Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez is a poet and journalist. He grew up in Tijuana and San Diego. In 1994 he co-founded the Taco Shop Poets, a performance poetry group that toured the country and appeared in several documentaries. His poetry has been in several anthologies, including Geography of Rage: Remembering the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Since 2000 he's been a reporter at NPR affiliate KPCC 89.3FM in Los Angeles. He dodged the rubber bullets reporting on the May Day melee in MacArthur Park in 2007.


I came to Los Angeles
looking for the eagle perched on the cactus
I came to Los Angeles
Wondering where the Templo Mayor lay buried

In my city
Mexico City
Jaguar heads of volcanic stone
Became cornerstones for colonial palaces
Became podiums for politicians
Became baptism wells for el nuevo mexicano

In my new city
Adobe forts
Became post war tract homes
As far as the eye can see
Doing a suburban sway
Like Kansas wheat fields

It’s here
The California city
Buried under the oil well city
Buried under the Zoot Suit city
Buried under the Dunbar city

Orthodox shuls
Under Brooklyn Avenue sonidero speakers
The Eastside minaret
Blasts narco corridos
The Eastside minaret
Blasts Cri Cri
The Eastside minaret
Blasts na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na

The river
Its forearms graffiti tattooed

The frogs lay dormant under the concrete
The rows of grape vines lay under the concrete
The cornfields are asleep

The echoes of the Vex, the Masque and the El Monte ballroom lay dormant under the concrete

We used to sing in our homes
The songs lay buried there
The stories lay buried there

Use your hands
Dig deep
Use your nose
Dig deep
Use your mouth
Dig deep
Use your hear
Dig deep


Sal is short for Salvador

Salvador Valtierra preaches on the corner of Fifth and Broadway
The bus depot and crossroad for pedestrian masses

This is the corner where the stock market crashed
Where Reaganomics and its cranes revived a financial district
With peep-show parlors
Residence hotels and adult bookstores

Now it's the corner of ninety-nine cent stores
Ninety-nine cent lives
Lives lived out with stubby fingers
Clorox-cracked skin and tennis elbow
From pushing vacuum cleaners

Sal competes with
Incense sellers
Bow tie media moguls
Making the call

Hip-hop pachuco taggers
Preach the gospel of sek, sueno, hem
Everyone wants to be seen

Except the maids
On their way back from five hours
Sweat bath house cleaning
The maids smell like Pledge and Lysol
They sit in mourning on a bench
Waiting for the bus

The maids look forward to making
Gourmet Mexican dinners
For waiting beaks
From stale tortillas
Seasoned with used bus transfers

Sal sees the pages of testament
Written on the side of a bus
Sal feels the power of the word
A soapbox director without musicians
Sal exhales faith
For anyone willing to stop
Sal stretches his arms to embrace all

The hip-hop pachucos throw ride-by spit wads
From the half-opened windows of San Diego Transit
They wonder why Sal
Turns the other cheek

2013 Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez was a Featured Poet who read his poetry at the April 2013 Second Sunday Poetry Series