We Want Your Writing.

Idiom Idiot

Let’s mince words:
growing up, idioms weren’t a piece
of pie. I skated on thin eyes spitting
phrases steel-tongued, checking squints
for slip-ups, trying not to drop the doll
in chats. Friends would ask me to spill the
frijoles or take Angel’s chisme with a grain
of salt and pepper, and I’d scan for food
like a lost guppie. Speaking American Idiom
was holding no birds in my hand and beating
around three in the bush; I killed them all
with one stone, let a late bird catch the worm.
I yelped expressions like a hound barking up
the wrong street, wishing performers luck
by telling them to break an ankle; I’d spy
a bawling sky and say it’s raining cats &
frogs, isn’t it? I put all my ducks in
one basket and got their eggs in a row.
Come heaven or high water, I couldn’t find
God in the details, always playing Satan’s
advocate against idioms. Oye, don’t judge
a book by its slang—there’s a method
to my sadness: my family had bigger things
to worry about, bigger tilapia to fry than
getting caught in a sickle with idioms.
They were blunt, they shot it straight-up.
We couldn’t hide that we woke up on
the wrong side of the white picket, grass
cleaner on the other side, money greener.
Dad cussed like a whaler, tíos shot the ship
in Spanglish. I was a studious kid, so once
in a red moon I’d hit the nail on the head,
but I often shot myself in the toes trying
to utter idioms. The only golden lining of
social naivete: grades. I had a good head
on my neck, calculating fractions and long
dividing apart from the Chatty Catrinas.
Dad manifested me as an apricot that fell
far from the family tree: no field labor, no
military. He wanted the whole eight yards
with school—no missed class on rain days,
no snow checks for homework. I’d bite
off more than I could swallow at times,
dancing evenings then memorizing math
formulas past midnight: the Pythagorean
Thesis, please excuse my dear Aunt Sandra,
she forgot to carry the 1. Now, 2 and 2 make
more or less, but we’ve just gotta let bygones
see Saigon—no use crying over spilled juice
of our ineptitude. I don’t want to meet
a dead horse here, so, to make a long story
poetry, let me tell it like it is: you can lead
me to water but you can’t make me think,
so just let sleeping horses lie. I had my cake
and ate shit, too—and I’ll keep eating
until the cat lady stops singing.
 
 

Alfredo Antonio Arevalo

Alfredo Antonio Arevalo is a queer Chicano writer from Fresno, California. He is completing a Creative Writing MFA at The University of Alabama, where he received two Jerome K. Phipps Poetry Prizes and a poets.org University & College Poetry Prize. He teaches English and reads as an Assistant Poetry Editor for Black Warrior Review.

About

Alfredo Antonio Arevalo is a queer Chicano writer from Fresno, California. He is completing a Creative Writing MFA at The University of Alabama, where he received two Jerome K. Phipps Poetry Prizes and a poets.org University & College Poetry Prize. He teaches English and reads as an Assistant Poetry Editor for Black Warrior Review.