Mexican Standard About a Desert


I can’t claim cactus
Flowers, eagle-wrecked serpent,
Or any plant that heals.

What goddess of war
Came to me as a boy; dumb,
Summer-sweat wet child?

None. No corn god or
Lake-born warrior, gold dust
Feathered beast claims me.

My world begins all
Dead toenails, and cardboard sleds,
Patas sucias

Coca-cola sweet,
Sunday stewed tripe, red chile,
Fried-egg stink, and her –

Mother deity of want,
Metal plates, steam howl

Smoke-tower silos,
Machine, motor, and all parts
All American

She made me more than
Anything the ground could gift
The desert’s night sky.

Excuse me while I
Weep; mass production always
Makes me die – No. Cry.

Everything I know
About the desert, I know
From bones in the sand.

Yes, the dead women’s
But yes, also my mother’s
Walking on and on

Jesús I. Valles

—3rd Place Winner of the 2019 Emerging Poet Prize—

From guest judge Kim Addonizio: This is an affecting lament —the speaker has no god or goddess except “Maquiladora, Mother deity of want.” Yet the poem grants a kind of sacredness in detailing what the speaker can claim in this difficult world where “Everything I know...I know/From bones in the sand.”   Jesús I. Valles is a queer Mexican immigrant writer-performer from Cd. Juarez, México/El Paso, TX. Jesús is a 2019 Lambda Literary fellow, a 2019 Walter E. Dakin Playwriting fellow at the Sewanee Writers' Conference, a recipient of the 2019 Letras Latinas Scholarship from Community of Writers, 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, and a fellow of the 2018 Poetry Incubator. Their work is published in The Shade Journal, The Texas Review, The New Republic, Palabritas, The Acentos Review, Quarterly West, The Mississippi Review, Tin House, BOAAT, and forthcoming in Winter Tangerine and The Adroit Journal. As a theatremaker, Jesús is the recipient of four B. Iden Payne awards, including Outstanding Original Script and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama for their autobiographical solo show, (Un)Documents.