top of page



Laurie Ann Guerrero



I remember it only once – I  was  small. Maybe it was

the one my father shot off the  front  porch,  maybe  it

wasn’t. The men stood around the fire; the women sat

inside.  I  snaked   around   the   men   hiding   myself:

slitherer.   I   have   seen   it   many   times,   the   long

stripping – one  fist  pulling skin, another pulling flesh.

And  how  the  kills  were  celebrated: rattles and skins

hung  like  tapestries.  The  innards  left  to wild things.

When  it  was  passed around, hot from the fire outside, 

the   women   did   not   partake.  I  dug  in,  rough  and 

curious:  there  was  nothing  more  unashamed  than  a 

rattler.  No  apology  in  its  tongue.  It  would  never be 

cute.  I had to eat it.  I had to know this.



Changsha, China, Hunan Province


In the museum, in Changsha, we ruminate over artifacts she herself has 

never seen: Lady Dai’s mummified skin, rice bowls that existed through 

one dynasty after another, the embroidered Nüshu – secret women’s

writing, maps of ancient China where she finds her family’s village and

smiles for the first time. She is especially beautiful in this moment.


I refuse to believe her history is older than mine, but say nothing. She

Is young – my son’s age – and not here with me to contemplate my maps,

My villages, my embroidered languages. Still, though she never looks 

me in the eye, she tells me I am beautiful, and begs me to take her umbrella

to protect my skin from darkening in the hot Chinese sun.


I know nothing.


She translates placards for me, answers, in whisper, questions about

Mao, and not until I eat the fermented street tofu, take her umbrella,

She offers something most personal: her foot size up against my own.


You are lucky, she says.

Small foot, light skin.



for my son


I have ignored you for a year.

I have not dwelt on the soft fur

of your arms or the way you rubbed

my cheek with your own starry cheek.


I splintered your hands away

from my heart when you exited

me. Of the men who have claimed

my body, only you reflect


my exact goodness, tragic

as a cotton field, ripe with bloom,

but I have not dwelt on this either.

Not in one year or three – 


The way you break open your own 

throat, singing, sculpting one world,

another, or kiss a girl in my kitchen,

calling her, Love, My Love. No:


I have ignored you for a year or six,

maybe. Not touching your feet

or you shoulders to dab them dry.

Not humming in your ear


as I did once. Not holding your head

against my chest in the sad night. I have not 

dwelt on other women who speak sweetly

to you, laugh with you, or hold your head


against their chest in the sad night.

I have ignored you for a year or ten,

finally severing the root, purging,

drying out the heart:     go.

-from I HAVE EATEN THE RATTLESNAKE: NEW & SELECTED (TCU Texas Poets Laureate Series) selected by Spring 2023 Guest Editor, Gerard Robledo

Laurie Ann Guerrero, born and raised in the Southside of San Antonio, is the author of four collections: Babies under the Skin (Panhandler 2008), A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), A Crown for Gumecindo, a collaboration with visual artist, Maceo Montoya (Aztlan Libre Press, 2015), and I Have Eaten the Rattlesnake: New & Selected (TCU Press, 2021).


Poets & Writers Magazine named Guerrero one of 10 top debut poets in 2014. Her work has received various awards including the 2007 Panhandler Chapbook Award, the 2012 Andres Montoya Poetry Prize from the Institute of Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, the 2016 Helen C. Smith Award for poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters, a 2014 International Latino Book Award, and has been listed as must-read works of Chicano literature. Other honors include grants from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio and the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation. 

In 2014, Guerrero was appointed by former mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, Poet Laureate of the city of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the nation. In May of 2015, Guerrero was appointed the 2016 Poet Laureate of the State of Texas. Guerrero holds a B.A. in English Language & Literature from Smith College and an MFA in poetry from Drew University. She is an Associate Professor and the Writer-in-Residence at Texas A&M University-San Antonio where she teaches writing and gender studies. She is currently at work on  her fifth collection, a mix of traditional and visual poems & essays.

bottom of page