Arizona Freeway Sunrise

The grasses are always dancing in the median,
headbangers, seed sowers, dry spines twisting.
Freeway flowers face early decapitation—
guillotine tirewind, lit by skyfire:
here the sun is literally a star,
made of beaten copper, sharp, imperfect.
As the star pulls itself up again, 
the sky goes streaked, the improbable
pattern of yellow-red, vivid. 
The radio stations are just murmurs in the static.
The cities hide behind the horizons.
The tires break grass necks.
The flowers throw themselves
like colorful, suicidal philanthropists
into the eastbound, into the westbound.
Saguaro shadows are twirling sundials
on the clock face of burning sand,
they tick, they spin, they speak
until they’re spoken to, torn down,
paved over, left in piles, sold.
The rush, the hush, 
the hiss of wind and the
immutable silence of light. 
The piston explosions,
the cellphone syllables.
Two realities in the same moment.
Two landscapes that never touch.
Arizona freeway sunrise.
A breeze blowing through barbwire.

Amanecer en carretera de Arizona

Los pastos siempre bailan en el camellón,
de atrás para adelante, esparcen la semilla, sus secas espigas se tuercen.
Las flores de carretera enfrentan temprana decapitación;
viento-guillotina de llantas, iluminadas por el fuego del cielo:

aquí el sol es literalmente una estrella
hecha de cobre forjado, puntiaguda, imperfecta.
Mientras la estrella se levanta de nuevo,
bandas cruzan el cielo, el improbable
patrón de amarillo-rojo, intenso.
Las estaciones de radio sólo son murmullos en la estática.
Las ciudades se esconden detrás de los horizontes.
Las llantas rompen cuellos del césped.
Las flores se arrojan
como coloridos y suicidas filántropos
hacia el este, hacia el oeste.
Las sombras de los saguaros son manecillas
que giran sobre el cuadrante de la arena hirviente,
hacen tictac, giran, hablan hasta que se les habla,
derribados, asfaltados, apilados, vendidos.
La prisa, la calma, el silbar del viento y el silencio
inalterable de la luz. Las explosiones de pistones,
las sílabas de celulares.
Dos realidades en un mismo instante.
Dos paisajes que jamas se tocan.
Amanecer en carretera de Arizona.
Una brisa silbando entre alambre de púas.

Trad. de J. Emilio Rodríguez

The old man rides an old bicycle

The old man rides an old bicycle in slow rhythm along the bay, on his way home to his wife after watching the technicolor sunset on the old dock. "¿De qué año es su bicicleta?" I ask him as he peddles by me. "Tiene 50 años," he says, smiling as he stops the bike next to me.

"¿Es un tipo Schwinn?" I ask, being into this type of thing.

"No, se llama Super Rex," he tells me, and pulls out of the breast pocket of his half-open cotton shirt the ancient registration card, which is paperclipped to his carné de identidad. "El gobierno me dio este papel pero como no saben escribir bien pusieron 'suder res.'" We laugh.

He asks me where I'm from. "Oh!," his eyes flush with emotion as he folds up his thick glasses. "I lived for five years there! In New York! Nineteen Fifty Five until Nineteen Sixty. But I think, not because I'm Cuban, that here, Cienfuegos, has the most beautiful sunsets in the world."

"Looked pretty good to me," I tell him.

"How do you like Cuba?"

"Me facina," I say, smiling.

"The same for me in New York," he smiles too. "I love my country," he says the words slowly, as if describing an ache, "but this situation here... it's not good. I stay against my will because I love my country. But this system doesn't work."

"I agree with you," I tell him. I realize he only has the courage to say these things because we are speaking in broken English. By this time we've stopped walking and we're leaning close to each other. He starts laughing.

"I must go," he says, "my wife is waiting for me. It was a pleasure to talk to you and practice my broken English."

"For me too. Tell your wife I say hello and take care."

"Ok, goodbye."

The Cuban Writers' Union


Some writers working for the state
have clandestine dreams of smuggling
out a manuscript to the presses
of the capitalist world.

Others just rearrange the same adjectives
around the words revolución and Fidel
because Customs has long forbidden the importation
of new words into Cuba,

so the remaining writers
are like everyone else in this country,
making do, shuffling the same broken puzzle pieces,
searching for new endings.

The writers here are just like the men
who sit on the sidewalks behind dirty wooden stands, injecting
new aerosol breath into old disposable lighters
and the womens’ fine hands in the relojería,
fixing old watches with skill,
then searching for the hour
to set the watches by, the hour
that this country lost long ago.


On the edges of this living city there are piles
upon piles of all the abandoned thoughts,
dirty and wet, buzzing with flies,
putrid in the tropical sun.

And there are coasts
where the government allows no one to swim
because there too they have dumped all the aborted
ideas of the island, coasts
where the waves mumble unintelligible promise
and people stop on the seawalk to gaze at the hollow horizon.
Sometimes the weight of their unintended sighs
is enough to push the cool breeze back out to sea.

Here for every kilo of true creativity
the streets are polluted with a hundred liters of tears.
Maybe it’s no wonder that the bookshops
read like the dictator’s personal library
and all the true writers sit in buildings
about to collapse, trying to inject new breath
onto thin sheets of cheap paper, while others
have stopped writing altogether, and spend
their days folding their quota of paper into airplanes
which they bring down to the shore
and toss into the sea, hoping they’ll catch
the warm propulsion
of an entire nation sighing.

The world has gotten so small
that now there’s no more room
in the oceans for so many bottles
containing the words of so many trapped peoples.
The few boats that do manage to leave
set sail to the deafening sound of shattering glass
and sinking letters. No more messages, no bottles.
Here in Cuba all the writers know better than to trust
the sea, they study the sky, trying to guess the hour
and the best flight plans for paper airplanes.

Todos Santos, Presentes


Three hours of chicken bus, blasting
radio, excessive horn, half pavement, half
dirt, half sky, blue diesel thunderclouds
hanging over my head, guitar between
my knees, trash thrown out the window,
climbing out of Huehue shitsville, seventy
people in a school bus, three to a seat,
ropa típica, bright pants, sleeping heads
swaying, smiling children, dirty diapers,
drunks stumbling in front of the grill
with lost eyes, more horn, silver teeth,
bicycles faster than busses, walls made
out of stacked rocks and yucca, sheep
and slingshot children, mercado sábado,
broken accelerator, broke down bus,
mumbled prayers, start again.

Dicen que nadie es profeta en su propia
tierra. Che, Emiliano and Jesus have each
earned the right to have their faces made
into stickers and stuck at the front of the
colectivo bus.

The Boy’s Pockets

There is a small boy with the world in his pockets,
he has continents in the contents of his pockets
and seven seas spilling out the holes in his blue jeans:
Right pocket: a box of matches, a rock, a penny.
Left pocket: two rubberbands, another rock, a chain.
Back pocket: a crushed flower. 
Back pocket: Black Cats.
This boy lives in a house built of matches
and sleeps in a single matchbox.
This boy lives in a house of shouting matches
and escapes into borrowed books,
escapes into arroyos covered in cacti.
He says dreams have to defend themselves,
he says wishes are built of ashes and sometimes 
we just have to be the one to start the fire.
There is a boy with the world in his pockets
and windows for eye sockets. He collects thick 
purple glass from the desert and thinks 
about melting it down to make his mother 
a gown that she could put on to meet the dawn
and let the sun notice her bright.
There is a boy who wishes his mother would marry the sun.
He looks up and thinks it would be fun to meet
the men he sees leaping from cloud to cloud.
There is another neighborhood atop thunderheads,
where little boys make beds of clouds,
where Black Cats explode into thunder, this is
where he wants to live with his mother. 

He wishes the sun was his father, 
whose love turns his skin tan,
instead of the father he has, who turns 
his skin blue and black in spots and stitches.
Right pocket: two dreams meeting 
for the first time, a rock, a wire.
Left pocket: a pencil, a pad, 
fifteen excuses and not one dad.
Back pocket: balloons. 
Back pocket: butterfly.
Life is like that: blue and black when it should be brown.
Life’s like that: fifteen flowers and a noose.
Life’s like that: a father with a mouth full of fists.
There is a boy with his future in his pockets,
who has combustible dreams and thinks wishes 
are made of ashes, a boy with matches in his pockets,
whose dreams have to defend themselves to come true.
The boy’s skin is blue, this feeling, nothing new,
his house is filled with swollen memories and black eyes,
his house is a tinderbox that his tender skin hates.

Right pocket: feathers and hope.
Left pocket: rocks and sky.
Back pocket: purple glass.
Back pocket: firecrackers.
There is a boy with the world in his heart and matches 
in his hands, he kneels to the house of his father
and watches flames feel the walls, watches flames 
combust his past. His dreams have to defend themselves,
his wishes are born from the ashes of his father’s house,
and it is this boy, this boy who has to be 
the one to start the fire.

Los Bolsillos de un Niño

Hay un niño pequeño con el mundo en sus bolsillos,
dentro de los cuales, él guarda continentes
y siete mares se desbordan por los bolsillos de sus jeans:

Bolsillo derecho: una caja de fósforos,
una roca, un centavo. Bolsillo izquierdo:
dos ligas, otra piedra, una cadena.

Bolsillo trasero: una flor aplastada.
Bolsillo trasero: cohetes.

Este niño vive en una casa
construida con fósforos
y duerme en una caja de fósforos.

Este niño vive en una casa de gritos
constantes y encuentra su escape en libros prestados,

Escapa por arroyos cubiertos de cactus.
Él dice que los sueños deben defenderse a sí mismos,
Él dice que los deseos están hechos de cenizas,
y que, a veces sólo debemos ser quién enciende la llama.

Hay un niño con el mundo en sus bolsillos
y las órbitas de sus ojos son ventanas.
Recolecta gruesos cristales del desierto
y piensa en derretirlos para hacer un vestido
que su madre pudiera usar para encontrarse
con el alba y permitir que el sol apreciara su brillo.

Hay un niño que desea que su madre
se despose con el sol. Levanta la mirada
y piensa que sería divertido conocer
a ese hombre que observa saltar de nube
en nube. Existe otro vecindario por encima
de los relámpagos, donde pequeños niños
hacen camas con las nubes, donde los cohetes
estallan en relámpagos, es aquí donde él quiere
vivir con su madre.

Desearía que el sol fuera su padre,
cuyo amor bronceara su piel,
en lugar del padre que tiene,
quien torna su piel azul y negra
de manchas y puntadas.

Bolsillo derecho: dos sueños encontrándose
por primera vez, una roca, un cable.
Bolsillo izquierdo: un lápiz, una libreta,
quince excusas y ningún padre.

Bolsillo trasero: globos.
Bolsillo trasero: mariposa.
La vida es así: azul y negra
cuando debería ser marrón.
La vida es así: quince flores  y un lazo.
La vida es así: un padre con la boca llena de puños.

Hay un niño con su futuro en los bolsillos,  
cuyos sueños son combustibles y piensa
que los deseos están hechos de cenizas,
un niño con fósforos en sus bolsillos,
cuyos sueños deben defenderse
a sí mismos para hacerse realidad.

La piel del niño es azul, este sentimiento,
nada nuevo, su casa está llena de recuerdos
hinchados y ojos purpúreos. Su casa
es un arsenal que su tierna piel odia.

Bolsillo derecho: plumas y esperanza.
Bolsillo izquierdo: rocas y cielo.
Bolsillo trasero: cristal púrpura.
Bolsillo trasero: petardos.

Hay un niño con el mundo en su corazón
y fósforos en sus manos, se arrodilla
ante la casa de su padre y observa
las llamas tocar las paredes, observa
las llamas incendiar su pasado. Su sueños
deben defenderse a sí mismos, sus deseos
nacer de las cenizas de la casa de su padre,
y este niño, este niño, debe ser quién inicie el fuego.

Versión en español: Marelisa Radilla

Gadsden in Sestina

During full moons on the border, the helicopters
are violent in the midnight air,
fighting to fly and spy the footsteps
that are called illegal in moonlight.
My house seems to shudder and move 
and I’m expected not to notice,
no one is ever expected to notice.
The border is a breath caged in steel,
created with the movement of a pen,
drunk, violent across parchment,
never mind that it was almost illegal,
this line drawn across footprints.

They say the American, Gadsden, his footsteps crooked, 
didn’t notice how much tequila he drank while debating 
the particulars. He signed the 853 treaty for half 
of what he had been told to: the border was to be pushed 
halfway to Mexico City without a violent shot fired,
but Gadsden, a woman on each knee, was moved to compromise.

If he had been too drunk to move that pen at all,
I would have taken my first baby steps in Mexico 
instead of the U.S. The subtle violence of coincidence
almost doesn’t exist until you notice it,
like the border almost didn’t exist until 
a law was passed to raise a twelve-foot steel wall,
a law was passed to begin patrols with helicopters,
to regulate the air moving between two countries,
to electrify the border fence,
to put landmines under footsteps,
to take down bilingual notices,
to institutionalize the violence

instead of find the cause of the violence.
It shouldn’t be legal, this game 
of noticing effects instead of causes.
An American moves into a gated community,
a Mexican puts one foot in front of the other,
both thinking of the border.

Gadsden, father of border helicopters and my baby steps,
father of illegal violence that no one cares to notice:
we’re all waiting to see how your wild night will end.

La Venta de la Mesilla

En la frontera, durante las lunas llenas,
los helicópteros son violentos en el aire
de medianoche, luchando para volar y espiar
las pisadas llamadas ilegales debajo de la luna.
Mi casa parece estremecerse y moverse,
y esperan que yo no lo note,
esperan que nadie lo note.
La frontera es un respiro enjaulado en acero,
creado con el movimiento de una pluma borracha,
violenta tras el tratado, no importa que fuera
casi ilegal esta línea dibujada sobre
las huellas de las pisadas.

Dicen que el gringo Gadsden torció sus pisadas, no midió
cuanto tequila tomó mientras debatía los pormenores. Firmó
el tratado de 1853 por la mitad de lo que a él le ordenaron:
la frontera se extendería casi hasta la ciudad de México,
sin un sólo tiro disparado, pero Gadsden, con una fichera
en cada rodilla, fue motivado a cambiar de idea.

Si hubiera estado demasiado borracho para mover aquella pluma,
yo hubiera dado mis primeros pasos en México
en vez de los Estados Unidos. La sutil coincidencia
de la violencia casi no existe hasta que la ves,
como la frontera que casi no existió hasta que
una ley levantó una muralla acerada de cuatro metros,
una ley que aprobó el patrullaje con helicópteros,
reguló el movimiento del aire entre dos países,
electrificó el alambrado, colocó minas anti-personales
bajo las pisadas, quitó letreros bilingües, institucionalizó
la violencia en vez de hallar la causa de la violencia.

No debería ser legal este juego de notar los efectos
en vez de las causas. Un gringo se muda a una comunidad
cerrada, un mexicano va paso a paso, ambos
van pensando en la frontera.

Gadsden, padre de los helicópteros fronterizos
y de mis primeros pasos, padre de la violencia ilegal
a la que nadie le presta atención: ahora nosotros
estamos esperando para ver como aquella
borrachera tuya terminará.

Michael’s Fever

20s-era rental built of bent boards,
bad carpet and brick. A falling value,
south of downtown and neglect by landlords.
But at night, through the windows pass drafts and views,

I find him standing when I get up to piss. 
His shoulders defeated, his open mouth 
holds a yellow tongue in bubbling bliss, 
his eyes unkempt. I ask if he’s ok.

There’s a sun in the south

he replies, standing dead asleep.
The windchime is the breeze’s punching bag,
the curtains are canvas sails burning and they leap
to catch us, doors slamming, our clothes in red rags.

Forensics will find us tomorrow, but still
none can explain the smoldering window sill

I Confuse the Dead Man,

his bony chin playing the washboard
of his knuckles as he thinks me over.
He sends moths to burn in the lamp,
his hollow eyes fixed from the rocking 
chair, his teeth, bleached monuments.

Dead men don’t have tongues,
some god keeps those for himself.
Forget the soul, it’s overrated:
you should see this god’s long cape 
of squirming pronunciations.

I ask the dead man if the rain falling
outside is my ancestors running into gutters.
There are two cracks running like thoughts
at the base of his skull. Time moves in 
sputters and stops. The room fills with the

sounds of his dry creaking joints as he stands, his jaw 
moves in words he lacks the tongue to pronounce. 


In Ciudad Juárez, They Say the Night Is a Thief

but it was not the night that stole you,
night wrapped warm around forehead and under your arms,
it was men whose shadows have climbed into their hearts.

Jalisco verde, a childhood in seabreeze
spent naming clouds: libélula, golondrina. Then older, 
to the north, to work. But it was not the night that stole you.

The face of Mamá argued with itself, tears over smile.
Papá, moustache black and words: “bye, cuídate mucho,
there are men who have swallowed their own shadows

El Norte means hope and hope is a four-letter word
spoken between bleeding fingers, between shifts. Then
the night stole the day and you waited

for the bus, thick footsteps in sand behind you.
Men whistled and called. Then their fingers tore,
their shadows swollen inside you.

It is said the longest night births the most beautiful sun.
You, far away in wind. May it never be said that
it was the night that stole you,
for it was men who still walk wearing badges but cast no shadow.

En Cuidad Juárez, culpan a la noche

pero no fue la noche la que te llevó,
la noche envuelta tibiamente en la frente y bajo tus brazos,
fueron hombres cuyas sombras se han infiltrado a sus corazones.

Jalisco verde, una niñez en la brisa marina
que transcurrió llamando a las nubes: libélula, golondrina. Luego al crecer,
al norte, a trabajar. Pero no fue la noche la que te llevó.

La cara de Mamá peleaba consigo misma,
lágrimas sobre su sonrisa. Papá, bigote negro y palabras: bye, cuídate mucho,
hay hombres que se han tragado su propia sombra.

El Norte significa esperanza y esperanza es un insulto
proferido entre dedos sangrantes, entre turnos de trabajo. Luego
la noche se llevó al día y tú esperaste

al autobús, graves pisadas en la arena detrás de ti.
Unos hombres silbaron y llamaron. Luego sus dedos te atravesaron,
sus sombras invadieron tu ser.

Se dice que la noche más larga procrea al sol más hermoso.
Tú, alejada en el viento. Que nunca se diga que
fue la noche la que te llevó, pues fueron hombres que aún caminan
con sus brillantes placas pero sin arrojar sombras.

versión en español: Raúl Gallo Calvo

Arizonan Ghazels

In October all of the leaves turn to stained glass,
they shatter like bombed churches across the sidewalk.

The drugs are in the trunk, stuck between gas cans and diapers.
Ahead, the border is the horizon, is a line of shimmering coke.

Sparrows bathe in potholes, sunlight falls in chunks. 
The storm drain sighs and aeroplanes stiff-fingerpaint the sky.

Her head somewhere between cement and god,
she stands and begins to brush off her yellow dress.

There are sleepers in the eyes of the sky
and morning breath blowing across the city.

Jagged pieces of Spanish falling from the cop’s mouth 
land like sharp tetanus in brown ears.

In the hiss of the nineteen seventy eight-track,
ghosts sing between the notes of a country song.

Two black crows make out, all tongues and no teeth
in the middle of the rain-stained street.

A coyote spread across the freeway,
a rusted shell of a car on the Rez. 

The eyelids shed wishes,
two thumbs make preemptive war.

Ghazeles de Arizona

En octubre todas las hojas se vuelven vidrio emplomado,
se rompen en mil pedazos como iglesias bombardeadas sobre la banqueta.

Las drogas en la cajuela, atoradas entre tanques de gasolina y pañales.
Adelante, el horizonte es la frontera, es una linea de coca brillosa.

Los gorriones se bañan en los baches, la luz del sol cae en pedazos.
El desagüe suspira y los aviones torpemente pintan el cielo con sus dedos.

Su cabeza en algún lugar entre el cemento y dios,
ella se levanta y empieza a sacudir su vestido amarillo.

Hay legañas en los ojos del cielo y el mal aliento matutino corre a través de la ciudad.
Un español irregular que emana de la boca del policía cae como un tétano agudo en oídos morenos.

En el siseo del cartucho de mil novecientos setenta y ocho
los fantasmas cantan entre las notas de una canción country.

Dos cuervos negros se besuquean,
todo es lengua pues no hay dientes, en el medio de la calle manchada por la lluvia.

Un coyote arrollado en la autopista, una oxidada carrocería en la reserva.
Los párpados derraman deseos, dos pulgares jugando a la guerra preventiva.

Versión en español: Raúl Gallo Calvo y Moisés Regla.

Hunter Thompson on the Morning of February 21, 2005

You, Gonzo Fucker exclamation point.
Only you, scathing senior citizen, resident of a nation
that hasn’t existed since 99, if it ever did,
never will again, gun to the head.

Drugs in the trunk, desert in the frontal lobe.
The only good junkie is a celebrated junkie. Sunglasses
in that bad movie, ink illustrations of thick hallucinations,
desert in the trunk, drugs in the frontal lobe.

This was the only way for you to go, Geriatric Trigger,

anything else would have been bad fiction,
there isn’t any more room for you here.
I wonder why he did it,    
the latest Republican in some bunker chuckling.
Brains in the barrel, bullet in the sky.
Grandpa, your unwanted wannabes imbibe everywhere 
tonight, spread on the pavement, watching sky, 
drunk desert stars speeding toward them, 
wobbling in orbit, smearing desert scars.

La Conquista Still Unfinished, the Priest Climbed

to the very top of the oldest steeple,
the one made of decorative bricks, highest
above el desmadre de la calle,
the old man climbed
and put a handcopied bible to be kept
closest to his Catholic God.

Now the cover of leather is cracked
in the shape of the sunlight that pushes
through the small uncleanable windows.
It is a bright room with a crucifix
on top that doubles as a weathervane
letting the congregation know which way
the holy ghost is blowing across the
worn smooth bricks of la plaza:

arms carrying plastic buckets, water
from the fountain, a white dove, an old man’s
cane, a begging hand waiting for metal
faith to find it.

Sacerdote stands in the ornate door
of his church while his congregation leaves
mass like a river parting in ebbs and
currents around him, eyes on the cane.
Eyes on the dove. Eyes rise to the steeple and hands 
make the shape of a weathervane on their chests

La Viejita de Sonora

There is a woman in Sonora, México
who has a voice like cracked adobe.
She stands outside her casita at noon and sings
as loud as her small lungs will let her
into the still bright desert sky.
People think she is completamente loca.

But other people come
and they pay la viejita to sing their words.
She waits until the sun is as far away 
from the earth as it will get that day,
when you can hear how bright it is 
in a high, dry pitch. She walks onto the sand
y empieza a cantar.

It starts low,
in tone, pace, volume, height
until it grows and her words spiral, 
her words rise with the heat,
finding the high winds pushing north,

the winds that blow across the desert
and across the border to the wanting ears 
of fathers and brothers working in the north.
And in this way, Mexican women send words on the wind
to their husbands and sons, telling them it is ok,
we will see each other soon, I do love you

There are prayers and international calling cards,
but there is sand, bright sky, and nopales.
There is Western Union and wanting,
but there is a slow smile buried somewhere in the chest,
memories that wake before dawn
and a shadow that seems to share the work.
There is thirst and la migra,
there are rivers and protection.
There are words that come on the wind
telling them todo está bien, tranquilos, vamos a vernos prontito.

I don’t know any of this
because I have seen it.
I have never given her words
that she could pass to the wind.
I have never met la viejita de Sonora.
I only know her words because at midnight 
the desert stars are silent.

Standing outside my house on the border 
as a child, at midnight I listened 
to the voices that seemed to come from the arroyo
behind my house, Spanish voices 
on the breeze, I heard her sing.

And in the morning the Border Patrol 
would fill my nieghborhood, looking 
to grab rumours by the neck, pero 
se fueron. They would find nothing.

On the border, I decide
if the voices that I hear at midnight
are of inmigrantes in the arroyo behind my house
or if the midnight voices are the words on the wind, 
sung by la viejita.

Living on the border, I decide
between legends and laws,
between magic and realism.
I decide 
if I believe in sides
or believe in the wind.
If I believe in governments
or believe in people.

I choose people,
I choose the wind,
I choose beginning, not to end.

I choose the songs she sings,
I believe that words are wings,
people have always moved
and borders will be removed.

I choose people,
I choose the wind,
I choose beginning, not to end.
I choose people,
I choose the wind,
I choose the beginning
and I believe it’s us 
who will decide how all of this will end.

La Viejita de Sonora

Hay una mujer en Sonora, México
con voz como el adobe resquebrajado.
En la tarde, se para afuera de su casita
y canta tan alto como sus pequeños pulmones
se lo permiten hacia el brillante y tranquilo cielo
desértico. La gente cree que está completamente loca
Pero otros llegan y le pagan a la viejita para que cante sus palabras.
Ella espera hasta que el sol está tan lejos de la tierra
como lo estará ese día, cuando puedes escuchar
lo radiante que es en un tono alto y seco.
Ella camina sobre la arena y empieza a cantar.

Comienza grave, en tono, ritmo, volumen y altura
hasta que crece y sus palabras forman un espiral,
suben con el calor, y encuentran a los altos vientos
que son empujados al norte, y que soplan a lo largo
del desierto y a lo largo de la frontera hacia las ávidas
orejas de padres y hermanos que trabajan en el norte.
Y de esta manera, las mujeres Mexicanas envían sus palabras
en el viento, a sus esposos e hijos, y les dicen
que todo está bien, 

Vamos a vernos pronto, te quiero.
Hay oraciones y tarjetas para llamadas internacionales,
pero hay arena, un cielo brillante y nopales.
Hay Western Union y anhelos, pero hay una lenta sonrisa
enterrada en algún lugar del pecho, recuerdos
que despiertan antes del amanecer y una sombra
que parece untir la labor. Hay sed y está la migra,
hay ríos y protección. Hay palabras que llegan
con el viento que dicen todo está bien, tranquilos,
vamos a vernos prontito.

No sé nada de esto porque lo he visto.
Unnca le he dado palabras que pueda entregar
al viento. No he conocido nunca a la viejita de Sonora.
Sólo conozco sus palabras porque a medianoche
las estrellas desérticas están en silencio.

Parado afuera de mi casa en la frontera, de niño,
escuchaba a medianoche las voces que parecían
venir del arroyo detrás de mi casa,
voces en español en la brisa, la oí cantar.

Y en la mañana la Patrulla Fronteriza llenaba mi vecindario,
buscando atrapar rumores por el cuello, pero se fueron.
No encontraron nada.

En la frontera, decido si las voces que oigo a medianoche
son de inmigrantes en el arroyo detrás de mi casa,
o si las voces son palabras en el viento, cantadas por la viejita.

Viviendo en la frontera, decido entre leyendas y leyes,
Entre magia y realismo. Decido si creer en versiones,
o creer en el viento. Si creer en los gobiernos o creer en la gente.

Elijo a la gente, y elijo al viento.
Elijo el principio, no el final.

Elijo las canciones que ella canta,
creo que las palabras son alas,
siempre se ha movido la gente
y las fronteras serán removidas.
Elijo a la gente, elijo al viento,
elijo el principio y no finalizar.

Elijo a la gente,
elijo el principio y creo
que somos nosotros quienes
decidirán cómo termina todo esto.

Versión en español: Alvaro García

This Poem Ate It All

The girls’ trucker hats ate their heads
as the girls ate frappuccinos.
The boys’ minds ate the girls
as boys’ eyelids ate their eyes.
Foundation ate the girls’ faces
as their cracks ate their thongs.
School ate the summer,
cars ate the silence,
city ate the forest,
last ate the first,
blind ate the date,
seven ate nine,
hours ate days,
weeks ate months,
work ate life,
and work shat money.

The store ate money
as the boss ate the employees.
The rich ate the poor
as drugs ate their dreams.
Prisons ate the problems,
the problems ate their last meal.

The snow ate November 
as the box ate the ballot.
Fate ate the candidate.

The bedcovers ate the lovers,
their grunts ate the sleep of the neighbors.
The roommate ate the leftovers
as the refrigerator ate the electricity.
The bills ate the wages,
as the landlord ate the paychecks.

As the poem ate it all,
the girls’ eyes ate the boys.
The napkin ate the digits,
the telephone ate the conversation,

and somewhere, the snake continued to eat its tail.

What He Dreams of in His Coma

He can see her up there,
standing on the very top of the hill,
her silhouette flat against the exploding sun.

The highway behind him holds
his red car pulled over
with its doors wide on hinges,
engine still running in cylinder circles.

He stands at the bottom of the hill and
her body is so close to the sun.
Her name takes up his entire chest
just before he screams it,

She sways, the sun singes his sound,
he turns in panic circles, 
but there is no one for miles
Come back to the car! Let’s keep driving!
He runs but she is no closer,
sweat and delirium but she is no closer.

She, most brilliant,
Annie, the most severe flame 
as she leans toward burning
Annie please—no—stop!
Words do nothing,
there is no shape to the sun and
no shape to her shimmer
as Annie bursts into flame.

The bottoms of the clouds blacken
as they dirty from her rising smoke.

He turns back to the highway,
and his red car is different now:
torn and ripped, 
half-stuck under semi-truck,
windshield spread across pavement,
shards reflecting tiny skies.

And so many of them
in fire trucks and black-and-whites
surrounding the crushed car
with their spinning lights.

His throat starts a yell
that begins and ends
with the first letter of her name.

And how beautiful the last rays of sunlight look
as they push up against the two white sheets
being placed over the two rearranged bodies
that look so familiar
as they are pulled from the wreck.

And asleep in the hospital
he feels like an echo
forever searching for its original sound,
for its orginal sound, he feels like an echo,
asleep in the hospital.

12 Things You Need to Know About Mexico

The first thing you need to know about Mexico is not a thing or a place
He’s a man more than a noun
and the man’s name is Memo
Two more things you need to know:
Memo’s 1983 Full Size Van
and how the man lives on butterflies

The fourth thing is that the most graceful way to cross the border 
is not to jump the border
para cruzar la línea con gracia,
hay que volar
The most gracey-iest way of all
is to just flutter fly over on golden wings

Number five:
Every year tens of thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate 
from Canada to Mexico,
2,500 miles by golden flutter fly fall mariposa monarca thousands the sky is blue 
the wind is golden
Also part of number five is where these flutterflies arrive:
The mountains of Michoacán
which is where Memo lives
& Memo lives on butterflies
no, Memo does not eat butterflies, cabrones
he’s much too clever for that because

Number six is the road
where everyday Memo drives his van full of tourists
into the mountains of mud and afternoon sun
where tourists shuttersnap and camcord butterflies thick like honey 
in color & consistency

Seven: In order to buy his Van Memo left su marida 
in Michoacán and lived the story 
we should already know 
In three days:
bus from central Mexico 
pickup truck to
Number eight: his entrance to this state
at night hot secret with strangers, desconocido
In Tucson Memo got a job resurfacing freeways

Number nine months Memo resurfaced the 300 miles of Interstate 10 
between Tucson & El Paso
and while butterflies in their paso 
mostly flutter fly over the US and its deserts,
Memo was bound to this ground
Working in a monarch-colored bright orange vest and discovering what 
exactly the American dream feels like under endless Mexican sweat
as the butterflies migrated effortlessly above him
The months passed this way & Memo returned home to his wife,
bought his van to take the tourists to the top of the butterfly mountain 
& earn money for his family

This is Memo’s story
but the tenth thing you need know about Mexico is you & I
are also part of Memo’s story:
the top three moneymakers in the Mexican economy are
Oil, money sent back by immigrants like Memo and tourism

So number eleven is you
who gave Memo the money to buy the van
and you & me who went to see butterflies
golden flutter fly fall Mariposa Monarca thousands--

The twelfth thing? 
I don’t know, maybe you should go
and find out

But the one thing you already do know about Mexico 
is that people live there
people just trying to live
like you,
and if you do not believe we’re all connected, 
you got another thing coming
Golden flutter fly fall Mariposa Monarca thousands 
the sky is blue you are
golden flutter fly fall Mariposa Monarca thousands 
the sky is blue Memo is
golden flutter fly fall Mariposa Monarca thousands 
the sky is azul on both sides we are golden


Lo primero que necesitas saber acerca de México
es que no es una cosa o un lugar
el es un hombre, más que un sustantivo
el nombre de ese hombre es Memo
dos cosas más que tienes que conocer:
la camioneta 83 de Memo y
como es que el vive entre las mariposas

La cuarta es que la manera
que más llena de gracia para cruzar la frontera

una mariposa
una mariposa

no es saltándola
para cruzar la línea con gracia
tienes que volar la manera con
mayor gracia de todas es agitando
alas doradas y volar.

Número cinco:
cada año miles de Mariposas Monarca migran
desde Canadá hasta México,
1,500 millas de aleteo continuo de alas doradas
miles de mariposas, el cielo es azul
el aire dorado también, parte del
número cinco es a donde llegan:
las montañas de Michoacán
donde Memo vive y Memo
vive sobre las mariposas
no, Memo no come mariposas,
cabrones, el es muy astuto para eso

el número seis es el camino
donde todos los días Memo
conduce su van llena de turistas
dentro de las montañas de barro y sol de atardecer
donde los turistas sacan fotos, toman video
de las mariposas como miel en color y consistencia

Siete: Para comprar su Van, Memo dejo a su esposa
en Michoacán y vivió la historia
que nosotros ya deberíamos saber
en tres días: un autobús
desde la central de México
recoger camioneta para:
número ocho: su entrada al estado
la noche calurosa, con extraños,
desconocido en Tucson
Memo consiguió un trabajo reparando autopistas

Número nueve meses que Memo reparó
las 300 millas de carretera interestatal 10
entre Tucson y el Paso y mientras
las mariposas en su paso
siempre volando sobre los EU y sus desiertos,
memo fue llevado a esta tierra
trabajando con un chaleco naranja
monarca y descubriendo
lo que se siente el sueño americano
por debajo de las mariposas, quienes
migran sin problema por encima de él
los meses han pasado y Memo regresa
a su casa con su esposa

compró su van para llevar a los turistas
a la montaña de las mariposas y ganar
dinero para su familia

Esta es la historia de Memo
pero la cosa número diez
que tienes que conocer es que tu y yo
somos también parte de la historia de Memo:

la base de la economía mexicana son:
el petróleo, el dinero enviado a México
por los inmigrantes como Memo y el turismo

Así que el once eres tú
quien le dio a Memo el dinero para comprar su Van
y tú y yo quienes fuimos a ver mariposas
dorados vuelos de mariposas Monarca,
miles de ellas.

¿Número 12?

No lo sé, deberías averiguarlo.
Pero lo que si sabes de México es que la gente
que vive ahí, gente que vive intentando vivir
como tú
como yo
como Memo,

Y si todavía no crees que todos estamos conectados escucha esto
dorados vuelos de mariposas Monarca, miles de ellas
el cielo es azul, tu eres
dorados vuelos de mariposas Monarca, 
miles de ellas
el cielo es azul, Memo es
dorados vuelos de mariposas Monarca, miles de ellas
el cielo es azul y de ambos lados somos dorados

traducción: Guillermo Márquez Guevara

¿Sin Voz?

Ayudame corazón
me dejó la vida
su linea está bien fría
pero todavía quemo
todavía quemo.

It’s not that they’re voiceless
I’m sick of them being called voiceless
It’s that we have no ears with which to hear them,
our ears of engrish & comfort
our faces of clean water
nuestras caras de agua limpia

From the door of the hospital where I was born it is only 25 miles as the 
crow or zipolte flies to the Mexican border
and it’s just a trick of politics & tricky fate
that I speak this spanglish with a gringo accent
instead of speaking engrish with a latin tongue
It’s just a tricky trick of politic 
that racism calls me pinche güero y gringo puñetero
instead of fucking beaner and greasy border jumper wetback
So this could be a poem of differences
about este güero aprendiendo
y el racismo por ambos lados
racism is dichotomies
but this isn’t that poem

Ayudame corazón
me dejé la vida

It’s not that they’re voiceless
It’s that sometimes their voices speak in a way that only eyes can hear
In the Huachuca Mountains that stand 
between my childhood swingset and México
One can go, if so inclined
up the incline of these dusty mountains that stand on the border
and see where the old hiking trails have swelled
under the worn shoe soles of restless souls, poor
They have crossed here in such numbers, through the mountains
because the US has built such walls & barbwire
as to make the flatlands no man’s lands
no woman’s land
no child’s land no more y nada más
These mountains strewn with discarded tin cans & plastic 
every one labeled en español, hechos en México
So this could be a poem about the mountains and their scenic trails 
strewn con la basura sucia, the trash of travelers
but between the suffering scenic views and the suffering of 
estos campesinos,
I know where I stand
So this isn’t that keep-the-dirty-Mexicans-out-of-our-beautiful-mountains 
bullshit poem
Nope, not that poem

me dejó la vida
su linea está bien fría

It’s not that they’re voiceless 
no me digas esa pinche mentira otra vez
It’s that sometimes numbers speak louder than verbs
60% of all 8 million illegal mexican immigrants living in the US crossed 
through Arizona
150 more than dead in 2003
145 dead in 2002
14 dead in a single december day 2003
130 degrees en el suelo del desierto
The average Mexican makes 4,000 dollars a year
How many did you make last year?
So yeah, this could be a poem of numbers
if numbers had faces
but above all this is not a faceless poem
ahorrita no y jamás

And so we wait for a solution
depending on which side you’re waiting
you’re either dying in waiting or just waiting
Immigration accords, 
beauty becoming blurry
the border becoming more blurry still, 
a border population that will double in the next 25 years
we wait
in the meantime
howbout this:

Just notice dark skin, 
even if its not working for you
Learn to speak Spanish, 
cause your grandkids are gonna speak it anyway
Listen with your eyes
Act with your heart
Put faces on numbers
Watch your tongue
and whatever you decide to do, just do not call them voiceless
They speak,
it is our ears that make the choice whether or not 
to hear a single word they say.

Samuel Magee & Rings One Two Three

Every ring of the circus held delights for all of the boys and 
all of the girls, especially this, the Greenboro & Snyder Bazaar. 
When it rolled into town the night before, everyone had stopped 
and stared, this was a real royal event. Every train car held a wonder 
and was topped by long flowing flags, which whipped in the 
foreground to the great plains sunset. It was Greenboro & Snyder, 
here at long last.

Along came the caboose as parents down the line shoved 
hands deep into their pockets, turning up nothing but corduroy 
and empty overall. But the last car gone saw children spin on their 
heels and begin to tug on those same overalls and hems of mothers’ 
dresses, their faces all bunched up in excitement, shrieking and 
dancing in their wanting way. Mother and father exchanged that 
look that said they’d be digging into jars and lifting up mattresses 
at home that night. The children ran on ahead while parents walked 
together, “We’re in the wrong business” they laughed and shook 
their dusty heads.

Back home they had to be stern that night to get the little 
ones into bed. Said things like “I hear the lions only roar for children 
who turn in on time” and so away the children went into dreams of 
clowns and trapeze, though the younger ones had never seen, older 
sisters and brothers told tales just a little tall: the elephants grew, 
the human cannonball shot so high as to never be seen again.


The next morning the school house was a hive of giggles 
and anticipations and “I can’t waits.” All except Samuel Magee. 
Third row second seat, who sat with a particular look, see he wasn’t 
sad, but he didn’t share the buzz. On the steps before the bell rang 
his peers had poked and jeered, wasn’t he excited for the show, wasn’t 
he gonna go? He looked calm and said “No,” because he knew he 
had already seen all the show he was going to see last night by the 
line. While all the other kids just couldn’t wait for the next night, 
little Sam had taken it all in. Arms hanging at his side, eyes wide, 
he remembered the sound and smoke of the engine, the bars on the
cars through which he saw blurred animals and a trunk poking
out here, sticking out there. He saw the painted ads of clowns and
curiosities, it all made Sam giggle.

But when the caboose called out “See y’all at the circus,” 
Sam’s little hands found his pockets. He knew there would be no 
extra nickels or dimes for his parents to find for such a thing.

But even when the school day was over and the show had 
begun, young Sam didn’t lament he was on the wrong side of the 
tent. The things he had seen last night by the tracks had been 
amazing for Sam, and he had seen more than every other kid, 
because for him, the train passed slower. And that was his own free 

Now little Sam couldn’t tell you if you asked him why, but 
I know it has something to do with how much you expect; waiting 
for something else to enjoy as the show passes you by on the tracks. 
Because you see, the little sips are the very best taste of the soup if 
you’re not waiting to gulp