Daniel Chacón

Chacon's photo


Daniel Chacón is author of four books, and the shadows took him, Chicano Chicanery, Unending Rooms and his most recent, Hotel Juárez: Stories, Rooms and Loops. He received an Isherwood Foundation Grant, American Book Award, and the Hudson Prize. He hosts “Words on a Wire,” a literary radio show.  He’s currently working on a book of poems called Kafka Calling Me Home.


Raskolnikov’s Horse
                                                              Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua



Around midnight in my bed Kafka curled

inside my legs, I'm reading Crime and Punishment


when lights fall into a slow descending

dark. In the hallway I hear whimpering.


I get up to check, and I walk into a winter’s white

street with a lamppost and a man is beating


his horse, whipping her eyes and they bleed

and he kicks her in the head. Drunks spill


laughing from a tavern like roaches from a bag. They climb up

the carriage–the man yelling, Nag’ gonna pull


us all on a joyride or die! And I enter into Barcelona, night

2004, Barri Gòtic.


I’m wobbling through the howl and streets

tremble in fortunes and waiters


running red stained sangria glowing

on the faces of women. I see


an angry young man pulling his dog withering

in fear when the boy lifts the leash, dog curling into his own spleen


waiting for the blow. The boy yells and whips, and I hate him

and everyone watching not saying a thing.


In my bedroom, curled up with Dostoevsky and Kafka, I pull sheets

over our bodies. So said Tzara,


Il n'y a pas d'humanité

il y a les réverbères et les chien.”




Pedro hid under our couch afraid to come

out even when I cooed.  When he crawled to me,

slow, tentative trust, I touched him

and our puppy got on his belly and peed.


My father killed Pedro after he pooped

on the carpet. He was never

trained not to, but my father believed he

shat to spite him, seeing a bitter beast full


of jealousy and hatred. So he kicked

him in the head. This Chihuahua puppy

stood 6 inches at most, and with steel-toed boots

his skull cracked and he flew and landed


on the floor, breathed two last breaths, puffed

up and died. My father took Pedro’s body

and wrapped it in newspaper, gentle

like he never was with the living.




Camus’ The Stranger’s neighbor

going down stairs with his dog, yelling at it.

Dog bares his teeth and growls.

They hate each other.

But when the dog gets lost in a crowd, the neighbor looks

for the dog in the city

all night long running through the city like

Solomon’s lover looking for his love. One


night, long after the dog has gone,

the neighbor stands at a window looking

at city lights, and he says, “J’espère que

les chiens n’aboieront pas cette nuit.

Je crois toujours que c’est le mien.”



And around midnight in Buenos Aires

I hear a dog barking

in the distance


a lo lejos alguien canta

a lo lejos.


and I wonder if

it’s Kafka calling me home.




My father

                        who died alone

                        was beaten as a boy

                        with a whip from Jalisco.

My father

                        showed us scars. See?

                        he said, that’s a beating. 

                        This is nothing!


My father

                        said, slapping


My face



My legs

                        with a belt.






Hidden Sound



That slice through the fabric of the ordinary

                the sheet   veil    fog

The pianist in the corner pounds it all out


                The pianist in the corner is my mother

                The pianist in the corner under lights


pounds pounds pounds all night long

my mother slapped Chopin

                the same shir

                                every night, and every night

at the same complicated chords

                she just couldn't get it.

                All night long the lost notes of Fantasie

running down the hallway into my bedroom

and my head    she messed up all the time

at the same spot   Fantasie  same song   Improptu

she slapped the keys with open hands and chaos

                clanking cracks of totem rolled into my bed


“and here it goes again

and here it goes again”


                One hand can slap seven


                                Bam Bam 


A hidden sound all her own

slicing notes, cutting clefs,

key pounding.




Under spotlights actors sing chorus girls

and boys dance in synch

and in the back corner of the stage

under a reading light the hands of

the pianist move across the keys.


A woman dressed in black

                                                       frightful red hair

turns the pages

so the pianist can keep going 

and going


“and here it goes again

and here it goes again”




Sometimes when they attack

several keys at once

or one gang of notes is leaving

and the right hand doesn’t know

what the left hand is doing

the notes arrive like Bulldogs carrying knives

and they fight

and “the ennui of apartments” becomes an arena,

until the death

and that's where it’s at.

That's where pain pounds on the door.