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3 poems by Jose Oseguera

Chinga tu Madre

or (Things That Didn’t Turn Out Quite As Planned)

Because her love hurt

as that of a lioness

sinking her canines

into her cubs’ soft skulls—

devouring each one,

not out of hunger or anger

but compassion and love—

she tortured and killed

all of the men—

the wilderness budding within,

Eden blooming poisoned apple blossoms—

she didn’t want me to ripen into.

Whenever their corpses 

pulled my child wrists—

diseased fingers cupping boyish upspeak— 

she’d flog my soft flesh 

with bare hand to redden,

reshape the human plasticine

churned from within herself

as rotting blood from an exit wound

Into someone unlike her,

something that wasn’t Dad,

somewhere distant from myself.

“A good father can’t come

from a good father,”

she used to say.

“Just as spilling an exceptional vintage on dirt

will not yield good wine grapes.”

In her mind, so much benevolence

shouldn’t be hoarded

by the few men whose fathers slept

in the same bed as their wives—

feeling remorse when they didn’t— 

ate meals prepared by their work-ladened hands,

locked themselves in the bathroom

with a newspaper for hours at a time.

It never mattered if Mom loved Dad or not,

that he was glad to be or not to be the father,

or if he was disappointed that she never thought 

of him as “daddy” material:

pregnancy does not birth a mother from a woman,

as having unprotected sex 

spurt a father from a man.

What is a mother

if not one who nurses you

even though she hates

that your breathing reminds her

of the blood knot that binds her to him—

destroyer of lives lived and unlived—

for a lifetime divorced

of the vows they once wedded;

the one who loves you

not because you’re hers to mind

but in spite of it.

Everyone in the history of everything

won’t care enough to submerge their claws

in my flesh, and rip away until tears

roll down both our faces—

unafraid of the spatter, memories 

of the woman who chose love,

but whom love never chose back—

and all that remained was a shell of her,

the ghost of him,

and the nothingness of me.

Reseda Boulevard


Strewn bedsheets cast a mold of your hips,

eyes dazzled by lights flicked off,

the scent of your equator

guided my famished lips

to the vast land between your breasts and navel,

filling the space behind the heart—

between my throat and spine—

with the heat of your eyes,

smoke of a wood fire

in the drizzle of summer dirt.


The inner flesh of your thighs—

curtains made of caramelized velvet—

muffled your pleasure writhings,

amplifying the underwater flutters

of my tongue swimming in your labia;

sharp and sweet as bruised ginger,

jitters that come from unwrapping a present,

licking the frosted head off a cupcake—

a smile at the back of your mouth

when you realize a single sprinkle

wedged itself in your molar

as your upper and lower teeth

jigsaw perfectly into one another.


The mattress stayed warm

as your trickles echoed in the toilet

and the strip of light under the bathroom door

awoke me from our dream.


After you washed your hands

and face, staring at the mirror

as if you’d never seen yourself in it before,

your hands twitched on the vanity

as in your piano finger exercises.


Before you entered our bed

and interlaced your hands and feet into mine asleep,

my eyes released their squint

from the time blinking red on your dresser,

throbbing shadows on the empty

cold of the strained metal springs

whose cries you hide so well 

under the weight of your body.

Pacts With the Devil

The house she dreamed

and woke her up at night

wasn’t the one of her dreams—

Spanish style, Moorish tile,

on Highland Avenue

between 3rd and 6th street.

It was an old mansion

she’d first seen as a girl

with endless hallways

filled of creaks and shadows

and doors to rooms whose knobs

she dared not turn.

As I wiped away her sweat

and stroked her dirty blonde hair,

I told her about the summer—

between fourth and fifth grade—

when I couldn’t close my eyes

without hearing Satan’s clip-clop approaching my bed.

The only room she’d peeked into

huffed its door ajar,

exhaling spider ash and pig breath;

winking wax images on its cobwebbed windows

smiling as long-lost sisters

whose laughter to play

called to her like cat chirrups.

The magic of swallowing a pill

and dispelling the thoughts of keeping

it— not yet a him or a her, a fear,

a his and her fault—

wouldn’t take effect for another three hours,

so we fell asleep

and I began to dream

about the town my grandma was born,

where witchcraft was the farmers’

only access to medical care,

though the church forbade it.

Grandma’s father slashed his palm

and shook the Devil’s hand

to ensure that at least one

of his dodecatuplets survived birth:

his wife made it through,

but none of his twelve little apostles—

the midwife’s nickname for his lost children—

his blood was cursed, he died believing.

The house no one would ever inhabit

filled her mind once again

as her eyes woke up

spitting up tears, her throat full of vomit.

Her body would be a home

but not for our little Messiah,

who was crucified on porcelain

because of our thoughtless sin.

We waited for night to come

so that we could sleep again,

but rest never came,

and the house that haunted her

grew larger with more rooms,

more questions, and one more ghost.

I held her as I released

what we had made,

the truth we had to make our lie:

someone who visited our little apartment home

but couldn’t stay,

and would never leave me.


Jose Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a primarily immigrant, urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share. His writing has been featured in Meat for Tea, Sky Island Journal, The Esthetic Apostle, The McNeese Review, and The Main Street Rag. His work has also been nominated for the 'Best of the Net' award and the 'Pushcart Prize.'


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