What Did Father See in El Desierto?

you‘ll ask me what did Father see 
in el desierto before he died 

Father never told me what 
he saw in el desierto 

Father crawled into the cows’ pen
at night alone

at first as he made his way 
through the maze of bones and skin
he couldn’t see the cows 

only feel their warm breath 
as he bumped into them 
and stepped into cow shit

he was so thirsty
he tasted the desert 
sand in his mouth
in between his teeth

he drank the milky frothy green water 
from the cow’s trough

the stinking water was full of tadpoles 
puros sapos negros
con colas y patas negras

Father didn’t care if he swallowed 
sapos negros

if he didn’t drink the water
the sun would’ve sucked 
the life out of him;

What Did Father Do after He Left the Cows’ Pen?

Father studied his round belly 
with his thick black chubby hands 

he felt his belly was a heavy watermelon 
he didn’t think about the tadpoles 

many years later, he told me 
he believed a sapo negro lived
inside of him 

he could hear el sapo negro croak
at night near his corazon 
before the summer rains began

Father walked for days in el desierto 
until he found himself alone 
in a field of cactus and chollas

the dirt became soft and red
at some point

he had lost the other pollos
or the other pollos lost him

i’m not sure what Father had said 
about the other pollos;

Are You Making up Father’s Story? 

Father took off his shirt to show me 
el desierto he carried on his back

he showed me the scars 
he brought from el desierto to prove 
he’d survived the sun, the rattlesnakes
the scorpions, and his thirst

the sun burnt his scalp   
his skin had turned into a piece of carne seca
his skin still stank like carne quemada

i counted all of the thorn scrapes 
from his belly and back 

his legs and arms were full of thorn scars
yes, Father carried un desierto on his back; 

Gerardo Pacheco Matus

Gerardo Pacheco Matus is a Mayan Native and recipient of fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, CantoMundo, The Frost Place, and Macondo. Pacheco was awarded the Joseph Henry Jackson Award. His poems, essays, and short fiction have appeared and are forthcoming from theGrantmakers in the Arts, Apricity Press, Amistad Howard-University, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, The Packinghouse Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, West Branch Wired, Four Way Review, The Cortland Review, Nashville Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, Memorious Magazine, Tin House Magazine, Play on Words, Anomaly Press, and Peripheries Journal.