mijo—i know you have seen the night

as an excuse to hold your body like a bottle  


and drink yourself to sleep in the morning

the sun will rise bright as an infant fear


in your throat you will not die as much

as you wish for it you will get lucky


friends will envy you with their stomachs

whether or not you deserve it you will lose


women you loved wrong and i know what

that’s like—to love until you lose hope


in yourself no one wants to talk about it

how at the border they offered us clean


criminal records our first ride on an airplane

if we went back to motherland el salvador  


it’s so hard to leave and of course your tio

he went back for a girl said he would try again


the right way but there is never a right way

to leave we would have never left if there


was a choice to make but men leave to survive

leaving is what makes us & you will become


a man all the wrong ways which is to say

there is no right way after your tio left


they let me go—into the blinding street

with nothing not even a bus route always


an orphan this time without a family

to call a motherland only an address


my eighth grade dropout’s command of

language & survival—mijo—i made it


there is no need for a map if fear is your

new face learn to kiss him with your eyes


open without a border between your lips

Illustration: Ansellia Kulikku.

Willy Palomo

Willy Palomo is the son of two immigrants from El Salvador. His poems and book reviews can be found in the pages of Vinyl, Waxwing, Muzzle, The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States, and more.