The Acentos Review
Benjamin Alfaro is a writer, organizer, and educator from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is a writer-in-residence with InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit. His work has appeared in several Michigan-based anthologies, Red Cedar Review, and on the HBO Original Series 'Brave New Voices.' He is a co-founder of WayneSLAM on the campus of Wayne State University and a co-founder of the statewide youth poetry festival, 'Michigan Louder Than a Bomb.' His second collection of poems, Home Court, will be released this fall on Red Beard Press. He lives in Detroit.

3 Poems by Benjamin Alfaro

My mother answers the phone,
chews the inherited A between
her teeth, rending it down
like a gristly cut of meat:
el ferro she says, arduously.
An anchor, I think.
A pearl smoke gambols loose
from a narrow chimney of lips.
She grits a rustle of bicuspids
as it leaves. My father's name
etched from bulbous vowels.
Her name built on keel deck,
spit shined on boats made of
old money: Copper. Lumber. Salt.
Other times, it is el faro.
A lighthouse, I imagine. Piloting
the water of a bad voyage. Steered
single, dried liver black. Tongue,
a cutting beam she remembers
in memoir, in flashes of light.


So much depends
the temperature
of a vowel.
The drawing
of maps.

This name is no timid wick.
It is birch bark from the oldest tree on Vernor.
The Boulevard. In Sahuayo. No-name chicano.
Lessons in a litany of songs. This name
is a lean-to propped in throat, on fire.
Blazing a tremble. It is a mariachi tuning
metal fret guitarras. Hummed language.
It is distant and vessel. Canal of gum line.
My name is a carving knife that offers
the most important lesson
as it cuts my teeth.

Building Juan

My tío tells me his brother is a fiction.
Sixty-seven years and two terms
a stationed medic averse Vietcong
strung in canopy. How war lingered
into our living room carpet. Unclean,
pinned beneath each bristle.
The nights torn agape by tracer fire
or frantic car alarms in a well-lit parking lot.
Foreign behind a gated subdivision,
I wish I could purge the abundant mess.
Could clean my memories of sticky sap
that smelled of coagulated blood
mopped each morning before cartoons.
A lost set of keys. A phone number
to ring his mother after sundown,
implored to shield pending swings.
Timely deterrents, whatever would clear
the air. I'd stake out clearance, sequestered
in bedroom. Pine for clues to circumvent
his antics, like breathing patterns
when he'd pass out early.

My tío asks rhetorically over the phone
what can't drudge itself to poison? I can't
find where the line demarcates hindsight
from regret, how long before a defense
hardens into camouflage like habit. Scrub
clean dysentery spooled across kitchen sink.
Make sure the door is locked.
Hang up the phone. Stopped looking
for his obituary in the newspaper lately.
Wonder if now the descent took its time
to grow me into a shrewd leather.
Recall with honor the man he'd strived for.
His accolades, innumerable. The hero
I'd believed bona fide, instead
of a hidden turpitude lurking in the shadow.
All my flaws are his flaws.
All my successes are his too.
I try to remember the catalog with songs
that don't burn the skin. Maneuver
reminiscence that make me a good man, too.
Hold him in a single, neat myth.
A thread to tug or slack as needed.

Drawing Fractals (Detroit, MI)

fractal |ˈfraktəl|(noun) - a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation.

- New Oxford American Dictionary

“the pattern at the largest level can only be what it is at the smallest level. if we are chaotic within ourselves, our society will be chaotic. if we are fearful, gossiping, angry, dysfunctional, wounded at the small scale, then that is the society we will inhabit. this is a scientific impetus to transform ourselves to transform the world.”
-	Adrienne Maree Brown

It is locomotive. Exhausting. It is mechanical and syncopated.
It is early dawned. It is often freezing. It is smokestack. Constant.
It is the joint pivot to fist. It is barbed fence and booming siren.
It is Easter and Memorial Day. It is Dia de Muertos. It is alabanza.

It is vinyl. Cracked tar. It is toothpick and gravel. It is ice cream truck.
It is bustle. It is metal. It is salt mine. Gold mine. It is underground.
It is malt liquor. It is fattoush and pacski. It is bottom bunk. Decorated.
It is doorag. It is drag queen. It is dressed in paint. It is operatic. Drunk.

It is borrowed time. Broken clock and sealed door. It is crabgrass.
It is mustard and onion. It is graveyard. Bus terminals. Blunt wrapper.
It is Clark Park. It is Rock-n-Rye. It is car window. Wind bustle. Fresco.
It is bar fight. It is shoreline, headline, hairline. It is found in trunk.

It is garden and bodega. Barrio and price out. It is red line. Red brick.
It is pushing. Pushing. It is pillaged. It is arteries of pavement. Hollow point.
It is train track. It is river walk and routine check. Hotter than July heat.
It is bronze statue. Copper coin. It is Baptist church. Ghettoblaster.

It is catfish and prison bid. It is cardboard slum. It is village overrun.
It is leaky roof. It is basement jam. Marching band. It is toe tag.
It is gas refinery. Always fire. It is on a porch drinking cognac.
It is bruised fruit. Grass root. It is tired of being told what it isn't.