My Grandma’s Kitchen on Denver Ave.

If grandpa framed
its bones into a skeleton,

then grandma breathed life
into its sack of lungs:

gusts of frying onion,
the medicinal sway of cilantro

tomate y comino, the ever-present
bite of red chili powder.

She fashioned flesh out
of masa, lard, pork broth,

pounded memories into the table,
stoked its heart like a shaman,

the beats of the burner
clicking into tiny blue flames.

She raised those walls
like it was one of her own,

but every mother bears a truth
she’d rather ignore.

Children grow up.
Bones break.

A silence settles into rooms
once brewing with laughter.


To My Five-Year Old Starting Kindergarten

When we visited the community
pool in College Park, your floatie
would swaddle your waist
like a tucked in blanket.
You’d tiptoe the pool’s lip, a shaky
cry as you jumped in,
cloaking the piling of my neck
with your tiny frame. Your hands
groped for my fingers beneath
the surface to anchor you
in the waves. Fathers
are buoys after all. But swimming
lessons and repeat visits washed
away your hesitance. I witnessed you
unclip your floatie, drench the air
with giggles and squeals, braved
deeper waters. Your damp
pigtails bobbing as you took that leap
always with confidence,
always with your back to me.


All Trees Dream of Fire

Or of becoming tables
peppered with board game pieces,
Thanksgiving meals,
and dirty plates.
Holding up the hands
that hold the head
late at night,
bent with worry

Or of being stripped
into a 2×4,
set into cement,
bit by nail and screw,
clothed in drywall,
and draped in picture frames–
hidden like bones in a cast.

But to know the caress
of axe and saw, to become
a carcass stacked
with its very limbs
What joy, with the gift
of a spark (small, rapturous):

to blaze and burn.
To become, for a time,
light itself.


Stephen Briseño’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Memoir Mixtapes, 8 Poems, formercactus, Bone & Ink Press, and Riggwelter Press. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and daughter, teaches middle school English, and drinks far too much coffee. Follow him on Twitter: @stephen_briseno