When a fellow teacher, colleague and white woman, says to me that a mother, parent to one of our students, looks like Spanish trash and I say nothing. Rather, I walk from the room silent as a grave.
This Brown Body Sings of Sin & Arrows
of wind without whistle which is to say
it sounds of nothing without the reverb
of an echo against solid brick, or wall
or back of hand, slight off-color compliment
ringed with the bathtub dirt of
your micro-aggressions & stinging
compliments. You bitch. You dog
of a person when said what you said.
And I said nothing. Just let your bitter
slide against me like a rape. Like yet
another white woman with a royal
& unquestionable tongue. How could
I sit there & take it? Crawl beneath
my skin, cowardly sickened snail at
the sight of brine & salt raining down
upon me. I protest. I who am progressive
by most standards. Radical flag burner
and bra burning woman. I raise my fists
and chant songs about my vagina
skin color, land stolen from my
indigenous ancestor, damn it. Though
there I was a jelly fish amongst a goliath.
White woman whistling the same
old tune. I saw her, she said. She
said, did you see her breasts pouring
from her thin-strapped blouse like
muddied oil like sex like too much
Mexican woman who don’t even
know her place care about her future
her kids her reputation in this country?
I can say this, she said. She said, because
my mother in law is Puerto Rican
as if all Latinas are the same.
Mexican and Spanish trash she
said, as if Mestiza was never
a word she heard. Mixed blood
but mutt is what she meant.
And my tongue was an anvil.
A stupid silent irrelevant piece
of flesh. Where did all my courage
flee? I have sinned because I
did not speak and my by body
carries these pitiful arrows to
this day. A penance worth nothing.
Not even the back of her hand. I
rather she had slapped me. Instead.
What a much bearable burden to bear.
Tangible as solid brick and not as ghost-
like as this ricocheting echo
feeble lack of words.
A Letter to My Mental Illness, Addiction, Affliction, Trauma and Triumph
(Or No One Likes a Long Poem)
- What They Say is Mental Illness
First, I would like to say I love you.
You are my favorite armor, a cheap
third world country sweater. Long in the sleeves.
Because I have unusually long arms. Spindle limbs
and skinny appendages. Tiny wrists.
Boy/girl body, really. That I came to love
on good days.
To my mental
illness, next. Traitor. Golden Judas.
A tumbling unraveling. Stupid helix
of DNA and hand-me-down gene.
You make me
love the blood that boils in
the blue-grey veins. Ocean
soft. How I want to fall into those
A salty forgetfulness.
How I want to spill
them over. A forced enjamb—
vulnerable vessels. Commit
suicide like a real lady. Regal, no bullets.
No maimed face. I’ve heard
that’s how women snuff themselves.
Now, look at my pretty. Bathtub
wet. Labia pulled back, organism.
Orgasm. Dead meat.
A pink floating amoeba. I’m sorry (I’m not
sorry) I fantasize
this way but my brain is mushroom heavy.
But, but, but, but,
but, but, but, but,
I am a floating island, unanchored. Overly washed
silly by the tide.
The breathing, heavy of it. Skulk.
Slink. Sulk. Scurry. Rolling wave of it.
I still love me though, I think.
Look at me! I arrange the glistening knives and forks. Fold
like a dutiful martyr.
Bleed into the white foam
and dirty dish grease when no one
Snort lines. Dopamine
A housewife snorting
cocaine is headline news.
uptake-inhibitor of sex.
Fuelfire and fuck me. Fill your prescription
and no one will judge you.
So, you see, I called my father
He is my favorite juxtaposition.
That sex-filled, sexless something
smattering of a man.
He is not real. He can
not be real. He must be one of those
death shadows like when Hiroshima was dropped
by a dirty bomb.
The silhouette of a man walking along
pavement, cane in hand.
Obliterated into nothing but shadow.
Never any flesh. No meat or soul.
Never was. Never again.
He is my diction. My off
rhyme. No one’s favorite
- To My Addiction Solely
You are so wondrous! I wish
I could stay with you for
Forever hide myself in the scribble
of your body.
You alloy-flavored magnet. You
are a Times Square marquee.
Last night, I dreamt I was pregnant
with the fetus of a man
whom I hate
but used to love and still
In my dream, he proposed
with a troupe of tokens,
all starry-eyed and opaque in their
The baby moved within my belly,
but too soon. Too
It was a coke dream.
And we all know
I want to scream the word
You are a too-big planet.
I want to scream the word
You too-big orbiting guilt.
I want to cajole, wheedle, whine
my way out of the brown paper bag
of your body.
Dead leaves in my throat.
You are my favorite
a dry fever. A rattling.
Affliction, you are dead leaves in my throat.
- Now, to the Trauma
No, this poem is about
a sword. After
After all, I’ve decided
Lemons and Damocles and Solomon on a slow-slung
lazy branch of a California tree
in the backyard patch of memory
growing from sun-burnt
grass. Flat dead yellow blades.
Like I said, this poem is about a sword.
A king with all the power. A sniffling
wife. A spliced
baby. A fool of peril.
I think it was my birthday.
There was a switch, that I know
or at least, that I remember that I know.
There was a lashing. Me?
There was a blade. Boxcutter?
There was a vein. Several?
Your mothers? Yes,
There was an argument that tumbled into eons.
Your parents? Yes, you’re parents.
You slept, finally. You
And then, a sizzling
pink bleeding into the green
of the carpet.
But, before that there was a comforting shade.
There was yellow.
Memory of your birthday.
There was a tree and there were
And I swear, she plucked them.
Sliced the juice of the fruit in half
Squeezed the milk of it down your
throat. A sour gift.
Oh, how you bent back
And then, she
hollered. You stirred,
and there it was again.
That braggadocios pink.
Many years later and it was definitely
not your birthday.
Instead, it was a sizzle of drip,
pulled from two wrists. Each one for good measure.
Pulled from your pre-pubescent deep sleep, an aquanaut
10,000 leagues blissfully below.
And then you saw.
Saw, just how she instructed.
She won’t like if you remind her
how she said,
“Look, what he made me
How proud she seemed and later
dissolved into a puddle.
A Spartan wife wasted and running down the street.
A disappearing act out the front
door and into a cul-de-sac
Just so you know, neither pink nor green are
You, who figured that out, years and years
But, they exist all the same.
There is an old house I no longer live
in that attests
- Triumph Question Mark.
Last, I would like to say I love you. Too.
You are my preferred glamorous scam, that even
Long in the tooth, because I have unusually
Oh, how they last. Like a busted-smiling housewife,
black-eyed and socked to smithereens,
answering the door triumphant and clandestine.
Hello, are you selling Tupperware? Dictionaries?
Hurry, before my husband comes home
and finds that your hocking vacuums and good will
messages from the corner-church.
He doesn’t like
And, in his triumphant righteous and privileged
way, will boot you from our home and
make me pay. For days and days and days.
Oh, how I will pay. He triumphant,
Jessica Helen Lopez was the former City of Albuquerque Poet Laureate and the Poet-In-Residence for the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History from 2014 – 2016. She has also been a featured writer for 30 Poets in their 30’s by MUZZLE and named one of the “10 Up and Coming Lantinx Poets You Need to Know” by international digital publisher and agency, Remezcla. Lopez holds the title of 2012 and 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam ABQ Champion. She is a member of the Macondo Foundation. Founded by Sandra Cisneros, it is an association of socially engaged writers united to advance creativity, foster generosity, and honor community. Her first collection of poetry, Always Messing with Them Boys (West End Press, 2011) made the Southwest Book of the Year reading list and was also awarded the Zia Book Award presented by NM Women Press. Her second collection of radical feminist poetry, Cunt. Bomb. is published by Swimming with Elephants Publication (2014). Her third collection, The Language of Bleeding: Poems for the International Poetry Festival, Nicaragua (SWEP) is a limited release in honor of her ambassadorial visit to Granada, Nicaragua.A Pushcart Prize nominee, Lopez is a Ted Talk speaker alumni and a featured poet on PBS Colores! An Adjunct Instructor for UNM Chican@ Studies Department and Institute of American Indian Arts, she is also a book reviewer for World Literature Today Magazine.