the monsters my parents warned me about speak in their defense

i. el coco

without shape,

i take a child. cloak myself in

            the shadow of a room. look through

an iron pan with holes. façade for a face,

a candle wick burning behind it. i want to

tend to a thing, watch it grow, & hear it say

i love you back. run my hand along

 my child’s soft cheek. a caress. wipe the tears from

their eyes. tell my child te quiero,

kiss their forehead, & take

them away.
ii. chupacabra

i undress

the warmth

in the body


draw all

the red out

of flesh &


am called

an abomination

in moonlight


i watch

tended herds

i christen


each creature’s

tender neck

before breaking


the body gone

slack i empty

its veins


i bless it

with smoke i utter

a prayer oh lord


spare me

for taking a life

to preserve


my own


iii. la llorona


& see what i would do for love? submerge

the likeness of us until it no longer breathes.

devote myself to my own drowning. let my hair

become a trail of smoke underneath the water.

cry out beside a river until it is a lullaby. the river-

bed a cradle i lower all of the children into.

mis hijos. i am sorry. every face looks like yours.

Alfredo Aguilar is the son of Mexican immigrants. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Vinyl, PEN Center USA's Rattling Wall, & elsewhere. He lives in North County San Diego.