation of atoms.
I try to imagine my whispers
floating nimbus across
countries, worlds.
The impossibility closes
my eyes. In the darkness
behind my eyelids
the dandelions light up
like city lights welcoming
me back
into the night.

How to Make a Man

at conception. Conjure
the masculine with will.
Declare, My son
was the biggest
baby born at the hospital

Close the blinds
of your home, mistrust
burrows like fig
seeds in the teeth. Tell
your son he is useless
just enough for him
to believe.
Turn his skin
to leather in the ancient
way, an artisan,
you crosshatch soft hands.
Make his world
unstable like a blown
tire, rims sparking
on asphalt leave a trail
of wildfires.

Compose him
stories. Build entire worlds.
Myth: I once beat a gym
rat for talking shit. Jacked
abs didn’t save the bastard
from my fist.

Instruct: Hold onto your manhood
like a fish. Put your thumb inside
its mouth. Let it bite
down, draw blood.

Refuse to look him
in the face when he threatens
to cry. After all
you learned to swim
by being thrown
into a lake.

Ask your son, How
many girls are you dating?
When you know
the answer is one. Then
remind him of how you
had three girlfriends
in two countries.

Put too much
burden on his shoulders
before the world does.

And one night
when you’ve had too
many beers,
and only then,
for what you
have become.

Gustavo Barahona-López is a poet and educator from the San Francisco Bay Area. In his writing, Barahona-López draws from his experience growing up in a Mexican immigrant household. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Apogee, Glass Poetry Press’s Poets Resist, PALABRITAS, Puerto del Sol, The Acentos Review, Homology Lit, Hayden’s Ferry Review, among other publications. When Barahona-López is not teaching, you can find him re-discovering the world with his son.