Rigorous
Volume Two, Issue 1



Rezando con el pueblo

Julio Cesar Villegas


The disciples of dissidence are now boarding the 94
bus that drives into the mouth of a concrete labyrinth

find all the laws of the earth and universe suspended
and in the vacuum of this bus blooms another world

look at my grandmother in the front, ripping bones
from her body in order to give me a newer shelter

from the streets that winter has turned into blades
that drag across our throats when we’re dreaming

of a life where the 94 isn’t our only way out of here,
now all we see is the space where she once was—

my grandmother, our grandmothers, they occupy
the entire front half of this bus, a sea of phantoms

that crashes, gnaws, and howls against the wind
that punctures through the cracks of the window

the 94 is the twilight that divides dreams from life
and the reins are certainly held by uncertain palms

that pray to a God or pray to a sky or pray to a seat
that once housed immigrant pride, that once housed

the shattered borders of a country that once housed
a forest that lined the horizon of our smiles, of time

reverted and crucified onto the chest of my parents,
of our parents, but only so many forests can bloom

inside of this bus, all of us are veterans of silent wars
declared by a government afraid of itself, so they say

and the treaty shall read that they are of the hood,
of the ghettos, they will know only bones and fares

and they will abide by lines: within the bail bonds,
within the economy, within life, within themselves

and the day they speak outside of their own lines
is the day when the longitudes begin to separate

and the latitudes of this artificiality tremor in fear
for the world we created is not the world within


the 94 bus, because when I breathe, you hear me,
and when we look out the window, light is bleeding

across the sidewalks that were all painted with dust
hoping that these lungs would forget their language

that we would wander this earth seeking translation
for an atmosphere without gravity, I am a continent

that abides by no borders, my throat a referendum
for those before me, those with me, those after me

cast your ballots as we legislate the lawless lands
and build a new parliament across the 94’s seats

the dominant party shall be the corpses of families
the opposition shall be the hand that erases them

a patron has requested to stop the bus and leave
and from one madness we delve into another into

another as we sit in the back of the 94 in nostalgia
for a time when dust upon our skin did not damn us

into lesser than, into rusted brackets, into minefields
orchestrated by the quiet commanders of the state

but once the wheels turn not even hell can scorn us
our chests congregate to merge into a single pulse

that stampedes beneath the cracks of asphalt
and eclipses the sounds of capital and bullets

it surges across the mosques and cathedrals
climbing all steeples to echo across the city

like uncaged lightning, manic arrows of flame
and descends back onto the bus that harbors

us to our final stop, & here begins the journey
to keep a heart beating until we return again


Julio Cesar Villegas: "Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, raised in Essex County, New Jersey, and author of Memories of an Old World, I am the writer that your abuelos warned you about. Puerto Rico se levanta."




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