Motherland; Photograph

By Carlos Contreras

—smoldering sunlight still hammers down like mallets on wooden marimba blocks but less beautiful, less beautiful than it once was because our world burns and the technicolor walls of Antigua, Guatemala now peel, revealing the city’s stained underbelly as tourism blooms and cars flood streets but they don’t share our air and we have no more room to breathe with ash in our streets and blood in our lungs, but it wasn’t always like this; I was six once—learning Spanish and red-cheeked when I couldn’t rrrroll my rs—and I remember stepping out into chilly mornings in July, before cuetes or carne asada, still fascinated with Star Wars and things boys loved, smiling for family pictures, but as the camera flash stained my retinas, I couldn’t imagine my family keeping that snapshot forever


in their minds, circulating an idea of Carlos until it became a definition that couldn’t be waived by the endless death march of time nor the simple changing of seasons, by fall I grew a bit taller, but photographs only capture the past and I am now different than was then, more beautiful, but now I am myself and my grandmother can’t imagine me being anybody other than Carlos, but I am not my name and I am not a lifeless photograph, I breathe and grow and change but when seasons shift and summer returns with a vengeance, it’ll be the same as it ever was, and that shimmering—



Carlos Contreras (they/them) is non-binary, Guatemalan, and working on a way to make it out of Texas.


Photo by Angello Pro.