“Santa Ana: Downtown” by Gustavo Hernandez

Sometimes the cold evenings
after work are filled with parrots.
No one knows how they got here,
how a couple of feathers fanned
out into this squawking-green sky
netting. Where do they sleep?

a white woman writes in an article,
her surprise in finding them in the
city. She admits her family knew
there would be changes when they
moved, but screaming parrots? She
calls this place her hood, she takes

the hood’s good with the bad:
the Mexican food, the rest of the
unpalatable characteristics. Writes
about its history. All architecture.
Wonders if she’d been better off

with a Spanish-style. It’s not too late.
History. I think about how the black
woman who lives across the street
from the house where I grew up had
to fight in court to lease an apartment
where she and her sweet husband could

sleep. History. Gardeners in front of
glowing donut shops before the sun
comes up. The neon signs, the tired
jokes on the AM radio. The laughter
of men who could make even coffee
bloom. Saving to buy a home of their

own. Renting garages and tiny rooms
in the meantime. Their children carving
out land for themselves, quiet places for
homework, where they can shyly radiate
with new words, long division and dreams.
Still, the new investors make promises

to bring the shine back. Exorcise the
downtown scrapyards—you, tell me
whether you are of this world or the
next, and I’ll tell you where to eat.
The streamlined storefronts, cold
windows radiating the cleansing

frost. I once heard a man at the
barbershop give his reasons for
splitting a small stretch of Fourth
Street into an east and a west, in this
place where ten years ago cardinal
directions would have squealed out

of his head in a wrong-turn panic.
But where the hell do these parrots
come from, man? Damn invasion.
Oh, that house we just got is going
down next week, tearing the yard
out too, but we’re definitely keeping

the tangerines. And at the edges, I
can see the chayote vines reduced to
border filigree, swinging their spiny
pendulums below the living, floating,
breathing down, the mystifying cover
that is questioned then dispersed.


Gustavo Hernandez is a poet from Jalisco, Mexico. He was raised in Santa Ana, California. His work has been published in Cactus Heart, Word Riot, Assaracus, and Reed.