The John B. Santoianni Award for Excellence in Poetry, 2017

Sift

By Moncho Alvarado
 
In elementary Dad gave me Don Pedro and Coke
gave it to me slowly like sipping from Christ’s cup
 
He left me with Manny in a green bedroom
at the Hotel 8 on San Fernando Road
tv buzzing white noise 
door clicked
 
Manny’s hands toilet paper soft 
strong enough to touch
weak enough to rip
 
It’ll be fine he whispered
hold on   
pull   
              forwards   
    backwards
don’t let go   
                  don’t 
don’t 
 
 
A night in a friend’s pool during high school
the light outside looked like Manny’s room 
no moon   just light years
 
I turned around 
breathed water
saw stars
oscillate 
 
After the thing with Manny 
Dad took me out for tortas
said don’t tell Mari
I’ll buy you those X-Men toys
Just don’t tell her
 
At a graveyard guard gig in college 
I shined light on a galaxy of glass 
smaller than me coming from dirt
through cracks of concrete   
root to crown to node and blade
 
Then I saw a deer look at me
I at it   
eyes became my dad’s eyes
when he handed me a torta  
and another X-Men toy  
 
  I bent down   
my hands led by instinct   
as if they were elephant trunks
ripping leaves from trees