After José Clemente Orozco’s Man of Fire

One evening the summer sun isn’t enough.
Fourteen years old, a blue plastic kiddie pool

in the middle of the street. We choke a bottle
of lighter fluid over it. We strike matches

and let them fall. Then we skate, attempt
Ollies over the flames. We watch it melt.

From a porch, someone’s father yells
—his voice as strong as his hands still are.

Eventually, the fire is put out. Eventually,
we each walk home and enter rooms

we will sneak out of at night to make
the best decisions and the worst. Eventually,

the last summer ends and some of us move
for jobs in towns far north. The rest of us go

up the street, to stay close to our fathers who
will become bound to an illness we stay up late

searching cures for. Watch the slow extinguishing
of the body: fathers with canes; fathers pushing

walkers; fathers up the slants of sidewalks
in electric wheelchairs. And when we see

our fathers, and they see us on the street,
no one can bear to wave. Dumb and tough

is all we were. But that does so little.
What I want now is to take it all back.

When I imagine it, the blue is burned
into the street. It’s the next day: I’m already

too late. But knowing what becomes of us
and our fathers—who yelled or left,

and never came back for reasons
we placed atop our shoulders—

I begin picking at pieces melted
onto the pavement, trying to chip away

the blue like a God who has yet to realize
he’s fallen. I believe I can still reconfigure

the sky & align the stars. I won’t move.
This time sun goes down laughing at me.

Michael Torres

From Pomona, California, Michael Torres spent his adolescence as a graffiti artist. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in BOAAT, Forklift, Ohio, Huizache, Miramar, Okey-Panky and Paper Darts among others. He has received a Travel and Study Grant from the Jerome Foundation. Torres is a CantoMundo fellow.


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