by José Angel Araguz

At every hour
bells peal,

little doors
open and out

the wooden woman
comes, bending

backwards, away
from nothing really,

the motion of one
throwing her head

back to laugh—
how many days

has she walked out
from her little house

and had no one
across from her,

those other doors
so much like hers

open to nothing,
hold nothing

where a man would be
bending forward to kiss—

how many hours
have been marked

by what appears
to be laughter,

lone and silent
wooden laughter?

by José Angel Araguz

Towards the end of each winter
the river turns broken blue,
a blue with all blues inside:
the blue of eyes, the blue of stars,
       the blue of veins and bruises.

The color of holding still, that blue,
a gradual hardening that gives
a little more each day I walk
speaking to my dead father and see
       the questions he can’t ask—

Who’s walking with my face?
Who’s burdened with my name?
Who’s speaking with my voice?
Who’s coming through in blue
       shadows and blue cracks?

Questions grow, and in blue writing
blue lines tense as though the words
would rewrite themselves to answer
in blues broken with each season
       coursing inside me.

by José Angel Araguz

My mother became the front yard
we went without in the dresses
she wore for work, dense fabric
stitched with bright designs,

flowers and leaves arranged to greet
the customers of Rosita’s on Baldwin,
not there anymore, but I know,
as dense as I’ve become, nothing

matters beyond first impressions:
the apron hanging off the door,
the iron hissing in her hand,
late, but insistent to look good,

my mother’s face bright, steadfast
as light through a threadbare sheet
held over the face of a child
pretending to be asleep.


José Angel Araguz is a CantoMundo 2014 fellow.  His poems
have recently been published in
Salamander, RHINO, Prick of
the Spindle
, Hanging Loose, and Poet Lore.  He is presently
pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati.

On “Broken Clock Ode,” “Blue Ode,” and “Late”:
“Broken Clock Ode” was born out of an actual clock I saw
where the wooden couple would come out and the man would
lean in for a kiss and the woman would lean backwards, coy
and refusing to kiss.  The clock was broken in that it was
missing the body of the wooden man, so the hour would strike
and the woman would come out alone as described in the poem.  
Without the man there and his implied motion, the woman
appeared to be laughing.

Regarding “Blue Ode”: In talking about my father and how his
absence continues to be a presence in my work, Jim Cummins
articulated the relationship aptly when he said that a father’s
death becomes a talisman.  Hearing it put this way, I realized
that the reason I keep finding my father come up in the words
on the page is that so much of my life is colored by his death in
some way, and that by following each poem through, I give
myself permission to understand the colors (in this case, “blue”).

“Late” started off behind the “threadbare sheet” of the last
stanza.  So much of my childhood is made up of memories of
being quiet, of being left alone, of watching my mother get
ready for work or coming home.  Always in passing.  My mom
as a waitress had a mythic status: she had a loyal group of
customers who would change restaurants whenever we had to
move.  How hard she worked to inspire that kind of loyalty
no one knew except for the “child pretending to be asleep.”   

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 9, Number 2
(Fall 2014)

Copyright © 2014
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.