Esteban Rodríguez

Twyckenham Notes
Issue Fifteen
Spring 2022


Of course, you didn’t listen, 
but when your mother saw your hair,
blonder than you had bleached it 

before, she didn’t curse you out, 
didn’t say, in that disappointed Spanish 
you never learned, that you had ruined 

who you really were, unless you wanted 
to look like a gringo, because—and this 
you thought she thought but never said—

your skin already looked like one—
pale, and at times—when doused in sunlight 
and seen at just the right angle—transparent, 

like that of some exotic fish, and like someone 
who didn’t look like his parents were 
from Mexico, and who much less knew 

what it meant to have to pick, at some point 
in his life, crops in a field, letting the sun 
singe more indifference on his skin, 

while knowing that even if this 
wasn’t the case, he’d still be different, 
that wherever he went some would stare, 

some would look away.


For days, your father kept his hand 
hidden, tucked it at an angle where 

it seemed like it wasn’t needed, 
until your mother became suspicious, 

and without warning during dinner, 
grabbed his arm, slammed it on the table, 

and listened, after he grunted, cursed, 
spewed phrases in Spanish you had never 

heard, to the details of his accident, 
how the brick tore open the top 

of his hand, how he thought it would heal 
with faucet water, ointment, prayer,

how he worked half-day shifts 
through the pain, found new ways 

to carry plywood and rebar, hoping, 
even when he couldn’t move his fingers, 

that his body would heal as it healed before, 
that he’d never have to ask for help.

ESTEBAN RODRÍGUEZ is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Ordinary Bodies (word west press 2022), and the essay collection Before the Earth Devours Us (Split/Lip Press 2021). He is the interviews editor for the EcoTheo Review, senior book reviews editor for Tupelo Quarterly, and associate poetry editor for AGNI. He currently lives in South Texas. 

Cover image by Sarah Jane Sutterfield.
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