Two Poems by Jessica Helen López

When a fellow teacher, colleague and white woman, says to me that a mother, parent to one of our students, looks like Spanish trash and I say nothing.  Rather, I walk from the room silent as a grave.

This Brown Body Sings of Sin & Arrows

of wind without whistle which is to say

it sounds of nothing without the reverb

 

of an echo against solid brick, or wall

or back of hand, slight off-color compliment

 

ringed with the bathtub dirt of

your micro-aggressions & stinging

 

compliments.  You bitch. You dog

of a person when said what you said.

 

And I said nothing.  Just let your bitter

slide against me like a rape.  Like yet

 

another white woman with a royal

& unquestionable tongue.  How could

 

I sit there & take it?  Crawl beneath

my skin, cowardly sickened snail at

 

the sight of brine & salt raining down

upon me.  I protest. I who am progressive

 

by most standards.  Radical flag burner

and bra burning woman.  I raise my fists

 

and chant songs about my vagina

skin color, land stolen from my

 

indigenous ancestor, damn it.  Though

there I was a jelly fish amongst a goliath.

 

White woman whistling the same

old tune.  I saw her, she said. She

 

said, did you see her breasts pouring

from her thin-strapped blouse like

 

muddied oil like sex like too much

Mexican woman who don’t even

 

know her place care about her future

her kids her reputation in this country?

 

I can say this, she said.  She said, because

my mother in law is Puerto Rican

 

as if all Latinas are the same.

Mexican and Spanish trash she

 

said, as if Mestiza was never

a word she heard. Mixed blood

 

but mutt is what she meant.

And my tongue was an anvil.

 

A stupid silent irrelevant piece

of flesh.  Where did all my courage

 

flee?  I have sinned because I

did not speak and my by body

 

carries these pitiful arrows to

this day. A penance worth nothing.

 

Not even the back of her hand. I

rather she had slapped me.  Instead.

 

What a much bearable burden to bear.

Tangible as solid brick and not as ghost-

like as this ricocheting echo

feeble lack of words.

 

 

 

 

A Letter to My Mental Illness, Addiction, Affliction, Trauma and Triumph

(Or No One Likes a Long Poem)

 

  1. What They Say is Mental Illness

 

First, I would like to say I love you.

You are my favorite armor, a cheap

third world country sweater.  Long in the sleeves.

 

Because I have unusually long arms. Spindle limbs

and skinny appendages. Tiny wrists.

 

Boy/girl body, really.  That I came to love

on good days.

 

To my mental

 

illness, next. Traitor. Golden Judas.

 

A tumbling unraveling.  Stupid helix

of DNA and hand-me-down gene.

 

You make me

love the blood that boils in

the blue-grey veins. Ocean

 

soft. How I want to fall into those

waves.

 

A salty forgetfulness.

 

How I want to spill

 

them over. A forced enjamb—

ment.

 

Those

vulnerable vessels.  Commit

 

suicide like a real lady.  Regal, no bullets.

 

No maimed face.  I’ve heard

that’s how women snuff themselves.

 

Now, look at my pretty. Bathtub

wet.  Labia pulled back, organism.

 

Orgasm. Dead meat.

 

A pink floating amoeba.  I’m sorry (I’m not

sorry) I fantasize

 

this way but my brain is mushroom heavy.

 

But, but, but, but,

but, but, but, but,

 

but—

 

I am a floating island, unanchored. Overly washed

thing. Beat

 

silly by the tide.

 

The breathing, heavy of it. Skulk.

Slink. Sulk. Scurry. Rolling wave of it.

 

I still love me though, I think.

 

Look at me! I arrange the glistening knives and forks. Fold

the laundry

like a dutiful                                           martyr.

 

Bleed into the white foam

and dirty dish grease when no one

 

is searching.

 

Snort lines. Dopamine

Please. Please

 

dopamine.

 

Serotonin. Oxytocin.

 

A housewife snorting

cocaine is headline news.

 

Domestic. Chemical

uptake-inhibitor of sex.

 

Fuelfire and fuck me.  Fill your prescription

and no one will judge you.

 

So, you see, I called my father

yesterday.

 

He is my favorite juxtaposition.

 

My common

non-sequitur.

 

That sex-filled, sexless something

smattering of a man.

 

He is not real. He can

not be real.     He must be one of those

 

death shadows like when Hiroshima was dropped

by a dirty bomb.

 

The silhouette of a man walking along

the cool

 

pavement, cane in hand.

 

Obliterated into nothing but shadow.

 

Never any flesh. No meat or soul.

 

Never was. Never again.

 

He is my diction. My off

rhyme.                    No one’s favorite

poem.

 

  1. To My Addiction Solely

 

You are so wondrous!  I wish

I could stay     with you for

ever.

 

Forever hide myself in the scribble

of your body.

 

You alloy-flavored magnet. You

are a Times Square marquee.

 

Last night, I dreamt I was pregnant

with the fetus of a man

whom I hate

 

but used to love and still

love sometimes.

 

In my dream, he proposed

 

with a troupe of tokens,

all starry-eyed and opaque in their

hopefulness.

 

The baby moved within my belly,

but too soon.  Too

 

soon.

 

 

It was a coke dream.

 

And we all know

how

those

go.

 

III. Affliction

 

I want to scream the word

cripple.

 

You are a too-big planet.

 

I want to scream the word

culp?.

 

You too-big orbiting guilt.

 

I want to cajole, wheedle, whine

my way out of the brown             paper bag

 

of your body.

 

Dead leaves in my throat.

 

You are my favorite

a dry fever. A rattling.

 

 

Affliction, you are dead leaves in my throat.

 

 

  1. Now, to the Trauma

 

No, this poem is about

a sword. After

all.

 

After all, I’ve decided

it’s about

 

low-hanging fruit.

 

Lemons and Damocles and Solomon on a slow-slung

lazy branch of a California tree

in the backyard patch of memory

growing from sun-burnt

 

grass. Flat dead yellow blades.

 

Like I said, this poem is about a sword.

 

A king with all the power.  A sniffling

wife. A spliced

 

baby.  A fool of peril.

 

I think it was my birthday.

 

There was a switch, that I know

or at least, that I remember that I know.

Someone’s punishment.

 

There was a lashing. Me?

There was a blade. Boxcutter?

There was a vein. Several?

 

Your mothers? Yes,

your mothers.

 

There was an argument that tumbled into eons.

 

Your parents? Yes, you’re parents.

 

You slept, finally. You

Woke, abruptly.

 

And then, a sizzling

 

pink bleeding into the green

of the carpet.

 

But, before that there was a comforting shade.

There was yellow.

Memory of your birthday.

 

There was a tree and there were

lemons.

 

And I swear, she plucked them.

 

Sliced the juice of the fruit in half

for you.

 

Squeezed the milk of it down your

throat.  A sour gift.

 

Oh, how you bent back

that neck.

 

And then, she

 

hollered. You stirred,

and there it was again.

 

That braggadocios pink.

That green.

That carpet.

 

A fester.

 

Many years later and it was definitely

not your birthday.

 

Instead, it was a sizzle of drip,

 

pulled from two wrists. Each one for good measure.

 

You, pulled.

 

Pulled from your pre-pubescent deep sleep, an aquanaut

10,000 leagues blissfully below.

 

And then you saw.

Saw, just how she instructed.

 

She won’t like if you remind her

how she said,

 

“Look, what he made me

 

 

do,” she

 

said.

 

How proud she seemed and later

dissolved into                       a puddle.

 

A Spartan wife wasted and running down the street.

A disappearing act out the front

door and into a cul-de-sac

without you.

 

Just so you know, neither pink nor green are

primary colors.

 

You, who figured that out, years and years

later.

 

But, they exist all the same.

 

There is an old house I no longer live

in that attests

 

 

that it

 

does.

 

  1. Triumph Question Mark.

 

Last, I would like to say I love you.  Too.

You are my preferred glamorous scam, that even

I believe

 

from time

 

to time.

 

Long in the tooth, because I have unusually

long smiles.

 

Oh, how they last. Like a busted-smiling housewife,

black-eyed and socked to smithereens,

 

answering the door triumphant and clandestine.

 

Hello, are you selling Tupperware? Dictionaries?

 

Hurry, before my husband comes home

and finds that your hocking vacuums and good will

 

messages from the corner-church.

 

He doesn’t like

strangers.

 

And, in his triumphant righteous and privileged

way, will boot you from our home and

 

make me pay. For days and days and days.

 

Oh, how I will pay. He triumphant,

 

at last.

 

 

 

 

__

 

Jessica Helen Lopez was the former City of Albuquerque Poet Laureate and the Poet-In-Residence for the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History from 2014 – 2016. She has also been a featured writer for 30 Poets in their 30’s by MUZZLE and named one of the “10 Up and Coming Lantinx Poets You Need to Know” by international digital publisher and agency, Remezcla.  Lopez holds the title of 2012 and 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam ABQ Champion. She is a member of the Macondo Foundation. Founded by Sandra Cisneros, it is an association of socially engaged writers united to advance creativity, foster generosity, and honor community. Her first collection of poetry, Always Messing with Them Boys (West End Press, 2011) made the Southwest Book of the Year reading list and was also awarded the Zia Book Award presented by NM Women Press. Her second collection of radical feminist poetry, Cunt. Bomb. is published by Swimming with Elephants Publication (2014). Her third collection, The Language of Bleeding: Poems for the International Poetry Festival, Nicaragua (SWEP) is a limited release in honor of her ambassadorial visit to Granada, Nicaragua.A Pushcart Prize nominee, Lopez is a Ted Talk speaker alumni and a featured poet on PBS Colores! An Adjunct Instructor for UNM Chican@ Studies Department and Institute of American Indian Arts, she is also a book reviewer for World Literature Today Magazine.

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