Amor en los barrios de Albuquerque by Daniel Arbino

Para Vanessa


University Heights


The sun set behind a low-hanging cloud,

masking dusk in depressed blue corn,

the copper-colored cockroaches emerged like a militia

and descended upon the cooling concrete in an act of war.


Neither of us were meant to be there,

while we say it was fate,

the reality is that you overachieved,

and I the opposite.


Some entrances are meant to be late.

Yours was a sweeping interruption

that disturbed everything in my system

spinning me into chaos.


That night my reflection in the duck pond exuded confidence

that I’ve never had before, nor will have again.

When we spoke, it was a whispery reverie

amongst the bustling streets and talking books.


A dictionary I was,

pocket-sized but complete,

with so many words fleeing my mouth,

a lifetime to share in those short hours.


This is where we met.


South Valley


This is where we fell in love.

Amidst the fences and iron-barred windows,

while the pack of dogs surrounded us

on the unpaved sidewalks

and I held you so close

that your mother crossed herself and yelled “por dios.”


This is where men drink to be drunk

because it is a cheap escape.

(Can I say this?)

And the payaso at the party better speak

español porque los niños

no lo van a entender,

just like they don’t understand yet

why the piñata had to be Trump.

But the adults understand, all too well.

(Should I say this?)


This is where pigs are still slaughtered matanza-style

and the women sing louder than the actual recording

because they feel this particular balada

more than the artist ever could.

Where horses walk alongside passing trucks,

all headed to Wal-Mart.

Where crops are grown next to RVs,

permanence and temporality.

Where yesteryear and mañana are ambiguous,

where dreams are realized and lost

Rooting against Pacquiao as he defeats a nation of guerreros,


This is where we fell in love.


Old Town


We return as tourists

but it is the city that has grown foreign.

Old Town is a microcosm of unbelonging

as we are constantly asked

Where we are from.


We drive past the site of our wedding

to reminisce about how far we’ve come

while La tiendita where I bought you gansitos

has disappeared.

Everything is the same, except completely different.


We’re back here again,

older, stronger, at times, defeated.

Flanked by a dog who never knew desert heat,

we walk around the plaza at dawn

to escape what we’ve become: Outsiders.


Like so many before us,

this is where our worlds converged into one,

yet it never truly belonged to us.

But the home that we have in each other’s hearts,

replete with luminarias, can never be gentrified.


Among the Mexican serapes made in Pakistan

and the kachinas stripped of meaning,

against the backdrop of La capilla de Nuestra Señora

and a Walter White calavera,

We found forever.


This is where we returned.


West Mesa


Lay with me on serapes

and listen to the wind

rattle the rims at the nearby park

where goat heads populate the court.

They puncture globes

until they are soulless

and flat like the world has become again.


Walk with me in the open space

and scurry with the jackrabbits

who seek refuge as night falls on their empire.

Tonight the desert will be covered with broken bottles,

green shards replace green shrubs

and gun shots coyote howls.


Watch with me as the clouds

descend slowly from the Sandías

and spread west while splattering

the sky in soft hues of sandstone

so that the tranquility of the sky

offsets the bass of the lowrider.


Laugh with me at the paletería

because it reminds us of simpler times.

As the cheese envelops your doritos

And the night unravels into neon signs,

We gaze into a moon

That may never be again.


Dream with me while it pours outside

and hope that the acequias will fill with water again

so that all of this is not for naught.

Know that I love you for what you were

and what you will become.

We are surrounded by rage as progress.


This is where we grew together.


North Valley


Time is not the same when you’re in love,

but the day will come

when I cannot battle,

when I can no longer war with the world.

Whether that is in ten years or ten lifetimes,

I ask that you bury me in the North Valley.

It is only there where the roadrunner still roams free.


Perhaps under an alamo,

next to our dog, I will rest.

Will you visit me each day

And laugh memory tears?

Will you curse me

for leaving you behind?

No solitude is everlasting.


Together we will look

upon the vast tracts of land

that we could never afford

or ever needed.

Our love still grows

because our home,

like our happiness, is in each other.


So we will curse the rich

and their lavender fields.

Then you will return home, but never truly alone.

I will appear in a cold morning breath in June,

or the sole hot-air balloon floating in December.

It matters not what others say,

For you know that it is never the end. 


This is where we begin again.