Category Archives: Poetry

from Huizache #6

Don’t Hold Back

Melissa Lozano

My mother is 21,
conjuring María Félix, smolder
kohl eye.

She is the sound of freeways at rush hour
crashing hips. Hourglassed—an ache.

She wears a beehive of unanswered questions:
Curios, feathers, silences, heart songs, grafted tongue.
Tangerine mouth, pouting
lips. She is engaged to Rubén González.
She is cleaning houses.
She is walking home
late with the moon.

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from Huizache #6

Este Puño/Dispatches from Barbed Wire

Abigail Carl-Klassen

They still built the wall. Even though we marched downtown,
jackets and ties peering down from high rises as we shouted,
¡Muro, no. Pueblo sí! After we shut down Paisano, horns
pressed, sage smoke rising, matachines barefoot and rattling.
After we sipped sangre de Cristo through chain links year
after year on Día de los Muertos. After our mayors declared,
¡Ya basta! San Diego to Brownsville. After amas pushed
strollers from Douglas to San Elizario. After comadres
from Mujer Obrera, striking hungry, cuffed themselves to
the Whitehouse gates and chanted, ¡Obama, escucha, estamos
en la lucha! After Red Fronteriza. Hands across the Border.
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from Huizache #5

Abuelita’s Garden with Parakeet That Says Hijaputa

Javier Zamora

Abuelita’s mother died when she was one.
No one talks about Tatarabuela
or about how Abuelita draws her eyebrows on at dawn.
I saw them once
when I pretended to snore.

Abuelita’s name should be Rocío
because she wakes at 5 to water plants.
My aunts say her name means truth
in some language no one speaks.

Abuelo says Abuelita burned the beans
otra vez. Chepito the Fourth dreams of tortillas
when Abuelo swings on the hammock. Abuelita,
¿pero why you don’t have eyebrows?

Sometimes Abuelita dries her bras on rose bushes.
Doña Ávalos thinks she grows the best roses,
so when they walk to the market
their baskets bounce on opposite sides.

Abuelo cuts our parakeets’ wings and teaches them to speak.
I forgot to feed Chepito the Third for a week.
I said the cat ate Chepito the Second
and when he became dough below my feet
I buried the first Chepito.

Abuelo dips our moons in vodka. Truth is,
before I drowned Chepito the Fourth, I asked him
if he remembered the eggshell
he broke. Abuelita, ¿will you forget
the veins on the back of Abuelo’s hands?


Javier Zamora was born in La Herradura, El Salvador. At the age of nine he migrated to the United States. Zamora received a Bread Loaf scholarship and a fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Narrative, Ploughshares, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere.

from Huizache #5

Suzi Writes a Poem

Jessica Helen Lopez

for Resolana Heartfire, in solidarity with Katrina Guarascio,
notorious corrupter of children

Suzi write a poem
Write a poem Suzi

You will need a pencil
lined paper and the ability
to abide by the rules

Suzi listen
Follow Suzi follow
my instruction Suzi squeeze
your poem like a baby bird
between the palm
That’s a simile Suzi
Write a simile Suzi

Sarah follow suit Sarah
Sarah follow Suzi

Sarah write a poem
Write a poem Sarah

No Suzi you may not write
about the dream you dreamed
last night Suzi
No Sarah no poems
about Bengal tigers and
motorcycle gangs
no whips chains or politics Suzi
Suzi what did I say Suzi
Be a positive role model for Tommy

Tommy write a poem Tommy

No Tommy you may not write about your father Tommy
Suzi your poem is on fire Suzi
We don’t like poems that self-immolate Suzi
Suzi your poem is bleeding all over the floor Suzi
Sarah sanitize Suzi for the sake of
Common Core and all that is good in the world
Wash your poem Suzi

Tommy take a tip from Suzi
Tommy be clean Tommy

Tommy take it to the river
beat your poem against the
sun-bleached stones Tommy
Suzi your poem is too hot
too dirty

too dark
too tell it on the mountain Suzi
too syllabic Suzi
too Nora Zeale Hurston for me Suzi
too multilingual Suzi
too narrative
too satirical
too surreal
too real

Sarah I said to write a poem
follow appropriate instructions Sara
Suzi like baking a cake
be a good girl Suzi
Write your poem
Here let me

let me
add a pinch of personification
write metaphor with moderation
forgo too much alliteration Suzi
too much alliteration sounds too Spanglish Suzi
sounds like rap Suzi

like hip-hop
like a bastard tongue
like a patois
like a borderland
like a poem with no passport
You don’t want your poem deported, now do you Tommy?

Write about safe things Suzi
Suzi write of chaste things Suzi
Sarah write about Sarah but not too much Sarah, Sarah

And for Christ’s Sake don’t write about Christ
Don’t crucify your poem, Suzi

Suzi stop staring at clouds
No you may not write about clouds Suzi
No not about burning tongues and raised fists Sarah
No not about flying guitars and anarchy Tommy
No not about razor blades or vaginas Suzi
Yes, I know you have a vagina Suzi
Don’t write it about it Suzi

What are you feminist?
We don’t write about the F word, Suzi


We don’t write about war or APD police brutality or the homeless
We don’t write about sex or sexuality or sexual orientation

No depression, Sarah
No cutting, Tommy
No teenage pregnancy, Suzi

We just
don’t Suzi

We don’t
We don’t
We don’t

Suzi standardize your poem Suzi

Suzi write a poem
dear heart
write a poem

Jessica Helen Lopez is a slam poet from New Mexico. Her first collection of poetry was Always Messing With Them Boys, and her second was Cunt. Bomb. Her most recent collection, The Language of Bleeding: Poems for the International Poetry Festival, Nicaragua, is a limited release. The founder of La Palabra: The Word Is a Woman Collective, Lopez is Albuquerque’s poet laureate.

from Huizache #4

Secret Missionary for the Virgin Mary Is Off His Meds

Sheryl Luna

He writes of grenades, a universe exploding.

It’s inexhaustible, the sky. Something about badness
turns him on. Passion a candle with two wicks.

He says to me, “Keep burning.”
He is often falling out of love.

Handling language like a theologian, he misses
lilies, later insists fall’s leaves aren’t dying.

His knowledge flickers brown-bagged, like rows
of luminaria candles at night. Seasonal
affective, he deals with feminine questions.

He argues without hearing his own voice.

Within an occasional dream, he hears language
glide along the starched collars of men.

He will not let himself show sadness or joy.
He forgets the late afternoon lake,
golden, and the geese rattling off in droves.

No gangbanger, his past is a series of commitments,
seventy-four-hour holds, Haldol and Serequel.
Now refusing meds,

he’s found the weather quite bothersome.
Wringing his hands to a fallen image of God,
he has a hurried urgency to be uninvolved.

Like a man in solitary confinement
in the federal prison, tossing shit at the guards,

he refuses to smile. Know-it-all criticisms of others
make his days. He cannot let go atheism or disbelief.

Electroshock therapy has him grasping at a forgotten past.
He walks lanky towards a loneliness he won’t refuse.

And the aftermath of madness is calm.
He tries to forget the dread of monotonous expectation.

We, with the same steps, trod towards some understanding,
some philosophy. All of us, keepers of secrets.

Sheryl Luna is the author of Seven and Pity the Drowned Horses, which received the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize in 2004. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Georgia Review, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. She also received the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation Award in 2008.

from Huizache #3

The Bolero of Lupe Vélez

Alejandro Murguía

The movieland glamour magazines thrive on Lupe Vélez. They thirst for this Mexican beauty. They just drink her up. Her face graces the cover of Film Weekly, Motion Picture, Cinelandia, and True Confessions, over and over, as if they couldn’t help themselves. Couldn’t keep their cameras away from her obsidian black hair, her flashing eyes, the cupcake mouth, and all those society parties, husbands, lovers, gossip. As if Hollywood couldn’t help talking about her. Just couldn’t help it. Talking. About. Lupe. Vélez.

She was a foundling, discovered at the front door of a convent, wrapped in a red rebozo. She was born without a navel. She had an extra toe amputated. Her story is so old it’s in the Bible. Her life would make a great Hollywood movie—My pinchi, pinchi vida. She’s so hard she doesn’t cry at funerals. She’s so soft novellas make her weep, big sloppy tears. She’s the most expensive Mexican that’s ever worked in Hollywood. They call her la más chíngona. La Mera Mera. She can name her own price. Le gusta lo pegado al hueso. She’s had her heart broken a hundred times. She has no heart to break. No one knows her real name. Everyone calls her Lupita. Lupe Vélez. Rumors follow her like hungry dogs. They say things about her.

She used to work in pornographic movies. She has one breast bigger than the other. She has a womb the size of a tunnel. She has a womb the size of a quarter. She smokes cigars, and on the first Monday of the month, dresses like a man, in a suit and tie, and snap-brim hat. She once killed a lover over jealousy, and that’s why she came to Hollywood to forget her one true love. She has a tattoo on her backside, un nopalito on her culito. She’s a walking contradiction, a hustler without regrets, and temptation enough for an army. She sings opera, she sings blues, she sings the soul right out of you.

The women of Hollywood hate her, call her junkie, whore, slut, puta. They say she wears falsies, they say she spreads diseases, they say she’s dying of syphilis, of gono, of drugs. They say she is too homely, too skinny, too flat chested. Bowlegged. Too, too, daark daaahling. They laugh at her Mexican accent. They say she is crazy. Don’t mess with her, they whisper, that Mexican spitfire is liable of anything. A-ny-thing. And Lupita lets them talk, lets the chismes spread. It’s good for my career, she says to her agent-doctor-dealer, as he offers a silk handkerchief filled with the rainbows of nepenthe.

Ay Lupita, Lupe Vélez, alone, curled up on her brass bed, eyes half- closed, nodding, is very, very human. If she cuts, she bleeds; if she’s hurt, she cries; if she’s happy, she smiles. And she’s very happy right now with a dozen pills speeding to her heart that melts like a school girl in love. The chismes don’t matter.

Maria Guadalupe Vélez doesn’t feel a thing.

Let them talk. Que digan eso de mi.

Alejandro Murguía is the author of Southern Front, This War Called Love— both winners of the American Book Award—and The Medicine of Memory. He is a founding member and the first director of The Mission Cultural Center. He was a founder of The Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade, and co-editor of Volcán: Poetry From Central America. A professor in Latina Latino Studies at San Francisco State University, his latest book is Spare Poems, while a new collection, Native Tongue, is out this year. He is the sixth San Francisco Poet Laureate, the first Latino poet to hold the position. His website is

from Huizache #3

An Unknown

Casandra Lopez

for Jim Thorpe (Wa-Tho-Huk/Bright Path) and J.M. Lopez

Jim was always running away from schools, and who knows
what else. One of the greatest athletes in the world is born

in what is called Indian Territory, but on this continent isn’t it all.
He is a Bright Path, a Mark of Lightning. At nine his twin dies in Indian

Agency school and Jim believes brother gives him
Strength—a muscled quickness. So much death. Is that what

keeps him running? And what about me? And my own ghost
twin Brother. How big he grows, memory tries to fill in

that loss, my own mark. I am no athlete, but I’m always
running from something—a city I feared would eat

me whole, instead it came for Brother—such sharp teeth the night
as. I wonder if Jim was at his brother’s side when he died

of pneumonia or was he somewhere running. Does he mean to never
leave, promise, and then still leave? I want to never leave Brother’s

side as he is moved from concrete–gurney–hospital bed.
I want to be lightning, nature’s muscle that can crack

bullet from gun. I want the stars in my palms, fire in my hands.
I want to hold Brother’s warmth a bit longer, for his heart to thump

and thump and thump. For it to sing me the song I need
most. Thorpe’s son dies still filled with such want, longs for his father’s

remains, for them to be returned to their homelands, for ash to find
its place in their red earth. I keep Brother within me, next to

grandmother’s river valley and grandfather’s orange trees—sweet
rind of history I cultivate even as I run from it.

Casandra Lopez is a Chicana, Cahuilla, Luiseño, and Tongva writer raised in Southern California’s Inland Empire. She has been selected for residencies with the Santa Fe Art Institute and the School of Advanced Research, where she wasthe Indigenous writer in residence for 2013. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in the literary journals Potomac Review, Hobart, and Acentos Review. She is a founding editor of As/Us: A Space For Women of the World.

from Huizache #3


David Campos

After Larry Levis

My father beat a man’s face
to the color of dusk; dark purples
and reds followed by the blues and blacks
of the night being swept over Tilzapotla. The man,
Claudio Ocampo, had just slammed my grandfather
to the ground, a knee pressed against his spine,
over the sale of a cow that wasn’t producing milk.
I heard the cracks of his ribs
as my father ran out of the house
to knock him off my grandfather,
his fist unhinging this man’s jaw—
the splatter of blood spit out onto the cobblestone
mixed with the dirt; a mirror of the sky.
When it was over, my father and grandfather came in
and we ate our pan dulce with hot chocolate
on the second story balcony, listening
to the crumbs falling into our laps.

On the plane back to the states,
while his hands healed from the swelling,
I asked about the fight. I’m sorry
you had to see that
, he said.
And that’s all he ever said of it.
I never understood this apology.

Sometimes, while we play football in the dusk,
I stare through the cement and bricks,
the exhaust of this city in summer,
and realize I’m looking at blood again.
A small flicker drying, mixed with dirt,
and warning.

It used to make me think of love, looking at the sun
dipping into the mountains. In Fresno,
that light was furious. Now Fresno darkens
as the wire from the street lamps is stolen—
my father is dying. His hands have lifted
so many cigarettes from pocket to mouth
that his breath is disappearing like the lights
from the streets. When I visit I hear his coughs
wake him in the night. They wake me.
And we’ll sit in the cold
of the backyard looking up at the stars
and I’ll remember my father telling a younger me
that when we died we went to heaven
and became the stars we see at night.
For years I believed we would all become stars.

Now, we don’t talk about endings,
or stars, or the way his fists undid
a face. We just watch the sky
as if it could bring back breath
and love, the sparkling sugar
at the bottom of a paper bag
that once held warm pan dulce
many years ago. We both light
cigarettes and blow smoke
as if we were cities
and the streets were going dark
as dusk gives way to night,
as a son shuffles from one lamp
to another trying to stay warm
and safe under their glow.

But tonight, Father, it is dark
here in Riverside, where the earth just rattled,
and the walls cracked, like the bones
that one night you broke dusk
out of a man’s face. Yet here
when I think of you, I can almost believe
that the street, as it rolls into the hills,
leads to the stars.

David Campos lives in Fresno. @Camposwriter