William Archila


William Archila is the author of The Art of Exile, 2010 International Latino Book Award, and The Gravedigger’s Archaeology, 2013 Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prizeh. His work has been published in American Poetry Review, AGNl, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry MagazineTin House, , and the anthologies The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNextTheatre Under My Skin: Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry, and The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the US. He was featured in Spotlight on Hispanic Writers, Library of Congress. He earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Oregon.

All Things Dark; Argument for a Migrant


    What I’m saying is

 he descends without a guide, 

more or less insane, 

                                    down like a robe 


lit by a match, waist-deep      in the waters     

     then stalagmites rise      and stalactites fall, 

           only to find a translation 

     he knows too well      how simple 

it feels to feel strange.


What I’m saying is 

stumbling back to the light,

     he retraces his steps,      out 

     to their gilded cross,      bent knee 

on the shore     out to find

           the shipwrecked      Spaniards.


No one deserves that entrapment, 

not the dealer, not the pope, not the day 

     inside the body of a bag. 


                                     No brimstone, just skillful order 


getting doped           on the way delegates     


           rephrase the facts,


something in the flak 

                                          when walls go up, 


     the way you give up 

                                                  or get off the ground 


                                      because there’s a belief 

                                                        like kingdom come,


           that you are generous

that you can make another human being      feel good. 


     What I mean is 

It’s dark in here, bottlenecked into the desert, 

              the color of clot,      of a godless god,


but he’s done with that, lost enough to admit 


there’s always something foul     that takes hold


how simple 

it feels to feel strange.


      something cunningly 

          doing the dirty work.




All Foot & Bone for My Insomnia  

             For my Central American students 


        They will tell you

     I smoked weed, that I kicked 


          my mother in the ribs, that I shook her loose,

  couldn’t hold a baby or a job,


   whatever it took     to incarcerate me. 


Is it too much to ask

     for the footsteps still out 


     in the brush. Hand over the dollars 

     or drown. Brush of bones, brush of 


     discarded clothes. Let me show you 

when night comes       its sweet smell, 


its rough earth. Follow the trail

or they’ll take you for dead.


     Whether I’m a boy with a soul     

     or a dog with a mind, they’ll break 


my stiff collar    break the whisper

     of a moth.  I have no choice             


     but to walk it, risking the thought

     of losing the only moon 


in my pocket.     All this to say

I am tired of the mind      falling behind. 


All this to say     there’s a bus 

enveloped in flames.      How long 


          beneath the tooth-shaped 

mountains. To walk the desert


I need a mind to sleepwalk 

           constantly walking back


the hours, the whole tract 

     to believe     in one more day 


piled on all the other days

plodding trails. I can’t go back now


and I can’t explain      why I cannot 

     concentrate, but I have so much  


faith in my legs. Don’t tell me

I’ll grow accustomed to this place.


     I know. I plugged my batteries 

to get here. And I’m willing to bet      


     whatever can flesh me      

     with what’s to come  


I will scratch. I will dig and growl, but I will not die                           

like a hairy carcass.    


I’m more than that. More than the maggots.


           More than crickets.       Let the coyotes


do their best      with the empties in my belly.


My mind goes on like this 


     over the rugged road, broken

cricket     making a pilgrimage.


How ignorant to believe 

     my biography is all foot & bone. 


After all this time 

     no one was watching.



Echo Park Poem


I’ve got that Johnny Pacheco 

kind of feeling tonight

and I want to drop it 

like a 4 x 4 in the middle

of the road, break it down 

like it’s Africa, 1974.

In Angeleno Heights, 

from my bungalow window

strung with retro Christmas lights

I can see in the dark

the buildings, downtown, sick

with their own sweats, indifferent 

to the shopping cart, monolith 

of a mattress beneath the palm tree.

There’s an international agitator 

in my kitchen who’s got

the blues and his alligator boots,

a blathering feeling that matinées

are the best time for b-movies,

for the most part film noir. 

Everything in my Echo Park 

bungalow is an off rhyme. 

Not like the oblique Emily 

Dickinson, but more like

Antonio Carlos Jobim,

Desafinado, Cheo Feliciano 

scrolled tight into a bass line,

terse, imaginative 

and utterly funky. It’s true,

my bungalow was a nightclub

in some hole in the wall

in Havana, but this time 

everyone gets to keep

their money, carousing 

like trains by the turntable,

some wrapped in tobacco  

leaves, some a bit of rum 

to unloosen the tongue,

others philosophizing about home

and whiskey, top shelf. All the shots 

are the same and all the shots 

are good. I got that saying 

from a little Irish man 

outside Dublin. Such is the story. 

Today the gentrified streets 

of Echo Park are far

from my feet. Now I know

I want my hands over the table

the way Bill Evans hunches

over the piano. All night,

I’ve orbited the moon

of my inheritance,

three parts coffee, two parts milk,

a pinch of sugar to beat 

the devil out of his mind

and come up complete.

































































© The Acentos Review 2020