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Vickie Vértiz


We must have already been naked, looked out at the gold

Hills and said, We need to kiss next to all of that


Nos fuimos afuerita on the yellow grass

It was warm. Hacía sol. Maybe you convinced me


Or I, you. Nos pegó no sé que

But what if someone sees us, the eternal


Question that keeps me from myself. But everyone already knows

So we opened the French doors, crawled carefully out


Covered the floor with someone else’s blanket

Your hair, too, was long and brown


And your breath was sweet water so I kissed you

The hawks above unimpressed


With our throbbing, but they could see I loved you

And your breasts, well, I knew they were not for me


Forever, and because I knew what you liked, I did it, just

More slowly because we were outside on a field trip


And because I was hungry I ate and ate

All I do is take, take, take, you said

So I took and took and took you

Rode and rode and rode you

(Maybe I was not doing anything new)


]And I surprised myself. I pleaded: bend,

flip, rearrange me

And I loved it like that. Like that sun on us—a dying

star, everywhere at once


After the photograph Candy Cigarette by Sally Mann and the protest-performance organized by Cherríe Moraga and Celia Herrera Rodriguez with the nonprofit Al Otro Lado at the Otay Mesa Detention Center


I always do      They sell candy crack pipes at the liquor store—where have you been?


                         I used to be safe and sage


among the wolves                                     Now this cage is too small



And I move to live                                   So when I dream, I necklace storied playgrounds


Under a pebble roll of clouds                              I am a doe like a doe is a buck            Horns sprout


through my skull                    I open one door                                          slide open another, then


another and it’s just empty warehouses                                        Piled high with Mylar blankets


            We’re not the only ones running a marathon



And these mornings                 The sky is a blue that hurts                                  A rectangle sky


from a balcony I can’t see over            I see through it                                         We’ve been falling


from that sky forever                These mornings, when I leap                                          Women in


white drum and weep               I leap and evening flies


I planted a Japanese maple in Oakland

once It’s the only part of that house that still belongs to me

Is that smoke or are you just happy?

Peppermint stripes become you and

Alpine forests grow over at the right

altitude. They are not called pine trees here

Perhaps they are pinos


This looking is a gift

It was the beginning of summer when you jumped

from the couch to the mountains, from the ocean sand to volley up

to the sun, a striped ball

Then a sailboat slowly tipped to one side

without you noticing


This is an advertisement for vacations

and bathing suits that go down past your thighs

Very proper, very lady

Everything you have to say can be said sideways

and backwards. Just be careful

Remember the pale powder sky and that I

will be here next season

And where, my dear, will you be? Still mad because I got cuter shoes

Me, I’m on this black lacquered floor, safely tucked into a pocket


There is a net between us and time. Our countries are white lines traced

across our outfits, our passports

I am waiting for someone to tell me to get up

To stop, to go down the stairs and into another silent room

Ah, there she is. She walked over to the balcony

and glanced at me. A warning


So I get up

And notice there are people that you will meet

once you arrive at the ski lodge

They wear yellow and blue

Power pink and purple pants

The trees are alpines but they are cerulean not ______

My seeing was off (this time)

Somewhere the Ainu are not skiing

From here it is impossible to see that they exist

It is just you and I and hidden hot springs. Hidden people

Who you sacrificed for a black clean floor

-from Auto/Body (Notre Dame University 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.

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