• Call + Response

Three Poems by Diego Luis

"Ancestral Emigration", "Post-Modern Remembrance" and "Pre-European Vision" by Diego Luis.

Photograph by Steve Johnson

Ancestral Emigration


they left their home

like the tear of melting

wax, fleeing flame,

and famine,

and the wicked chemistry of conquest


in palm-branch boats bobbing

with children clutching

wicker baskets and dehydrated biscuits,

they left their home,


for a fantasy, a frayed image,

a sea-bound journey with salt

in every breath, speckled nights

to populate dreams, flagging muscles,

always a rock away from sleep,

a roll away from razor teeth,


and their limbs had no strength

but their own, specters of themselves,

glass-empty faces gazing, from

horizon to horizon, until the sea,

at last, deposited their wrecked bodies here,

in a strange, hostile land,

far from home



Post-Modern Remembrance


The boot prints have long faded,

the crosses rotted, the people forgotten.

The valley remains, under a different name,

but even this, the earth must claim,

as it always has, root by root. Skeletons,

mine and yours, shall wither and be dust,

for all history ends, my friend. In the meantime,

you can pay 50 pesos to walk the stone forts

where they crucified my ancestors. Free on Sundays.


Pre-European Vision

My head sags. Sleep comes

like the slow roll of a heavy

tear, and rows on rows

of cattle lift twinkling

dust to the low-sun shadows

caressing the plain. The earth

hums, wind and hoof; everyone’s

daughter will drink milk and kneel

by fire tonight. A cold stone surrounds

and slows my veins—will I

be the first to sleep, to turn

away the evening,

to invite the dawn to pierce

the quiet? Maybe I’ll rest

in the river’s dream, a sallow

star adrift in winter, gone

south to seek the land’s warmth.




Diego Luis writes that his poems are ways of processing his Latino cultural and historical heritage. Luis is currently studying history at Brown University and his poetry has previously appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Hawai'i Review, About Place Journal, Harbinger Asylum, Torrid Literature Journal, and VOC for POC.

©2020 by Call and Response Journal. All Rights Reserved