Poetry: Javier Zamora


the opposition the guerilla Roque Dalton FMLN concientización
as in
dusk we finally see what someone sentenced must see
forest across the river whitish sky lightning
we row across the estero up the river’s mouth up a few kilometers were wood is thickest
this is anonymous work emptiness grows this forest
we won’t pretend to tug logs and fill hulls with firewood once guerrillas hide enough
            supplies beneath the bow’s seat
we listen to whatever someone sentenced must hear
mosquitoes metal papayas monotonous clamor trees lit with monarchs
because life is gravel underneath our feet
we understand why fingernails tells us to throw fish bones at dogs
we leave tuesday
return saturday when newspapers sharpen axes
tradition is burning possums taste like iguanas
but once guerrillas hide enough
we won’t set out because dust
boots dogs and iguanas
will slow down dusk because then
our hair won’t be tied to sterns
and there will be fewer and fewer lines of foam
after each sip
of our last pilsners


(image not available)

la zumbadora (genus unknown) Two to three meters long, medium girth, sometimes seen with a rattle, sometimes blue-white checkered patterned, sometimes red with black stripes. Only leñeros have recorded sightings. To catch the fastest snake in the world and hold the oldest secret, the following must be executed:

You must be unpredictable. Slash tires forgotten atop rooftops, unpredictable run barefoot across cotton-fields, unpredictable translate hymns wearing a plastic cape and touch the president’s mustache while listening to the body-count at seven, unpredictable soak newspapers in coconut juice to predict the cease-fire and laugh at infested bloated faces. O zumbadora seeker, you must be unpredictable to catch immortality.


and if we were to call you March 1980

that fourth Monday

will you know we’re asking silence

to find our teeth

drying on calendars pluck us

as if blossoms

don’t know grapefruits remind us of

grenades when dew

remembers night has time to name

what we call dirt

carpels burst rinds whisper in church

where walls are shells

shouting oceans suppose one seed

is a bullet

some kind of pearl swallowed by

an archbishop

These poems come from a section of my manuscript: Love is My Other Country. My hope is to shed light into the complexities of emigrating. Oftentimes, we forget emigrating is a last resort; why would someone decide to leave the life they know, the land they love? These poems are about events during the Salvadoran Civil War, a time when a 1/5 of the population was exiled (mostly to the US).

Currently, with the “child-immigrant crisis,” no one talks about the US politics that created that problem. The violence has not ceased. When I call my abuelos they tell me my hometown is more dangerous than during the Civil War. I rely on my family’s testimonials a lot; the first two poems are stories they’ve told me, and the last poem is based on an event that haunts every Salvadoran who lived the war.

AuPicAnaRJavier Zamora was born in El Salvador. At the age of nine he migrated to the United States. He is a CantoMundo fellow and has received scholarships from Breadloaf, The Frost Place, Napa Valley, Squaw Valley, and VONA. Zamora’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2013, Narrative, Ninth Letter, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. He is the winner of the 2014 Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship, the 2014 Meridian Editor’s Prize, and the 2011 Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Contest.

(photo: Ana Ruth Zamora)