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By Saúl Hernández

The day Amá stopped driving, her curls became undone,
her red manicure turned pastel pink, her throat lost the sound left in it—

when a car slammed into her, pushing it towards train tracks.
The wheels of her white Oldsmobile clenched to the tracks the way a jaw latches

on to a bite. Amá's hands on the steering wheel, her foot still on the gas going nowhere,
my brother in the back of the car, his mouth opens: Choo-choo–

How in the distance a train was approaching.
Amá four months pregnant with me,

her fingers slip like water every time she presses the buckle.
My brother now yelling, Choo-choo!

I ask my therapist, if trauma is a way of cheating death?
            Trauma is a way of reminding the body you’re a survivor.


A man pulls over, yanks open the back door. Grabs my brother’s arm
& pulls him out of the car seat. He sets him down, Don’t move.

The man opens Amá's car door, Señora, si no se baja
ahorita usted va a dejar huérfano a su hijo.

Amá lets go of the steering wheel, gets out of the car, runs to my brother.
My brother laughs out, Choo-choo!

& tugs on Amá’s shirt.
White pieces of metal scatter in the air like doves.

My therapist says, Trauma can affect the body in many ways.
It has a way of staying inside you the way music gets put on a vinyl,

a needle encrypting a melody in it forever.




Listen as Saúl Hernández readsChoo-choo.”

Added: Thursday, July 20, 2023  /  Used with permission.
Saúl Hernández
Photo by Bradley Miller.

Saúl Hernández is a queer writer from San Antonio, TX who was raised by undocumented parents. Saúl has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso. Saúl’s first poetry collection, How to Kill a Goat & Other Monsters, is forthcoming in Spring 2024 from University of Wisconsin Press. He's the winner of both the 2022 Pleiades Prufer Poetry Prize (judged by Joy Priest) and the 2021 Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize (judged by Victoria Chang). His poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of The Net. Saúl’s work is forthcoming/featured in Pleiades, Frontier Poetry, Poet Lore, Foglifter Journal, Oyster River Pages, Cherry Tree, and elsewhere.

Image Description: Saúl Hernández directly looks at the camera, smiling. His body is centered, both his arms behind him. He wears a blue jean shirt with a black t-shirt underneath with a gold medallion. The background of the picture is grey.

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