National Poetry Month Day 19: Octavio Quintanilla





from the “The Impossible Hours”


            I hear a horse’s neigh
            Night falls on the being I am not yet
            I hear a dog bark
            The bark and the neigh reach me
                        from another country, another life
            They have crossed oceans
            They have crossed mountains
            They have crossed skies that have no

            I refuse to say the word I thought
                        I was
            The years crawl in my blood
                        and I already miss the being
                        that I am becoming
                        but that hasn’t fully arrived
            I want to think that where I’m going
                        there will be no borders
            No horizons
            No need for conscience

            I get lost like a dog’s bark in the night
            Like a horse’s neigh
            There is something tender in me
                        that I haven’t discovered
            I will lose it
            just as I am losing you




            One day I will not be able to dream
            and we will meet in a city
                        where language
                        won’t recognize us
            A city where we can get rid
                        of our names

            Imagine: To be able to call each other
                        with only our eyes
            To be able to call each other
                        with the desire born
                        every time we touch the surface
                        of our skin
            To exchange our mouths
            To exchange our hands
                        so we can learn to touch

            Imagine: To be inside the other
            If you leave, your hands stay
                        with me
            If you kiss someone else you will kiss
                        with my mouth and not
                        with yours
            I don’t want to leave my body
            I don’t want to leave my body
                        anymore and enter
                        the dog’s that doesn’t know
                        about illusions and has no interest
                        in the future

            It’s easy to say that I want to die
                        but it’s another thing to throw myself
            out the window




            I ask God to give me your pain
                        that disease that weighs on your soul
                        like a brick

            I ask Him to give me your dark thoughts
                        that take you by the hand
                        towards the riverbank
            You no longer have words for the world
                        and the world keeps
                        its silence

            My God, bless me with the pain
                        of others
            Give me my neighbor’s cancerous
            Gift me the undocumented
                        mother’s fear,
                        she whose light burns out
                        like the sun’s behind the horizon
                        when she sees
                        a border patrol truck

            My God,
                        make my day bright
                        by giving me the sadness
                        and the anguish
                        of that child
                        who has been
                        from her parents

            As a child, I know how it feels to not have a father,
                        and as a father, I know
                        how it feels
                        to be separated
                        from a child




            Lord bless me
                        with my mother’s chronic pneumonia
                        and with the terror she feels
                        when one of her children
                        steps out into the night
            Others have asked this of You, Lord,
                        but I ask You again
                        Choose me
                        as Your court jester
                        I’ll make you laugh, Lord,
                        make you cringe
                        Slang you

            This is how it dies, Lord
            This is how You die, Lord
            It’s not a plea
            It’s my desire to kiss
                        the skull of your mouth
            I don’t have the strength
                        to lift the infinite
                        of what dies

            Do you have it?


Photograph of Octavio Quintanilla courtesy of Octavio Quintanilla.

Octavio Quintanilla is the author of the poetry collection, If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014) and the 2018-2020 Poet Laureate of San Antonio, TX. His poetry, fiction, translations, and photography have appeared, or are forthcoming, in journals such as Salamander, Poetry Northwest, RHINO, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pilgrimage, Green Mountains Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Texas Observer, Existere: A Journal of Art & Literature, and elsewhere. Visual poems have been exhibited in several galleries, including Presa House Gallery, Equinox Gallery, and at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, TX. He holds a PhD from the University of North Texas and is the regional editor for Texas Books in Review and poetry editor for The Journal of Latina Critical Feminism & for Voices de la Luna: A Quarterly Literature & Arts Magazine. Octavio teaches literature and creative writing in the MA/MFA program at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. Connect @writeroctavioquintanilla. More from this author →