Defying The Dangers of Being by Saúl Hernández

At eight in the morning, on a Sunday, I run

         through Scenic Drive in El Paso listening to Defying Gravity, I look down

                           at two countries meshing in the daybreak

                                    light beams and shadows wrestle between the border.


                                           The wall will always be there, and I look ahead close my eyes,

                                    and see my sixth grade middle school counselor who says:

                           do you want to work with your hands indoors or outdoors?

                  I make a fist underneath the table, how easy it is for him

         to say those words. He’s fired a year later

for shouting at a student who wants to be more.


Saúl Hernández is a queer writer from San Antonio, TX. He was raised by undocumented parents and as a Jehovah Witness. Saúl has a MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso. He's a semi-finalists for the 2018 Francine Ringold Award for New Writers, Nimrod Literary Journal. His work is forthcoming/featured in The Acentos Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Normal School, Rio Grande Review, and Adelaid Literary Magazine. He's also a Macondo Fellow. 

My twitter handler is @el_saulhdez


                           In Michigan children are chanting Build The Wall, Build The Wall,

                                     Build The Wall, during lunch, they clench their hands,

                                         and bang on tables. Threats too can echo at the speed of

                                             sound. At 20 years old, my father tried to quit his job at a                                        

                                     Mexican restaurant, his boss yelling at him:

                           don’t walk away from the cooking line

                  or I’ll tell La Migra where you live.


Frightened of losing our chances of growing up in an American school system

         my father stays slamming trays on the cooking line for two more years.

                  My parents have lived more than half of their lives afraid.

                           In 2009 they contribute to the 1.68 million undocumented

                                    immigrants living in Texas; such a crime to be living.


                  When people run Scenic every Sunday do they

         look down too and think how fucked up it is to have division?

A biracial boy in New Hampshire is almost lynched

         his mother posts pictures: the skin on his neck splitting

                  open; his own flesh fighting against what others think it should be.

                           The children who did this to him are “children being children.”


                                                      My best friend’s mom tells me when she was young

                                             the teacher washed her mouth with soap

                                    when Spanish came out of her.

                               Micro bubbles forming on her tongue

                        cleansing it of such dangers.


                           I keep running looking down at the border, separating us from them.

                                    I woke this morning to a text message from a friend:         

                                             Did you make it home safe?


                                                      When Trump became president, I walked

                                             through campus the next day, the American flag

                                    upside down lining the path to the library,

                           stars and stripes in distress proclaiming this is our America

                  now: our world shifting towards a different direction. Later I

         go to dinner at L&J Cafe, watch two army men tell my waiter to go back

                  to Mexico if he can’t speak English right. I realize

                           this isn’t our America, but their America.


                                                  My waiter’s hand shakes as he gives me

                                             my change, looks me in the eyes, tells me: 

                                    be safe. My mother tells me every time I go to Cuidad Juárez

                                not to trust anyone. She’s afraid one day I’ll disappear in her country

                         like the way she has disappeared in my country for 27 years. In Juárez, I walk

               Avenida 16 de septiembre with headphones on hoping no one sees my hips move

         to the beat and take me for weak; when I come out at 21 to my parents

my mother said I don’t dress like them.


                                    In 2016, 49 of them die at a gay club,

                           Pulse, in Orlando, FL. A man opened fire.

                  Policemen had to tune out ringtones coming from dead bodies

         on the dance floor as they search for survivors,

in an audio clip the lullaby of ringtones is painful to hear.

         My mother calls me in the morning, tells me she loves me.

                                    Love is a state of being too:

                                             a man cries for an hour in my car

                                                      after I pick him up from a car wreck,

                                                               I hold him in my arms,


                                             he says I deserve someone who will love me the way

                                    I love him. I want to kiss him tell him love isn’t measured,

                           I squeeze his hand instead afraid of the thought of anyone looking at us

                  from the outside of my car.

         Once at the Tacoma Airport waiting in the security line

I saw a family of four, a husband, wife, and two daughters,

         the wife and one of the daughters are being escorted by officials.

                  The husband and the other daughter unable to touch them,

                           As the woman turns back to look at the man, she says words in

                                    another language, I don’t understand the syllables, only

                                             the wailing echo in my ear, reminding me of him—


I cross the security line and vomit in the nearest restroom;

Did the man and I look like the family clenching on to 

         their loved ones in the form of sounds?

                   These days I’m scared of driving, fearing I’ll faint,

                           cause a car wreck and die alone.

                                    Alone is more home to me these days.


                                             Last December I celebrated New Years in Puerto Rico.

                                    My aunt calls me and tells me if I keep this up I will

                           end up alone. I laugh,

                  tell her who am I waiting for? 

She confuses alone for lonely. Words

         can be a state of being, too. The weight the of the words

                  can you take me home

                           being whispered to me

                                    on my 25 birthday by the man I love,

                                             knowing the night would come to this as his partner

                                    and two dogs wait for him at home. He holds my hand,

                           tells me he’s sorry over and over.

                  All I hear is the wind hitting

         my window as I speed.


                  Every Sunday I come down from Scenic

                           Drive,          I sing at the top of my lungs:

                                    I'm defying gravity!

                                             And you won't bring me down,

                                             bring me down, bring me—


                                                               I smile knowing I burnt my tongue

                                                      this morning drinking tea, thank God

                                             for living another day,

                                    oversee my two countries coming down

                           in front of my eyes

                  from Scenic Drive.

The Acentos Review 2019