Gustavo Barahona-López


Gustavo Barahona-López is a poet and educator from the San Francisco Bay Area. In his writing, Barahona-López draws from his experience growing up in a Mexican immigrant household. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Rattle’s Poets Respond, PALABRITAS, Cutthroat, Puerto del Sol and Unlost Journal. When Barahona-López is not teaching, you can find him re-discovering the world with his son.

twitter: @TruthSinVerdad

instagram: gustavobarahonalopez

License to Live

In the warm, afternoon light,
the migrant tore open an envelope,
and found a glistening license,
stamped with the dancing letters,
After he carefully placed the laminated treasure
into his skinny wallet,
he grabbed his keys
and flew into a car,
barely a grade above a jalopy.
Without the usual fear,
he let the vehicle roar,
after all, he was official. 

But that was years ago
and the faded letters no longer danced,
and the card was expired.
But at last the migrant gave the license
to his son, who in turn put it
into a skinny wallet they purchased together
at a flea market. 

And the son, trying to remember
his father’s face, often stared into
his father’s laminated eyes.  
The son pulled
at the memories trapped inside
the holographic image
the way we all long to recall
even a small piece of
that someone that we have lost.




Tender Age

David wonders what is outside now:
piercing, blinding fire
or the kind of cold that devours. 

He begs ¡Mamá!” at every passing shadow
but the shadows do not break their strides.
Only the jagged, rusted bars listen.

When he gets dizzy from the heat,
David looks for a smooth part of the wall
and places his cheek against it.

The other kids tell him not to,
they say that monsters that eat eyeballs
live in the crevices.

David does not believe in those monsters though. 

During mealtime, he tries to pace himself.
“You only get one bag”, he thinks.
Breaks the bag open to lick salty-sweet crumbs.

“Come with me!” demands what must be a soldier.
David’s disposable socks crackle as he complies. 

He is led to a small room with a phone off the hook.
David scrambles to put the receiver to his ear.
¿Mamá?....¡¿Mamá?!” He yells into the phone. 

“¡M’ijo!” he hears the familiar greeting.
He answers a stream of questions.
His mother pauses mid-word to breathe.

David takes the moment to ask his question.
“Me va a sacar de aquí?”
He hears his mother cry before the call is cut off. 

David has his answer. 

He wants to hug someone, anyone.
His arms tense up in preparation,
but he knows no one will soothe him.

Hugs, like loud noises,
bring only wrath. 

David wraps himself up in a thermal blanket.
He has mastered crying without a sound
but today the wails will not be held back.

David feels a sharp pain on his side.

© The Acentos Review 2019