Piel

by Esteban Rodríguez Issue: Spring 2019

 

Piel

 

Begin with adjectives: brown, bronze,

dark as old leather left out in the sun.

And as you pick a scene and dust

the edges off, focus on the bridge

crossing back, on the begging you still hear

when you and your mother reach the end,

open a door and feel the rush of cool

office air, and wait, as you’ve waited before,

for the line to dwindle, for the officer

to call you up, ask for your papers,

and pause when he takes in your mother’s

skin, then looks at yours, unconvinced

your light complexion makes you

her son. Remember your silence,

remember the questions that sound,

from what little Spanish you understand,

like they’re meant for your mother

to slip, to stutter the wrong birthday,

birthplace, the full name that still gets stuck

on your lips. And when the officer

turns to you, asks in a heavy accent

if this woman is really your mom,

nod and say yes, then grab your mother’s

hand, sure that your touch will be enough

to let you both pass.



Esteban Rodríguez

Esteban Rodríguez is the author of Dusk & Dust, forthcoming from Hub City Press (September 2019). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Arts & Letters, The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Puerto del Sol, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. His reviews have appeared in PANK and American Book Review. He lives with his family and teaches in Austin, Texas.