"Gloria la chola," "Por eso estamos donde estamos," and "Survival is learned"

Gloria la Chola

She used the boy's bathroom instead
for some reason in elementary school
to try and wash off a fresh tattoo
of a cross on the small, soft area
between her thumb and index finger
a sign of the ascension from little girl
to chola
She scrubbed hard with cherry-scented soap
and the tough, brown school paper towels
wetting her hand regularly, scrubbing
reddening her brown skin trying to get
the dark bluish-green permanent regret
She cried, she was scared
her mother would see it and beat her up
like how she normally would
But no matter what, it didn't come off
and Gloria resigned herself to her fate
the inevitability of her mother's caring fists
striking her head, her sides, designating
her calloused, open palms for her face
careful not to leave any black eyes
but even then she would forgive herself
for falling into her own rageful temptation
to sock the living shit out of her goddamn
pendeja-of-a-daughter, to teach that little bitch
that this isn't a joke, this isn't a game you play
doesn’t she know, doesn’t she know how girls
get into the gang? it's different for boys
they're lucky, they only get beat up
but the girls are made to do other things
bad things, so if that’s what you want, mija
then I’m going to break you first, how dare you
how dare you! look at me when i slap you!
show some goddamn respect, show some terror
she would say, but Gloria did know how girls
got into gangs and fuck it, fuck me, fuck it all
what’s the point anyway, and then everything
would slow down and her mother would
catch a glimpse of her own raging hand
seeing the same little cross tattoo, now faded
in the same spot on her own hand as it meets
Gloria's soft, pimpled and beautiful face



Dedicated to Octavio Hernandez, an old friend I grew up with but loss touch with, who passed away on May 1, 2022 from cirrhosis of the liver brought on by alcoholism.

Por eso estamos donde estamos

who keeps leaving all these cards
and candles I can't read the name
pero se mira como que dice fac you
que grosero oh mijo they say you
can't understand anything I say but I
love you y la virgen te cuidará look
at his stomach it got so big se mira
como que esta embarazado pobrecito
the doctors casi no hablan con
nosotros we know mijo's gonna die
but we don't know when that's the
thing pues asi es no oh mijo he's all
yellow like orina hasta sus pobrecitos
ojitos es el hígado ya no sirve ya es
como carne podrida but he's been in
the hospital for almost three months
and who keeps leaving all these cards
and candles I heard a nurse say he's
peeing and there's no more blood so
that's good but he still can't breathe on
his own tiene esa maquina down his
throat and he's in a coma but still
they're washing him poor mijo would
drink everyday all the time from
morning until night he would shake
so much it scared me so we would get
him beer because we thought he was
gonna die they say people die like
that if they stop drinking all of the
sudden but they criticized us so we
stopped but i know people also die
because they don't stop drinking
como dicen damned if you do
damned if you don't y por eso
estamos donde estamos think of all
the money those liquor stores make
no you're right son las compañías que
hacen un montón de ganacia es dinero
manchado de sangre oh mijo do you
remember when he broke his arm
skating ese traviesito didn't cry or
care he kept skating with the cast he
was brave no one can say que era
cobarde he was brave mi mijito
pobrecito traviesito valiente who is
leaving all these cards and candles
have his friends even come by yea
like one or two oh mijo I'm sorry I'm
sorry I didn't know what to do what
were we supposed to do no one tells
you no one helps you como se
llamaba his friend but anyway he got
sober yes the crazy one con la ropa
rota with his hair all in picos how i
don't know they used to skate
together y tambien they would get
drunk y se drogaban and cut each
other y practicaban el satanismo but
la mama de el said he got sober pero
how i don't know but he should've
spent more time with mi mijo maybe
that would've helped but god helps
those who help themselves a fuerza
you can't make someone quit
desafortunadamente dice la mama de
que es un tipo de activista pues que
bien they should help los jovenes que
toman tanto que se drogan tanto que
les ayuden a conocer a dios pero cree
en dios el quien sabe pienso que no
but at least he's not satanic anymore
who keeps leaving all these cards
and candles quien sabe oh mijo i'm
so sorry we love you que la virgen te



Survival is learned

She covers my ears
with her small hands
and says, you don’t need
to hear this, as her dad
yells at her step-mom
I’m fine, I grew up this way
but you shouldn’t have to
I say
She takes her hands away
and we resume shooting
each other with toy guns
teaching one another
how to survive



Facundo Rompehuevos is an activist, writer, husband, father and recovering alcoholic and drug addict born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. He writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His work has appeared in zines and literary magazines and poetry journals, such as Rusty Truck, A Thin Slice of AnxietyThe Rising Phoenix Review, Red's Not White and Delirium. He has two books of poetry: Irreconcilable Contradictions (2017) and Grabbing the Stars from the Sky (2021), both published by Fourth Sword Publications. He is currently working on his debut novel and a collection of short stories.

You can find him on Substack at facundorompehuevos.substack.com.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, July 7, 2022 - 22:03