National Poetry Month Day 22: J. Estanislao Lopez





The Ghosts of My Past Are in Disrepair

My ghosts are faulty.
They congratulate me on my home loan.
I find refrigerator magnets often arranged as words of encouragement:
At night, I plug my ears beneath the covers, yet still can hear them bragging about their
            children’s, grandchildren’s, great great grandchildren’s salaries.
Life has a limited supply of graces to offer,
and I admit to squandering mine,
but they apologize for their part in my transgressions
instead of holding me to account.
They say I inherited my grandfather’s grim worldview and his father’s impulsivity.
But your blood pressure, they caution.
But your intentions, they affirm.
It’s a widespread problem.
I wrote a letter of complaint to the supernatural authorities, my ghosts peering over my
            shoulder, nodding their heads,
saying, Such masterful syntax!
saying, Such tasteful imagery!
saying, Your voice, so necessary and brave!


In Hell

You form substantial opinions about the world,
towards which you, residing now in hell,
can finally be objective.

Certain things you were prepared for—
how anguish’s lacquer scalds what can only
be called a mouth—and others you were not.

Back on Earth, we couldn’t even agree on whether
hell is uncomfortably hot or uncomfortably cold.
You know the answer now

to so many questions. Who shouldered
the most blame in the divorce.
The cosmic speed limit of redemption.

Right and wrong have ossified into the orange ribcage
your soul is chained to. But at least, in hell,
the infliction of suffering follows a predictable path.

Back on Earth, consequence lands wherever its wings tire.

A mismanaged pipeline.
The propylene not stored properly.
On Earth, there was music. In hell, it’s replaced

with a noise that can only be described
as mathematical. It’s not intoxicating.
It distracts no one from the issues at hand.


Photograph of J. Estanislao Lopez by Tracy Eason Photography.

J. Estanislao Lopez lives and teaches in Houston. He received an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers, and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, Ploughshares, Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext, and elsewhere. More from this author →