Willy Palomo

The First Omen Before the Destruction of the Empire

After Miguel Leon-Portilla

A decade before the blade drew its thousand grins
grim across our chests, years before bellies split
wide as the jaws of women in labor and hollered us
hollow, we were lords of feather and gold, our gods

enflamed, erupting from our veins, the city walking
on water like a nation of crooked Christs. Fuck you
know bout sacrifice? Our princesses punched barbed
rope through their tongues and rapped to gods. We mean

it when we say we gave our hearts to our pueblo,
umbilical cords buried by elders in battlefields, where all
heroes are born, donned in eagle feathers and jaguar skin.
Who were we to fear fire and foreigner when our monsters

demanded our lives on the altar? No, we feared nothing
made of blade and blood. What we feared were the pyramids
bursting in the sky, larger than the ancient Tlachihualtepetl,
the eye at its apex weeping fire as it murdered the stars.

We fear the way they stole a year’s worth of night
and revealed our secrets, the ways we fucked
until we broke down sobbing into women’s breasts,
the way our nightmares became endless as we lost

sleep, staring into the pyramids’ blind blue eyes,
the snakes of light pillaging the sky, burying the night
in so much gold we became paupers, begging one another
for darkness, the mercy of an eye shut to our squalor.


The Second Omen Before the Destruction of the Empire

After Miguel Leon-Portilla
+++++++++++++++++++++Said the Flame to the Empire

+++++> hummingbirds ripple like darts

through my hair++++++++a giant wing brandishing

+++++ its bladed tips against the jeweled throat

of night++++watch me soar++++++raise my quicksilver

+++++skirt to the heavens & leave the city

in fever+++++    a downpour of river & rainwater++++++++hurled

+++++ at my feet for me to splash & evaporate

swallow my ash+++++++i dare you+++++++reach for my heart

+++++ i am a protest you cannot touch my hands

clap & the city++++++++loses a temple+++++  i do not believe

+++++ in non-violence++++++this burning in my belly

is all i have+++++++ever known++++++++++in my mouth

+++++ a thousand burning feathers alight

The Last Omen Before the Destruction of the Empire

After Miguel Leon-Portilla

I am the last omen you see before the destruction of the empire,
before the white gods on four-legged devils charge to hew you

apart. We are grafted from limbs left on the battlefield. Pale hands
clench fearfully around their dark necks. A grimace stitched stiff

over a child’s laughter. A warrior’s chest stressed onto a woman’s
waist. We were given two mouths to scream our destiny. Eight legs

kick psychotic through the womb. Undead ghosts, we disappear
when you reach between your woman’s bloody legs to claim us.

Look at our flesh. Creatures made to chorus and scourge. Of course,
the Aztecs found us hideous, confused by intimacy of our bodies,

the way I press my lips to my second head with no shame, the language
we dismember and graft together on our tongues. We were not born

to be loved, but to warn all our fathers, we are the end of your era.
We rise to spill sick from your blood, our bones beat into one.


Willy Palomo learned poetry from the worlds of hip-hop and slam. In 2016, he was named the runner-up Latin@ Scholar at the Frost Place Conference on Poetry. He is currently working on his MFA in poetry and MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Indiana University, where he teaches the Poetics of Rap and helps lead the UndocuHoosier Alliance. He runs the Bloomington Poetry Slam and writes books reviews for Muzzle Magazine. His work can be found online on Vinyl, Drunk in the Midnight Choir, HeArt Online, and elsewhere.