Here, we use Cholula, not homemade salsa.
We’ll serve corn tortillas with your bacon and eggs.
You can ask what is in everything instead of just
eating it. We know you Pochas love to do that.
Enjoy a quesadilla with American cheese!
Or nachos we prepare in our brother’s hand-me-down
microwave he gave us when he joined the Air Force
or just a flour tortilla spread with butter. Here, we listen
to War, Smokey, Selena, The Smiths and Art Laboe!
Let’s dedicate everything to our incarcerated cousins
serving bullshit sentences in Wasco and Corcoran
and Chowchilla State Prisons but we never put money
on their books or write them. At Pocha Café, we play
Blood in Blood Out and Stand and Deliver and mistake
someone’s dad on the daily for Edward James Olmos.
Even we think all Mexicans looks alike, or that all Latinos
are Mexican and that’s why our Salvadorian
and Boricua homies talk shit but that’s what people do
when they love you so fuck it! If you are a downright
cultural traitor, come on in! Here, at Pocha Café
we only order rice and don’t speak Spanish so we
don’t get corrected and we stay out the fuckin kitchen
like our mamas told us and we refuse lemons
and corridos in solidarity. Except when we are
completely wasted drunk—then we can listen to “El Rey”
and drink Victoria and embrace our stretched souls’
befuddled half-ass gritos. If you don’t know the words
to “El Rey” because you don’t speak Spanish,
just make up non sense words and sing the hook
because you’ve been drinking and you love that shit.
You speak better Spanish when drunk, anyways. Or,
you only speak it drunk because sober you
doesn’t want that colonizer’s language anyways!
You ain’t about colonizing the self, you’re about
decolonizing your consciousness, your morality,
your diet, your love. Speaking of pain, come listen
to “Amor Eterno” and step on each other’s
dirty Converse. Let’s be resentful about how
we didn’t have a quinceanera and forget
that we never wanted one until we were sophomores
in state colleges when we took a Chicano Studies class
and gave ourselves a Nahuatl name and joined Mecha.
Let’s never mention how we thought the big dresses
and gold chains and placas were tacky, or how
we were too ashamed to wear anything that made us
look proud of ourselves. Oh what? You’re having a baby
shower and your son is turning two? Come celebrate
at Pocha Café with our never-ending beer package!
You have a padrino for the beer right? We might be
understaffed but your children know how to garnish
your beers, we’re sure. In fact, they might be drinking
already because some primo you call Johnny
or Mike or Bill but whose real names are Juan
and Miguel and Guillermo is telling them
to be a man or trying to get them drunk so they
can kiss them behind your tio’s work truck
in the driveway while everyone is in the backyard
listening to 2 Live Crew. Come to Pocha Café
and expropriate your Pochaism as an act
of empowerment! Let’s complement each other
on how articulate we are like white teachers at school.
Fuck it, let’s listen to country music and sing-cry!
Let’s mess up the cholo handshake because even
our muscle memory forgot our bodies and this way
our folks can feel better about themselves
when they judge us! Orale! Simon! Let’s find affinity
in canned menudo, in cilantro with the stems
all in it, in the pig’s foot that grosses out half of us
and makes the other half of us feel Mexican for once.
Gather up all your impurities, your Anglicized names,
all your anxiety attacks and bad accents,
your scraps of culture and half-bred shame
and put on your dickies and your gold loop
earrings and come lend us your broken Spanish!
Come get drunk enough to tell your dad you love him
and your brother-in-law to finally fuck off! Come be
the part of yourself that scares the entire family!
All you Pochas! You might know who you are.
NARCISSUS CONTEMPLATES ORDERING ANOTHER DRINK AT THE BAR
I wear headphones at the bar and feel fine
—I am not the one twisting the cap.
In Fresno, my grandfather is dying from his
overworked liver. A machine plucks the mess
from his blood, his arm like a stream of nights
where my father, then a boy, opens his beers.
And my mother is drinking a box of chardonnay,
listening to the same lyrics in the backyard,
Frampton singing no one to relate to except the sea.
We don’t need water to drown. The bartender
senses these types of things. At Al-Anon they say:
don’t say alcoholic, say “I have a problem
with someone else’s drinking.” I count
what my mother does for herself: measures
her drinking water in her Starbucks Cup,
watches family comedies full of white people
living two story homes, eats a See’s candy
she stashes in the cracked leather ottoman
for each tax season where my father refused
to buy her a Lexus, or finally take her on
their honeymoon. My father counts the seconds
between his father’s final wet breaths,
a gurgling rise from the bottom of machista,
Chicanismo—lineage of anchors. I have a dream
where I am a river. My mother’s hands rumpled
on the floor like petals in a light, pleasant,
never-ending wind. The wind flows like liquid
out of my mouth: each excuse I make when I drink.
Measure, I say, is just a way of justifying
what we want. I tell myself three drinks.
I shame my mother for her boxed chardonnay
so I don’t have to admit what bothers me most
is her loneliness and how well my father,
like this bartender, over-pours it.
STUDY OF A PART-TIME POCHA
We power dress clack down the hall in our high heels
although we know it’s quite pathetic. We perform
like a western academic all tidy and linear all holding
office hours and shit scaffolding the curriculum.
We pose cross-legged in a room lit like a spaceship
with no one to take us higher never shouting never
crying never doing anything truly dramatic
like the oldiez taught us to like our parents
did screaming at each other leaving and coming
back into the room to apologize. We fill the Dean’s
dinner table with our brown body. We eat the crumbs
of the institution saying mmmm like it’s cake. We are
not TV stars but we convince. We write politically
no matter what we write even if we say I like surprises
or I woke up today with my hands or I love—it is
against an expectation that we suffer. Let’s not treat
our presence like an occasion or accept it as lineage.
The way we go is not an opportunity or a pattern in
concrete. It’s twice the work much like a beautiful
nail job much like making the men believe it was
their idea. And the gatekeepers know that we know
what we know. I would rather spend time decentering
all this whiteness both inside and outside this mouth.
I see no reason to go on being a Christian in hell.
Let’s scare white people with our Spanglish.
Let’s make up fake Spanish and talk to each other
in the faculty kitchen real loud. Let’s play Cuco
and Chicano Batman during class. This performance
is over. I’d rather wear a T-shirt repping Fresno to class.
Teach only brown poets and not ever ever rationalize it
to myself before I send out the syllabus. Order pizza
for my 8am. Assign feminist texts alongside The Real
Housewives because they were the first case of multiple
all-female protagonists I saw on a major network. Let’s
refuse these half-ass invitations to assimilate or refuse
to treat our assimilation as an invitation. No one ever
expected us to be here. No, Director of the MFA Program,
I do not need to use “higher diction.” No, Chair of the
Department I do not believe poetry needs a “good reason”
to not adhere to a traditional, Eurocentric form. Yes,
Pocha Studies are Chicano Studies are American Studies.
Yes, white woman who evaluates me, race is a problem
in our workshops and no I will not teach whiteness
and call it craft. Dulce María Loynaz once wrote,
I remain myself, but I constantly lose my center,
or what I thought my center was, or what my center
will never be. Then Natalie Diaz said, don’t believe them
when they tell you brown people fuck better
when they’re sad. Then I wrote, I’m hella sad.
And hella proud. When I fuck, I am all up in my body.
This is my house. Us pochas work so hard, we disaster
our whiteness until even mestizaje disappears.
-from Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff, (Noemi Press) selected by Spring 2023 Guest Editor, Gerard Robledo
SARA BORJAS is a Xicanx pocha, is from the americas before it was stolen and its people were colonized, and is a Fresno poet. George Floyd. Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez. Lorenzo Perez. Xiaojie Tan. Say their names. Joyce Echaquan. Her debut collection of poetry, Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff was published by Noemi Press in 2019 and won a 2020 American Book Award. Juanito Falcon. Breonna Taylor. Daoyou Feng. Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz. Sara was named one of Poets & Writers 2019 Debut Poets, is a 2017 CantoMundo Fellow, and the recipient of the 2014 Blue Mesa Poetry Prize. Hyun Jung Grant. Ahmaud Arbery. Suncha Kim. Her work can be found in Ploughshares, The Rumpus, Poem-a-Day by The Academy of American Poets, Alta and The Offing, amongst others. Sandra Bland. Soon Chung Park. Yong Ae Yue. She teaches innovative undergraduates at UC Riverside, believes that all Black lives matter and will resist white supremacy until Black liberation is realized, lives in Los Angeles, and stays rooted in Fresno. Say their names. Justice for George Floyd and the countless others. She digs oldiez, outer space, aromatics, and tiny prints is about decentering whiteness in literature, creative writing, and daily life. Abolish the police. Find her @saraborhaz or at www.saraborjas.com. Say their names.