Two Poems by Daniel Garcia

poem where i examine the difference Brené Brown denotes between guilt & shame

how the former hints at a mistake
in action & the latter a
belief sewn into thought / not unlike

the flimsy shred of final protest
from a tattered flag who once knew
red but always found white the

most congruous with a story for
how it ends / the sheet of canvas
once flag & now riddled with

tears at the small center / who fell
for the archer & learned stillness
to be the first thing the arrows find

worth piercing / that guilt is the
inconvenience of permitting loose
strands to unravel on the floor &

shame / the certainty of who had
done the unspooling & still begging
do it again you son of a bitch

just to feel the arrows torn out
to have the archer’s smoothing
hands reaching back to refasten

the strands right after / the tender
reminder of surrender’s usefulness:
this brief & bloodless good again.



for Roxy Allen

here i would like to point out: i was never given a time to scream. i don’t mean an opportunity.
i mean no one told me when i should call for rescue. i was told, if you want something, make sure
you ask for it first. does it make a difference if i scream
knowing help will never come? let me explain: if every hand trauma reaches out
comes away bloody by the end, then i am furthest from survival
when my own hands have found my throat. memory says i am reenacting some old hurt. they
were just the closest weapons i could find. here’s a story: my father, aided
by some need to feel important, pushed my mother
into the mattress with his hands around her neck. as if squeezing her into the sky
was all he knew to make her stay. did no one tell him to ask? she said the knock at the front door
was the only thing that saved her. here’s another: aided by my mother’s push,
the nurse pulled me from her, wet and blue
and umbilical-neck still. i’ve been
gasping ever since. that’s how i know i was young once.

here’s one i remember: when i was
smaller than this, my brother found me, guest bedroom of our grandmother’s house,
dizzy bear claws twisting below my jaw. what are you doing? he asked, and i felt an old shame
rise to my face, like someone else left it for me to find.
i didn’t want to be asked who
i was. i just wanted permission to greet the clouds.
i wanted him to say, go ahead. i wanted him to say, it’s okay
to scream now. everyone does that when they’re born.


Daniel Garcia’s essays appear or are forthcoming in SLICE, Denver Quarterly, The Offing, Ninth Letter, Guernica, and elsewhere. Poems appear in The Freshwater Review and The Puritan. A semifinalist and finalist for The Southampton Review Nonfiction Prize, Daniel is a recipient of the Myong Cha Son Haiku Award, a Short Prose Prize from Bat City Review, and has received awards and scholarships from Tin House and the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. Daniel’s essays also appear as Notables in The Best American Essays.