I Was a Good Wife

for helios, not yet a collapsed star

and an even better
wolf, jawed to a thicket of lonely
lungs trees I mean breathing, comet
come to me, come
a lone light, like the fire
that rips the mountainside’s
dress, I was a good
ununderstood, a wrist
of bent light, undressing
alone an even quieter violence. I am
remembering how to want
my life, how to want to come
even closer to the wolf I was
you wanted this to be about borders

it is


Copyright © 2021 by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The ‘good immigrant’ doesn’t just describe the conditional value of a person’s labor to the state, it is also a gendered, intimate role, played out in intimate contexts. The daughters of ‘good immigrants’ are taught to love like good immigrants—to be obedient, deferential, respectable, self-sacrificing, with a high tolerance for disrespect in exchange for a partner, or a country, that does not want you. To be a good immigrant, a good worker, a good student, a good wife is to begin every relationship from a disempowered position, sentenced to cycles of generational trauma through patterns of attraction that mirror immigrant striving: to love someone who cannot love you, to prove one’s worth through labor, to conflate labor with love, and love with safety, to find that even documents of permanence come with no guarantees.”
Vanessa Angélica Villarreal