Community Stories


Daniel Peña

Daniel Peña is a Pushcart Prize winning novelist and an Assistant Professor at the University of Houston-Downtown. His work can be seen in such outlets as Ploughshares, the Kenyon Review, NBC News and the Guardian among other outlets. He is the author of Bang: A Novel.

It was dinner time
When her FEMA forms needed filling
And so we didn’t eat
But spoke in Spanish
That sounded like my mother’s
Who could never pronounce “treadmill” in English
Or my ‘buelito’s, who taught us
To love Mexico in Texas.
Current Address: Are you from here, I asked
Yes, she insisted, with a tone that suggested
Your job is to interpret, not to interrogate
And so we talked, instead, about
Her roof that was caving
Her walls that were going to give
Her documents that were missing
In the flood, she said
She asked if I’d been to Guanajuato
The city or the state, I asked
And in the time it took me to say that,
The city or the state
Her eyes cut toward the line growing shorter
Her time almost up
And she asked, do you think they’ll come for me?
Before they called for us
Me the interpreter, Her the evacuee
Young in the eyes, but old in the stare
She held onto me like I was hers
And her children watched as we moved
Toward the agent
His eyes glazed by the digital glow of his screen
You know the right words, she whispered
We can try
But let me know if I need to disappear