L.A. Koreatown, 2016

Alfredo Aguilar

For C.B.

I came to visit months after your move

Then slept on the floor of your apartment

Beside a stack of books. In the morning I was up early,

Made coffee as quietly as I could. Windows stood open

Letting in a warm breeze—It was summer—

Sunlight poured in from everywhere.

Across the street someone was practicing the trumpet—

Silvery notes sailed in and invited me

To tap my feet. Later, we sat on the fire escape

Looking out into the city, the bright sky, talking,

About what I can’t recall—

It feels less and less like that matters now—

What I remember is how we confided in each other.

At an intersection on our way to a reading,

At the far end of a boulevard

Stood the only mountain I’d seen since arriving to the city.

At once I felt unmoored, as though I’d been adrift for weeks

Without any marker that could tell me where I was

On this earth or in this life—And I wept.

Here was the sound our solitude made

As we linked arms with one another:

Windows opening, tenderness, laughter.

Here was the stage where we offered

Our words to a room full of strangers.

We reached toward an audience wishing for many things—

Though at the time we would’ve been reluctant to admit it—:

Acclaim, approval, but perhaps mostly just to feel,

If only for a moment, less alone. The audience applauded,

And even now it isn’t always clear to me

Whether they applauded our art or our sorrow.

We were certain we knew what a poem was.

We were that young.

Alfredo Aguilar is the author of On This Side of the Desert. Originally from North County San Diego, he now resides in Central Texas, where he is a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers.
Originally published:
February 1, 2023


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