Poetry Suite by Alfredo Aguilar

Editor Carrie Ivy, Poetry, July 13th, 2017

"we burned oil drums & brought the sun in closer. we watched the sea spill..."

Alfredo Aguilar Poetry Nailed Magazine


Poetry by Alfredo Aguilar.

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after Ilya Kaminsky


in the first year of the new regime they detained
all who worshiped differently. & when they tore a mother
away from her son we opposed them, but it wasn’t enough.
we watched the nation seal itself off bolt by bolt until it claimed
to be the only voice in the room. i collapsed in a season
of fraying belief. i knew a prayer could never grow
limbs, but still i bowed my head & prayed. we tried
to protect a river, but we lived in the great country
of money. we burned oil drums & brought the sun
in closer. we watched the sea spill into the streets.
we turned away the people whose houses they had set
on fire (people who they said were our enemies), held clean water
to our lips, & lived happily in the dying days of the earth.

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oil shot one hundred feet into the air & we rushed
into the small town. new homes were left incomplete because oil
was more profitable than housing. we lived in a tent on a sliver
of land & like others dug an oil well in our backyard. the water
that came out of the faucets was souplike & foul—it wilted
gardens & dogs refused to drink it. our well was drained
by someone who lived nearby. when a barrel of oil became
worth three cents, dry goods quadrupled in price. we paid
for a sack of sugar with our last dead hen. clothes were soaked
in gasoline to expunge oil stains before being boiled in water.
gas hung like mist over the town & choked people. a child slept
near a well & woke up without her eyes. we never lit the stove
& ate all our meals cold because once, doctor powell, while in his home,
cigarette limp between his lips, lit a match & all the air caught fire.

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the state deemed which books to be outlawed,
then incinerated them. there was a war going
on, the way there had always been. small cameras
watched us. the library had one shelf it held
a bible and the history of our glorious nation. treason
was meet with eradication. the business of silence
was lucrative. playing an instrument made you
suspect. language grew smaller every year. to think
was a crime. soldiers came for the artist in my building.
when they knocked on the door she threw
all her papers out the window—a hundred thin
surrenders. she disappeared with them. i stitched letters
under the lining of my coat. i crossed the walls built
to keep us in. i smuggled entire poems out of the country.

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it was the end of the world & i needed a haircut. the only
people in the barber shop were the barbers. they
were watching a telenovela. i sat in the trini’s chair & asked
for a trim. outside, buildings were rubble & a white horse
galloped through the street. the buzzing clippers warmed
the back of my neck. clumps of black hair fell to the floor.
most want to preserve their final image, but at the end
of the world there are no undertakers. no one to shave
our stubble. to rouge our cheeks & make us presentable
for the life after this one. trini handed me a mirror & asked
how does it look? my hair was trim, sharp. i wanted
to look my best when death was in the room. great, i said.
our ritual is an old one: groom the departed, dress them in lavish
garments, bestow them with gems, & close a door on their eyes.

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at the edge of the world i watched the sun sink
into a corner. i built a fleet of boats from a beloved’s
letters & set every word on the water.
i’d stumbled through so much of my life
painlessly—even my baby teeth had slipped
out softly. i’d step & the ground below
my feet didn’t disappear. i’d see
nothing on the horizon, continued
to walk, & was inside a mountain range.
i’d think i wouldn’t live into the next moment
& strings pulled me into it. i looked
at the necklace of headlights on the curved
bridge. the moon rose. all i ever wanted to be
was light rushing to rest in someone’s eyes.

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Header image courtesy of Marcin Owczarek. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

Alfredo Aguilar Poetry Nailed MagazineAlfredo Aguilar is the son of Mexican immigrants. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Vinyl, BOAAT, & elsewhere. He lives in North County San Diego.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.