Willy Palomo

Willy Palomo Picture


Willy Palomo is a McNair Scholar at Westminster College, studying English and creative writing. His side projects include translating forthcoming novel by Alfonso Kijadurias' Sivela and working as a reader for the editors at Kalina. Willy hopes to eventually become a professor of Salvadoran/Central American literature. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Button Poetry, Scribendi, HEArt Online, Compose Journal and ellipsis ... literature and art.

Speaking with my mouth full


A spoon half-full with brown

rice, half-empty with something like air. 


A dinner plate, its grease

stains and littered frijoles, small and wrinkled

as a mother’s face.


A cup with cracks thick as veins. 


Whatever it be, let it be enough.


Let this final gulp, glass in my hand,

unsteady as water,


stun the belly, cool

the eyes, caress the temples

with its blood-thick warmth.


If this were a prayer, I would ask the Lord for nothing

more than for a woman,


whose ankles know the burn

of ammonia across a kitchen floor,


whose palms no longer sense

the pierce of fire or love.


May she never know the hunger

of her children  

as they devour her face.


May their teeth leave ruby bracelets

when they bite through her arms.

May the ache in her bones

never betray the lick

of their insatiable tongues.




forgotten commandments 

if the best thing about school is the way the swings make you feel like an empty grocery bag and you already know that the sky is a sprained belly and everything that flies risks being swallowed if you think manna sounds just like mama and both are sweat stains on the sofa in the twisted shape of a drunken prayer if you remember how I taught you how to pray amen amen before shoveling purple spoons of smashed bananas between your lips and how you’d tear the limbs off your action figures and leave toddler-sized holes in the wall and we would both scream as you banged your head against the floor to get my attention if you’re still banging your head somewhere hard for attention then I imagine you’re already smart enough to know by now that the day you walk out of your mother’s body your bones will needle through your skin looking for her veins you will pull out handfuls of hair that always falls to spell her name and your blood will flood your body like a sea no prophet can split and none of the prayers I taught you could have prepared you for the way she will rip into your soul like unwanted miracles your eyes will feel cloudless when you need to cry and I know you won’t remember me or any of the mothers who held you in their arms like a commandment when she took you away we tore out our limbs and threw them up like manna to be swallowed by the sky only to have them spat out into the exhaust like empty grocery bags amazed how god was so unnecessary for our suffering your memory somewhere between santa luz and satanas no baptism could wash away



Tio Chentillo tells us about the shakes

First time I was so shaky I was sweaty, the bullets falling like rain through the trees. It got worse, but it didn’t stick. Not until the night I met your Tia. No, I wasn’t hiding, though it was just as dark. I could hold my hands in front of my face and couldn’t see them. I just lay there on my bed, feet aching and happy, listening to a storm tear through the trees. I thought I was dreaming until I felt her small hands trickle down my ribs. I never knew someone could hold you like that, that close, my body soft and wringed through like a lemon. Her sweat a mix of sugar and salt on my lips.  

I started with the shaking when your abuelita found us in the morning. You see, I just didn’t know what the big deal was. She was calling Dinorah mentirosa, puta, saying she had the whole thing planned all along, and I was there thinking Dinorah is such a pretty name. Mama asks why I didn’t cry out when Dinorah first entered my bed. I kinda laughed ‘cause why would I scream? I liked it. Ella ya es una mujer hecha y derecha, she said, gesturing with a pan and sending all sorts of ash and smoke into the air. Dinorah all blush and giggle, eyes somehow giddy and lit like puddles. She told your abuela that she was grateful and did her a big favor, taking her in from the rain and all; it was just that she had her eye on me for a long time and thought nobody would hear with all that rain.  

At that point, Papi took me outside and asked what I wanted to do and I said I guess I was gonna keep her since I had her and all. He said I don’t love her, but I didn’t really get why that was a problem. His eyes shut tight as a smacked mouth, a bestial grunt scratched out of his throat and against my eyes. Papi went out and handed me an ax. Vete a trabajar, he said, build yourself a house, and I smiled, my stupid teeth chattering like a night’s worth of rain.

That’s how my shaking began, m’ijo, how I knew I was no longer a child.














©The Acentos Review 2015