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Sara Borjas



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.


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.




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 Say their names. 

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