Esteban Rodríguez



It begins with a pillow—
light hit, light toss, the light
smothering of your temples,
mouth. Then, when old enough,
it’s boxing gloves, the impromptu
ring of a backyard. And though
you punch in jest, move your feet
and feign the motions, your father
doesn’t, jabbing barehanded,
throwing hooks so your body
hardens, so it learns to endure
whatever flesh means to harm it:
right fist, left fist, right fist, left,
or the back of his hands you bear
on nights he eggs you on, shoving,
swinging, swaying back and forth
and back, slurring, in between each sip,
a speech you can’t understand,
but which you take to mean,
even when he won’t stop, that this—
all of it—is not the man
you should become.


ESTEBAN RODRÍGUEZ is the author of Dusk & Dust (Hub City Press, 2019). His poetry has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Washington Square Review, and Puerto del Sol, with new poems forthcoming in phoebe, TriQuarterly, and Booth. He lives with his family and teaches in Austin, Texas.