Poetry: “Can’t Tell You I Love You Until I’ve Had a 6 Pack or Several” by Justine Lynell Mercado

Abuelo falls into the ice chest
chugs another Modelo, admits
he’s fucked up before he says
I love you. We’ve been here
too many times, at every party
where the tequila begins
tasting like conversation and silence
dissolves into the concrete.
Tonight, our words get cut short by
Suavemente as he drags me onto
the kaleidoscope dance floor.
My two left feet can’t keep up
but his body floats with every spin
and the sweat on his chest glistens
through the Rosario beads. He’s smiling
and yells Te quiero mija over the merengues.
Could it be that he’s still waiting for
his father? For the love he took to work
each day in his lonchera ready to
scatter semillas of it for shelter.
Each drunken night, I realize that for him
el amor puede ser en silenco, caught between trabajo
duro and I don’t know how to say it.

Justine Lynell Mercado is a proud Latinx poet from Jurupa Valley, Ca. She is also a recent graduate from the University of California Riverside, where she studied Anthropology and Creative Writing. Currently, she lives in Champaign, Illinois where she is pursuing an MFA in Poetry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.