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Alexander Murcia

Alexander Murcia

 “Steal this page” 

By Alexander Murcia  

Steal this poem from the book it’s in.  

Tear the whole page from its spine.  

It’s your page now,   

use it to write the phone number   

of the one you love,  

play tic-tac-toe on it,   

spit chewed gum into it,   

fold it into origami,  

in the end the book this poem was in   

will end up forgotten,  

tucked alongside a Munro and a Murakami.  

Until then, give this page a real purpose.  

“Considering Myself” 

By Alexander Murcia  

Eastbound on Interstate 84 with my father.  

The Columbia River to our left,  

a grey wall of basalt to our right.  

My father asks,  

What do you consider yourself?  

I know what my father is hoping.  

That beyond my light complexion,  

I will consider myself equally Salvadoran.  

That I don’t disregard his heritage.   

My father is hoping that the color of my skin  

has not eclipsed my ability to perceive myself as Hispanic.  

In this moment I feel guilty about the possibility   

of lying about my feelings.  

Anxiety about the difficulty of justifying my duality.  

Of disappointing or offending my father.  

In truth, I am not white.  

I have been to the country where my father grew up,  

where my tíos, tías, primos, y abuelos still live.  

The same country whose civil war was fueled by the U.S.  

 and is now referred to as a “shithole country.”   

I have had the papusas and la agua de Jamaica.  

I have known families who risked everything in hopes of a better life  

            who fled dangerous situations,  

            who left behind their family, their friends,  

            who crossed the border,  

            who now pick fruits and stand outside Home Depot  

            And I have known some who were caught and sent back.  

I have seen the glowing faces of young women on their Quinceañera  

            and the tears of joy running down the faces of their families.  

I know the sweet taste of fresh pan dulce  

            and the crumbly, colorful sugar of conchas.  

And I have seen the pride of Hispanic parents whose children have the opportunity  

to go places that they never had the opportunity to go.  

I am also not strictly Hispanic, instead a light skin bi-racial pocho of sorts.  

I won’t know the humiliation of not being able to speak English the American way,  

            with all of its mannerisms and unusual grammatical rules.  

I won’t know what it is to be pulled over because of my skin color.  

Nor will I know what it’s like to have someone tell me  

            Go back to the country that you came from.  

That I don’t belong.  

Instead, I exist outside of two different cultural spheres.  

Too Hispanic to be considered white,  

too white to be considered Hispanic.  

I speak broken Spanish como un gringo and  

grew up hearing my father’s stories  

about his childhood during the Salvadoran Civil War.  

I have heard the long, quiet choruses of hymns being sung in white churches and  

I have heard the loud, excited sermons preached en la iglesia.  

 
I try to explain myself to my father.  

He says he understands  

We continue past the wall of stone  

back to home.   

Even now, months after our conversation,  

I still think about my answer.  

What do I consider myself?  

I am my father’s son.  

“Berries by the Old Railroad” 

 By Alexander Murcia  

The berries I find  

are those left behind   

by those too lazy to search  

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for the ripe ones.  

Picking these berries   

is a war.  

It’s pushing through   

the barbed wire branches,  

waiting for the right  

moment to strike.  

The taste is worth  

the blood.  

Darker berries,  

the good ones,  

always seem  

a few inches  

out of reach,  

shielded behind  

thickets covered   

in thorns.  

Like a game  

of operation,  

you must reach  

deep, avoiding  

the spikes,  

keeping  

the desired berry  

in sight.   

You must gently   

grip the fragile fruit,  

not too hard,  

lest the plum  

colored clots pop open,  

and the sweet juice mixes  

with your blood.   

Darker berries,  

the sweet ones  

that make the best pie,  

these are the ones  

must be cradled,   

cared for.   

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