El Moro

By Malcolm Friend

Your skin absorbs
thick Alicante air
in the midst of festival.
You have finally
figured your way back home
and are approaching the door
when you see finger flung
in your direction.

Skin tingles
as if that finger
has thrust upon you
and you keep your eyes
focused ahead,
pick up your pace.
You know what is coming.
Soco has warned you
that the hoguera flames
ignite a special kind of fire
in Alicante streets.
But even before that,
you knew.
This skin
has always known.
Still, his words
cut you open.

Yo quiero una foto
con el moro.

In an instance
you are no longer you,
no longer person.
His finger
jabs through you,
Lets you know this skin
says you are thing.
You are desired
You are prop
in Reconquista
This skin
is inscribed,
tells him history.

Your stomach
begins to churn.
You fumble your keys
as you struggle
with the lock.
You won’t blame it
on a stranger’s words,
or an accusing finger
shot at you.
You won’t tell him
the histories
he inscribes
are not yours.
Instead, you blame pints
poured down your throat
earlier that evening in ecstasy.

Problem is
the sour of bile
won’t leave.
Not the next morning
as music from the street
floods your room.
Not the next week
as you return home.
Not the next month
when you move to Pittsburgh.

This nausea stays bubbling
in your gut,
gets caught
in your throat.
Worse, it remains chiseled
on your flesh.


Malcolm Friend is a poet and CantoMundo fellow originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University, where he was the 2014 recipient of the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry, and is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a 2014 recipient of a Talbot International Award for Writing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as La Respuesta, Fjords Review’s Black American Edition, Alicante’s Información, fields magazine, The Acentos Review, Pretty Owl Poetry and elsewhere.