Back to Issue Thirty-One

Mexican Standard About a Birthplace


Fabric scraps flailing
From her fingers, bloodied fruits,
The mesquite cries,

“¡Ay, mis hijas! ¡Ay
De mi, Llorona!” She
Begs our ghost mother

And nothing listens.
A few miles away, they find
A man’s head, far from

His body. Elsewhere,
Reporters lose their heads, too.
The headline is red

Hot, reads: Drug Gang Hangs
Beheaded Man From Over-
Pass. Another headline.

The weeping sand tires
Of being called a tomb, flower
Bed for girl flesh. Then!

Near pink paint chipping
Off rows of wooden crosses,
Ocotillo blooms

A crimson dazzle,
And all our dead sing, “I’m next!
¡Yo! ¡Sigo yo!” It’s

Summer and femurs
Murmur, “Aquí. Aquí. Here
I am, sun-bleached clean,

Watered, and buried.”
Ready to bloom into girl,
Bone hopes itself seed.



Mexican Standard About a River


First, I emerged rapt
In Rio Bravo, rush-wept
In my mother’s womb.

She, thick-ankled, swole
Fury, cursed the man’s weak wrists.
“¡Pinche coyote!”

The inner tube flipped
In the cold, two-named
Rio Grande; fool’s baptism.

I wed the water
As my mother sank in. I,
Inside her currents,

Did nothing to help.
Tradition. She saved herself,
Cleared across the muck,

Climbed up to meet border
And ran, laughing the length
Of their shitty line.

Later, I emerged
Blue, choked by visceral rope,
The line that fed me.

But I lived, grew.
Met my aqueous groom
Inner-tubed, often

Wet, back and forth. I,
A river’s bride at five years-
Old flipped, too. Like ‘ma

Did. Sank, Nearly drowned.
Then, emerged wrapped in her arms.
How many times are

We born? Somewhere near,
La Llorona is laughing
At me – a fat joke:

I’m a Mexican
Con llantas that cannot float.
Pinche coyote.




Jesús I. Valles is a queer Mexican immigrant, educator, storyteller, and performer based in Austin, Texas, originally from Cd. Juarez, México. Jesús is a 2019 Lambda Literary fellow, a 2019 Walter E. Dakin Playwriting Fellow of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, a recipient of the 2019 Letras Latinas Scholarship from the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, a poetry fellow at Idyllwild Arts Writers Week, and a recipient of a 2019 Fine Arts Work Center scholarship. Jesús is also a 2018 Undocupoets Fellow, a 2018 Tin House Scholar, a fellow of The 2018 Poetry Incubator, and the runner-up in the 2017 Button Poetry Chapbook Contest. Their work has been published in The Shade Journal, The Texas Review, The New Republic, Palabritas, The Acentos Review, Quarterly West, and The Mississippi Review. Jesús currently teaches social and emotional learning to high school students, focusing on those recently arrived to the U.S.

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