Issue 21: Esteban Rodriguez


And after your tribe rations the last

of its fowls, and the dogs you voted

to kill are skewered, stuffed quietly

into everyone's mouth, you let delirium

reign, see shapes that resemble food

in every rock, slope, mountain range,

in the mirages that scuttle the desert floor,

in the shadows that pool into more shadows

when dusk prologues a fingernail moon.

Your stomach begins to eat itself,

and as families break apart, as elders –

ready to become powdered architecture

for the ground – urge their progeny on,

you too find a place to rest, and dream

of a dining hall, a feast, of a table filled

with guests, none of whom you know,

and none of whom you're meant to know

when you see God seated at the end,

dressed not in the suit you expect,

but a uniform adorned with ribbons,

epaulettes, and with medals for all

the earthly battles fought, for all the lives

he allowed himself to spare.  


No church. No priest. No father

to walk you down the aisle, no aisle

but the path you dream inside a cemetery,

worn with toppled gravestones,

ashen effigies. Barefoot, you walk

through it, avoid the shattered coffins

the way one avoids an ambush,

the way a body suspects gunfire,

bomb blasts, shrapnel. Beyond the hills,

firefights rage, and even as smoke

suffocates the sunset, and villagers

begin their exodus, you accept

you're wearing a wedding dress,

that your groom somewhere awaits,

and that once you reach him, trade vows

like secret documents, the soldiers

at the gate will neglect their duty,

and with the grace of rice throwers,

shower your exit with grenade pins

and shell casings.

Esteban Rodriguez is the author of Dusk and Dust (Hub City Press, 2019). His poetry has appeared in various publications, including The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Water~Stone Review, Washington Square Review, and Puerto del Sol. He lives with his family and teaches in Austin, Texas.

Copyright © 2018 by Esteban Rodriguez, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.