Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Two Poems on Border Identity

Reading Time: 2 minutesReflections on life at the U.S.-Mexico crossroads by two California poets.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

jondoeforty1/Flickr CC by 2.0

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This article is adapted from AQ’s special issue on the U.S.-Mexico relationship. To receive AQ at home, subscribe here.


I recognize the signs
                                  of heartbreak
I recognize them
                                  in me
in the ball of twine
                                  four inches in diameter
someone has made
                                  to kill memory
I recognize the signs
                                  now repeatedly
of ancestral sadness
                                  sewn into skin
in ambition to feel
                                  free of sin
I recognize the signs
                                  of worlds imposed
I know I belong
                                  to none of them

Abel Salas publishes and edits Brooklyn & Boyle, an art, literature and community journal based in historic Boyle Heights, on L.A.’s Eastside. A poet and journalist, he also cofounded Corazón del Pueblo, a Los Angeles community cultural arts center and collective.


Don’t Hold Back

My mother is 21,
conjuring María Félix, smolder
kohl eye.

She is the sound of freeways at rush hour
crashing hips. Hourglassed—an ache.

She wears a beehive of unanswered questions:
Curios, feathers, silences, heart songs, grafted tongue.
Tangerine mouth, pouting
lips. She is engaged to Rubén González.
She is cleaning houses.
She is walking home
late with the moon.

Don’t hold back
She says when she braids my hair
When she rolls tortillas
I roll them into shapes of California.
Her tortillas are as round as records.
When she sings Juan Gabriel
She gives me words to make my dance spiral.
When she chooses me to flip the tortilla and not my sister

Don’t hold back
She wants to call her mother
through invisible telephone wire.

Her lifeline,
a record melted in the sun.
She only knows.

She unravels a thread, motions:
It is good luck when the tortilla bubbles

Originally published in Huizache #6

Melissa Lozano is an MFA candidate at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She has studied under and performed with Elia Arce in We Carry a Home With Us and The Fruitvale Project.



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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
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