Benjamin Alfaro



In the poem, she is ten years old
watching her father defend their home
from armed robbery. Three at once,
he sends the first headlong down
the stairway with one swing, then aims
his force toward the other two men.
In the poem, her father is a Kodiak,
shredding the invaders to pulp and scrap.
She is locked arms with her brother.
Their backs against the closet door.
In the poem, the three robbers are
no match for her bear of a father,
his massive paws berate their bodies
back onto the front lawn, blood
dotting the snow in constellation.
Sometimes the words stack like bricks
on the page. The poem, turned sideways,
becomes its own imagined skyline.
A city of shapes. The poem, a shelter.
That which cannot strike you back.
May not even have hands this time.
There are no tombs buried below
the line. No headstones clung to
the low hanging consonants, no ghosts
in watermark. Truth rears its always
head before the ink has a chance to dry.
I changed it she confesses, before
we share our final drafts together.
Her father was not a bear. He never
even noticed the gun. The invader
was not three, but one. Her father,
a constellation on the linoleum floor.
Her uncle holding the reverberating
metal. She is in stride with her brother,
sprinting through the winter night.
Their voices siren against shutters
and locked doors. In the poem, she
attempts to architect that which doesn’t
leave her orphaned. She asks the words
for a workaround, to craft a cathedral
for her litany of bountiful grief.


Benjamin Alfaro is a writer and educator from Detroit. He is a 2017 Kresge Artist Fellow and the co-author of Home Court (Red Beard, 2014). His work was anthologized in The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, and has appeared in Southern Indiana Review, Freeze Ray Poetry, Union Station Magazine, Mangrove Review, Red Cedar Review, HBO, Michigan Public Radio, the Detroit Free Press, and elsewhere.

Duende logo.png