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José Olivarez

José Olivarez is the author of Citizen Illegal (Haymarket Books, 2018). He is the marketing manager at Young Chicago Authors and lives in Chicago.

By This Poet

2

I Walk Into Every Room and Yell Where the Mexicans At

i know we exist because of what we make. my dad works at a steel mill. he worked at a steel mill my whole life. at the party, the liberal white woman tells me she voted for hillary & wishes bernie won the nomination. i stare in the mirror if i get too lonely. thirsty to see myself i once walked into the lake until i almost drowned. the white woman at the party who might be liberal but might have voted for trump smiles when she tells me how lucky i am. how many automotive components do you think my dad has made. you might drive a car that goes and stops because of something my dad makes. when i watch the news i hear my name, but never see my face. every other commercial is for taco bell. all my people fold into a $2 crunchwrap supreme. the white woman means lucky to be here and not mexico. my dad sings por tu maldito amor & i’m sure he sings to america. y yo caí en tu trampa ilusionado. the white woman at the party who may or may not have voted for trump tells me she doesn't meet too many mexicans in this part of new york city. my mouth makes an oh, but i don't make a sound. a waiter pushes his brown self through the kitchen door carrying hors d’oeuvres. a song escapes through the swinging door. selena sings pero ay como me duele & the good white woman waits for me to thank her.  

now i’m bologna

my parents were born from a car. they climbed out
& kissed the car on its cheek. my grandmother.
to be a first generation person. 23 and Me reports
i am descendant of pistons & drive trains. 33%
irrigation tools. you are what you do. my first job
was in a lunch meat factory. now i’m bologna.
it’s not so bad being a person. the front seat of a car
is more comfortable than the trunk. when they were babies
my parents dreamt of being Lamborghinis. not
people. you are what your children grow up to do.
if i put my parents' names on papers, what happens?
the answer is no comment. the answer is quién sabe.
the answer is yo no sé, pero no es abogado.
people are overrated. give me avocados.