Studying Abroad in Mexico,
Looking up at Man of Fire by José Clemente Orozco
Once, in la Plaza de Tapatía, I wandered the streets of Guadalajara in July, an inferno. My feet burned & my head burned & I was wiping sweat, when I
saw him. He was a human torch. Through a ceiling,
the sun’s flames shone through the Man of Fire.
His gray hands reached for mine like he’s sorry.
Is this my Father’s love?
His hands reddening me, whooping his fears out.
Flesh burning with anger—hot tears asking why.
Why smolder when the forests are going to ash. When this isn’t about the world aflame. My own house has never been smothered.
Yes, I’ve seen smoke. My Mother charred peppers
with enough heat my lungs screamed. Orozco’s flames were bigger than that. Chiloso or invincible, my father
never called me those things. He could never stand
the kitchen. Because I was jacketless in winter,
trying to prove I didn’t need anyone, my Father
called me IceMan. Because the way I stood in Gaudalajara’s cantinas,
lighting cigars, foolishly—so I could tell him—don’t
extinguish this tall, licking flame, don’t gaslight yourself.
I want to burn slowly—like paint peeling from the mural’s ceiling.
SEBASTIÁN HASANI PÁRAMO is a CantoMundo Fellow and a former Dobie Paisano Fellow. His work is forthcoming in Waxwing, Bennington Review, New South, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and The Cortland Review. He is the founding editor of The Boiler and Poetry Editor for Deep Vellum. He is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Vermont Studio Center. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
Photo: Paxton Maroney