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

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.