Meeting Pancho Villa at a Park on the Southeast Side

Jose Hernandez Diaz


I was riding my bike at a local park on the southeast side of town. It was a Sunday morning at the end of May. The sun was mild, and spring was almost over. Just as I sat on a bench to take it all in, I saw the ghost of Pancho Villa smoking a cigar on an adjacent bench with a large brown horse at his side. I went up to him, “Un honor, General,” I said. “The pleasure is mine,” he said. “You speak English?” I said, shocked. “No, but this isn’t necessarily reality,” he said. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Have you considered that I’ve been dead for decades. You are merely imagining me,” he said. “Why would I imagine Pancho Villa on a lazy Sunday at the park? I haven’t taken any drugs,” I said. “You romanticize the past, like many, hiding behind your cultural heroes to avoid simple pleasures, like a casual day at the park,” he said. “Fascinating,” I said. As I thought about what Villa said, he suddenly disappeared, horse and all, in a puff of cigar smoke. The sun was shining a little stronger at this point. Still, I decided to play a game of pickup basketball with the locals and then went home to rest for the work week ahead.


Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Huizache, Iowa Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, The Yale Review, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He teaches creative writing online and edits for Frontier Poetry. He has a forthcoming full collection, “Bad Mexican, Bad American,” with Acre Books in 2024.



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