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Jose Hernandez Diaz

Alone in the Suburbs 

A man in a “Kafka for President” shirt walked alone in the suburbs. He saw his former high school Math teacher having coffee at a Starbucks. He waved hello. He kept walking. Next, he saw his childhood Pastor, Pastor Rodriguez, taking money out of an ATM. He waved hello. Finally, as the man in a “Kafka for President” shirt approached his office at work, he saw his childhood crush, Vanessa Ortiz. He tried to avoid her but couldn’t. “How are you man in a “Kafka for President” shirt?” she asked. “I’m fine, I’m well. It’s been so long,” the man in the “Kafka for President” shirt replied. Odd to see you here in our hometown. I thought you moved to New York City?” she asked. “I did, but it ran its course. Became too large and loud. I missed the uniformity of the suburbs,” the man in a “Kafka for President” shirt said. “Well, we should get some coffee sometime. There’s a Starbucks around the corner, speaking of uniformity,” she said. “I don’t love you, anymore, Vanessa,” he said. “I can’t go down that hard road again. I’m sorry.” Right away, they said their goodbyes and went their separate ways. The man in a “Kafka for President” shirt returned to his office designing subversive surf boards for the counterculture. Vanessa Ortiz went back to her job as a pilot, lawyer, writer, and full-time suburban heartbreaker.



The Lion Tamer

A man in a “Kafka for President” shirt rode the subway to a job interview in the city. He was going to be interviewed for an exciting job as a lion tamer. Although he had never seen a lion in person, he was willing to learn on the job. He took the subway exit downtown. The man in a “Kafka for President” shirt blended in with the city folks. He found the circus tent next to the gleaming Opera House. When he finally met the circus manager for the interview he took a deep breath. I am the lion tamer, he told himself. I am invisible like a wish. He passed the interview with much enthusiasm from the circus manager.

           Later, when he finally met the lion in person, the man in a “Kafka for President” shirt became instant best friends with the gentle beast. They walked by the ocean and watched the marigold sunset. They played poker and smoked too many cigarettes late into the night. When showtime inevitably came at the circus that weekend, the man in a “Kafka for President” shirt did not disappoint the eager crowd. He was a natural. A magician. A showman. The world was at his mercy.

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Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020), Bad Mexican, Bad American (Acre Books, 2024), The Parachutist (Sundress Publications, 2025), and Portrait of the Artist as a Brown Man (Red Hen Press, 2025). 

Bear Review


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