Mexican American Sonnet
with gratitude to Wanda Coleman & Terrance Hayes
We have the same ankles, hips, nipples, knees—
our bodies bore the forks/tenedors
we use to eat. What do we eat? Darkness
from cathedral floors,
the heart’s woe in abundance. Please let us
go through the world touching what we want,
knock things over. Slap & kick & punch
until we get something right. ¿Verdad?
Isn’t it true, my father always asks.
Your father is the ghost of mine & vice
versa. & when did our pasts
stop recognizing themselves? It was always like
us to first person: yo. To disrupt a hurricane’s
path with our own inwardness.
C’mon huracán, you watery migraine,
prove us wrong for once. This sadness
lasts/esta tristeza perdura. Say it both ways
so language doesn’t bite back, but stays.
Copyright © 2019 by Iliana Rocha. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
“This poem would not be possible without the legacy of Wanda Coleman and Terrance Hayes, and I wanted to utilize the American Sonnet form in order to resist anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant rhetoric dangerously espoused by the current administration. In Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa argues that the ultimate rebellion of Chicanas is through sexuality, so it was important to include specific references to the body and to sexual freedom. American Sonnets have lovely sound and rhythms, and I depended on the switching between languages and rhyme in order to create an irregular kind of music. Ultimately, for the speaker, it is her own internalized self-hatred that does the most damage, and this is the great irony—while individuals with racist and discriminatory views are erroneous in their worry about the negative effects of immigrants on the external world, it is her internal world that is under duress. I have dedicated this poem to mi prima, Kristen.”