José Luis Rico

Translation: David Shook and José Luis Rico

Photo: Emma Toukonen

suomi ) ( español )

Elementary School

The gate opens, the doors open.
I walk in the esplanade among children 
who brawl under the sun.
One of them spits from the yellow foliage
on others who gather round the ash tree
and try to pull him by his feet. 
As he holds on and kicks
I remember Hugo, the leader of our clique,
who protected us from the bullying elders
and defended me like a brother.
He never stopped being a child, wound up alone
and has been in jail for three years. After 
waiting for hours, I saw him,
in his orange overall, frailer that at nine. 
His skin, gaunt
from months of isolation,
and his lucid eyes
spoke to me through that unbreakable
glass; his iris and the brown
ring around it and the sinking light within
drowned my words. Both of us, on our
respective sides, had already accepted
we could only look at each other,

I said to him: “Hugo, this never was
what we thought; we’re stupid
and that force we had
broke into shards like a bone.”
I remember him playing among children.
The heat of the autumnal sun
is the glass screen and a fluorescent tube. 

[1]Translated by the author


My Father in Disneyland

The roof has a hole in it
and the moon’s shine
bathes everything.
My father walks in his workshop.
The photos that pass through my hands
remind me that he was a young ladies man,
slow and fleeting like smoke,
he married, had me and my sister
and carried us through Disneyland in his arms.
To stay alert
he wets his face in the sink
and walks toward the light from the opening
that the thieves made to get in.
He looks for the tools he acquired
over twenty years of work.
They’re almost all gone.

He stares at the hole in the roof
and the ash from the papers they lit on fire;
if the hours on his face were drops
falling from an icicle
of so much cold we each live through
today they would finally break him.
I am home. I write
that we will stand guard together
in case the thieves return.

One afternoon I went up on the roof
and saw the seamstresses getting drunk
before the sky that opened
in a painful aura over the city’s antennas.
One of them found
her brother’s body on the curb
and dragged him best she could to a clinic.
They drank bottles as big and dark
as an orca’s belly
seen from that underwater tunnel
but the thought of Disneyland
had a taste of sandstorm
because my life was already another
and the bottles and the mess of the houses
were written on my hands.
I felt like the city was my fault.

My father walks among the machines
and the beam of light resembles a tunnel
that the whales swim over.
Then the bolt twitches,
he slinks up to the door
and cocks the pistol
so that its click
can be heard on the other side.
The workshop grows dark.
The machines fall silent.
We will stand guard, with the gun,
until the day breaks. 

[1]Translated by David Shook

José Luis Rico
José Luis Rico

(Ciudad Juárez, 1987) is a poet and translator from Northern Mexico currently living in Finland.
José attended the National Fine Arts Institute Poetry Workshop in his hometown, under the direction of César Silva Márquez.
Blanco (2012), his first chapbook, was published by the independent publisher La Dïéresis. Duna, his second chapbook, appeared through the Fondo Editorial Tierra Adentro, in 2013. His book Jabalíes was published by the Fondo Editorial Tierra Adentro in 2015.
He has been awarded with creative writing fellowships by the Fundación para las Letras Mexicanas from 2010-2012; the International Seminary for the Development of Young Translators, sponsored the French Institute for Latin America and the French Embassy in 2012; the Chihuahua State Arts Council “David Alfaro Siqueiros” Fellowship Program, in 2014; and the New York University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 2016-2018; and Mexico’s National Endowment for Arts and Culture in 2018-2019.
Winner of the National Poetry Prize for Young Writers “Guillermo López Muñoz” in 2012; the Premio Chihuahua Prize for the Arts and Sciences in 2014 in the category of “Literature” with a specialty in poetry; and the National Prize for Young Poets “Francisco Cervantes Vidal” 2015.

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