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July 12, 2008

Danny Lopez was so dark that some thought he was black.

His eyes were wide and wild.

When he ran, his short frame’s stride heated the streets.

Sweat trickled down his bony face, and his throat

lumped with desire, the race, the win.


We used to sit on the hood of my parents’ car,

gaze at the stars. He would win state,

dash through the flagged shoot in Austin,

get a scholarship to Auburn, escape the tumbleweeds,

the dirt floors of his pink adobe home, his father’s rage.

We were runners.


Our thin bodies warmed with sweat, and the moon round

with dreams of release. We lived a mile from the border;

the Tigua Indian drums could be heard in the cool evenings.

Our rhythmic hopes pounded dusty roads, and cholos

with slicked hair, low-riders, were only a mirage.


We drove across the border, heavy voices, drunk

with dreams, tequila, and hollow fears. We ran

trans-mountain road, shadows cast cold shivers

down our backs in the hundred-degree sun.

Danny ran twenty miles, finished, arms raised

with manic exultation.


The grassy course felt different beneath his spikes,

and the gun’s smoke forgotten in the rampage of runners,

his gold cross pounding his chest to triumph, his legs

heedless to pain, his guts burning.


Neither of us return to the cement underpasses,

graffiti, and dry grass, though I know

the drums still beat when we look at the stars,

and our eyes flicker with ambition.

Brown children in tattered shorts still beg for pesos,

steal pomegranates and melons.


Young men with sweaty chests and muddy pants

ask my mother for work, food,

passage to that distant win

somewhere on the other side of Texas.


Today the green trees are wet with rain,

and I am too lazy to run. The desire to run my fingers

down an abdomen tight with ambition, is shaky, starved.


It’s been too long since I’ve crossed that border,

drunk tequila, screamed victorious

at the mountain. The stars seem small tonight,

they don’t burst over the sky like they did back then.


These poems, these books don’t ravish me

the way Danny could, the way the race could.

His accented English, broken on the wind, and his run,

his lean darkness, drove exhaustion to consummation.


The wind seems too humid in this preferred place,

and when I hear throaty Spanish spoken in the lushness,

I long for the grimy heat,

the Rio Grande’s shallow passage,

the blue desert, and the slick legs of runners

along the smoggy highway.


Sheryl Luna

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Sheryl Luna was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Her collection of poetry Pity the Drowned Horses won the first Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. It was also profiled in “18 Debut Poets who Made their Mark in 2005” by Poets and Writers Magazine. Her work has appeared in Feminist Studies, Notre Dame Review, Georgia Review, American Literary Review, and many other nationally acclaimed journals. Her second manuscript of poems, titled 7, was recently runner-up for the Ernest Sandeen Poetry Prize sponsored by University of Notre Dame. She currently teaches at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado.

Luna blogs at Chicana Poetics.

Read two more of her poems at La Bloga.

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