poetry quarterly

10th anniversary

Mario Escobar



We have witnessed
red currents of air
mothers disappearing
in the mud where frogs
hold their dialogue
children’s heads hanging
ropes choking
eyes open
dry tears marking
the killing

We witnessed
arid currents of silence
bullets breaking
the poetic meter
of words
in the land
known as
El Salvador


My mother has two bags
full of mysteries
and like many Salvadoran women
she is very protective of her bags

As a child I was never capable of breaking
the Morse code that came out of her bags
one day
while the past had stationed
in her lips
I was able to see what she had in her bags

In her first bag
she carries red steps
the desire of a gentle touch
scars of lonely nights
permanent blisters
the punch of a man
unwanted sex
unwanted charges
broken windows
locked doors
trembling hopes

In her second bag
she carries schizophrenic thoughts
war tears
the silhouette of a tropical night
forgotten dreams
violent lovers
painful farewells
salon kisses
dried flowers
suicide attempts
and the rhythm
of a Quijote
she calls son.

Yes, my mother has two bags
beneath her eyes


David Carlson
Space Between Us
2010, oil and acrylic on wood 30" x 30"
see more work by David Carlson





Don’t be frightened love
if you hear the bells of darkness
spring out of the fiery vortex of my mouth

If I substitute a shirt for iron armor
and my body takes the form of the jaguar
leaping over the steps of Tazumal

Don’t be frightened love
those are the sounds of war
replacing my poetic words
for the cry of the drum

Don’t be frightened love
if I return lamenting the decisions of the bullets
crying out for the riverbanks of your eyes
and pleading for the soft bed of your words

Don’t be frightened love
If I summon the anger of the
lencas and pipiles

Don’t be frightened love
if I weep like a child
in the luminous evening of your kiss

Don’t be frightened love
it's just a war call



I have a poem, a sobbing poem,
a poem of unwanted refugees—nasty poem, nasty century.
I give you the blood of the past and the present.
Here is the excrement of my tongue,
dirty century, nasty century. Dark poem.

I’ve cried the tears of those lost in the desert:
the undocumented death. I’ve lived that experience,
among the headless bodies, the cutoff hands, the torture mothers,
the disappeared sons and fathers, and the raped daughters.

I’ve jumped the border with my defeated flag,
I’ve knocked on your door. I’ve knocked on your door
many times, I’ve knocked on your door but
you don’t listen to the pounding of the heart.

I have a thousand stories and millions of tears to give you.
Pain knows me too well.

Pain knows those still at bay,
crossing the desert, or jumping the fence.
They will be knocking at your door.
Please answer to your blunders.

I will say no more. Time to leave you alone
with this dirty and nasty poem.
Dirty century.
Nasty century.
Dark poem...


I give you
the twisted male
with the scent of flesh petals
Look carefully
the naked twigs
of my stare grow violently
in each syllable
welcome to the theatre
under my skin
tragedy in the nude
agonizing breath
stained I am
hopes retreat
down my throat
Enter the trance
wild sorrow
under a burning June
Look at death mounting
galloping horse
with no direction
over shattered bones
I do not pay
it is always
a free admission


shuffle the feet
snap the fingers twice
shuffle the feet once more
snap the fingers once
what a lark!


Mario Escobar is the author of Gritos Interiores (Cuzcatlan Press, 2005), a book of poems written in response to California Proposition 187. He is founder of Izote Press and co-founder of UCLA IDEAS (Improving Dreams Education Access and Success). Born in El Salvador, he is a child of civil war who came to the US at age 12 and was raised in South Central and East Los Angeles, attaining asylum in this country in 2006. He holds a BA in Spanish Literature and Chicano Studies from UCLA, a Masters degree from Arizona State University, and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland College Park. Escobar has lectured on the trauma of child soldiers at the University of Santa Barbara, the University of Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, and Arizona State University. He currently lives in Maryland with his linda Chinana compañera Karla Escobar-Gutierrex and their three beautiful daughters.


Published in Volume 13, Number 2, Spring 2012.