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Image by Daniel Santiagø


adrian ernesto cepeda


A payphone—

those ancient, now extinct relics found

on almost every calle street corner; some

had booths but usually they hung

on walls outside of supermarkets,

drugstores and malls; before cells

and smart Apple phones, we would

take our loose change and call our friends,

lovers and familia members. And sometimes


with no quarters—

I would try calling mi Mami; I recall

her number would ring, and she would

answer saying A-lo! While trying

to speak into the receiver, 

my voice was blocked—

with no quarters you could dial

someone but they could never

hear you. When I want to talk to her


this is what it feels like—

1987 and I am redialing her phone

number. She picks up and says

mi nombre as I try to speak,

yelling, Mami, it’s me, su hijo,

but she can never hear me. This

is when I wake up with a sore

throat always hoping maybe


I can go back—

but then I realize

there is no payphone.

I sit up breathing panicky,

grasping the nightmare

like a fever, sweating,

I awaken to mi Mami still

muerta. There was no call,

I just keep replaying her voice:

hearing mi Mami, recalling—

I can never again answer

her ringing inside my head


Hearing so many people

exiting above, feeling each

tire, wheels’ rubber burning

the scent inside your nose,

running over you, never

can you truly doze off and dream,

shivering inside tent

makeshift, eyes restless,

always fantasizing yourself

inside one of those lanes

changing cars, but there

are no breaks for the traffic

in your head, replaying

no map quest to tell you

do not enter, wrong way

street, sputtering—

your hazard eyes fever red

flashing awake, remembering

all the ways you ended

up stranded, hoping

the dead-end turns you

made will magically speed

pedal (but never meddle)

away, still—you always idle,

wake up daydreaming, no use

signaling, even your eyes

burning with exhaust know—

there is no exit.


We were in this casa
and I was in this room,
glaring at the closet. And
you and Mami were sitting there
patiently like you used to,
with your purse on your
knees, quietly dressed up
and then we were walking
in an airport. So many people
it was the largest aeropuerto
I have ever seen, but the thing
I was noticing is that nobody
was holding any luggage,
bags or maletas. The travelers
were all going through these
revolving doors outside into
the light, it’s as if, this terminal
was the last stop before heaven.
I recall before you walked
through las puertas giratorias
I saw you looking very hungry
and I asked, Tienes hambre?
quieres comer antes de su
vuelo? I will never forget
before you walked solo into
la luz, just like a poet you
looked at me and replied
in ingles, I want to eat Jazz.

There was no music, after
you left, for a moment,
I was stuck in doors
as if it was not time for
me to leave, so, this
muy amable hombre,
who was coming through
the other side, helped back
into the dusky indoor part
of the airport. I had shorts
on and was wearing a vintage
1980s Members Only
chaqueta unzipped. I recall
just roaming around seeing

everyone feliz joyously
in a Las Vegas mood with
dim casino lights and candles
barely lighting up these rooms
and I kept wandering around
alone, feeling fever cold looking
for more light.

Adrian Ernesto is the author of Flashes & Verses… Becoming Attractions from Unsolicited Press, Between the Spine from Picture Show Press and La Belle Ajar & We Are the Ones Possessed from CLASH Books and Speaking con su Sombra with Alegría Publishing. His poetry has been featured in Harvard Palabritas, Glass Poetry: Poets ResistCultural WeeklyYes, PoetryFrontier PoetryThe FempoeticdiversityRigorous, Luna Luna Magazine, The Wild Word, The Revolution Relaunch and Palette Poetry. Adrian lives with his wife in Los Angeles with their adorably spoiled cat Woody Gold.

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