in cristian’s house there was always clamor
the type of place where no deafness of money existed
or silence of seclusion like the ocean’s depths
and oftentimes we’d sneak up to the top floor
where we would fill our pockets with pilfered quarters
from his mom’s wardrobe drawer

we’d walk along a drainage ditch down to mcdonalds
for free refills and big mac combo meals, remembering
to snag a handful of ketchup packets and toilet paper rolls
then drop them at the kitchen table on the way back in

his two sisters were always there floating around
with abuelito slumped nearby in an arm chair
mid-nap with both the babies worming in his lap
the radio would be ringing out piolin boleros
and the sisters hummed along like machines–

gouging out the bowels of a papaya with a melon baller
bloodletting the green juice of nopales
pecking out the eyes of jalapeños and chilis with a knife
stocking the skin of vine tomatoes under the guillotine
spooning out the guts of an avocado
or melting down chocolate like ammunition for mole

when are y’all ever gonna learn to swim they’d say
gesturing towards the yard where
beneath the down-fountain of a cyprus tree
and the jaws of the folding beach chairs
the pool waited like a mouth
cristian shrugged and said well dad never taught me
and he was the old man of the water after all
not much one can do all the way from prison can they

every good coyote has to know how to swim swim swim
they’d sing, parting invisible waves with a knife and a spoon

well he couldn’t have been that good could he
or else he wouldn’t have gotten caught
he got you and all of us here didn’t he
why do you always have to talk over the radio
what do you mean
i mean i can barely hear what you’re saying
i’m sorry but don’t you love how noisy it always seems to be in here
reminds you somehow that you’re alive and everything
well maybe that’s why i don’t want to learn to swim then
cristian said, pointing out towards the pool

i’m afraid of how quiet it is down there

j. taylor bell is from Texas and studying an MA in poetry at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is the Seamus Heaney Center scholar of 2018-19, and was a finalist for the Overland Fair Australia Poetry Prize. Peep his works at The Tangerine, Honest Ulsterman, and A3 Review, or follow him on twitter @jtaylorbell1