Three Poems

by Joel Salcido

Get These Hands

His dad rubs
a greying goatee
to remember or decide
which truth
his son is ready for.
Says he heard
the concrete’s crown
groan like a skull
in a bar fight.

He says this
eyeing his knuckles—
they’re skulls too,
protruding like hills
of dead elephants
entombed in brown dust.

He turns
his hands over.
As if to say,
I’m broke,
these hands
have nothing
left to give.

Puedo contar
mis amigos
con una mano
y me sobran dedos.


Aubade w/ Calamities
After Renee Gladman

I began the day in sips, the morning expanding
brightly all the unsaid from the closet’s dark—
slit like dollars.

Last night the sky was metal. The moon,
draped in a fog of spent explosives, like yellow
paper glued behind a curtain.

I slept in a keyhole,
made my body a secret.
I translated a blade, made narrative
from its swerving geometry.

My mouth was in ribbons.
Eyes webbed by all those indelible fibers,
sweater-thick, branching beyond their own collapses.

Dreams, staggered home
in their slow ruin. Words
poised to bend, slid behind
the balcony of my teeth,

harboring risk in the uncurled
basement of the tongue, a whorl,
elegant as an aorta, bridges
for the mechanics of language to swarm.

In the half-light I found
the text to draw            my hands,
a compass to sculpt
their architecture,

the geography
to circle upward along
the puzzled        math of scarring,

to rupture my electrified wrists
from their wires, from their grips.


Portrait of Brother Encased in Concrete

Listen. Your mouth is frozen in the shape of the word,
tongue shoveled under lips refusing to release it.

I can hear what you are about to say. The grooved
music of your furrowed brow, a wave of want & delusion

grandeurs of fault lines, pulsing quietly to break out.
You laid this bed out for yourself. Your mouth unwilling

to allow compromise, your hands weighted w/wild dreams
& no reigns to tether you back to this world & all its gravity.

Even in this still life, your soft unclenched hands fist.
Hands that always hold tightly: memory, a blade,

a camera, a cigarette, everything heavy & not visible.
If concrete were ice, your fingers would have chipped

themselves free, your eyes would have melted everything
& then evaporated it, until all that remained were dews

of cement on your eyelashes. But you can’t burn
through this tomb, your legs carved in like a signature,

your arms in chalky outlines like a corpse, your body
solid as a cast & I can only get close enough to know

it’s you by moving into the sunlight, my shadow
touching the smooth gray coating of your skin.

Joel Salcido was born in the San Fernando Valley and raised in West Phoenix. He is the son of Mexican immigrants, a first-generation college graduate, a husband, and father of three sons. Joel characterizes his work as hood magical realism—a navigation between the grief and ecstasy of place and experience. His and prose are not simply written to or about his culture and community—but from it. His work has been featured in Write On, Downtown, Public Pool, The Decolonizer, and Four Chambers Press among others. He is the recipient of a University Graduate Fellowship from Arizona State University and a Virginia G. Piper Creative Research Fellowship. Joel is the Editor-in-Chief of Hayden’s Ferry Review and an MFA candidate in poetry at Arizona State University.

Artwork by: Tonya Russell

Tonya Russell, is a photographer/poet of color. Mexican/ Native American themes, often seep in her work. She hold a Bachelor of Science degree from TWU.