The Acentos Review

Christopher Soto is a queer latino poet from Southern California, who published his first chapbook "How to Eat Glass" with Still Life Press in the Fall of 2012. He is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at NYU.
2 Poems by Christopher Soto

The Old Neighborhood 
sitting on the porch in 
the old neighborhood 
i talked to the kids 
playing in an inflatable pool 
on the missing front lawn. 
i used to be them, 
swimming in my cousin’s white undershirt 
then wet and hugging the leg of my tia 
as she patted and fried tostones, 
as my eyes followed the cucarachas 
dashing across the caramel tile 
and underneath the refrigerator door. 
the kids in this neighborhood learn young 
that nothing is owned, only borrowed- 
a cousin’s white undershirt, the security of tia’s leg, 
the sight of cucarachas.

The New Mestizo: Growing Up Salvadorian and Puerto Rican in Mexican California 
when the viejitos 
leather skinned and aburrido 
rise with their dormant hands 
lifting heavy nalgas off the plastic green sillas 
en tio no se quien’s backyard 
for no se quien’s cumpleaño or baby shower 
or the arrival of an unknown cousin into town 
or any holiday 
they rise for one of two reasons: 

1. los viejitos will rise for food 
(only if their children are not in yelling distance to get it for them): 
always carne asada, arroz con gondulez, y a cold cerveza, at minimum. but when it’s a real special occasion you’ll find that momma cooks that pollo in her vegetable soup so long it becomes shreds in your mouth, tia oils the empanadas crisp while the cheese drips out of pupusas, horchata and kolachampan sit ready to drink on the table, 
for dessert abuela made a tres leches cake, flan, and limber topped with cinnamon, 
and some more shit that nobody knows what it’s called, 
but they swear it’s from their childhood days, the good ones. 

2. los viejitos will also rise to dance: 
and the neighbors come over since they can’t sleep with the bass of tio’s vintage stereo system blasting that same old meringue mix tape that he always plays. 
and when the viejitos dance, they baila hard- 
spin and dip and clap and laugh almost to tears. 
SHOUT for no reason, they are alive! 
some salsa and cumbia and bachata sneak into the night’s playlist while lil primos get denied their ipod requests. 

then when the viejitos are finally tired but don’t want to leave the party yet, to isolation, to a job they hate, to foreign tongues, and stoic eyes, to fast food and pop music, 
they sit together for a moment, dripping sweat, 
telling stories of nostalgia, of teenage love with balcony serenades, working coffee plantations in the campo during summer, the war and how they can never go back home. 

into the a.m., billiards are shot on a tilted table in the garage, 
two caged macaws cry next to the orange trees, 
the primas reapply eyeliner and braid each others’ hair, 
primos wrestle over videogames, 
while the piñata is strung over tree branches by the borrachos 
howling and swinging from the rooftop- 
it’s time to crack the final celebration! 
and watch the new mestizo rise to 
claim the dulces hanging high.