The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


La Carrera

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 1971–2012 Long-Term Trend Reading Assessments.

Antonio Lopez

La Carrera: An Achievement Gap Ekphrastic


                    in Jay Z’s “The Story of O.J.”

One paisa. Two paisa. Three paisa. Four.
Trina count all us that made it through the door.

Somebody stuffed the achievement gap
in my back-pocket.

“Yo Ms. Fitch chill! I swear it ain’t mine’s!
I swear to God rogue. I put that shit on my daddy blood!
Ya heard?! On my haina too!”

The achievement gap’s
a gorge slapped                          against an indigo backdrop.
Sinewy dusk, when fat blunts split
the sidewalk’s upper lip, perched on

plumes of black and red.
Graph’s a rigged roulette
table; balones dance on number—
our wagered worth.

Imma play the corners, where the hustlers be.
Crips against Cripiers.

I’s outpaced by the white’s
red tape, hovering above,
Battle Royale gloves,
wade the wide sea
of double digit margin.

I lift my sagged pants,
peel on my Cortez kicks
motor-corazón cranks its inner Jiggaman,
             wit its “uh uh”
y arranco la calle
with chope drawl that spits
at the shady sun
of bar graphs.

One’s güera. Two’s prieto. Three’s mixed n’ four.
Speaks Spanish. No Spanish. Learns it at home.

Soy un Chasqui. Incan footrunner.
I carry these quipos to remote-
controlled barrios,
push these ballad-bricks
of pututu poetry.

Hear my concha sing
the shit I’ve seen
—panteón a pantheon.

Saw a crossing guard,
crouched at a milk carton.
stop sign lapped on thighs
twelve years untouched.

Saw a squad car parked outside,
Mt. Olive’s Baptist circled by the mini-donuts,
of little black girls in daddy-braided bikes.

Saw George Carver sell dollar-fifty bags
of peanuts. Heard racism crack its roasted (s)hell
from amá’s fingers—whorls of imprinted odio,
smothered in tajín-flavored dust.

Heard pachangas ripple from torn tarps,
drowned out by that loud
good good my neighbor croons
into the night.

Saw my dad take off his waiter’s vest,
bullet-proofing our hunger.

So I jump the street’s gorge
only shrunk by nine points
in over four decades.

Toes hit that 270,
as if to survive,
I gotta be president.

And at the mountain-tops,
of literacy, the chart’s distance
is an inch—the span
of two squinted fingers.



Antonio Lopez

Yuri Duty


                    “Lil’ Judge Lopez” “12 x 18” glossy print by Lalo Alcaráz

I flip the cardboard box,
the one that held papá’s new mower
upside down.

I rehearse those words I hear in the clinic
when the older ladies start snoring and I
can steal the remote.
Yes, Law and Order’s still on!
“Your honor, if it please the court,”
“The prosecution calls to the stand.”

I made the gavel sticking a number two pencil
Inside a bon bon.
The trick is, heat the marshmallow for exactly eight seconds in the microwave.
Well I guess it depends.
We have an old one so it’s more like fifteen.

The teachers in school are in for a surprise!
For career day, I’m going to cover my white dress shirt, plaid skirt
and slip on the black robe from my sister’s graduation.
I want to wear those cute red heels, but
Abuela says it’s bad for my back.
Can judges wear heels?
I asked Ms. Ross and she said why not.

Papá yells from the kitchen,
“Yuri! Vente a desayunar. I made chilaquiles!
Your favorite.”

The trial’s getting heated.
Mr. Whiskers is suing Mr. Grisley’s Build-a-Bear workshop.
He spent all his carrot savings on slick city fox.
He paces the pink courtroom.
“Mr. Grisley, several eyewitnesses have reported the stuffing
caused bad irritation to their fur. Is this true?”
He’s good. He studied in Pawvard. The Pawvard.
“Yes, Ms. Tusks.” “Heavens!”
“Let the record show that Mr. Grisely did not deny the alleged charges.”
Mr. Octavius the eight-armed stenographer
furiously jams away at the LeapFrog typewriter.

But my tummy objects,
Over-ruling my presiding, so I
slam the hammer on the table.
“Court is in recess.
And will reconvene after folclórico practice.”

“¡Ya vooooooy!”




ANTONIO LOPEZ, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, received a double B.A. in Global Cultural Studies (Literature) and African-American studies from Duke University. His nonfiction has been featured in PEN/America and his poetry in After Happy Hour Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, storySouth, Acentos Review, Sinking City, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Permafrost, Track//Four, HEArt Magazine, and elsewhere. He is currently finishing a Master in Fine Arts (poetry) at Rutgers University-Newark.



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