++++Go ahead and call me what I am,
++++++++++++call me: faggot, homo, joto, pinche puto.
Unhusk me if you must, call me
++++++++++++acquired, call me dirty, call me corn smut.

++++Though it looks like a prostate rolled in soot, huitlacoche
++++++++++++at the farmer’s market sells as Mexican Truffle.
Yet farmers in your heartland treat it like a sickness.
++++++++++++And because disease can decimate a monoculture,

++++they are afraid. That’s why they bundle and they burn it,
++++++++++++a literal faggot. I said it and I’ll say it.
Call me what I am, and if you can’t pronounce
++++++++++++my surname, I’m supposed to say don’t sweat it.

++++Don’t sweat it, because even huitlacoche is a corruption
++++++++++++of the Nahuatl cuitlacochin, which
is a corruption of cuitlacochi. Tongues
++++++++++++make mistakes, and mistakes

++++make languages. Like I was saying, for a long time
++++++++++++I couldn’t pronounce them either, the things I like.
As with any delicacy, it’s best
++++++++++++to start slow. Sound it out. Huit—

++++la—co—che, an—u—lin—gus, mas—
++++++++++++tur—ba—tion. When you master
saying them out loud, it’s time to rub any two
++++++++++++syllables together: cock, suck; pussy, fuck; ass, lick.

++++Relax. They are only words. They are the only words
++++++++++++you need to insult someone
or to have sex with them
++++++++++++no matter what country you find yourself in.

++++Words have their luggage like immigrants
++++++++++++have their customs. Huitlacoche, mariposa, maricón.
Now that I have put it in my mouth,
++++++++++++I am proud to be a faggot.

++++But it sounds so hateful when you say it,
++++++++++++a coworker really said this to me, I said
because that’s the way I always heard it.
++++++++++++How do you speak such good English?

++++Smile—say nothing—don’t sweat it—he aimed it as a compliment.
++++++++++++Faggot, wetback, huitlacoche, all my life I’ve heard it.
Learning English, it hurted is what I would say
++++++++++++when I wanted to say it hurt. Not anymore. I know

++++all about tense agreement, just tell me where and when to conjugate
++++++++++++and I will. Shut your mouth—when I’m talking
spores come out in droves like mosquitos
++++++++++++birthed for blood—or I’ll give you what I got.

[1] Huitlacoche in America is know as ‘corn smut,’ where it is considered a disease. It can be very dangerous to farmers because the American agricultural system depends on genetic clones. One disease could threaten a whole supply, whereas in native Mexican cultures, huitlacoche does not pose a danger to crops because genetic diversity is encouraged. Huitlacoche was also a diet staple in pre-Columbian cultures because the fungus provided an essential protein that corn alone could not make.


Benjamin Garcia

—2nd Place Winner of the Emerging Poet Prize—

Benjamin Garcia is a Community Health Specialist who provides HIV/HCV/STD and opioid overdose prevention education to higher risk communities throughout New York’s Finger Lakes region. He had the honor of being the 2017 Latin@ Scholar at the Frost Place, the 2018 CantoMundo Fellow at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and winner of the 2018 Puerto Del Sol Poetry Contest. He has work forthcoming in: New England Review, American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2018, Prairie Schooner, Four Way Review, and RHINO. Find him on twitter: @bengarciapoet