A Poem by Patrick Fontes


The Rats are Going to Eat You

“The Rats are going to eat you, travieso”

she scolded an old woman’s scorned life cast

ill intent upon my childhood’s naive trust

shaking a weathered finger at me and her past

she wanted to leave this place her house

built of empty hopes no love’s foundation

go return to her lover lost across in Mexico

she knew there was no return no two-way

Greyhound discount bus to yesteryear

from her country shack in Fresno to memories

of youthful days dancing in Guadalajara

mariachi trumpeters serenaded her future

as brujas divined alternate paths to sorrow

she at last crossed the border back to Cali

her heart bleeding from El Paso to Fresno

a final time without him her trail a river of tears

that time has dried into a drought stricken ditch
she holds back a bitter stream at night fists

cursing life’s missed opportunities of love

she becomes her own Llorona in bitterness

she glared at me “The Rats are going to eat you”
as I lay on her dirty floor listening for rats

as she laid on her bed listening for dead voices

Patrick Fontes received a PhD in American history, with an emphasis on the Mexican American experience, from Stanford University. His research interests include the criminalization of the Mexican immigrant, California history, border issues, Mexican religion, the Virgin Mary from Medieval Spain to the Present. He grew up in Fresno, in a working class Chicano home. The smells, voices, sounds, hopes and ghosts of his familia who have gone before him saturate his prose, poetry and historical work. His novel, Maria’s Purgatorio, is available through Floricanto Press.

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