The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2022

All Issues
MAY 2022 Issue



halfway through the dream, I revealed: I am your enemy
when you closed your eyes
I erased your footprints from the world

what were you before you disappeared?

an exhausted body?
a secret?
a memory?
a parenthesis?
an incomplete name that ignores its shame?
a ghost wandering aimlessly?
a number printed on the arms of a child?
a guardian who has lost their siblings?
a carcass to feed the hungry?
a wish drowned at birth?
a fugitive that carries their punishment on their back?

I erased your footprints from the world
and there was no trace of you left behind

I recited a trip and a dream for you
but your soul detached in slobber
I see how you begin to rot in life
and how irrelevant
the chain between your first and last word becomes.


I am your enemy without having sought to
this is our new order
I erased you from the world
your mother premonitions you as a wound

In your ravings you desire to become the ocean
the ocean has no ends
to hold onto and consume

my enemies beg for water but
where does it exist?
I must drink for them

At my side they bleed out in a thousand dreams


the man looks at me from the well of his eyes that can no longer see the current

his language, saliva, and teeth on the floor
his wounds greater than his body
he is my enemy & he dies at my side
but his eyes invoke my mother

the contrast of her soft hands and my metal hair
her hands that picked clean the lice as if sifting rice
I killed this man yesterday but he has yet to die & he stares at me
I fix his teeth on the floor to arrange him a final smile

my mother has died but her hands console the floor where this man
who silences an unknown language
gives in to become one of my memories


from her face as it spills on the floor
she tells me: kiss me
but I cannot find her lips
I can only see
her body inhabiting space
flesh flowers plucked
blood that turns into sand & then sea & then words

she stares at me from multiple sides
& she insists: kiss me
kiss me, I scatter into tiny things
kiss me, I am nearly not myself but I miss you

her mouth is dispersed everywhere
& I cannot kiss the entire world
despite knowing it’s precisely
the entire world what remains of her

I search for my own face
scorched for so long I fear all that’s left of me is a footprint

that won’t recognize me
the few objects clearer than a woman
whose skin I cannot contain
& I’d like to kiss her
I’d like to eat the earth of this people to feel
its flavor when it said: good night
but this mud with eyes and teeth
is a community undone

I close my eyes
& she whispers from the flies that bit by bit
become her borrowed lips: kiss me

I swallow the floor and caress her but no one can see us
we will not be carried in anyone’s memory
& then I hear her no more


she told me: my language does not name you
I run my hands over her face to recognize her
I imagine it broke

he wanted to tell her: your hands lacerate my skin
but in his language, there was no word for forgiveness

dispersed shadow corpses lie at their feet
& they loathe each other


why is your dry face real?

I feel that I drown and I drag you with me
but it is salt
it is the ocean that drowns in me
it’s your gills that filthy me
it’s my teeth that disperse to bite freely
you tell me your name and it is a boy’s name
& I realize that in this mud that drowns us
what I have killed is your past

halfway through the dream, I revealed: I am your enemy
& he asked me to not lose his hands but they had already
dropped to the ground as rotten fruit
& he asked me to save the names that we told no one
despite the torment
to not begin a history of guilt
he stared at me without seeing me & said in his beautiful language:
hopefully, my shadow won’t freeze to death
when my body finally disappears I hope my shadow

finds someone else to repeat
I did not know how to calm him because my eyes were stuck
on his face & he was blind
& he moaned in his horrible language: I hope the sand where I wrote
what I am fades with every soft wave
you & I can become the ocean
murderers of our own salted death


I declare myself unable to possess this body
with all its noise it dies bit by bit

I celebrate as they set it ablaze
I celebrate my escape
the miracle of flesh floating into ash

safe and pure

I apologize for the stench
fat ripped from flesh as rain
this is not how I imagined burning angels
& their skin ascend to god


there was an old parrot at home
one night it no longer spoke
it sang uninterrupted until its death
a sad waltz in an old woman’s voice

it was a long nightmare, it lasted days
my mother’s voice returned

to sing to us one last time from hell


my enemy sleeps

I can see
that he dreams of me
that he hates me
that he has drawn me with detail
that he knows me
so much
that I can’t recognize myself

I see that he ran from my shadow
my footsteps have anguished him

that he fears me

my enemy is identical to me
he is so similar to me that I believe it to be a joke
he insists
as if I once again had yesterday’s age

my enemy is similar to me but with less solitude
finally, he has me
he dreams of me
keeps fear’s company
and in this place of intertwined bodies and blood
I envy him
because all I possess is doubt

my enemy must die
before he awakens I must invade his body
open it
search within to find what makes him my rival
open it
& find myself in him
because I’ve left my body long ago

I see him dream of a woman
his mother
perhaps his wife
his sister
an image without time
must die but not until the last goodbye

for now
I will keep vigil over his dream


nothing prepared us
for when the enemy revealed their face

we waited
for rain to erase
war footprints

for words
to occupy the space
of bodies

for time to
bring amnesia

for wind
to sow beauty
on razed fields

nothing prepared us
to see the enemy
assemble their body
with the remains of our bodies

to see our dead
kill each other again
to console this enemy
who fears ghosts

to see
this monstrous son of mine
use words born undone

words immune
to their own language

bubbles of blood
seeping from his poorly sewn mouth
perhaps he sings
perhaps he prays

perhaps we should burn him again

Sections II and VII previously appeared in an issue of The Offing


José Carlos Agüero

José Carlos Agüero (author) (Lima, 1975) Peruvian historian and writer. Researcher on issues of political violence and historical memory. He has published—among other texts related to disappearances, political violence and public education in Peru—the essay Los rendidos: Sobre el don de perdonar (IEP, 2015), the poetry book Enemigo (Intermezzo tropical, 2016), the set of stories Cuentos Heridos (Lumen, 2017), and Persona (FCE 2017), published by Fondo de Cultura Económica that was awarded with the 2018 National Prize for Peruvian Literature in the Non-fiction Category.

Alonso Llerena

Alonso Llerena (Lima, 1985) is a Peruvian writer, visual artist, translator and MFA candidate at the Bard: Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts. His work has appeared in FENCE, Prairie Schooner, The Offing, Magma Poetry, and elsewhere.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2022

All Issues