Esteban Rodriguez Tlacuache

Spanish for possum. English for my introduction

on what it meant to be figurative, for my cousin’s

depiction of a girl who confessed she didn’t like him:

Her jawline’s too narrow, man. Her eyes are blacker

than marbles

. And though she was, he admitted,


attractive with he first met her – he reminded himself

it was really the makeup he fell in love with,

that lipstick and blush that made her a different person;

how rejection turns our attention to language, lets me

extend descriptions of this creature across the body:

teeth, nose, belly fat, back hair, those



my mother joked about when she described

how the neighbor’s toes poked from her huaraches,

as if their natural place were on the ground,

just like a possum’s, and just when I thought

it was only women who attracted such portrayals,

I came to see my father as one, a figure whose fathering

through silence, whose conversations through body

language made him ugly in ways that made me relate

one to the other, man as animal, or at least as rodent,

as a curiosity I’d follow out the door, watching as he

and his tail-like shadow rounded the corner, scuttled

into the corral for his evening chores, taking

the metaphor with him, and leaving me with the literal,

the suspicion that as nightfall rested between the trash bins,

a foul secretion would follow, as well as a thrash

in the Hefty bags, some gnawing though the plastic,

or any action that defines a creature as solitary, nomadic,

and that years later, when on some dark, winding road

with the high beams as guidance, I’d spot as a pool

of black bile, and nudge whoever my passengers was,

as though they’d understand the reason why I slowed,

why when they asked me what was wrong,

I’d merely point at the windshield, like I was pointing

at someone I once knew.

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