“Cathedrals: Ode to a Deported Uncle” by Daniel Arias Gómez

Daniel Arias Gómez


Tío, you learn there’s always
a border—I imagine

a poor family in Jocotepec takes you
in. You work as a gardener at the club
across the lake where rich people
vacation. The town’s children run
shoeless on the dirt roads, stare
at the people on the other side
sun-tanning on the decks of their
boats, riding their jet skis, and
if the children smile, it’s because they don’t
know where the lake begins
and where it ends. And maybe one
night you find a guitar, and you press
your fingers to the strings, and the music feels like

the desert.
Michelle and I drive

to Robertito’s at one in the morning
to buy tacos de asada, carnitas, a churro,
a small coke. It’s freezing
cold, and a dense fog covers
the streets. We see the fog as it froths around
the street lamps, almost like the fog is pouring
down along with the light. Other than that we
see nothing but the double darkness
of fog and night. Our kitchen flooded recently,
and a chunk of our carpet got water
damage. The carpet guys are coming over
tomorrow, so we had to move all
the furniture into the kitchen to clear
the carpet. We eat our tacos squeezed
in, all cluttered up by the dining room table
propped against a wall, chairs stacked
against bookshelves, a cathedral of pots, pans, flower

vases filled with dried roses.
You mow the grass

at the club, you trim their bushes and keep
their orange trees. At night, you play
guitar in a small house you manage to buy, your fingers
full of blisters because of the strings. And maybe
you buy a used bocho, and you fix it up
on your free days and paint it blue
and then drive an hour to Guadalajara
and walk around downtown and buy
pepinos con chile y limón and tacos
de lengua and sit outside the cathedral
eating some tejuino. And then you mow
and mow grass and go back at night
and learn a few more chords on the guitar
and learn that you love playing. And maybe you
meet someone you like. You tell her about Arizona,
the desert, and she tells you about the time
one of the rich couples were riding their boat around
drunk and crashed into one of the town’s
houses, and the children gathered and stared
at the boat sticking out of the small living
room, and the woman who owned the house
fell to her knees and cried while the couple walked

away bent
with laughter. And maybe your friend

stays over one night, and you play guitar for her,
teach her a couple of chords, and you
sit outside and smell the rain in the air and feel the cold
wind against your skin, and if
you smile it’s because you feel the weight
of an arm around your shoulder and because
rain is a cathedral too and your

skin a prayer.
As Michelle and I eat, cramped

in our kitchen, we look over a used car magazine
we picked up from Robertito’s. I tell
Michelle to close her eyes, then I
open the magazine at a random page and tell her
to point her finger at it, and whatever
car she lands on, that’s the car we’ll buy
for her. We do the same for me, laughing
all along because we have no money
to buy a car. Then we lay some blankets
on the carpet and we lie down. Sleeping on the floor
makes my neck and shoulders hurt
in the morning—but tonight I’m thinking about kissing
every part of Michelle’s body, licking every inch of her
until she comes, fucking on the carpet until we fall
exhausted on the blankets, sweat glistening
on our skin, our legs spreading
like a cathedral, and sleep

until it’s morning,
and we have to go to work.

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Daniel Arias Gómez: “During the last year of my MFA, I read Natalie Diaz’s When My Brother Was an Aztec, a book that made a deep impression on me because of the way it blends a contemporary narrative with mythological elements. After that I became fixated on the idea of the crossing of the underworld as a parallel to the crossing of the immigrant and what that might mean within the context of our mundane day-to-day lives. This poem is part of that exploration.” (web)

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