Aug 23, 2015

by William Archila


From the cabin, horse-face Hector,
trucker from San Julian, shakes
his head in laughter, tells us to get back
to work; we load Coca-Cola crates
from the truck bed, exhaust buildup
clogged in our throats, the iron plate
of the midday sun pressing down
on our backs, and Paco, with his knowledge
of cows & pigs, turns to me and says,
“You’ll remember this.” We cart
bottles of sugar water to shanties
almost a mile from the highway shoulder,
our stop somewhere between Santa Ana
& San Salvador. This is before 1980
and the coming of M-16s slung
across soldiers’ chests, before walls
crumbled into rubble, bodies tossed
like garbage in the gutter. Winter
would bring rain like lead, ripping
through branches, cups of flowers clawing
above the grassland, a sudden burst of blaze
among gun barrels dripping with water.
Soon I would turn fifteen, hide in the thick
of the foxtails with Evelyn, our skin
growing darker & darker like animals.
In a year I would disappear, roll
across the interstate line, Los Angeles
to San Francisco, my truck packed
with cherries, plums & grapes crammed
in their boxes. When I see the men
with their wide-brimmed straw hats,
their bodies bent on the ranch, I think
of Paco collapsed behind the truck,
Evelyn beyond the scorched hills,
how the smoking factories burn all night,
how day falls into a thin film of smog
as I unload my cases, thread my way
through tunnels, where memory,
bottle caps crushed on the asphalt,
can’t recall which street to steer by,
not even where to make my final stop,
how long before the highway ends.




The Gravedigger’s Archaeology
by William Archila
Publication: March 2015
Red Hen Press
ISBN: 9781597093712
Price: $18.95

William Archila is the author of The Art of Exile (Bilingual Review Press, 2009), which won an International Latino Book Award in 2010, was honored with an Emerging Writer Fellowship Award by The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, and was featured in “First Things First: The Fifth Annual Debut Poets Roundup” in Poets & Writers. His second book, The Gravedigger’s Archaeology (Red Hen Press, 2015), won the 2013 Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize. He has been published in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Notre Dame Review, Crab Orchard Review, and The Georgia Review, among others.






Photo, old Coca Cola crates by Alf van Beem (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo, foxtail by Schnobby (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.



1 Response for “Cities”

  1. He had me at exhaust fumes and then the iron plate of the sun and by the end I was immersed inside the poem, like a slow dervish, spinning with the words and the content; so important. the poet’s work pulled me into his piece, “behind the celluloid of the film.” (quote from Sue Silverman).

    Astonishingly wonderful. A privilege to read, a grace-filled morning created!



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