Octavio Quintanilla



(North Texas – USA)




[There will always be a city]


There will always be a city

that will never belong to you.

A place where no one likes to walk

the moonlight on a leash.

Beware: Someone

will always try to cut

your legs so you can kneel

and learn a new prayer.

If you leave the city,

it’s because you’re no longer in love.

If you sleep, you wake to call

the past by its old name.

There’s always a name,

an utterance invisible to sound.

Once you leave, you forget

how to return.

You’ll find yourself in a small village

where doors are left unlocked,

where dogs chase chickens to their death,

where men invite strangers to sleep

with their wives.

They, too, want to return to the cities

they never wanted to abandon

in the first place.

On days the world ceases

to astonish you,

and you think hard about leaving,

you find yourself

in an old love letter:

Dear ________,

and then you have nowhere to go,

no one to call to see

if you’re still home.






Someone is dying

far from your sleep,

                    embracing a pillow,

coughing pieces

of your name.

                    They have faith

you’ll come to kneel

at their side,

                    bring a crucifix,

a string of sunlight

between your fingers.

                    Someone is dying

far from your sleep.

You embrace a pillow,

                    clench their name

between your teeth.




[In Your image, Lord, You made fire]


In Your image, Lord, You made fire,

flames that eat the center

of my neighbor’s home.

He cries and sits on a chair

someone brought him

in an act of kindness.

He needs kindness now

before his grief reaches deep to call

Your name in blame.

We stand around and watch

firemen water the black weeds

of smoke that remain.

They work in silence, efficiently,

each to his task,

some of them shuffling in sober sadness

as if the house that turned to ash

had been their own.

Later, on the news, a reporter tries

to explain, to those who were not there,

what took place and what was lost.

The report ended with a still frame

of my neighbor, Lord,

sitting on the chair,

his back to the world,

men and women surrounding him,

some placing their hands on his shoulders,

watching his face fill with light.













Octavio Quintanilla’s work has appeared in Salamander, RHINO, Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Texas Observer, Texas Books in Review, and elsewhere. He is a CantoMundo Fellow and holds a PhD from the University of North Texas. Currently, he teaches Literature and Creative Writing in the MA/MFA program at Our Lady of the Lake University. He is a regular interviews contributor to Voices de La Luna: A Quarterly Poetry and Arts Magazine and author of the poetry collection, If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014).

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