David Campos

better res


David Campos, a CantoMundo fellow, is the author of Furious Dusk (Notre Dame Press 2015), winner of the Andres Monotya Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Luna Luna, and Boxcar among many others. He teaches English at Fresno City College and College of the Sequoias. 

webpage: www.davidcampos.com 

Juan Means Juan is Juan


1. Home


When Juan’s home doesn’t want Juan

but Juan doesn’t belong to the home

they would like to send Juan back too

home becomes just another word

exiled from Juan’s vocabulary

all the letters rounded up

their syllables too

and put on busses

H sobbed silently while looking out the window

O held its syllable close

M thought of all the words she could have been a part of

E rested knowing he’d be back again.


But E was smart enough to close his eyes

and unremember his first crossing

of the larynx and past the tongue

out into the wind’s embrace.


Does the wind have a ____?

a place where it can wash itself,

build a fire, cook a meal

of feathers and leaves?


Juan has prayed in church with open windows

where prayers sprouted wings

and flew with the wind south for the winter

and came back north in the spring

picking through scraps

other people’s trash

twigs and plastic ribbons

to nest somewhere and hopefully

deliver its hope of a ____.


But just because Juan has a roof

and a ceiling with a fan

and walls with light switches

and holes for cockroaches

and spider webs with daddy long legs

and a black widow curling its web to lay its eggs

and a little dog that barks

at the children outside playing tag

children with names like Juan

Juanita, Juan Carlos, Juan Gabriele

the roof and ceiling

and everything that skitters and scatters

dances and sits and walks and kneels and begs

is not his. He rents his agony

and only owns the small doses of relief

in the soft, soft pillow he can call his own.



2. The Four Winds


In this ____, the doors open

to all the winds’ directions–


Patience comes from the east

and smells first of fury

and then molten iron

cooled in artic waters.

It looks like Juan father’s face

after he passed.


Agony comes from the west

full of swagger

and wearing too much cologne,

and when Juan feels it

swing through his hair,

he’ll remember the lice

that wait to eat

until he sleeps.


Ambition calls down from the north,

and it’s perfect for flying kites

that wont twirl and tangle

in its gusts; it’s direction clear

and as fulfilling as a glass of water.


But the south brings with it everything,

and Juan never knows the news it will bring.

And Juan always waits at the precipice

leaning against the doorway

letting its frame hold him up

because sometimes he needs it to.

Other times, he does it out of habit.


In this ____, the doors are always open,

and Juan can be caught dreaming

in one of the entryways.

But most days, on most days

Juan can’t stand the love

contained in just a wisp of a breeze

so simple and innocent Juan thinks

it a kiss on the cheek from his daughter

welcoming him ­­____.



3. Vocabulary


Juan learns that hello means hola

and buenos dias means good morning

and not good days or good day.


Juan learns double meanings

when he’s told to suck cock.


But this he learned fast,

he had to- la migra means immigration;

hielo means ice,

but I.C.E. means running

or it is too late

and the money will stop going

and dreams will dig their graves

and cement and chisel their own headstones.


Yet, even though Juan knows Juan means Juan

and even though Juan knows he laid the cement

and nailed the drywall to the lumber,

just like his brother said,

using magnets inside of hammers

to make hanging ceilings easier,


and even though Juan knows all the faults

contained within the skeleton

the weak spots inside the muscles,

the tears, the lack of oxygen, the acid


and even though Juan was the only one who could repair

the damage done, plaster the holes

re-drywall, texture, and paint


and even though he isn’t allowed to take

any of the credit, and even though

he stepped on a nail and worked for 20 years

with dust in his blood

sawing out windows and securing walls,

Juan has no say in who gets to call this ____.


Juan knows quiet means callado.

But Juan knows Juan means

Juan means there is no translation

for what it means to be humano.


4. Training Days


Juan, sit down.

Juan, get in line.

Juan, go play.

Juan, don’t use a pen.

Use a pencil.

You can erase this way.


Juan, stand up.

Juan, salute the flag.

Juan, say after me

I pledge allegiance

to the flag of the United States…


Juan, sit down.

Juan, stop talking out of turn.

Juan, tell me what you did.

Juan, this room is for confession,

this is how you’re saved.


Juan, kneel down and say 15 Our Fathers.

Juan, also say 25 Hail Marys.

Juan, get in line for communion

and take a bite of salvation.


Juan, respect your mother.

Juan, respect your father.

Juan, respect your elders.

Juan, stop talking back.

There is no need to get angry,

You can’t speak Spanish

where ever you want.


Juan, but your teacher demands respect.

Juan, obey your teachers.

Juan, why did you do that?

Can you explain to me why

you chose to hurt this way?


Juan, they’re coming for you.

Juan, put your hands where I can see them.

Juan, could you tell me what happened here?

Juan, I’m here to help you.

Get in the back of the car.

You have the right to remain…


Juan, sit down and get in line.

Juan, wear this suit to court.

Juan, you’ll be held in contempt.

Juan, just wait for your turn to speak

Hasn’t your mouth gotten you in enough trouble?


Juan, what did I do wrong with you?

Juan, why do you have to be this way?

Juan, I love you.

Juan, we love you.

Juan, why did you snitch

on them? Cant you see

they’re afraid of their own terrors?


Juan, urinate into this cup.

Juan, we’re not hiring right now.

Juan, do you have papers?

Juan, I’m sorry we can’t help you.

There is nothing we can do.


Please, Juan, sit down,

get in line, and wait for your turn

to speak.



5. Visita


Juan on top of trains.

The sun darkens his skin.

The metal is ____.


He lays and covers himself

with scraps of tarp and plastic.

They’re warmer than blankets.


In the desert night,

cold is just another visitor

Juan tends to


just like his mother taught him;

offer them something to drink;

offer them something to eat.


And he did, every night

as he stared at the stars.

He gave it his warmth


and fogging breath,

his dried and cracked lips.

He gave it all his comfort–


the shirt on his back,

the loose change he hid

in the bundle of his clothes.


And that too he gave

until he was naked

and shivering. Newborn


on a train car. Still, the cold wanted

more. Unsatisfied, it took

a lump of hair and then one dream–


his daughter not working like him

bent over and picking food

for other people.


And then it took another–

his wife resting on a porch

inside a house he called ____.


Cold had no shame in asking.

Sensing weakness it just took.

And he gave. He gave


until all the stars were gone

and the metal of the train

wanted rent too.


But he’d already given everything

that had any worth. And so Juan

walked the rest of the way


wondering if he’d every find a ­­­____,

wondering if the place he was going to

had been taught the same thing


about tending to company.

And so Juan gave it hope,

the the one thing he held on to


the way stars cling to their light

and wishes made upon them,

all that made Juan shimmer


and shine. And Juan whose name means Juan

whose ____ is just a body

whose breath is all the wind


and silence, who gave all his dreams

and clothes and words and fire

arrives and asks for nothing.


and still it took the          J

and jailed the                  U

and beat the                   A


and hushed the      N.

And ____ whose name means ____

whose ____ is just a body


is just a body, a thing

like many things

we’ve learned to love


and unlove with ease

has finally found a ____ here,

right here in your burning home.


© The Acentos Review 2016