Michael Torres


Remek means a JanSport backpack stocked with Krylons. Remek is memory. It means a bedroom window splintered open for fingertips to find the way back in. It means friends in black hoodies and jeans hopping into someone’s mother’s Astro van. New York fat caps and German thin tips like dice in your hand. Remek means of paint fumes. It’s flat black and polished moonlight stolen from the top shelf of the 99cent store. The Remek of adolescence, being sixteen and nodding to Tupac playing through ripped speakers. It’s someone turning it down to whisper-shout, Stop here. Go, Go. It means feet grinding gravel, feet pressed into fences. Fingers surrounding metal, it means leaping six feet in one bound. Or getting stuck. Adidas in the air. Prints pressed into dirt. The infamy of Remek and wanting to see your name on every cinder block city wall. It’s mapping Pomona, California. The rattle and hiss of Remek. It means sighting police by their headlights and knowing which direction to run. Every road leads home. Morning dew on the front lawn and a bent window screen. It means going to bed with a Rorschach test of spray paint on your hands and three hours of sleep. It’s looking for cotton balls and your sister’s nail polish remover before school. The Remek of carved classroom desks, the Remek of dust wiped clean. The drill bit in your pocket you think means forever.

Remek of remembrance of the many other Mexicans who belong to names their fathers did not give them either. Names created, or taken from textbooks or the end of a song, names from the wandering imagination, plucked like an orange –something glowing– among the branches of the mind. Names like Dier, Mase and Rage. Names like Teal, Kaon and Siris. Names that resonate in the calloused palms of handshakes. This means the only loyalty you know. Remek of words learned but concealed; tucked into the grooves of your knuckles where all men keep secrets. It means knowing fear and pretending you don’t know what that means. Contents under pressure. Remek is memory and how the past can call back. It’s being unable to forget the names of conflict, names like Dusk, because when you are told to fight, Remek means staring at him as if you will shout in the swinging speech of young men. Remek is adolescence and adolescence is knuckleheadedom. And when a circle is created around the two of you, Remek means trying to find something to hate him for –his worn shoes, the tattered cuff of his jeans –but realizing he is more like you than he is not, and that years from now you will remember the dark face of Dusk for this reason, for having to grow up in a town lost to potholes and dropouts, where boys take on new names because what their fathers gave did not suffice or could not be pronounced. Or both. The ruin of Remek. And your friends will say –“You gonna fuck that foo up, Remek?”– in a way that was never meant for afterthought. But you won’t. They will turn their heads at you like dogs being whistled for. And you will lie and say: “Why? I don’t even know him.”


Born and raised in Pomona, California, Michael Torres spent his childhood summers reading and writing book reports for his sister, and his adolescence as a graffiti artist. His work has appeared in Okey-Panky, Solo Press, Miramar, and other journals. He is an MFA candidate at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he teaches writing and serves as poetry editor of Blue Earth Review.