Triptych of the Adobe-Cotta Army, los frijoles ya se quemaron, & Apology to Her Majesty, Queen Cardi B

Triptych of the Adobe-Cotta Army

East Palo Alto, Circa 2000 AD

My fingers are desperate
to unearth the ruins
of my countrymen.

Only to find a Tesla
on the second floor
of our apartments

—now a parking garage.
The Amazon logo
smirks above me,
like a biblical cloud.

*

Out here, hooded saints
tore the covenant
of earthly silence.

Passed out Zig-Zag
leaflets, to preach
the gospel of skin.

Whirling dervishes
in long white tees,
bum-rushed me

at a bautizo. Pressed
against my lips,
the cholo chalice

kill it blood.

My chest flushed
at watching boys bronze
into adobe-cotta.

A driveway floodlight,
the barrio’s moon,
casted their bodies.

As they placed bets
against the armors they carried.
A fist tucked

inside a hoodie,
his knuckles spelling
the names of ex-lovers.

Each letter tatted
with a rusted clip.
Cocked belt-buckle

whose colors shouted
to the block
who he fucks with.

Until asphalt swallows
him again, and Marías
now mourn Jesús

outside a sagging fence.
Wreathe his chain-
link with lit candles,

cardboard signs saying
“We miss you.” Streamers
without the heated balloon

that promised flight.

*

Consider the clothesline as a bandolier

slung over weathered soldiers,
whose uniformes still clung
to apartment balconies.

Quien cedieron sus tierras
to raise the wrinkled flags
of blusas and neon vests.

Consider this Aztec sacrifice:
a father offers an empire
his daily flesh. Kneels

on the melted tar
of its tongue, winces
at the body turned legal (tender).

All to nurse the newborn
with this vision,
una vida mejor.

And so Father cradled my head
inside asphalt. Prayed
for our rite

to simply wade.

 


 

los frijoles ya se quemaron

voy
a tenderlos,
as suitcases chuckle
through our home.

sobres stashed
in gabinetes, cash
in chamarras.

mamá inside her black
mustang, rezando
bluetooth misteros
con cuñadas.

what’s changed,
i think
es que ahora,
la creo.

that in reno
or fresno, or
the broad shoulders
of a califas carretera

is her—

a fitted red dress,
botas de tacón,
freshly dyed hair

blushing—
at the nights
that paint
her face

con la misma fé

she once had
for these walls,

burgundy,
off white,
rosita.
that is to say,

i wish i’d been there
amá,
by your side
in the courtroom,

when apá buried
his face
inside the bench.

realizing then, he
wasn’t the sole owner
of this house

named grief.

cómo quisiera
levantar
su cara,
para que viera

the broken pieces
of me,
on car seats
& bedsides—

where the water broke
from your eyes,
birthed me

a man—

& see, the exact moment
i buried
my boyhood,

amá sabrá
que hacer.

 


 

Apology to Her Majesty, Queen Cardi B

Whereas Jimmy prolly can’t pronounce
your name; whereas that green mink’s

mad loud for primetime yuppies; whereas
pasty mugs quietly sipped the Bronx

in a canned Q&A; whereas tickle-me-
white, the color they blushed

after you hollered, Eyyuum!;
whereas was it with, or against you?

Whereas dey prolly ain’t ever seen
homegirls wreathe you
as their patron-saint—

lil’ Lauras wit dey laurels,
whose mouths run the block

searing chisme over hot concrete
and toe straps; whereas blessed b

the scented velas of acetone and plugged-in irons;

and still you trill
the hymns of jainas;

You who told the limelight,
Don’t get too close cuz I ain’t put

no lotion on my hand; whereas se ríen
as you explain your name, how Henny’s

the suture of Black and Brown hands
who killed a forty for each hour

on the job, who lick wounds
with liquor’s promise of numb;

whereas the smh tías who gawk
at the peacock tat running your thighs,

and sigh, cómo hemos caído; whereas
that part in “Motorsport,” where you bent

in front of butterfly doors, hollered,
I’m the trap Selena!; whereas the bark

that tickles my skin, as it does in the shade,
when me and the fellas untuck

the gaze we’ve longed to spliff all week;
whereas errtime I aimed homeboy’s head

like a slingshot, a young women-turned
pair-of-legs passing through the quad,

and eyes carve onto bare flesh;
whereas I chewed a human being

with a dangling mouth,
and called her redbone, feigned

to stare at the dead men
she hefted; whereas I respected

the spine of a book, the tattered
cloth of hardcover,

more than her own.
Whereas these temples of Hoteps

whet teeth with passed-down
stones, our crumbling masonry,

beret down plazas chanting
freedom, yet in dorm parties

bite off a brother’s tongue,
so he speaks nothing

but our worst hungers;
that snarl, who’s the lookout

today, as we try to outsmoke
each other, for the dogs we is.

May I catch the fang she spits
back, chew on my own question

No, are you with or against?
And I too am inside that studio,

clapping with them.
Therefore, be it resolved, Cardi,

Queen of the Bronx, this apology:
may the two-legged perros

claw this gangrene out,
so the tender vespers

that flock our word
not recite our catechisms.

May you, and all the women
who’ve guided my life,

never see the eyes
I once hawked.

 

Antonio López received his BA in global cultural studies and 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. A proud Macondista (2018) and CantoMundo Fellow (2019), his nonfiction has been featured in PEN America and his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Palette Poetry, BOAAT Press, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Acentos Review, Permafrost, Huizache, Tin House, and elsewhere. He received his master of fine arts in poetry at Rutgers University in Newark.