The 2021 Industry Prize, 1st Place Winner: Don’t Look Back, Little Halo by Eduardo Martinez-Levya
We’re all very excited to share with you the 1st Place Winner of the 2021 Industry Prize and $3000, selected by judges Jenny Molberg of Pleaiedes Press and Michael Wiegers of Copper Canyon Press. Please enjoy this winning poem by Eduardo Martinez-Levya! Stay tuned this week for 2nd and 3rd place poems, by Michelle Peñaloza and Anders Villani.
DON’T LOOK BACK, LITTLE HALO
The officer misspells your brother’s name,
and you correct him, “It’s like Angel but with an O.”
He doesn’t hear you. Mom doesn’t care.
And before repeating yourself, she squeezes
your arm. Whispers, “No digas nada, así pensaran que es gringo.”
You understand. They’ll look for him faster that way,
if they think he’s white. American.
You’re used to this type of amputation,
of mistranslation, having been a contortionist most of your life.
Tear up your name to make it easier on yourself.
It isn’t shame but maybe a smudge of it
lingers. Think of those times you flicked away
accents and diphthongs on certificates and birthday cakes.
Or when a man turned down a second date
because he couldn’t say your name correctly,
Or the friend who asks for your advice on naming
her unborn son, something palatable, so that if he ever goes
missing, like your brother, he can come back to her
unscathed. Complete. Whole as the halo
you are told to truncate. Whole as the circle or letter
at the end of Angelo’s name. As the shape
of a mother’s mouth that’s howling in laughter or distress.