Border Semantics
By Alan Chazaro

Human Tsunami is a phrase used by politicians to explain a wave of refugees
             fleeing one
country’s coast for another. It’s a sudden crash of corpses in San Francisco; a crest
of torsos and limbs in London; skulls falling from skies in Sydney; sun-blots of
flesh and bonecrush in Beijing. And what of their eyes? Those rainbows of naked
irises trapped at the apex of momentum, each soul suspended
before gravity’s thrust rips them back. The giant tumble
of toes and tongues. The swell
of sound before

By Alan Chazaro

Somewhere beneath impossible
stars, a mother bundles
her 4-year-old against her breast.

She takes a deep breath before
sliding into the chunky
regurgitation of sewage.

Her son swallows something thick
—gags—but she can do nothing,
up to her neck in the sludge.

La Migra doesn’t find them, doesn’t care
that they must wade through piss and trash,
doesn’t believe gringos take shits.

Years later, as a janitor scrubbing
porcelain, she can’t help but close
her eyes when she must flush.

Elegy for Francisco X. Alarcon
a cento
By Alan Chazaro

We eat from each other’s plates
though we’ve caught a glimpse
on both sides of the border
of fallen stars, the mystery of oceans
sliding through brown fingers
from north to south
to face the morning light
welts of damage crisscrossing
within the soft folds of the earth
amidst the ash of twilight fires
our memories blossoming into open air

Elegy for Phife Dawg
By Alan Chazaro

Back in the days when I was a teen-
ager before I had poems and before I had paychecks

I’d chill in my dorm room at Berkeley and vibe
out to Low End Theory after copping it

at Rasputin’s on Telegraph. I was a 90s kid, played
duck-duck-goose instead of Midnight Marauders,

missed out on the live stuff. When I picked up
Phife Dawg and Q-Tip I was more

archeologist, digging through cosmic sounds,
college kid catching up on a decade’s

worth of knowledge. I listened to the scriptures,
worshipped the golden era philosophies of boom-bap

princes. I bent time backwards, discovered
the People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths

of Rhythm after the Love Movement, perhaps
a blasphemous act. I head-nodded

to Vivrant Thing before Ali Shahid Muhammed
had me doing calisthenics. I crawled

through worm holes with Phifey as he skated on crews
like Mario Lemiuex. He never left, still lives

in my speakers, will never go anywhere
else besides to find his wallet in El Segundo.

Alan Chazaro is a public high school teacher pursuing his MFA in Writing at the University of San Francisco. He is the current Lawrence Ferlinghetti Fellow and a graduate of June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program. As a first-generation Chicano, his work often examines the social and cultural complexities of being American. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Iron Horse Review, Huizache, BorderSenses and Bateau Press, among others.