Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Sara Borjas





Absent Things as If They Are Present

My brother walks through
the green door to visit.

My brother fills up a glass
of water for me to drink.

This is a love story.
The scene is domestic.

We cook a meal. I almost
touch my brother’s hand

with tenderness. My brother’s arms
protect the mess on my face

like fancy angels. He knows
I don’t mean everything I say.

We walk with each other’s weaknesses
on one sparkling leash. Absent things

never leave because they never arrive.
I feel my brother’s hands over my eyes

like bread. The wine in my throat
reverses back into grapevine.

My brother walks out here
through this love story

turned religious story. His steps
fill my face like the sand

in that poem where Jesus walks
beside someone in doubt.


Apology for the Camellias I Could Not Write About

Like a white queen’s ruffled collar, my mother’s favorite flowers
                                               surround each step

to my parent’s house like fallen guards.
                                               Their home could be any woman’s wanting

palace, any room of folded arms, an oubliette
                                               concealed in linoleum.

In this yard I decided how to treat my mother. This cement: my disgust.
                                               I failed to let her bloom:

I squashed each camellia, my mother’s simple pleasure, my myth.
                                               My hands, if you look close,

are one hungry pit of snakes’ and their dark, flicking mouths. I admit,
                                               I saw her blooming. I did.

It was the calla lilies that excited me. Their firm, emerald stem.
                                               I thought they were stronger

than camellias. I was wrong. So easily and unknowingly,
                                               I snapped even their necks.



A soldier knocks on a door
and opens it
his family is sitting on a rug

My brother’s family
sits on a rug
I am not there

A soldier knocks on a door
opens it
makes a peanut butter
& jelly sandwich
for dinner

A soldier’s family
is thinly spread over
each time he walks
through a door that is
or is not his own


My brother knocks on a door
and forgets whose house he is

A soldier pounds on a door
in allegiance. He leaves
pieces of himself
everywhere he goes

My brother pounds on his pieces
and calls them patriotic

A soldier pounds on a home
but sometimes, I think
it’s my house


I pound on my brother’s door
and cannot enter

I pound on my brother’s loyalty
and cannot see in the dark

I pound on my brother’s dark
shaped like a soldier

I pound on this poem
instead of my brother
I am afraid
of his answer

I fall asleep in my hands
each time, with these words
knocking at my face


I pound on love
and find myself pounding
on traditional terms

I pound on my brother
and he sings
the national anthem

I pound on a photo
my brother keeps of us
during deployments and
beat the empty air

I pound in the daylight
and the nighttime
and not even the
neighbor’s mariachi music
consoles me

Who I think my brother is
depends on the year he moved
out of our house
the day he joined
the Air Force

Now, I beg
on a strange carpet

I pound on my brother
so he will tell me
just once
he would do anything
for me

but he won’t
not even in the house
of this poem

My brother will not
walk through the doors
his family is not here

Sara Borjas is a fourth-generation Chicana, a pocha, and a Fresno poet. Her debut collection of poetry, Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff is forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2019. She is a 2017 Canto Mundo Fellow, the recipient of the 2015 Blue Mesa Poetry Prize, a 2013 Community of Writers at Squaw Valley Workshop Fellow, a 2016 Postgraduate Writers Conference Fellow and a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. She teaches creative writing at UC Riverside. More from this author →