poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 18, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Back in the days of my MFA in Oregon, I wrote a couple of lines about picturing Felix the Cat totally drunk when I'd hear Perez Prado’s version of ‘Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White.’ I didn’t know what to do with that image, so I shelved it away. I brought it back because I found myself thinking about my grandfather, and the fact that he was a drunk, all those drunks from my childhood asleep on the ground, on the grass or sidewalk, under a tree, in the gutter, some related to me, some not. They were not dangerous, but sad clowns. In retrospect, I’m thinking that they were symbolic of my native country of El Salvador, ridiculously somber, deteriorating while the ugliness of the civil war raged around them.”
—William Archila

Spirits

At daylight, he surrendered to the gutters’ 
thick cirrhosis, his trajectory 

half awake, half anvil from the glass to the killing floor
I was raised in, each thin thread tethered 

from the root of a nicotined tooth 
to the rusted bars of the slammer.  I couldn't tell you why 

Felix the Cat came to mind, totally inebriated, 
two Xs, bubbles popping, his gait 

a saint carried in a procession—Cherry Pink 
& Apple Blossom White, 1955—

except that my grandfather died 
with a bottle in his pocket, his Robert Mitchum

chin & pompadour distilled
from a banana republic in fire, a slow, steady 

drinker, perfect fulfillment to drown out 
his manhood. There's a certain kind of fix 

that falters precariously, 
a benediction when they allege 

one more drunk for the hood. He didn't matter 
to the dispenser nor the riffraff crowd. 

Nothing about him capsized, except his compound 
of cologne & corrosion.  All those rotguts. 

All those bums. They didn't matter 
to the nation, though they were the nation.

Copyright © 2018 by William Archila. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by William Archila. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

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
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
poem

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,