Sestina for El Barrio

Under a pale sun, a dark-haired woman sweeps glass
smashed in last night’s brawl. Scattered
shards are edged in blood. Across
the street a boy dribbles a ball—a steady beat
like fired shots. The woman brushes silt and sings:
mi amor volverá (my love will come back).

Around the corner, Pacho leans back
and lights another smoke. His thick glasses
make him look startled. A song
crackles under a needle as he arranges scattered
photographs. A solitaire hand that beats
him every time. He wears his son’s crucifix.

His only boy, first caught in crossfire
and then a crowded E.R. Shouts for back-up,
a gurney, a god had filled ellipses beating
from monitors. Finally, his son’s eyes had glassed
over. Pacho gathers the pictures, scattering
his ashes on the floor… Down the block a song

rises from St. Michael’s church. A song
about a shepherd who bled from a cross
and promised salvation to his scattered
flock. Two boys lounge in a back
pew. Figures plead in panes of glass.
Candle shadows shimmy like girls.
Qué ritmo,

they crack, craving the bass beats
that boom from cars. It’s always the same song.
The priest pours wine into the chalice studded with glass
as voices climb the steeple’s cross
and pierce the sky. On stone ledges, birds back
away as a gust scatters

dust and leaves. Then they burst—scattering
up like cards after drunk fists beat
down… Pacho sticks the needle back
into its track. From idling cars, songs
unfurl like skulls and cross-bones.
The dark-haired woman slides her glass up.

Cross now, she beats the sill, scattering curses. (It’s always
the same song.) The boys saunter off, caps on backward,
the grooves of their soles glistening with stained glass.

Angela Canales is a high school educator, freelance editor, translator and writer. She earned her master’s in Writing Studies from St. Joseph’s University, and her story "Out of Nowhere" was included in the 2009 anthology The Best of Philadelphia Stories: Volume 2. Most recently, she was included in the 2012 cast of Listen to Your Mother, a national 10-city reading series exploring the bond between mothers and children.

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