Canciones Que Cruzan El Atlántico: An Aztec’s Offering for Killing an Igbo

by Antonio Lopez

I .

The Scientists Can’t Explain Daylight Savings Time

On bow-legged rails, I gaze
at the kink-haired cosmos,
the cryptic fray that unbraids
life’s greatest wonders.

What is a lunar eclipse
but to hide my face behind her afro,
freshly lathered in hibiscus.

I paw through its oil;
pastel our tomorrow
on rented ceilings

so coco-scented shea
can make the sun shudder,
and bathe in its golden flair.

The mages in lab coats,
baffled at their frozen watches,
spin the world-still phenomenon

as “Daylight Savings,”
which in reality, is nothing more
than the act of pawning
an hour with her.

I close the blinds
and watch time itself
dance on the umbra stylus

that is her diamond-glossed lips,
which play our recuerdos,
crackling in el alma,

like the vinyl rancheros
que mi abuela clutches
with her good hand.

Her moonlit legs dangle
off a paper-strewn desk.
Thighs lap on between mine.

I’m her human hammock,
rocking to the still winds
of the lonely question.

“What’s wrong?”
echoing in the ebony brush.

I take her hand, palm-reading
the stitches God made,
believing my kisses to be sutures.

Wishing my tongue was a Swiflet
hot saliva tying silk archways
into her callused grooves.

Wishing I could unravel my lips
and hush a lifeline,
(even if threadbare)

latido a latitude, across
the Himalayan heels of the palms,
the creeks sown in sandalwood skin
the humid tropics brewing what
         she rudely calls “clammy hands.”

—but none of this happens.

Instead, she peers over the desk,
cranes her neck passed the tower of books
blocking chair and bed

blocking my view of her
in a fetal position,
wearing my Supermario pajamas
and parachute-shirt,

which helps her land the
three-year jump from
when I loved her, to now.

Instead, she slaps the first page
of this poem, and cries,

“My body
is not some metaphor
for your mouth to colonize!”


When Tumblr “Ships” Sink

And cries,
“Just fuck me and get back to your work.
Isn’t that what you really what?!”

She paces our nightly precinct to rummage the floor
for old necktie-handcuffs and mangled slacks—
the foreplay to try make things work.

As she shuffles in her coffee-stained slippers,
the styrofoam floor regurgitates
our sleepless arguments—
         “You don’t fucking care.
         You know how depressed I am?
         I-I tried to k i l l m y s e l f.
         Don’t you get it, I have no. One. Else!”

As tears blotch her mascara,
I study the Rorschach test under her eyes:
the crows feet taloned to day-old makeup.

The bow-legged rails I fantasized
in these cloud-white pages
now distort to half-lain ghosts

now distort to her frail featherweight body,
dangling over the window of this 3rd floor dorm,
and I furiously dig underneath her dangling feet
until there’s no earth from which she can fall,
until my whispers reach the skin behind her ears,

She finally stops,
balls her hands to make
a gavel made of fist

and warns me,
at the slip of her t-shirt gown,
the pain of truancy.
         “You’re not even here anymore!”
That an oncoming storm approaches—
a scarlet-screamed madrugada

where Tumblr “ships”
are stripped of their courting,
leaving just the cold calculations
of a girlfriend-turned-magistrate to
unhook her judicial black bra
and exclaim,
“Why are we doing this?”


The Second I Realized my Breath was Smog for Her,

was when my excuses rust into a tailpipe
whose carbon monoxide plummed a noxious atmosphere.

Where I pant, “I’m so-So sor-“
until my voice is drained of its exhaust,
and I must resort to kneading an apology
in between her bare shoulder-blades.

Until my hands rivet acidic canals,
and she cries through the pain
of touching her;

until nuestras carisias
stiffen her skin
like cheap furniture

After an hour is eight and half minutes,
and I mistake a heavy sigh for an orgasm.

“We’re done.”


Interlude (P1): Ode to the Hija We Could’ve Had

Over a wrinkled driveway,
paved in mortared fantasías,
Mi chiquilla crawls in single-file clumsiness.

Until her body is cribbed by the front yard’s grass,
yellowed from the Mexican obelisks
of weekly bounce houses.

California drought draws up a tear,
as hood-destrians hover ‘round
the newfound well-spring.

Next to her, I pillow my head in the straw man debates,
of neighbors walking their pitbulls, hollering,
“Ey rogue, ain’t chu ‘fraid your fam’s not
goin’ accept her cuz she half-black?”

Con chubby thighs todas rosadas, she
lifts the doughy gauntlet,
smacks me straight in the belly,
and garbles, in half-Spanish, “What is race?”

I chuckle how the two women of my life
find my chest a sound block for their judgments.

No soy un científico,
pero con cada teething,
I swear I observe

Quantum superposition.
It is my baby girl’s laughter
jouncing through energy levels.

A valence shell electron
that allows a glance,
if you blanket it in baby powder.

I then surrender the grass
as a toddler’s chalkboard,
as she proceeds to deliver the lecture,
in full-glottal that
Bohr holes in my logic.

Later that evening,
I tried to sleep off the defeat, but
her mother’s icebox feet peeped
from flea market cobijas.


Interlude (P2): How to Patent an Infant’s Groundbreaking Findings

Grab an envelope.
Use her whirling concoction of drool y flema,
the one that drips onto my shirt,
as the signet to send to CERN.

Control for her mouth
whose pink-fleshed pipette
titrates the molarity of my patience.


At the Gardens, Where I Would’ve Proposed,

A golden sari blushes in the afternoon.
A rubber-gripped stroller jostles in gravel.
Empty, the parents search in frantic, until they hear
a high-pitched Tamil tumbling in the hyacinths.

Nearby, swarthy men turn a slanted hill into a cancha—
Sobre sus playeras, el tricolor se repinta en
yonky grasa, cal de tortilla, y cloro de piscinas—
gritan, “¡Pásala! ¡Acá! ¡No lo tires!”

Con nada de perder, menos las libras.

Mientras, comadres chatter field-side,
chuckling at their pot-bellied sculptures,
once out of stock, playing as if
they were young men again.

* * *

Como si trajeron flores del minisuper,
so that when they lightly rap on the door,
they hear their fathers make small talk

while the sisters huddle inside a room,
dresses y pantalones de mezclilla
scattered across the bed.

Mother’s careful surgical hands
holds a flat iron, each streak against
their hair palpitates the heart

until the shock of seeing neighborhood boys,
becoming men in a single vaquero-outfit,
at the turn of a bedroom’s doorknob

so that by nightfall, over a tipsy banda,
they’ll learn how their bodies
sigh against one another.

* * *

At the drawbridge, the blades of lemon-grass
stutter against her ankle. Not looking in front,
choqué mi macetón against a hanging basket.

Inside, its drooping impatiens blush
a magenta hue on their white cheeks,
reeling from the embarrassment.

But stirs from her olive sun-dress, its
vine braided alongside her back,
grants my executive pardon.

Mientras que las huareches
que le regalé prickle her feet,
I lean against the bridge.

The sun’s sequined reflection masks the schools below.
I watch her, fiddling with her headwrap.
She turns away, and shyly volleys, “What?”

I tell her, “You ain’t cute, trying to be play Koi.”
Deadpan face steers away the pun’s Japanese victims
until I chuckle, “You’re making this harder.”

At this cue,
a gush of countless browns—
         Daughters of the sari,
         Sons of sombrero,
         kin of the kente—
         pour onto the bridge’s edge.

Alms of alumni, bearing gifts of
         cellphones streaming live,
         dollar store balloons,
         half-shaken cider,
         a suspended breath—

where time dances on stylus-lips,
her mouth as it gapes to say…

—a single kneel.


“…And the Strength of Ten Thousand Moons”

Inside a molcajete,
I make an ofrenda from her body,
still warm, made of:
         Brown sugar

I add a few drips of our honeymoon
to the oils of her hair, which I once sacrificed
to burn that of midnight’s.

Mix the lye with my lies:
That “I was busy,” that “I didn’t care”
to paste onto the wall’s skin.

I stare at el muralismo,
the war-torn elsewheres
I chose to dwell,

which ravaged any semblance
of a child’s wallpaper.

In this pre-frontal asylum,
I see her bagged eyes
teetering on the windowsill,

I look outside the third floor
where her body stood,
and see:


The Daughter of Ala

Sus ojos negros
create a trail of studs
into the sky

so as to coax Ala,
Odinani’s cruelest seamstress,
to weave folds of the past
in celestial clockwork.

* * *

Ala tucks the Moon away
in her indigo firmament.
And out of my neglect,
—the once starchy sábanas,
donde tendía lo que no entendía.—
fashions a crib

where my bride crawls
into her pre-natal state:
a child born from cosmic collison.

From Theia and proto-Earth,
primordial bodies so enraptured
in their orbital chemistry,

that out of their molten chunks,
la tierra created a beautiful
but barren body.

With craters freckling her face,
her piercing cries evaporated
all remaining saltwater.

Losing volatiles fast,
—potassium, zinc, and lead —
Ala banishes the runaway isotopes

to wander eons in the dark stairs
of space, and cast shades of light
onto the southern crescents.

Until I ask her,
“Where’d you get
this birthmark?” .

* * *

The depletion ensues.
Her body grounds to star-dust
and slips into her mother’s
waning womb.

A heavenly orphan, every night
she steals her reflection from the sun.
To pour honey-milk on dusky rivers,
on border-fenced creeks,
on thighs, never to be perched
         over my paper-strewn desk,
on the windowsill of Ala’s daughters,
who still don’t know they are daughters,
         to water the succulents
         of their curly crowns.

Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, ANTONIO LOPEZ received a double B.A. in Global Cultural Studies (Literature) and African-American studies from Duke University (Class of 2016). He’s an inaugural John Lewis Fellow, a recipient of Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award, and a finalist for the 2017 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize. In 2017, he attended the Yale Writer’s Conference, the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, as well as awarded the Lucille Clifton Memorial Scholarship to attend the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. His nonfiction has been featured in TeenInkThe ChroniclePEN/America and his poetry in After Happy Hour ReviewGramma PressSomos en EscritoElecticaHispanecdotesLa BlogaAcentos ReviewSinking CityWhat Rough BeastBy&ByPermafrostTrack//Four, and the American Journal of Poetry. He is currently pursuing a Master in Fine Arts (poetry) at Rutgers University-Newark.