An excerpt from Juan Felipe Herrera’s ‘Half the World in Light’

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera

(Tomas Ovalle / For the Los Angeles Times)

19 Pokrovskaya Street

My father lights the kerosene lamp, his beard bitten, hands

wet from the river, where he kneels to pray in the mornings,

he sits and pulls out his razor, rummages through a gunnysack,

papers, photos of his children in another country, he cries a little

when he mentions his mother, Benita, and his father, Salomé,

who ran a stable in El Mulato, Chihuahua, eyes cast down

then he points to the mural on the wall, the red

angels descending to earth, naked mothers with bellies giving birth,

lovers in wrinkled green trousers, and a horse with the figures

of children laughing on its back, a goat floats across the night,

a flank of tawdry farmers unfurl into a sparkling forest moon

where elegant birds sit on snowy branches, here is

a miniature virgin where the yellow flames light up the village

one dancer carries fishing poles and easels with diamonds

and other jewels as colors, my father is silent

when he sees these things cut across my face.

Excerpted from “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” by Juan Felipe Herrera. Copyright 2008 Juan Felipe Herrera. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Arizona Press. This material is protected from unauthorized downloading and distribution.