Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts


by Rafael Montes


This is barrio, boy,

the brownest of appalachias.

This is the greencard flatland of fat girls buckled by pregnancies,

where all the old men stoop over cardboard boxes of fruit,

where women, afraid of sidewalks, fight cars with umbrellas.


The glitter here is the shower of sparks a muffler makes,

fresh off its braces, scraping the asphalt.

Our noise is the screams of men beating women,

women beating men,

everyone beating the kids.

Our music is the bullets shot in the air on the 4th of July,

New Year’s Eve,

whenever the mood strikes.


This is barrio, boy,

the level just below savage.

This is the sweet smell of mango conjured by thieves,

the place where people stop to watch a beatdown,

free tv on the biggest of screens.


On every other lamppost here, a handmade poster,

a sloppy swatch of staples,

somebody’s lost a dog, a cat, a child.

He might be playing now, in a neighbor’s yard,

steps away from shelter.

Eyed by a leashless stray. Or a pedophile.

Each a different type of hungry.


This is barrio, boy,

the land of filth and pennies,

where the fear of cops is less than the fear of learning English.

It’s the place where last year’s refugees

become this year’s bullies.

And the year after that,

you’ll finally begin to learn

to  accept the shit by your car, the odd brown pile.

It might just be a dog from last night.

Or a neighbor in full taunt.