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Emmy Pérez

Emmy Pérez is a graduate of the University of Southern California and Columbia University. She is the author of With the River on Our Face (University of Arizona Press, 2016) and Solstice (Swan Scythe Press, 2019). A collection of her new and selected poems is forthcoming from TCU Press. She is a recipient of poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, CantoMundo, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She has also received the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award, the Modesta Avila Award, and the James D. Phelan Award. A member of the Macondo Writers Workshop for socially engaged writers, Pérez co-founded the Poets Against Walls collective in 2017. She is Professor of Creative Writing and Associate Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. In 2019, she was named the poet laureate of Texas.

Read about Emmy Pérez’s 2020 Poets Laureate Fellowship project.

By This Poet


[No strawberry moon]

No strawberry moon for me, tonight. No strawberry moon. This small house creaks when I walk and open it. I have to weigh it, to goddess or not tonight. Goddess or godless. God is in my sleeping children’s presence tonight. I use words like god when I haven’t seen the strawberry moon, less when I haven’t been so generous. It’s not about gender—ess or less—but heft of the weight. Inside me like a baby. When people procreate. Romance a dashing thing. The harvest upon us. Will we feast or collapse in exhaustion tonight which is every?

excerpt from "Río Grande~Bravo"

We cannot tattoo roses
On the wall
Can’t tattoo Gloria Anzaldúa’s roses
On the wall
Roses grow in the earth of white-winged doves
The doves coo all day with roosters at Valle de la Paz
Cemetery, the panteón in Hargill near La Sal del Rey
Where deer snort warnings
From the monte, warn visitors
Because the freshwater puddles near the saline lake are shared
And deer prints outnumber all others, wedge prints fill with salt
And when the sun beats down on the washed-up body of a crystallized frog
I remember Prietita having to kill and bury her fawn
Before the game warden arrives and incarcerates her papi

And I remember a gardener tending flowers
Was thrown by a car carelessly backing up fast
In a McAllen strip mall parking lot. The gardener
Forced a dizzy smile, spoke only Spanish when he finally stood up.
He didn’t want to call attention to his presence
On this earth,
This strip mall earth. And so the driver zoomed off.

And I remember the parakeets eating bottlebrush seeds in spring
Their anxious huddling in fall on urban electric wires
I remember buying cascarones on a spring corner
After my own accidents
I remember Brownsville’s red-faced parrots
The ancient tortoise at Laguna Atascosa
Hundred-year-old sabal palms uprooted for the wall’s concrete footing
I remember the confluence of river and Gulf at Boca Chica
And the fisherwomen, men, and children across
At Playa Bagdad, Matamoros

I remember wanting to plant and water roses
como las palabras de Gloria, como la gente
Del valle, como mexicanos in the borderlands



And when I wake up in the morning feeling love
And when I wake up in the morning with love
And when I wake up in the morning and feel love
And when I wake up in the morning already loving
How the body works to help us feel it


It could be the jaguarundi’s
Blood on my face