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About this poet

William Archila was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador, in 1968, and he immigrated to the United States with his family in 1980. He received an MFA from the University of Oregon. Archila is the author of The Gravedigger’s Archaeology (Red Hen Press, 2015), winner of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize, and The Art of Exile (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2009), which received a 2010 International Latino Book Award. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Childhood

When it comes, my father’s presence
is behind the weight of a country
I’ve lost, like I’ve lost him, on his way out
over the hill, flooring his decrepit wagon,
exhaust pipe exhausted, which brings
me to bed, to the sleep of a sunken log
at the river’s bottom, and my father is in it,
like some huge bear wavering through
the thickest depths, all the while, I keep
my eye on the light shimmering the surface,
wanting to come up for air, but I don’t
want to forsake this absent god
tired in the pale grass. He’s been leaving for so long
it almost seems natural, his aimless driving,
his aimless thinking. Outside, a helicopter
that may or may not allow me to continue
keeps announcing its presence,
clambering out of the rain clouds.
It’s so frustrating, knowing all I have to do
is turn off the light to occupy the dark.

Copyright © 2018 William Archila. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2018 William Archila. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the author.

William Archila

William Archila

William Archila is the author of The Gravedigger’s Archaeology (Red Hen Press, 2015), winner of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

by this poet

poem
The photograph leads you to coarse lines 
crooked along weathered grains 
of a wooden tablet, probably painted

by a carpenter or wood cutter; 
loops around the bowl whitewashed –
the color of clarity. Anacleta, 
 
Amílcar, Macario. Characters branded 
for a monument of wood & rock.
The morning the deer
poem
The ground cracked
like the rough pit of a peach
and snapped in two.
The sun behind the mountains
turned into an olive-green glow.

To niña Gloria this was home.
She continued to sell her bowl of lemons,
rubbing a cold, thin silver Christ
pocketed in her apron. Others 
like Lito and Marvin played 
soldiers in the
poem
When I read of poets & their lives,
  son of a milkman & seamstress, raised
in a whistle-stop town or village, a child
  who spent his after-school hours deep
in the pages of a library book, I want to go
  back to my childhood, back to the war,
rescue that boy under the bed, listening
  to what bullets