Stations of the Green Card

(Old World Translation OWT with Revision and Commentary)

“¡¿Tan Temprano?!”

Dos semas de pan,
freckled fresas
dos yogures—all stashed
inside a crumpled brown
rostro

that replies,
“¿Tony, quiéres que lleguemos tarde?
¿‘[En]‘tonces?”

 

[The Book of] Cal[train] 6:12 [AM]

Forecast calls for pendiente skies
milky gray clouds cuelgan low,
light showers from the question:

“What time’s the next one?”
“Seis doce.”
“¿Estás seguro?”
“Acá dice en el Samsung.”
“Oh-Que.”

 

Perennials of Seventy Seasons

Esperan afuera the brick bench,
sentados on its rose-stucco’d pews.

Zacate’s a straggling witness
that’s stalked them desde el campo—
hung jurado.

Restless impatiens
slide their thumbs against one another,
faith peddled by the flesh-bead.

Cheeks wilt from the soft exhaust
of an ’08 Chevy.

I kiss the dewed leaves
inside abuela’s hair, the frayed copete
of an hour-long velada.

She chuckles,
“Pues no podía descargar el celular.
Decidimos esperarlos.”

I review the “usted” form,
con papá’s oración—“Ándale súbanse”—
as he pins the seat-belt sash
over abuelo Antonio. Who stares
at nieto Antonio.

He blushes from my herencia
of a broken cinturón.

 

He Rides for the First Time

We cross the piss-infested tunnels
of Palo Alto Station.

“¡Uí! Y apenititas alcanzamos a subir,”
abuelo says as he clutches his one-way pass
like a bracero’s ID.

Waits to wade through the PUSH-TO-OPEN floodgates
of El Train-o Grande. I yell the callejero’s warning—aguas—por el wireless stream:

—Stanford-badged hipster biker
power suit checks su reloj cada rato
biker hipster with a bigger beard
nurs nurs nurs más acabadita nurs quien fuma (“¿Y luego? ¿Qué le sirve ser enfermera?”)
primo-janitor who also wears
a Stanford- badge
Coach Bag n’ Clipper Card morenita
doin’ a make-up tutorial—

And Father Antonio parts
the Voss-and-Fiji-plastic sea
con un niño’s exclaim,
“¡Nunca me he subido en uno!”

 

I Explain the Sudden Stop

The Baby Bullet Express,
unlike La Bestia,
announces its dead

in a nice, NPR voice.

“Uh, sorry folks, looks like we’ll have to stop
for just a few minutes. We’ve had a lethal collision with a bystander.”

I translate el breve informativo.
Speedbump on la frase,
while other passengers mutter
to their black-and-white, Palo Alto Daily
pensamientos, “It probably was only
a homeless guy.”

 

I Wipe the Window so He can See the Paisaje

Hay llovizna from the 2nd floor;
from straw mouth stares at El Camino
Real: cerros with three stories houses,
pájaro-shat roofs of shopping centers,
South San Franciscan graffiti
New World-gazing, until leather-upholstered tongues shout, “TICKETS TICKETS!
PLEASE SHOW YOUR TICK!-.”

Siren inglés drowns out
the lush fog.

 

They Mock Him

Bajamos en 4th and King..
Jackets shudder their frayed skin.

“Tápense,” papá says.
Hands me puros singles.
“Ten, pa’l MUNI.”

Carmen waits for her royal fleet,
sagged shoulders drapped
in a bath towel—the color
de su tinte favorito.

Trolley zaps overhead.
Wires hum from, the steel-nerved strain
of clutching step-rails.

Conductor-in-shorts takes a quick glance.
The rancho-grown señora toma su campo
con las eldery chinitas.

Inside, the hallway-vendor
hands a box of Bang Snaps. Abuelo waves
an umpire’s “Safe,” and I’ve seen this play a hundred times at the facilities worker quad
and waiter poolside and my tía’s
broken back. Where José’s ran from the pen
since la primaria, tries to steal for first
English word, but doesn’t know
No in English is No

and, the Head of School invites me,
the first Mexican boy he’s letter-written,
for Oolong tea. Normally, the issue’s ruled in between sips, lips lathered in bacon grease,
“I believe it’s a level playing field.”

But in a minority of cases, como éste, a referee of two worlds presides. Who wears the jailbird stripes, Papá, whose appeal unfurls
from out a finely-trimmed moustache,
“Jei, lív jim ah-lón.
Daits mai dad.”

A block away is AT&T Park.
Hubiera grabado la jugada
Worthy of el Jumbo-Tron.
Tell buncha $6.75 hotdog-chewing fans
I’ve seen third shoe-string families
play like giants my whole life.

 

He Meets the USCIS Official

One foot in the field, another in the field
office, Chente’s bushy-brows stutter,
“Go ahead ask him,”
the rehearsed speech to the ward.

Papá gags the bag’s wrinkled neck—
guttural odor that threatens to blurt out
the white sign’s Spanish, “We can’t eat here.”

I ask, “Excuse me sir, my grandfather’s appointment is two days after hers, and I was wonderi-“ “Yeah, that’s fine,”
he replies without lifting his head.

Solidarity is gazing at the file of foreigners
before and behind us—dozens of Janus-faced
pleas, of husband and wife,
to not lose another workday.

The man’s heard the question
in hundreds of tense-shifts,
cloths of accents, 2,000 thread-count
“Excuse me’s” and “Pardon sir’s”
from manos hechas a costal.

 

He Sits for the Third Time

On thin sheets, I scribe their names,
backed by a thin clipboard
provided by the government.

We wait for green card summons,
for the fluorescent cielo to open up again
and adhan, “Number 67!”

He is Stripped of a Proper Representative

At the sound of a hallowed voice,
Papá and I deliberate, who’ll represent who,
ocultar el secreto del Sixth-and-a-Half Amendment: that if one Juan cannot afford an attorney, he’ll be represented by su hija,
every US-born’s mile-piedra
alongside Tonca Trucks y Frozen mochilas.

 

He is Stamped to the State

Hands face the sky
to have their fingerprints taken.

A Mexican palm-line’s
Original Split descended
from a document-stamps.

Entire lives revolve
around the fading ink’s orbit.

The thundering jolt
of an authorized form.

 

He is Taken to the End of the Hall

Papá rega sus ojos, and over my shoulders,
once scrubbed with off-brand Palmolivo,
spigots a soft “Dainq You.”

And unfurls a Sarape de Saltillo tongue.
which reads, “Gracias for gracing
your college-educado Inglish
on these scribbles
of ciudadanía.”

 

Photo-ID-Synthesis

Seventy five after this earth
cropped ‘em up,
and fifty six matrimonio aniversarios,
and ten children y uno se muríó,
and six slaughtered cows y otro desapareció,
and after millones gritan “me agarraron y me agarraron” y “hay que volver intentar,”
y la congregación pega su pecho “por mi culpa y por mi culpa y rezé a María y a San Judas,”
y three quarters de inmigrantes son mojados—all are uprooted—

y “yo vengo con decisiones de trabajar”
and after the hereafter
creeps, como los nubes del cerro,
en la cabeza de la hormiga creyente
who stutters to the hotel guest
in a lavender sports bra
“No towels? Juan moment plís,”
her telenovela-antennae flickers for help.

“Por los siglos de [un three quarter] siglo,”
my forefathers hold a magnetic strip
against the field office light.

“OK Mr. and Mrs. Lopez,
This is your temporary renewal card,
your permanent one will arrive via mail
in 6-8 weeks.”

“¿Cuánto?”
“Seis a ocho semanas abuelo.”

“¡Ah! Ya pa’que sirve la residencia.
Antonio, of the Latino Pessimist tradition, hollers, tengo setanta y cinco. Setanta
y cinco! ¡No! Ya casi me muero.”

And abuela Carmen, retorts
with the Me Vale Madre tradition
“¡Hmm! Y todavía bailas,”

 

The Perennial Leaves

Out the office.

We petal for the 10 camión.
Gawk the tallest building,
its flag cocked in full staff

Grandfather asks, “Mi’jo mi’jo,
cuántos pisos son.”
My fingers count each floor,
“Quince. Uh. Como se dice- Stories.”

“¿E-Storí? ¿Qué’s eso?”
“Un story es…Es…”

Between his trigo hairs, I see The City
on a Hill. It emits a sweating fog.
Masks our feet:
abuelo’s huaraches, mis zapatos de charol
and papá’s neon Sketchers—
twenty five bucks at Marshall’s.

I hear him open the choked-up lonchera,
30% recyclable breath of fruits ya casi
hechadas a perder. The scent of Arab aroma,
my Saudi-imported musk, smothers the denture-chews.

I turn around. The building’s gone.
All that’s left is papá’s feeble request.
“No ustedes coman.”
He prods the bag closer.
Their sunken elbows lift the paper sac.

Their faces—
the color of marrow.

 

Antonio Lopez

Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Antonio Lopez received a double B.A. in Global Cultural Studies (Literature) and African-American studies from Duke University (Class of 2016). He’s an inaugural John Lewis Fellow, a recipient of Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award, and a finalist for the 2017 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize. In 2017, he attended the Yale Writer’s Conference, the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, as well as awarded the Lucille Clifton Memorial Scholarship to attend the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. His nonfiction has been featured in TeenInk, The Chronicle, PEN/America and his poetry in After Happy Hour Review, Gramma Press, Eclectica, Hispanecdotes, La Bloga, Acentos Review, Sinking City, What Rough Beast, By&By, Permafrost, Track//Four. He is currently pursuing a Master in Fine Arts (poetry) at Rutgers University-Newark.

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