and what He meant, of course, was let there be darkness,
a hieroglyph in every scripture, a vision one must knock
out their eyes to see. Give us nightfall’s sleepless hands,
the chest’s empty wrestle as it resists their definition.
Let there be a sun who will only kiss one side of your face
at a time, the other side annihilated but never known by light.
once / you were a boy / whose mouth never knew / the taste of salt / in blood & sweat / the bitter aftertaste of what lies / damp between legs
once you were / a boy without a name / for the body except mine & please & no / an arm was not an arm / a leg did not need a language
once you were not / once you were a not - boy / what is a boy but a knot / a distance to untangle / the ache in his mother’s back / a puzzle
to roll between fingers / until it dissolves once / you were a boy without / a name for this secret / what is a boy but a naught / a locked door
to a dark room / where the boy has no name / for what he is except / sin & didn’t & lie the boy / spills out of the boy / the taste of salt
you were a boy then / prayer can’t change that / history is long & hard / history touches you & leaves / you nameless an unspeakable
thing if you were a not - boy / then what were you once / someone who blames language / for the misery between legs / for the stiff-necked miser
always asking / for more once you were / a boy who held / a knife between his trembling / legs to free himself / from the Word / the world
were you a boy / a not-boy or a naught-boy / if the blade kissed the skin / would the boy spill out of the boy / beads knotted tough as salt
if you have never looked / in the mirror and wanted / to carve a flank a hole / to devour yourself then / you never understood a knife
would never make / a difference you / would still be a not - / girl you would still be / nothing if not a boy / not a boy & not not
if you have then what / can you say that / will make a difference / you heard the Word / what to do with the knife / but you can’t / you won’t
Willy Palomo is the son of two undocumented immigrants from El Salvador. He learned poetry from the worlds of hip-hop and slam. In 2016, he was named the runner-up Latin@ Scholar at the Frost Place Conference on Poetry. He is currently working on his MFA in poetry and MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Indiana University, where he helps lead UndocuHoosiers Bloomington, an activist organization dedicated to supporting undocumented communities. He runs the Bloomington Poetry Slam and writes books reviews for Muzzle Magazine. His work is published or is forthcoming in Vinyl, Waxwing, The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States, and more.