Marcelo Castillo

Origin of a Theft



                           The doctor reached inside you for the muffled whimpers
                                                     and pulled out a child
                                       with the delicacy
                                       reserved for holding
                                                                 shattered glass.

                                                                            Everything can cut you, he said.

                        Your fingers drew circles in the sheets soaked in blood.
                                                   So calm. So slow.


The doctor’s house was the kind of green
            you need some black to make.

                          The knocking in your throat
                          was a thief saying, I’m sorry,
                                         there’s nothing else I can take.

My shadow dragged its leathery feet
away from us.

Everything reflected in the polished doorknob
            was upside down and in reverse
            as if it never happened.
                                                     Your bones
                                                      bloomed at the same time
                                                      as the branches.



                       Perhaps the theft lasted seconds.
                                            Perhaps you could still go back and walk into it,
                                 both hands shaking themselves into a stutter of leaves.
                                 But you’re walking in the opposite direction,
                          if you see the Buddha coming toward you down the street,
legend says you must kill him.


                        Dark mules
                                    clustered in a field
                                    not knowing what to do
                        with their eyes anymore.
            Sterile creatures
                        with only one chance
                        to look at the world.

                        I held the child—
                        one large knuckle
                        swollen into a fist, 
                        born at twenty-three
                        weeks, six days.



                                     For twenty-three weeks and six days,
                                                               a man stared at a cinder block wall
                                                               for petty theft.                                   

                                                           The fourth ring of hell
                                                            was written by Dante.

                                   It is possible to see things you know only by name—
                                                            you saw the child
                                                            once but didn’t know
                                                            what to call it.


                                                          Outside the doctor’s house the leaves
                                                                        passed the wind to each other
                                                                                                   and all at once
                                                                       they were one complete shudder.

                                                                        Light pinned
                                                                        the bones
                                               of only the highest branches,

                                                            the ones that see winter
                                                                          coming before the roots.

                                                Men who could have been my brothers
                                                            passing by didn’t need to look at us
                                                 to know what it meant to leave that house
                                                                            empty handed.


Doña Maria said it was the same child
                         coming back again
                         and again with that scar
            on its right leg and a birthmark
            in the shape of La Virgen.

You should know him by now.
            We called him back
            by a name we didn’t give him. 

An act on the body
           is only a cure
                                    if it happens
                        more than once—
                        otherwise we call it a miracle.

So we knew
you were either cured
             or holy.


                                    Sometimes it isn’t as easy as telling
                                    a color apart from what it wraps
                                    its skin around.


We walked two miles
with our pockets filled with romero leaves
             —an egg in each hand—
             and approached a beggar rattling
             his only song in a can.                        
                           You gave him your purse.
                            You gave him your hair.
You gave him everything. 

Marcelo Castillo

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo came to the United States undocumented and is currently a “Dreamer.” He is a Canto Mundo fellow and an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan. He teaches summers at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and work can be found in New England Review, Jubilat, and The Journal, among others.