Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Roy G. Guzmán






Time blunts the crooked / to savage pews / Once / on the sibling stumps / of a beat Caribbean pine / my cousins invite me to sit / my legs fold like melted candles / if I’d worn the maracas / -sizzled skirt of my reveries / their beamed liturgy: / ¡Maricón! / ¡Maricón! ¡Maricón! / Fold your hands / boy / walk straight / never graduate your hungers / Befuddlement sloths on their tongues / their eyes chapels of pebbles / We mount the izote tree / Tía Mamá watchtowers from the kitchen / a large pot of soup on the stove / pataste rapunzelled with dollars / Mom’s MoneyGrammed early / in the morning / I heed to my accusers’ orders: / Perch on the boulders our mothers / lay their clothes to mummify / jostle against the lengthy hammock / Abuelo bought en el mercado / They knot my wrists / with hands that have buried only mothers / I become their hummingbird embroidery / the ground on which their marbles rattle / like homemade rockets / hopscotch squares sunrise on the sidewalk / another underage infantry curls over / nameless flowers ambush my scraped knees / I am the lasso / of a small emptiness / that once called me Almighty / I am pushed into the dirt hole / they dig for our G.I. Joes / rows of tanks / artillery / He won’t do it / one cousin remarks / another one shouts / You’re wrong! / Somebody wheedles me to sit / on a jagged set of stairs / For my performance / I smooth out the back pockets of my pants / my heady skirt / any creases might behoove punishment / When I hear a gasp / another gasp / Whose girl am I? / I am losing my part-time voice / of a child / the rock-casters disperse / shoeless / like the sounds of shacks crumpling / under fathers / flowers are plucked from the bushes / strewn on my knees / etiolated honeysuckles / the youngest pulls a chunk of grass / shakes his green-stained hands / unlatches blades from his fingers / I take a sniff of the carnations / I hear a chortle / this is my burial / à la Ana Mendieta / Through the window / Tía Mamá scrutinizes the hubbub / storms outside in her flour-caked apron / hands glistening / water drops penetrating their anticipation into the ground / she pulls me by the hair / in the house she unfastens my belt / strikes me with it / a newborn island on my cheek / the ghost of another body my body / For supper / she serves us bland / cauliflower soup / the scalding dam overfloods my throat / I avoid the white-meridian scalps / when I finish I ask for another ladleful / this appetite is now scratching the muted aqueducts / a folklore of vomit takes residence on my tongue / as my cousins turn to me / the spoons shine on their faces / in this fresh bodygarden / the tangerine trees release their grip / on the children from unforgiving floors / the little palms barely graze the ground / before they crash



_______Between 2004 and 2014, about 3,400 cases of sexual abuse were referred to the Vatican
_______on the grounds of their credibility. As of 2018, hundreds of new cases have been


Children with church-pressed silence slapped
between their hymnals. Patriotic hush to build
character. A boy stoops to cradle donated
pumpkin soup, his spine marionetted through his silky,
lassoed hair—the grip of a locksmith versed in gospel.
Wax gag, stained glass gag, raise-funds-for-the-steeple
gag, elementary gag. Swallowed sundown, the hearts
beat their tin can drums, & all the muddy roads lead
to parochial cul-de-sacs. The boats bow their heads
bayside. Look at his hair! the priest tells reporters,
his smile like a river of blood reflecting a man who rides
his horse towards a maelstrom of unanswered litanies.
Slaves’ backs erected the temples in which we canonize
the spit of despots, pray for the lineage of the tormentor.
Father lent me new skin where there was none. We shout miracle,
wrap our bliss in lexicon. The white perjury speaks in us.



Everywhere in Latin America: robe-engulfed children.
______We are told our angels are not worth grieving

over. A boy wanted to flee his body & became
______a rivulet of eyeless faces. Leftover, dysfunctional

prayer, when did he cease squealing to remember
______appellation? In Pittsburgh, a priest found guilty

of raping Honduran schoolboys. Bells blare mudslides.
______The poor are the last to receive communion.

Archdiocesan smoke rolling in a daze. In his hard drive,
______image after unfamiliar image of bewilderment.

Everywhere is war. Everywhere is war. War in the east. War
______in the west. Once, a child returned to his father,

but there was no father. A mother’s arms sewn to her lap,
______broom heaving on the wall. Piety booms:

It’s a conspiracy against God!—because God sits on His throne
______pondering downfalls He can’t master, conundrums

He can’t crack. The neighbors watch each other’s children
______disappear into unmarked graves, mouths struck

with shoveled sermon. Tours between colonized motherlands.
______Children offered American chocolate, dollars—

what we grew up dubbing freedom & salvation when we were
______not yet honeycombed. A boy brushes his hair

as the alb falls on his black pants like pallid whisper. When
______our waists were firmer than the crosses in their eyes,

we’d shine like newly jeweled candlesticks. They’d say, No one
______understands you. Only we do. There are incalculable

ways to dent a cross upon the body. Hail the hollowed bone.
______Hail the glorified extraction. Repent for missing grace.





__________________________a cento with lyrics from Sinead O’Connor’s The Lion
__________________________and the Cobra and I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

I wrecked the bedroom          closer to the sea—          I’ve been dead for twenty years

Too many mouths open          The priest just said it          (a hawk on his arm)

These are dangerous days          We were so young then          Nighttime or morning

I am not like I was before—          these hands are sticky          In the backyard

the worm has laid eggs          stolen from our very eyes          You tell us not to sing

after Sunday          I will carry with me          my apple tree          We did

what was right          Three babies          jump in the river          in somebody’s office



If I whisper one of their names the Byzantine ghost
on the window might burst. A mother irons her son’s
white shirt. The creases interminable. Compasses drunk
on direction. Sheep with slaughter trapped in their throats.
She splashes dirty water on deathbeds-to-be, inconsistent
confessional, battleground with burning orthodox doors
to nominate the muted combatant. Oh, sympathetic traitor.
We doom song on Sunday, bury blame under our mattresses
on Wednesday. We keep our savings & the hush-it money
stitched to our cushion covers. No space to bury
his torment. Who am I but a glimpse into avoidance, empty
outline of worship? Congregation of postperturbance.
I find myself pronouncing the scores of names in the torrents.





__________________________with lines from Sylvia Plath

a running     absent of movement     history for a freshly
______cut curl     heaving sky     one half for an undernourished
child     the other to doggie bag     to a sick mother     a brother’s
______skin train tracks at the border     crows behind their shack
floating in a high-church hush     elegy a father     won’t care
______to translate     little brown arms folded into papier-
mâché     mud bricks     in the sacristy a man past thirty     no beauty
______at all     save for the ebullience     in his supplication expecting
a child’s sparrow eyes     an incredulous belted father     sobbing
______like a wind with no intention     to halt     my mother
once said some things     about your life     I’d rather not know     fruit
______flies of burgundy silk wings on guava trees     the tongue
of shame the depth of rumor     shrouding the rooftops     coiling
______to the ground to plant multi-holed seeds     I watch their spilt
tears cloud & dull to pearl midair     the fumes of incensed
______innocence from a clay stove     in a birth-drowse     the wick-
child bodies between their fingers     our fingers taken in by their own
______haloes     how long until mourning is forgotten     like a rock
in the thunderous waters     of denial     fed & fed     to fresh mouths


Material for several of these cases is taken from the following sources:

Roy G. Guzmán was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, where they also received an MFA in poetry. Roy is the author of the chapbook Restored Mural for Orlando and co-editor of Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando. Their work has appeared in Poetry, Best of the Net 2017, and Best New Poets 2017. Roy is a 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow. Their debut collection will be published by Graywolf Press in 2020. Visit their website,, and follow them on Twitter @dreamingauze. More from this author →