On Their Fifth Date, He Promises Her the Sky

He is from

speckled dirt in sour beer,

from the swaying hips of el barrio

and its fog of heat under the stars that can fix

everything underneath them, swears


he’ll reach them in a couple years;

give him time and she’ll touch them too in a couple years.

He is from

streets swarmed with salchipapas-y-chicha vendors, swears

there’s nothing the hips of el barrio and a beer

can’t fix.

Though, if he had time, he’d give el barrio

the cleanness of her irises; he’d give el barrio

the freckles her nose has collected like dust over the years.

He’d scrub the hunger from the walls, the grumbling moms can’t fix.

He is from

old stories wish-washing at the bottom of his beer

and the salsa songs he can’t sing, says

there’s something different about where she’s from, says

“you’re from paved roads; my barrio

has a filth that’ll forever cloud my beer,

the kind that’ll soil stories for the rest of my years.

I’m from

a crater of a city my favorite constellation couldn’t fix.

I’m from a crater of a house whose roof I couldn’t fix.”

He offers her another drink, and that’s all he says.

Four blocks worth of Jesus on chains and burglar friends, is where he’s from.

El barrio

is his fingernails’ dirt, packed in even after all these years,

is the unleaving grime on the glass bottle of his beer.

He tells her about el barrio when he tips back his beer,

when he looks at the dent of her dimple and wishes it would fix

all of his previous years.

He says

he looks at the clouds above his barrio

and wishes they would sweep him away from where he’s from.

He is from the specks of dirt still whirling in his beer,

born from the swaying hips of el barrio, raised under a fog of heat by the stars that could fix

everything underneath. Says, he wishes to live under a different sky with her for many years.

—Penelope M. Alegria '24's column, "Hers," is a series of poems that retell familial stories through a matriarchal lens, exploring the role of women through space and time.