Poems featured in The Acentos Review

Pulling Onions 

In Guatemala, the children on the streets enjoy
Arranca Cebollas. A young boy hugs
a light post fiercely, while others try to
pull him off, out like an onion in hardened dirt.
They tug and tug, careful not to fall
among the pebbles and shards of glass
that draw blood. 

In Guatemala, an adult version of the game was played.
In the guise of the night, men and women,
indígenas and ladinos, young and old,
were plucked from their colonias,
leaving behind them a trail
of revolutionary pamphlets and empty spaces.

 An unholy rapture. Not Jesus, but Ríos Montt.
Genocide as vast as the silent El Petén jungle
where the military hid its victims,
tortured and killed.

There is No Violence Here

For Arnoldo 

There is no Death Squad.
No 200,000 disappeared
raped, tortured, or killed
under El Señor Jesucristo. 

No bodies deposited in Guatemala,
the Motherland,
in estanques, jungles, and on military bases. 

Only arrested marijuaneros, solventeros,
hookers, malcriados,
and communists. 

Only puntos being erased
from the sentence
that is organized crime. 


There is no SWAT
knocking at your door,
asking for your son. 

There are no narcóticos agents
breaking into his home,
smashing his trinchante and ribs,
taking everything else. 

Only confiscation of evidence,
items purchased
with blood money. 

Not your son’s sweat.
Not his own checks.
Not his own receipts
to prove it, now
burning over the stove. 

There are no militares
with ametralladoras
around every dirt block
grabbing the crotch
of any girl who passes them
with too much hope
in her stride. 

No girls now walking by
your son’s body,
his ears, eyes, and
mouth full of stones. 

No officers so high
off dope they smell colors,
and jump off State jeeps
like quetzals attempting flight. 

Only imagined absence.
Only your silence now.

Abuelita Rosa Dreams of Men in Olive

Una vez lo soñé… unos hombres de vestido olivo lo tenían a él. Y se traspasaba… por eso yo digo que él sufrió para morir, porque saber que castigo les daban. Cuando vivíamos en Santa Marta, yo soñé que se traspasaba las paredes. Se entraba allí con nosotros, por las paredes se traspasaba. Yo dije, Hay Dios…Y soñaba que lo tenían unos hombres de vestido olivo a él, y entonces hablaba conmigo y decía, “No tenga pena, Mamá, no tenga pena. Que no le de pena.” Entonces ya nos pasamos a otra casa. Como a los once días me busco, seguro estaba ya entregando su alma. Se me presento. Lo que me dijo se me olvidó. Iba bien peinado, bien trajeado, su traje precioso, sus zapatos brillaban. Hasta estrellitas echaban sus zapatos. Entonces yo lo quería abrazar y se hizo para atrás. Y se fue, se fue yendo. Se desapareció.

Yo le conté a una Hermana… Ella dijo, “Dios le enseño el sueño para que sepa que Jesús se lo llevo.”

5 Tías and 5 Tíos

My family tree is bigger than the other kids’ because it is wide with 5 tías and 5 tíos, including the one Mamá doesn’t talk about. He was very handsome and loved The Beatles. The girls loved him and he protected her from bad men. He would tell his friends, “Somos cuates, pero cuidadito con mi hermana.” They all respected him.

So when I made the family tree for school I drew a thick brown trunk to hold everyone up together, with the Ramirezes on one side and the Chavezes on the other. But real close to each other. And my hermanas and me all the way at the bottom. Not like in real life, with my hermanas and tíos in Guatemala and us over here.

I drew lots and lots of limbs. I cut out pictures of everyone’s faces, and pressed them flat on the green paper strips Mamá glued on for leaves. Until I was left with one empty space.

“Falta la foto de mi tío.” I opened the album like a crocodile’s mouth and realized I’d never seen what he looks like.