My neighbor died today. He was an addict who put a knife to my dad's throat a few times. He also gave us lemons. A Poem by Isabel Quintero


You're keeping me awake, pounding on that damn punching bag again, but you're supposed to be dead. I saw them take your body out of the house, leg hanging off the stretcher, your mother, a crazed Mexican legend, screaming after you. Earlier, her little baby slumped on the toilet, slipping through his father’s hands; hands that had once ended lives in some Asian jungle, couldn’t keep you here anymore than they could keep a country. You crashed one last time, cracking tiles on your way out. I imagine it in slow motion: Rosie and the Originals’ “Angel Baby” whining “Ooo I love you, ooo I do” in the background. Your mother, in a pink flannel night gown, with matching chanclas, screaming, “No! Dios mio! No!” Your last words, “I’m sorry.” If it was a movie, a younger, but not so young, Edward James Olmos would play your dad, because that’s how cliche your veterano death is. Before the ambulance hurried away, I had questions I wanted to shout out: Why’d you set the tree on fire? Was it you who stabbed that guy? Where’s my twenty bucks? But by the time I’d heard of your death, doctors were prying you open to see if you were really a crack head. You were. I lied. It wasn't me who watched you ride out, it was my mom, making sure that it was true, giving thanks that she had one less thing to fear. You changed her, made her reconsider her lifelong hatred of guns. Maybe it's not even you making all that noise. It might be those stupid cats, flaunting their lust in our faces, proof that even animals have better luck than us.

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Contributor Notes

Isabel Quintero is a writer and adjunct faculty instructor who resides in Southern California’s Inland Empire. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who made that journey for a better life many, many years ago. She likes carne asada tacos and ice cold beer. In addition to writing poetry, Isabel also writes fiction, her debut novel, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces from Cinco Puntos Press, has won the William C. Morris Award for Debut YA Novel, and the Tomas Rivera Award. Her poetry has appeared in The Pacific Review, Badlands, The Sand Canyon Review, As/Us Journal, The Acentos Review, and Xican@ Poetry Daily.