Juan J. Morales


Before I learned to cry glass and my eye
went blind, I sealed the
smoke bomb into a bottle
and released a trapped ribbon of blue.
My friends stepped back

to watch smoke expand and swirl in my hands.
I could feel the bottle bend then swell
pressured heat that would have melted
glass back into sand
if it could. The lid trembled
until the moment

my eyesight became a large blooming
firework show that banged
like concussion and threw me
into a Fourth of July that spiraled sparks, that
fell like a curtain tangling
into night’s smoldering black. 

I dripped a gleaming trail
of blood
from the vacant lot,
into the 7-11,
up the hill,
and all the way home,
trying to shake away
shreds that exploded into my face.



Not the Simon and Garfunkel one.  For my mom, it was the original on an old record click started into position, the needle summoned wood flutes to breathe slow notes followed by the plucked guitars, harbored the image of the dark-shaped bird in pale sky.  Growing up, I never understood how in her mind and in song, the condor glides on currents of sound, hanging above snowy peaks, open wings glistening like the record’s black grooves.  I never understood why she played the song daily and hummed the melody when she didn’t, swaying her to a dance through the house.  Even hearing “El Condor Pasa” in a museum parking lot in Albuquerque, played by two hitchhiking Ecuadorians or in an Otavalo discoteque when I was eighteen, I couldn’t explain it.  It wasn’t until much later, once I didn’t hear the song anymore, that I appreciated it as anthem encased in the somber hiss of the plastic ’45, that black circle halting, the bird as a distant V still adrift on wind, adrift in my mind.

Wendy XuJuan J. Morales is the author of Friday and the Year that Followed (Bedbug Press).  His poems have appeared in Copper Nickel, Palabra, Poet Lore, Zone 3, and other journals.  He is the Editor of Pilgrimage Magazine, a CantoMundo Fellow, and the Director of Creative Writing at Colorado State University-Pueblo.