ALREADY MY LIPS WERE LUMINOUS
My first kiss is with an uncle
me as Amá throws
up two dollar wine
after a pool party
I do not know the language of that place
Sitting on the edge of a cracked red plastic couch
I am grateful in an ill-fitting girl dress lavender roses dot the
The embrace is short His breath is two cases of
cigarettes and one aluminum beer
He says good night; the songs of crows
When his sons leave for the Persian Gulf
he kisses them too and I’m confused
because men never embrace around me
They shove each other’s oil hands into
car guts and machines that make glass
Not tender not soft
I understand, then there must be other ways to love
HOW CAN YOU LIVE
For Iguala and Ferguson
We will sing about the dark times, about school.
About how La Llorona needs a vacation from that riverbed.
Trenches filled across without paper.
And what’s fucked is how—
How worn—Che on a T-shirt and Frida is a handbag. What concerns me is being disposable.
What concerns me are posters of our colleagues, missing girls.
On every lamppost, the buildings are not in heaven, they dream
about us. Dream in a time of war.
It is always a time of war, and what concerns me
is the basilica and no one cared.
How can you live? Citizen and for what.
If we are breath, then bring what is matter.
What concerns me are babies who used to lap
milk now exhale burning hair and skin.
What worries me is that our rights are porous
and we study and read and find what.
Poverty, that’s what. Who said? We have when. We have order.
We have a No. We burn it down. Do you see?
There is no paper.
No document can hide the dusk of a grave.
Students are pebbles skipping down that fucking riverbed inside
I do not claim the empty notebooks. I am state protected, that
handshake that moves up the arm and begins to feel like
Hearts, what we want, we already have: an e-mail, a loan, a beam.
Before and beyond the colony,
Who can take away what we’ve already danced?
How can we be left behind when we are what they want to be?
The shine of black leather boots. The sky that great safety—and
not guilt—that injures
What injuries does education breathe?
And in the middle of a punctured lung,
For Morrissey fans
Because we craved permission to be despondent in English
Desperate to hide erections for boys
Behind Trapper Keepers
To document Kotex leaks in our journals
To be maudlin, to be untranslatable
To do this in private, in the company
Of someone with rank
We hunted for you in crates, battled mold and being broke
Scraped pennies from grandparents who collected
Cans to feed us
We needed your ’50s guitar in the key of sorrow
Mexican and not, born here or not, our duplexes
South of the 60 freeway
No Movement murals cushion our daily gray sky
Our 99 cent interchanges
To your voice, we work our lives away in UPS trucks, as perfect
Receptionists, in community college forever
This is how you hate the queen
I seethed at the church for making me dirty
So we were instant friends
You made me want a public transit death, so we
Could be together
We saved you from the has-been dollar bin
We’re your American Manchester day dream, empty tire
Factories, soot-covered eyelids, cracked front
Teeth and bleeding lips
We fondled open your shirts and built a country around you
Of sidelong glances and glum gladiolus
When you saw our tight black jeans and creepers
You could taste our penchant for racing Chevys down
Slauson with no headlights
We’re your wistful twin, that boy you won’t share
You watched us make love in cemeteries
Made us trim our sideburns, Las Vegas Elvis beats made Us jump like beans
We are fatalists by nations on all sides
Death happy because it constantly raps at our door
In the carcinogenic heart of this Manchester
Our black lungs sing with you
Because every time we listen
It’s our last day too
-??????????from black god mother this body (Black Freighter Press), selected by Spring 2023 Guest Editor, Gerard Robledo
The oldest child of an immigrant Mexican family, Vickie Vértiz was born and raised in Bell Gardens, a city in southeast Los Angeles County. With over 25 years of experience in social justice, writing, and education, Vértiz is an alumna of the Woodrow Wilson and Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowships.
Her writing is featured in the New York Times Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Huizache, Nepantla, the Los Angeles Review of Books, KCET Departures and Artbound, and the anthologies: Open the Door ( McSweeney’s and the Poetry Foundation), and The Coiled Serpent ( Tia Chucha Press), among many others.
Vértiz’s first full collection of poetry, Palm Frond with Its Throat Cut, published in the Camino del Sol Series at The University of Arizona Press, won a 2018 PEN America literary prize. She has been a resident or fellow at Bread Loaf Environmental Writers Conference, Macondo, CantoMundo, VONA, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the Community of Writers. Her work was chosen in 2016 by Natalie Diaz for the University of Arizona Poetry Center Summer Residency Program.
Vickie has taught creative writing and given craft talks since 2008 at the Claremont Graduate University, 826 Valencia, the Center Theater Group, and her alma maters, Williams College, Bell Gardens High School, and UC-Riverside, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2015. Vickie also holds a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from UT-Austin.
Vickie is a proud member of Colectivo Miresa, a feminist cooperative speaker’s bureau. Her first poetry collection, Swallows, is available from Finishing Line Press. She teaches creative writing, writing for Chicanx Studies, writing for Gender Studies, summer bridge writing for EOP students, and Composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
All work on this website is protected under the “Attribution Noncommercial No Derivatives” license. View at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/