Meet Eduardo C. Corral. The son of Mexican immigrants, he is an assistant professor at North Carolina State University. His first book, Slow Lightning, was selected for the prestigious Yale Younger Series Poets Prize. Corral is the first Latino poet to receive this honor. He has served as the Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Creative Writing at Colgate University and as the Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University, and was recently named a Hodder Fellow at Princeton for the 2017-18 academic year. While at Princeton he will research the life of artist Martín Ramírez, a Mexican artist who created most of his work while institutionalized in northern California.
In Colorado My Father Scoured and Stacked Dishes
by Eduardo C. Corral
in a Tex-Mex restaurant. His co-workers,
unable to utter his name, renamed him Jalapeño.
If I ask for a goldfish, he spits a glob of phlegm
into a jar of water. The silver letters
on his black belt spell Sangrón. Once, borracho,
at dinner, he said: Jesus wasn’t a snowman.
Arriba Durango. Arriba Orizaba. Packed
into a car trunk, he was smuggled into the States.
Frijolero. Greaser. In Tucson he branded
cattle. He slept in a stable. The horse blankets
oddly fragrant: wood smoke, lilac. He’s an illegal.
I’m an Illegal-American. Once, in a grove
of saguaro, at dusk, I slept next to him. I woke
with his thumb in my mouth. ¿No qué no
tronabas, pistolita? He learned English
by listening to the radio. The first four words
he memorized: In God We Trust. The fifth:
Percolate. Again and again I borrow his clothes.
He calls me Scarecrow. In Oregon he picked apples.
Braeburn. Jonagold. Cameo. Nightly,
to entertain his cuates, around a campfire,
he strummed a guitarra, sang corridos. Arriba
Durango. Arriba Orizaba. Packed into
a car trunk, he was smuggled into the States.
Greaser. Beaner. Once, borracho, at breakfast,
he said: The heart can only be broken
once, like a window. ¡No mames! His favorite
belt buckle: an águila perched on a nopal.
If he laughs out loud, his hands tremble.
Bugs Bunny wants to deport him. César Chávez
wants to deport him. When I walk through
the desert, I wear his shirt. The gaze of the moon
stitches the buttons of his shirt to my skin.
The snake hisses. The snake is torn.
Source: Poetry (April 2012)