Abuelita had a framed
photo of my uncle Reyes
on top of the television
where she watched
her novelas with impassive

Tío was dressed
in full regalia,
clutching his
the smile under
his helmet
belied a dangerous
what else could a young
man do to escape
the poverty of the unpaved
alley that was his namesake,
the anonymity
of a dusty town?

From time to time
my mother received
airmail letters
with exotic stamps,
and I imagined him
leaping into a sky
riddled with silk jellyfish
as I lifted each wafer
with steam and
pasted them into
a small album.

Another picture,
which had been entombed
in a drawer for many years,
shows him bare-chested
in the Vietnamese jungle,
enduring the sweltering heat,
angry insects and mottled snakes,
suffering malaria, trench foot
and Agent Orange,
watching over his men
while they shaved in the stream,
M-14 poised on his hip,
surveying the trees
with his mother’s
sad eyes.



When he gazed into the pool,
He only saw the lovely boy
With golden skin and fine locks
Spun over a noble face,

As if what the water told him
Was untrue:

The ruined straw of his pate.
The loose jowls and weak chin,
The marbled flesh under his ill-fitting suit,
The over-cooked countenance of contempt.

Though a strident chorus calls him out,
He cannot look away.



He emerged a pale fish
From his cell of moist stone
And darkness.

Lungs filled with mold,
He choked on the fresh air
And his pupils convulsed
In the light.

To live, all he had to do
Was lie about what he knew,

But he staggered
To the Campo dei Fiori,
A nail driven though his tongue,
To embrace the flames.


About the Poet:

Robert René Galván, born in San Antonio, resides in New York City where he works as a professional musician and poet. His last collection of poems is entitled, Meteors, published by Lux Nova Press. His poetry was recently featured in Adelaide Literary MagazineAzahares Literary MagazineGyroscopeHawaii Review, Newtown Review, Panoply, Stillwater Review, West Texas Literary Review, and the Winter 2018 issue of UU World. He is a Shortlist Winner Nominee in the 2018 Adelaide Literary Award for Best Poem. Recently, his poems are featured in Puro ChicanX Writers of the 21st Century. His next book of poems, The Shadow of Time, is forthcoming from Adelaide Books in 2021.