El Chillón Means Crybaby
All I was was a chillón.
Neighbors lined up against our fence
while the nurse checked for fever.
Mamá Pati called me her ear’s fruit fly.
Backyard mangos begged god,
¡Callá este chillón diosmío!
This is what Abuelita tells me.
She says everyone brushed ash-toothpaste
with horsehair toothbrushes, that
Mamá Pati had a baker’s sleep schedule,
that before 4 am, bakers once baked bagels
for tourists. My town hates bagels. I’m nine
and I’ve never seen a bagel.
I don’t remember how tourists tipped.
Abuelita still does. Before I was born
she says the dawn’s locomotion of troops
was the town’s alarm. She says
the aftertaste of ashes is moth wings—
arid powder where names are buried.
Those gringos wore uniforms and threw coins
into the tide, she says, and boys reached for copper
from El Norte, where she knows
dusk is like honey. She says mangos begged god,
¡Callá estos gringos diosmío!
I know no one slept before my birth.
For years after,
still, no one slept.
Pump Water from the Well
This is no shatter and stone.
Come skip toes in my chest Salvador.
I’m done been the shortest shore.
¿And did you love all the self out of you for me?
I want you to torch the thatch above my head.
To be estero. To be mangroves.
There are mornings I wake with taste of tortillas in warmed up milk.
There are mangos no one listens to.
¿Is this the shatter you imagined for me?
Everywhere is war.
I want to scrape your hair as wind asks from stars.
Hold my hands above mine.
Whistle the patch of dirt I pumped water from to bathe.
Simmer down to chickens, dogs, parakeets.
This was my block.
The one I want to shut off with rain.
Where I want to plant an island.
Barrio Guadalupe hijueputa born and bread cerote que onda.
The most beautiful part of my barrio was stillness—
A rustling of wings caught in the pattering soil that calls me to repair it.
Don’t tell me I didn’t bring the estero up north where there’s none.
I’ve walked uptown. I saw Mrs. Gringa.
The riff between my fingers whispered in whirlpools.
Silence stills me. Pense quedarme aquí I said.
I don’t understand she said.
From my forehead, the jaw of a burro, hit on the side and scraped by a lighter to wake the
song that speaks two worlds.
The kind of terrifying current.
The kind of ruinous wind.
Javier Zamora was born in La Herradura, El Salvador. At the age of nine he immigrated to the United States. He is a CantoMundo fellow and a Breadloaf scholarship recipient whose work was selected for inclusion in Best New Poets 2013. His chapbook, Nine Immigrant Years, is the winner of the 2011 Organic Weapon Arts Contest. Zamora’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Connotation Press, FourWay Review, New Border, OmniVerse, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. He is an MFA candidate at NYU.