Esteban Rodríguez


Esteban Rodríguez is the author of Dusk & Dust (Hub City Press, 2019). His poetry has appeared in various publications, including The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Water~Stone Review, Washington Square Review, and Puerto del Sol. A native of the Rio Grande Valley, he currently lives with his family and teaches in Austin, Texas.


When they weren’t standing shirtless
on the porch, weren’t settling scores
on the sidewalk or yard, your cousins
were near a barbecue pit, like elders
at a church social, bottles in hands,
maldiciones, as your mother liked to warn,
drooling from their mouths. If you got close,
you’d spot slivers of inked eagles,
serpents, cactuses, or of Old English font
of their last names splayed across their chests
or backs, so predictable, and yet so proud,
so thorough with what they wore, aware
that when they chose their dark blue,
black and brown shirts and pants,
they were not merely thinking of size,
dimensions, but of cohesion, as one part
of the whole, as a reminder that Dickies
added to their goatees, shaved heads,
to a lifestyle filled with lowriders, gold chains,
secret handshakes and black Cortez’s  
that made it seem they were trying hard
to be clichés. Or was it you that tried
to portray them as such? Who couldn’t see
beyond their clothes? Who didn’t want
to believe that they too could be complex?
Because unlike them, you were the boy
with cartoon shirts, blue-jean shorts,
hair cleanly parted, standing on the sidelines,
waiting to be invited. And when you were,
you again realized nothing about you
would change, that there’d be no tube socks
and sandals, no webbed belt cinched
above the waist, and no reason
to linger in the driveway at night,
shoot every car that passes by
your most territorial of stares. 



Primer poema para ti 

I like to touch your scars in complete
darkness, the ones from fences,
sun-scorched collars, from chains
and the bottom of my father’s
steel toes, or from the strays that roam
the alleyways, scavenge the moon-
and lamp-polished ground for creatures
to feast on, settling, when the time
comes around to settle, on your legs,
your ribs, on that space behind your neck
I kiss and rub my cheeks against,
and where I've placed my hands,
thinking I could heal your gashes,
mend your flesh; no need
for paper towels, rags, to improvise
my mother's prayers, or for me
to carry you behind the shed, where,
after each attack, I'd pour my breath
onto your mangled jaw, and let my shadow –
so soft and thin – spill on your mange
and knotted hair, and on every cut
I brought myself to touch, knowing
that with every jolt and squeal,  
I would touch them, trying.



© The Acentos Review 2018