About this poet

William Archila was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador, in 1968, and he immigrated to the United States with his family in 1980. He received an MFA from the University of Oregon. Archila is the author of The Gravedigger’s Archaeology (Red Hen Press, 2015), winner of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize, and The Art of Exile (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2009), which received a 2010 International Latino Book Award. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Beyond Bruegel’s Shore

Somewhere in Nicaragua or Guatemala,
it doesn’t matter, his wings ache
from so much wax, so much discord 
in his father’s voice, how once 
he fled the wards of the state
through air & sky; so simple
and so exact he fell from the clouds,
yet no one cared; not the hospitals,
not the impoverished nor the imprisoned.
For years, his body entrapped
in confinement branching the dreadful 
diagrams of his nerves. And yet
he has begun a new life,
one of labor, of wife & child, 
his house asleep by the shore, a few
cattle battering the fattening ground.
But something has begun to crack,
that dizzy spell of mist, that depth
sweeping over him, blaring in the dark
that thick rough side of the sea. 
This time he set up his gear 
because he had to, because he had 
no choice but to curse the coming waters.
This time he swooped so low
he could finger the waves, dropped so low
the foam soaked his hull of feathers. 
It's just as well, he banished 
it all to the barn. The plowing goes on,
but today in Central America, it does matter, 
another boy fell from the sky, chicken fluff & all, 
body tangled, indeed body tangled.
And there was no one around.

Copyright © 2017 William Archila. Used with permission of the author. “Beyond Bruegel’s Shore” originally appeared in Prairie Schooner, Winter, 2017.

Copyright © 2017 William Archila. Used with permission of the author. “Beyond Bruegel’s Shore” originally appeared in Prairie Schooner, Winter, 2017.

William Archila

William Archila

William Archila is the author of The Gravedigger’s Archaeology (Red Hen Press, 2015), winner of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

by this poet

poem
The ground cracked
like the rough pit of a peach
and snapped in two.
The sun behind the mountains
turned into an olive-green glow.

To niña Gloria this was home.
She continued to sell her bowl of lemons,
rubbing a cold, thin silver Christ
pocketed in her apron. Others 
like Lito and Marvin played 
soldiers in the
poem
S for salt, for 
spoiling crops. S 
for worse or
no choice other 
than exodus or 
a territorial discourse.
S for stretched out
in a morgue, plastic 
bags like garbage 
you discard.  S 
for stinking hog, 
onions, frenetic 
maggots laying 
their baggage. S 
for still you're flesh, 
meat butchered, bootlegged
in the
poem
At daylight, he surrendered to the gutters’ 
thick cirrhosis, his trajectory 

half awake, half anvil from the glass to the killing floor
I was raised in, each thin thread tethered 

from the root of a nicotined tooth 
to the rusted bars of the slammer.  I couldn't tell you why 

Felix the Cat came to mind,
2