“Because We Come from Everything: Poetry & Migration” is the first public offering of the newly formed Poetry Coalition—twenty-two organizations dedicated to working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and communities, as well as the important contributions poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.
During the month of March, coalition members CantoMundo and Letras Latinas are partnering to present posts by CM fellows that will include essays, creative non-fiction, micro reviews and dialogues between writers. This year’s theme borrows a line from U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem, “Borderbus.” Please return to this space and enjoy all the pieces in the series, and leave comments to participate in the dialogue.
Barbara Curiel, CantoMundo
Francisco Aragón, Letras Latinas
Micro-review: Manuel Paul López, The Yearning Feed, University of Notre Dame Press, 2013
by Sheryl Luna
Much of Manuel Paul López’s The Yearning Feed (University of Notre Dame Press) is written with sharp colloquial language. Lopez often utilizes slang and Spanish. This is true of the long poem titled “The Xoco Letters” which opens with an angry letter that states:
“OPEN SEASON’ on “ANYONE” coming across the border. …Maybe a few transgressors littering the desert floor with gaping bullet wounds through their heads will force change in your homeland.
The long poem also includes Yelp Reviews about “not spicy chicken caldos for the kiddos” or customers being surprised that “tortas” are actually sandwiches. The restaurant being evaluated is called XOCO.
The many letters in the poem’s sections are written to “Xoco.” Here’s are some examples:
Xoco, I’m obsessed with numbers, statistics, and the diminishing
half-life of each new story that announces another nameless immi-
grant who died crossing the desert.
Since volunteering with the Border Angels, I’ve witnessed two water
tanks slashed. One near Jacumba was contaminated with urine. Who
would do such a thing, Xoco? Xoco, there is only one thing as unfor-
giving, and that is thirst.
Also, a listing of undocumented migrants buried in Holtsville cemetery is presented, along with some compassionate words from some of the Border Angels.
Later he incorporates a passage from The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea,
“Getting bodies,” in Border Patrol lingo, didn’t necessarily mean
collecting corpses. Bodies were living people. “Bodies” was one of
the many names for them. Illegal aliens, dying of thirst more often
than not, are called “wets” by agents.” . . .
"Wets” are also called “tonks,” but the Border Patrol
tries hard to keep that bon mot from civilians. It’s a nasty habit in
the ranks. Only a fellow border cop could appreciate the humor of
calling people a name based on the stark sound of a flashlight break-
ing over a human head.
The lengthy poem is a migration between cultures, between callousness and empathy, between denial and reality.
Sheryl Luna is the author of Pity the Drowned Horses (University of Notre Dame Press), recipient of the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize and Seven (3: A Taos Press), finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Recent work has appeared in Poetry, Saranac Review, Pilgrimage and Taos International Journal of Poetry and Art.