Brandon Melendez

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if you trace my abuelos back / to the fire / they stepped out from / you will find a room / with beheaded gods / floating in jars / of vinegar / a horse / with two broken legs / guarding an adobe church / If you go back further / you will find a knife / tucked inside a blank map / a single bronze coin / levitating on the horizon

is it so hard to imagine my abuelos / deserve to come from more / than a trail of open graves / even if they don’t have the paper / to prove it / even if they can’t stand / ankle deep in the Rio Grande / without being washed away /

in a dream / I discover the severed head of a jaguar / sitting in a dry riverbed / I ask my abuelo what it means / he says / follow the blood / back to its body / trace the red dirt with your finger / you’ll find what you’re looking for / you’ll find someone else / got there first


I am my father’s son / sure / but I am not my father / ’s struggle so
why do I keep pulling / his ancestors out / of my throat / like their
names belong / to me / let’s say this bloodline is a border / I walk on /
but never across / & home is whatever soil / my father’s hands / are
buried in / let’s say I have a lineage / of ancestors who melted /
collarbone & vertebrae / into a staircase / who told me to climb &
never look back

Brandon Melendez is a Mexican-American poet from California. He is the author of Gold That Frames the Mirror (Write Bloody 2019). He is a National Poetry Slam finalist, two-time Berkeley Grand Slam Champion and Best Poem winner at the national college poetry competition (CUPSI). A recipient of the the 2018 Djanikian Scholarship from the Adroit Journal, his poems are in or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, Muzzle Magazine, the minnesota review, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Boston and is an MFA candidate at Emerson College.