Willy Palomo

Pupusas or Lucha
            with a line sampled from New York Times’s ridiculous feature “The Corn Cakes of Red Hook.”

They look like tortillas
& yanquis can’t tell the difference

entre mexicano y guanaco,
entrées como accents y pimienta.

Call them tamale pancakes, stuffed
masa frita, the humble lovechild

of a quesadilla y calzone. The Spanish
couldn’t pronounce popotlax either

—what we called pupusas before we forgot
to add the taste of nawat y libertad.

Take a knife to my skin
if you want to see what we’re made of,

but real guanacxs, we ain’t afraid
to get our hands dirty.

I stink loco with lorocco’s reefer, slap
& massage masa until its ass-fat.

My father used to slap my hands
for squeezing maseca like play-doh.

Making pupusas is women’s work.
Call me a maricon. Once, he threw out

an entire batch porque la salsa
no era autentico. Whatever.

Now, you can find pizza-pupusas
y pupusas from SLC. Now, I smack

fried chicken like God’s Son
into la masa & watch it

pop & tremble campero
into a bassline of humo y fuego.

Call them what you like.
As for me, I’ll call them domingos

where dinner set off fire alarms
& the entire house smoked with mantequilla.

I’ll call them midnights mama stayed up
to make enough to pay off

debt collectors, the way we gave our best
to survive & fill our children’s bellies,

leaving them all licking their lips.


A Prayer to St. John
            There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…
             1 John 4:18

fear is love if love is
                        what a father holds
            in his chest         is love
                        when his third daughter leaves
para el norte
            after two others
have already left and forgotten
                        their family

            what else is a loving
                        father to do when every bullet
shell lands pointing north
                        and have become better navigators
            than god’s own stars

                        when his cut hands
                                    look as if they would be happier
            if they fled as well

fear is love if love is
                        what a son holds
            in his throat         is love
                                    salty         hot
hard as a testament

                        if a mother
            spends at least three days a week
                                    in a church studying god
and still doesn’t understand
                        her son but loves her son
now who is to blame for that

if prayer is love             if god is love

fear is love if love is
            fearing god and did you not
            when soldados delivered the head of the baptist
who shares your name
                        on a salver

            were your eyes not swollen
                                                as his heart

                                    what do you choose
            to call the love you
                        felt for Jesus
when you saw him
                                    hanging by his ankles and wrists
                        una gallina india
                                    ready for a massacre

            an uncle once told me
how soldados hung his father
                        for hours         by his wrists
then his ankles
        porque era guerrillero
                                    and he wouldn’t tell them
            where his friends were

            as they prepared to hang him
                        a third time
                        a last time
        by his testicles now
                        the man so loved himself
            he cursed and spat and shat
at las caras de mierda
        perros pendejos hijos
                                    de la gran puta madre

pinche despotas         maldito cabrones         fucking violadores

            praying they would kill him instead

            I want a heart
as fierce
            a biter
            a thrasher
            a motherfucker
            a flood
to make me vomit
                        my own lungs

call it survival         call it love


Willy PalomoWilly Palomo learned poetry from the worlds of hip-hop and slam poetry. In 2015, he received his BA in English and Creative Writing and an Honors degree from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, where he founded the college’s first poetry slam team and served as Editor-in-Chief to ELLIPSIS…LITERATURE & ART. He has competed in poetry slam nationally as a member of Salt City Slam and Westminster Slam. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Muzzle, Acentos Review, Button Poetry, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing an MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and an MFA in poetry at Indiana University.


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