The Acentos Review
Belen Lopez was born in Oakland, CA and called it home until a family move during her senior year of high school transplanted her to the Central Valley. A graduate of CSU Fresno, where she majored in English Literature, she has had work published online in Phoebe and in print in Solo Novo. She lives in Madera, CA.
3 Poems by Belen Lopez

Because She Wanted to be a Macho 

For her sixth birthday she asked for a holster, a pair of silver pistolas, 
a golden Sherriff’s star and a new tejana not yet formed to the shape 
of her head, along with new Barbies—to show them how to fight. 

She did not pray for a kiss or a smile from the boy who sat next to her 
in class. She did not dream of the wedding march, the great white dress 
or the color of his eyes. She did not glance out the window waiting 
for him to rescue her. 

She prayed instead to grow up to be a cowboy, a ranchero, a brave 
soldado fighting the French with Benito Juarez. With her Apá 
she watched John Wayne strut to charm a lady, Clint Eastwood snarl 
through a cigar and Pedro Infante sing before fighting his way out of harm. 

From them she learned that machos were never broken. Steady and solid, 
unmovable and hard, they bent only when there was no other way or, when 
no one was looking, under the touch and gaze of a pretty, dark eyed mujer. 

All broken bones, hearts, and pride could be bandaged or forgotten with 
a bottle of tequila, a gunshot aimed into the night and a mariachi song 
unevenly sung in the streets where no one listened or walked. 


She imagined her own legend could be formed this way: el jaripeo, 

she in the middle of the circle, hands and thighs tight on the bull, eyes 
closed, listening for the rush of the rope gliding through the smoking dust 
to capture the bull before she fell or was dropped. 

In these dreams no one yelled “¡Basta! No mas.” Instead they cheered 
and heavy hands slapped her back in congratulations. Her reward for staying on, 
for holding onto the bull and not running after the rope’s snag, was the sting 
of warm cerveza on her tongue, the burn of alcohol in her throat. 

She pictured a long stretch of red earth broken by the occasional song 
or tiroteo. She did not see the foam at the horse’s mouth as it grew tired 
under her weight, the spurs of her boots cutting craters into its side, nor the gun 
rusting over unable to fire in the middle of the fight. 

And never was there so much as a pinprick of blood.

Inheritance of Hands 

I am washing dishes, the yellow rubber gloves 
forgotten once again, when I notice I have Apá’s 
hands: the wide square palms, the sharp knuckles 
and thick boned fingers that do not taper to a fine 
point but remain solid and round to their edges. 
I once complained of their bluntness, their lack 
of grace, the absence of delicate shape. I hated 
how strange and clumsy my fingernails seemed, plain 
and dull even with two coats of bright red nail polish. 

Abuela’s hands were always unadorned, darkened 
by the sun and covered in lines that given words 
might tell how she once lifted and carried six children, 
turned tortillas over a hot comal or braided dark unruly hair 
into contained plaits. Apá’s hands are maps—lines and scars 
that show where he has come close to metal scrapes, burns, 
from when he worked on stubborn engines that gave little, 
that left him stained black and bruised from their resistance. 

My own have begun to collect marks and signposts 
of each mistake and careless act: one between the space 
below my thumb and above my wrist where in a moment 
of distraction skin made contact with a heated oven rack, 
another at the tip of my index finger when one look away 
let knife slice flesh and small red lines where constant 
exposure to moisture has dried and cracked the skin 
open so that each flex of finger, each turn of wrist, aches. 

Now that the water creates wrinkles in my fingertips, 
white ridges that rise and fold, and agitates the skin 
of my knuckles until they are raw and red, I can see 
how easily my hands might betray me as I age and curl 
into half claws like Abuela Carmen’s. Moreno hands— 
Apá once said when the gold bangle I was trying to 
slip on snagged above the joint of my thumb before 
it fell loose, circling my wrist—your inheritance. 

Amá tells me to take care of them when she catches me 
being careless in this way. She taught me to wash away 
the soap, shake the water off, dry my hands with a faded 
kitchen towel and rub sweet scented aloe lotion into the skin 
to ease away the red. She points to her own hands dusted 
with tan freckles, the streams of blue veins raised like ridges 
on a topographic map, and shows me what I should avoid. 

El Nopal 

In the yard of the house 
we once lived in, the new 
owners have cut down 
la penca de nopal. 

When we were there 
it had grown as tall 
as the fence, the root of it 
large and solid, gray 
that sprouted upward 
into bright, new green. 

We complained but always 
ate it when Amá served it 
grilled and sprinkled with 
salt, stirred into frijoles 
and huevos, boiled in water 
until soft and slimy, or sliced 
and tossed into a salad of diced 
tomatoes, cilantro and onions. 

Only when raw, freshly cleared 
of thorns could we refuse it, 
though my little brother 
preferred it this way 
and waited for the next piece 
to be wiped clean. 

This new family must have 
found it gave them only bitter 
rewards: a toddler unaware 
of hurt, a supply that surpassed 
any demands, hands bruised 
and pierced by eyeless thorns. 

Sometimes, driving past 
the house, I can see the ground 
where the heavy base once stood 
is bare and packed, the sprout 
of what will take its place not 
yet rising up, above.