Building the Backyard House with Abuelo

(After Rafa Esparza’s staring at the sun

The mix in his hands, our skin
covered with clay, horse dung,
hay, and water, his hands

blend it all together, beauty
how he made the light
be buried, be alive, deep

his breaths, “chito,” he said, “help,”
my hands start to blend the materials,
to get it right like him, my knees

bend, my arms and hands shovel
mixture into the wooden square frames,
I keep going until I can see my shadow

inside the mix, my body
sundried like abuelo’s, southwest
the wind blows, come back tomorrow

he says and again I’m there, in the bricks,
his voice calls out to me, “a home
in the end, walls, for now,

so it can hold it up,” my hands
hold a piece of yesterday, they stick,
embracing one another, he coughs

into the bones of his body, his hands,
memories always setting, abuelo,
where did you begin and I end

this earth, how it lifts
this house: brown,
a landscape I dwell daily

Moncho Alvarado is a Mexican-American queer poet, translator, and educator. Their poems have been published in Emerge: 2018 Lambda Fellows Anthology, The Academy of American Poets website, and other publications. They are a recipient of fellowships and residencies from The Helen Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, Lambda Literary, Poets House, Troika House, and other places. They received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, where they were awarded the Thomas Lux Scholarship for dedication to teaching, demonstrated through writing workshops with youths in Sunnyside Community Services in Queens, NY. Born and raised in Pacoima, CA, they currently live in Brooklyn, NY.

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