After Hearing of My Father's Passing
After CÚsar Vallejo

This afternoon it's raining in Riverside
and I remember how the mountains of Los Angeles
slowly put on their long coat of pines
as we climbed trails up the steep inclines
of the heart; breaths were hard to take.

I'm sitting here drinking coffee
and thinking of my body and its ghost;
how easy its steam rises into nothingness,
like this coffee. This afternoon the conversation is bitter.

The fake sugar packets are all lined up
according to their color; peach orchards
in a thick winter fog. This afternoon's soft drizzle
is as insistent as memory. Its touch
I can't escape under an umbrella.

You had gone to see your father
who still worked his land, tending to the magueys
on his hill. You stopped saying I love you
after you returned? Did you hear the slow ache
bending like a bowstring in his voice;

the loss of his first son under the crumbling rocks
of a water tank? Maybe you felt the arrow
moving through your body's landscape like a glacier.

I remember the mountains, the echo of shotgun blasts
herding quails into the sky. Father, I remember hearing you
say how easier it would be to bury a father than a son.

This afternoon it is raining like that day I had no desire
to gut the deer hanging from the tree,
to carry the limp body over the hills,
to have its blood drip on my clothes
and dry in between my fingers.

I have no desire to lower your casket,
your body, into the ground, and watch it sway
before the hard wood of the coffin meets the soft earth.

I still remember the man who kept twenty paces ahead of me
up those mountains, who every now and then looked back
to make sure I was still there.

David Campos' poems have appeared in the following magazines: The American Poetry Review, The Packinghouse Review, Connotation Press, Verdad, In The Grove, and The San Joaquin Review. In 2012 his manuscript The Center of a Perfect Mango was named a finalist for the Andres Montoya First Book Prize. He co-hosted the literary radio show Pakatelas on KFCF 88.1 FM Fresno from 2009-2011.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761