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  • Writer's pictureNeon Mariposa Magazine

Three Poems by Hugo Esteban Rodríguez

A good place to be far from

For B.B.

Home, sabal mexicana, Mexican fan palm

beacons of green welcoming you to the Rio Grande Valley

They border a highway and Freddy Fender

the sentinel as you enter the bubble

Maybe you'll find Willie, maybe you’ll find yourself, maybe you


Maybe you get stuck there and maybe you blind yourself to the greater

wider, weirder world beyond the Nueces and beyond the Brazos

187 reasons to leave, 187 reasons to return

Less to stay, more to go. Zion and Babylon.

Maybe that’s just how it feels in the magic valley that isn’t a valley

but it is a river delta, the sign of change and conversion at times

to leave was to change, and to leave was to understand why people felt

that home

was a good place to be far from

like we wouldn’t grow there

among the mosquitoes and Catholics

like we wouldn’t be happy there

like we’d get stuck there, not for the better, just the worst

Or so the narrative went

But really I’m going to take the far away and stuff it into a breakfast taco

consume the far, and the distance

eat them up like the empty miles from Raymondville to Kingsville

And see this magic valley

this delta

as a good place to be from

the obsidian dream

Restored, refreshed, the right decision to enter

into the vanity of the obsidian dream

where we can practice self-care

let’s stand with our own presence of mind

where we’ve withdrawn

and none of us present actually are

Image of a smoker braving what passes for the cold in Houston

hunkering down between the buildings

the pavement

Doppler effect

the only sound we hear

are snippets of conversation

drive-by stories we’ve all heard before

The myth of living fast is debunked by how slow corporate can be and the minutes don't burn

they melt into a crawl

and the physics of nostalgia are ignored by the realities of the false promises we've made to


and we've made ourselves


I went to a bar to gamble on turtles.

I went to a bar to drink a whiskey, neat.

I went to a bar to pick up women.

I went to a bar to wait for so long for this myth to manifest itself.

It didn't.

I'm disassociating now.

I reach down to a leaf that fell to the floor, I hold it

in my hands and see that there's still green there

and I feel my heart beat faster waiting for a break in conversation

to declare what and who I am and how and what I feel

Societal norms

meant to be broken, meant to be understood, meant to be obeyed. Norms that tell you where you belong and where you won't stand out

the barback blends into the 1 a.m. Midtown crowd, no morea figure to be recognized than he is seen as part of the scenery. Like that stool. Like that table.

Like that Iranian men outside selling pizza to drunk yuppies. Like the Mexican women selling tamales to the same people who are too drunk to care, but drunk enough to approach the tamal like they approached their Christmas gifts 15 years ago. Child-like wonder and religious experience alike.

Celebrating at the altar of consumerism, the same greed that gave them their toys gave the tamalera reasons to leave when they closed down the maquiladora porque the up-tops felt the Chinese workers could work for cheaper, much cheaper.

I know this to be true and I look around me and take in the scene as a fixture would. Polo andjeans and speaking an English so fluent it might as well be native.

The same English that got

me called coconut porque segun no soy de aqui ni de alla. In Spanish, the word destierro

means exile, a removal of and from land once taken at the point of the sword and

religious syncretism. We all got new names then.

New societal norms still used to keep us from our books and to segregate us for census

purposes and for peacetime purposes and for the sake of keeping brown at brown's throat

because otherwise

we would disrupt the status quo

and we're not allowed that.

It would deviate societal norms.

Hugo Esteban Rodríguez is a Mexican-American educator, writer, and hailing from Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. He is the author of "...And Other Stories" (2018, La Casita Grande Editores) as well as other short stories, poems, and essays that have appeared in places like The Airgonaut, The Acentos Review, Picaroon Poetry, and the Texas Poetry Calendar. He is a graduate from the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas at El Paso. He lives in northwest Houston with his wife and their three furchildren and can cook up the best grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever had.

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