The Acentos Review

Roy G. Guzmán’s poems are forthcoming in Drunken Boat, BorderSenses and Red Savina Review. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Dartmouth, he also publishes work via his own blog: A native of Honduras, Roy’s work often explores citizenship and identity. Roy currently resides in Miami, FL, where he works as an English instructor. Follow him on Twitter (@dreamingauze).
1 Poem by Roy Guzmán
Preparations for a Journey Home


Almost a year before the plane tickets are secured
you need to place a phone call to everyone who was good
to you the year before. If anyone gave you the evil eye
or tried to steal your man, or didn’t offer you a helping hand
when your ass was unemployed, you crossed them off the list 
and with the names still left on the list, you pulled out the old 
agenda and called every number to see who was still alive.
A few “The number you have reached has been disconnected” 
notices later, without any other clue of your whereabouts,
mom supposed you died or they caught your ass and deported
you. It was like going down the list of those who played a raffle
with La Chica, but for paranormal reasons “didn’t want” to claim the prize.
Quizá se los tragó la tierra, my aunt would say, though the earth 
had no business with them. Dejá de andar preguntando tanto, cipote.


La Chica is the Everyman’s name for the national lottery of Honduras. 
You can buy your tickets at the pulpería or at any other store at the mall,
but that depends on whether you can afford a big bowl of seafood soup, 
un sopón. Every Sunday we would gather around the radio and listen
for the winning numbers, turning down the volume of my grandfather’s other 
radio that played a marimba program, including interpretations of The Beatles’
catalogue. Sometimes the price would go from one lempira to five lempiras,
depending on what was up for grabs in the raffle of la lotería. You could gamble
for a toaster, although mostly everyone still preferred tortillas, 
but there were times when you could wager on a telephone
and finally have a way to communicate with your brothers en La Yuma
without having to use your neighbor’s phone, the one who had lived
outside the country and recently came back all sick to live out
the rest of her days – if you won. Nowadays, PlayStations are quite popular
and even a washer machine is one way to slow down the blisters
on your fingers from washing your clothes en la pila, but you won’t find 
any rifa that goes for a lempira or even twenty lempiras: All you hear 
coming out of everyone’s mouths is dólares nos dan más pisto. More dinero.


¿A cuánto está el cambio? my mom typically introduces herself
at the currency exchange kiosk without even saying good morning.
I was in a rush, she tells me when I bring it up at home. Ay, no!
my sister can get a better deal in Honduras if I send the money
directly through the bank. With the way she’s counting money, 
dollar after dollar, I know the lady at the kiosk is lynching my mom
in her head. You’ve got to learn where to get the best deals, hijo. 
No nos hagamos los brutos. Basically, don’t be a dumbass, Roy. 
We leave the premises – a beep usually goes off to remind those of us
who, like my mom, are prone to carrying weapons inside the store, to, 
listen: We’re watching you. Nobody’s bruto up in here. Puchica,
ni que les estuviéramos robando a estos sinvergüenzas, mom says, but 
I know that if you find my mom with el moño vira’o, as my dad says, on
the wrong day, you may have a bounty hunter before you.


Names are crossed out like items already purchased at the supermarket
or comestibles that are too expensive for my mom’s temper.
My mom still takes my red pens from my bag when I’m not looking
though I mostly use them to grade without intending to brutalize
anyone’s writing talents. Because I teach English, my mother
wants me to translate for her what the operator says when she places
a call, and for reasons of extreme alarm, she can’t get through.
Come hear what she says. I write everything down for her
and she runs her eyes over it to make sure she understands a few words.
What happened to Priscila? I haven’t heard from her in years,
she says, briefly going to the kitchen to check that the rice hasn’t burned.
I don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell her I don’t know.
Why are plane tickets that expensive? I don’t know, the economy.
Did you check that Maritza didn’t go last year without asking us
if she could take something on our behalf to my dad? I don’t know,
she doesn’t strike me as someone who would do that, mom. She
looks at me suspiciously, testing out how much of what I say 
is based on speculative truth. Ya, dejá! Let me make the calls myself.


We go to Wal-Mart and there’s a toy for a little girl whose mother
used to bring me toys when I was a little boy but, of course, I don’t recall
the mother’s name. Ten bags of rice are always discounted at Costco
especially when you translate their cost to the exchange rate. Uno más
uno por nueve. See how you save a lot of money shopping here, son?
I’m usually checking out the bestselling books when she approaches,
almost knocking me down with the shopping cart. Tomato sauce
cans are her favorite because we apparently make the best spaghetti
in Honduras, and she skips the tuna section because that’s for the poor
and everybody’s already tired of eating that over there, not in those
exact words, but you get the gist. She finds garments to wrap each item,
including anything that isn’t breakable because you can’t trust those
zánganos, especially when you’re at the airport and they’re inspecting
every detail in your bag like you just stepped out of prison. Once the list
is finalized, the months roll, one after the other, long months
of anticipation, of who’s going to be nicer to her, who’s been an exemplary
grandchild to my grandfather, who’s going to be shocked
that she’s lost a few pounds. Because I can’t afford to skip work
I drive both my parents to the airport. My mom, refusing to shed a tear,
says, Nadie se ha muerto, nobody’s died, and I think they’re my children.


She asks me how I’m doing over the phone, why I haven’t bothered
to give them a call, that she didn’t need one after all, because she was
busy catching up with old friends, people she hasn’t seen since they
were going to preparatory school together. I listen intently because she’s about
to give me a list. What do you want me to take back home? Queso?
Mantequilla? Beans? Torrejas (even though it’s not winter)? That candy
you used to eat as a kid, what do you call it? She doesn’t stay long
on the phone, says she doesn’t have many minutes left on the calling card,
even though she just bought a magicJack before leaving, but she couldn’t 
set it up the entire time she’s been there, and Skype doesn’t exist either 
because my cousin is always at work and doesn’t have time. What did you eat
today? she asks, all of a sudden a bit concerned she’s somehow missed the most 
important question. We’ll see each other soon, I reassure her, knowing that what 
I hear in the background is a party for which I’ll never be the guest of honor.