Noche Buena

After being stripped naked by federales
for a third time on the way to Tijuana,
after a limp peso slipped from a tear
in Tomas’s wet underwear
and he earned the electric kiss
of a taser thrice below the navel,
its triple pronged lips
staining his hips purple and pink,
after running for hours over freeways
dodging the lonely lights of fathers
returning home from their graves,
my countrymen pretend
it is the cold and not the fear
–not the women disappeared
halfway through Guadalajara,
not the coyote’s twitch at urgent questions,
not the liquored gleam on the surface
of the officials’ M-16s–that makes them
shiver. Cornered by a dumpster
and the wicked blade of the moon,
the huddled men wait for the van
that will hide them between scrap metal
to take them over the border.
This is not an allegory or the sermon
of a self-enamored priest.
My primo really crossed the border
on December 24th, 1989
after surviving more than a decade
of war. On December 25th,
the coyote gifted him his first Whopper
in San Diego and Tia Tere
gifted the coyote another mil quinientos
for his life. The only other gift
my primo received that Christmas
came from the man in the dumpster.
The man leapt out of the receptacle
with a rattling bag of aluminum cans
and scared the living shit
out of my primo and his companions.
The men jumped back and then
laughed like idiots
with their hands in their pockets.
Once the man realized who they were,
he left and returned with a box
of galletas for them to share.
It was all they ate for the day.

Willy Palomo is the son of two immigrants from El Salvador. WAKE THE OTHERS, his debut collection of poetry, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in March 2020. In 2019, he co-founded La Piscucha Magazine, a bilingual Salvadoran literature and culture magazine published online by Editorial Kalina. In 2018, he graduated with an MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and an MFA in Poetry from Indiana University. In 2017, he received the City of Bloomington Latino Leadership Award, the MLK Building Bridges Graduate Student Award, and the Latino Faculty & Staff Graduate Student Award for his work serving undocumented communities in Indiana.

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