Moisés R. Delgado is a queer Latinx writer from the Midwest. His prose appears in or is forthcoming from The Pinch, Puerto del Sol, Passages North, Pidgeonholes, Homology Lit, and elsewhere. Moisés can often be found dancing on the moon.
We’re happy to have got the chance to interview Moisés and to re-present writing of his from Passages North. One of my favorite parts of Literary Twitter is finding new writers and I was drawn to Moisés’ work in Homology Lit. Absolutely, my favorite part of Flash Monsters!!! is getting to interview writers and share their work with you.
Have you ever had that reading moment that’s a ‘light bulb’ for how you want to write or maybe even ‘permission’ to write a certain way, a sign that the impossible might be possible? One of our best Flash Monsters!!! examples was the impact reading Miranda July had on Leonora Desar.
Graphic novels (too often underappreciated), I’d say, have served that “aha!” moment for me. Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, Jeff Lemire’s Descender, Lacy J. Davis’ Ink in Water, Lynda Barry’s What It Is, etc. I’ve only worked with prose, but I am fascinated by all that graphic novels can do—how much a single panel can do, how sometimes a single panel tells a full story. I’ve been shaped by more wonderful works and artists, but I have to thank graphic novels for sparking an interest in the minimal, in asking how much we can do with little, in playing a role in my interest in flash prose. I want to recreate those panels with my words—the way a single beam of sunlight tells us of the morning.
The Monsters also love to talk about Pop Culture. Things from the past that stick to our everyday consciousness and influence probably more than we even know and we also like to share things we are discovering while procrastinating/researching current works in progress. Do you have some all-time favorites like this and have you been able to discover any new mental breaks during 2020?
I rely on music quite a bit to be able to write—SZA, H.E.R., 6lack, Mahalia, Lana del Rey, Banks, Daniel Caesar, Cigarettes After Sex, Sinead Harnett. Mostly R&B artists. I am all about the sound—it helps me get away, but I also love playing with “sound” on the page. Even if simple, I aim for the sound of my words, of my sentences to be soothing like the music I love.
Other all-time favorites from my youth that, in some way, feed who I am: Adventure Time, Pan’s Labyrinth, Avatar: The Last Airbender, My Sister’s Keeper, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Mexican telenovelas (the drama in them even though I find most of it comedic nowadays), Mexican music (reggaeton, corridos, cumbia, bachata; artists I wish I knew at the top of my head, but if I heard being played I’d be able to pinpoint to specific memories of family), Spanish TV (like La Familia Peluche, El Chavo del Ocho, El Chapulín Colorado), Coraline, ParaNorman, among others.
Some current favorites that I’ve watched or am watching: Ratched, MFKZ, I Am Not Okay With This, Marriage Story, 3%, Moonlight, The Florida Project, Legend of Korra.
I saw on twitter that you made your teaching debut this August. How is that going? For the Monsters, this year has been an odd silver lining because we have met online weekly and discussed writing and learned a lot from each other. We feel very lucky. I’m curious how this experience has worked its way into your writing, your graduate school experience, and your exchange with students?
I’d be lying if I said beginning my MFA during the pandemic was easy because it hasn’t been. I wasn’t prepared to have a completely remote semester (perhaps year, who knows). To make things worse, as soon as the academic calendar rolled in, my internet decided to fail on me. I still have so many hiccups with my internet, especially Wednesdays—so much that Wednesdays have become a thing. There are still moments when I question if it’s even worth it, but I push those thoughts out as soon as I can. Early on, I told myself there was no point in dwelling—beating myself up and finding all the lows only makes for more lows. I’ve been trying to take the same approach with my writing—I appreciate and find all the work about hurt and traumas and injustices important, and I write of them myself too, but I’ve been working toward joy. Toward moon/light. I’m not quite there because it is difficult to do and, I find, joy is wildly underappreciated in the writing world. But the more we seek joy the more we see it—even when joy is as small as a dollar bill found in some old pants’ pocket. I am doing what I can to translate this mindset into my teaching. I understand the struggle, I too feel the isolation, can feel unmotivated, I am constantly throwing hands at my internet, but I am making do with what we have. My students know this. I am that kind of person—my cards are on the table. I find the honesty (more so during these times of zoom) makes it easier to connect with my students. Feels like the least I can do to have some semblance of community that the physical classroom would have built. Breaks down those power walls between student and professor that I am not much a fan of. Instead, I am doing what I can to let my students know that I am human too. I am living through these times too. I get it. I will be as understanding as I can be, lenient where needed/possible, all to ensure their success. I do all I can to show them empathy—it’s the least we can do during these times.
What writing projects are you working on now both for MFA at Arizona and on your own? Any writing hopes and dreams that you want to share or do they keep secret until they come true?
Latinx identity, language/silence, (house) fires, moons, summer, family, mental health are subjects that tend to reappear in my work, though I am trying not to close myself to a single lane yet—my writing right now (both in and outside of the MFA) is dependent on what “feels right.” Eventually I’ll focus on a project, on a thesis, but today and tomorrow I’ll follow wherever my obsessions take me. I do, however, know I want to work with joy in some capacity. And I know (a dream of mine) that I want to write something that my parents are capable of understanding. They are fluent enough in spoken English, but their understanding of written English is lacking. A goal/desire/obsession is to play with the page, with visuals/images, with form. Even with spoken English, my parents rely heavily on visual cues. My hope is that I can create works that take the reader on a journey with me—my hope is to be able to create something that helps my parents feel less alienated in this country.
This essay first appeared in Passages North in March, 2019.
To Say Envelope, Think of Hope by Moisés R. Delgado
At the post office, my mom digs into her purse for some change. She sorts through expired school IDs of my sister and I, a pen, receipts, lipstick, a lucky two-dollar bill folded into itself twice, a half-eaten granola bar, an image of the Virgin Mary, until she finally finds some crumpled up bills. She shyly smiles at the postal worker and says, “Stamps and an envelope, please.”
The white man reads the time on his silver wristwatch, it’s a quarter past noon. He looks at my mom. “What?”
She clears her throat, and louder, says, “Stamps and an envelope.”
The worker glances at the entrance where people keep filing in. The door opens and closes to South Omaha, to the businesses across the street: Helados Santa Fe, Estética Tammy’s, La Única.
The woman next in line rolls her eyes. Behind the woman is a Latino man, dozing off. He’s in a blue button-up shirt with white paint splattered on his sleeves, pants, and shoes. White paint likely on his brown palms and white paint beneath his nails. The Latina mother behind him silences her son by promising him ice cream. “Yes, two scoops,” she tells him, “pero espérate.”
Seconds peel away from the clock. A bald eagle soars on the lime green wall beneath it.
The postal worker raises a fist to his mouth and yawns. “What?”
Sometimes I’m ashamed that I didn’t struggle learning English. Meaning my Latinx tongue should’ve shown allegiance to my blood by twisting and knotting. I learned complex words with ease, while my parents, at home, shaped and reshaped their lenguas until the English alphabet found a makeshift home in their Spanish-speaking mouths. They struggled and still struggle.
Maybe this is where I should admit to having lied. My mom asked for an envelope, but again and again said envelop.
The man looks at her as though my mom is in the middle of a ritual. Like any second now, my mom’s chants will call the moon to block the sun and the world will end. Her accent enveloped the word, but what she meant was easy to parse. The postal worker could’ve gently corrected her. He could’ve framed it as question, my mom would’ve nodded, and that would’ve been that.
Instead, he sighs, again says, “What?”
I could’ve stepped in at any moment, but I didn’t. To help would’ve been insulting to my mom. Had I intervened, I would have justified his actions.
I stay by the door until my mom gets an envelope. A small one, not what she wanted, but she’s defeated. She walks away, doesn’t correct him.
The postal worker smiles at the woman next in line.
“I understood you,” I say to my mom. “You can speak English.”
“No, I can’t.”
“You can,” I say. “You can.”
At home, my mom tosses away the envelope.
I repeatedly tell people to say my name like noises. To help my parents pronounce troublesome words, I offer them similar sounds, words they are comfortable with. (To say distance, think of this dance, this stance, this tense.)
To say my name, think of roses.
Say my name like noises, and you’re saying it wrong. My name is disyllabic, an accent over the second syllable. Moi–sés. However, to scorn you would be like me ridiculing my parents, aunts, uncles, friends, and peers who struggle with language. To hate you would be to hate myself.
I constantly mispronounce my own name.
There was a year when I fought for the accent in my name. Another year, I gave up on the I. I defaulted to my middle name, Roman, at some point.
I’ve reclaimed the I in my name but have given up on the accent—it sits on my name as a symbol for the Spanish I am losing. Spanish that I neglect. My thoughts are in English. I write almost exclusively in English. I mostly speak English. When I do speak Spanish, I salt in English words like I’ve never heard of seasoning.
I wrack my brain for Spanish, but only find English equivalents: liver, bury, grief. Sometimes, I’m ashamed to say, I don’t care if I lose my Spanish. It might be easier. Sometimes I want to lose both. As a high schooler, I’d daydream of cutting off my tongue. I thought it’d free me of language all together.