How Can You Live
We will sing about the dark times, about school. About how La Llorona
needs a vacation from that fucking riverbed. Trenches filled across without paper.
And what’s fucked is how.
How worn—Che on a shirt and Frida is a handbag. What concerns me
is being disposable.
What concerns me are posters of our colleagues missing girls.
On every lamppost, the buildings are not in heaven, they dream
about us. Dream in a time of war. It is always a time of war and what concerns me
is the basilica, and nobody cared.
How can you live? Citizen and for what.
If we are breath then bring what is matter.
What concerns me are babies who lap
milk exhale burning hair and skin.
What worries me is that our rights are porous
and study and read and find what.
Poverty, that’s what. Who said? We have when. We have order.
We have a No. We burn it down. Do you see? There is no paper.
No document can hide the dusk of a grave.
Graduates are pebbles skipping down that fucking riverbed within.
I do not claim the empty notebooks. I am state-protected, that handshake
that moves up the arm and begins to feel like kidnapping.
Mourning defenestration hearts, what we want, we already have: an email, a
loan, a beam. Before and beyond the colony, was
a kiss, chocolate, dancing in a disco. Who can take away what I’ve already danced.
How can we be left behind
when we are what they want to be?
The shine of black leather boots. The sky that great safety—and not guilt—injures
What injuries does education breathe?
And in the middle of a punctured lung, where
Copyright © 2014 Vickie Vértiz. “How Can You Live,” was published in Mexico City by an anarchist press and reprinted online at Entropy.
Vickie Vértiz, a poet and essayist, has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books, KCET Departures, and in the anthologies: Open the Door (McSweeney’s and the Poetry Foundation), and Orangelandia (Inlandia Press). She’s been a creative writing teacher to adults and young people at 826 Valencia, the Center Theatre Group, the Claremont Colleges, and at UC Riverside. Her poems were finalists for the Gabriela Mistral Poetry Prize from the Cobalt Review in 2014. She is at work on a memoir about her educations currently titled: Smart: Growing up Gifted and Brown in Southeast Los Angeles.
Curator’s Notes: Vickie Vertiz is a dynamite poet witness bringing us to our feet and knocking our knees out with an incredible passion for what is what. Her poem “How Can You Live” is a remarkably adept indictment, rocking off intentional challenges while delivering a solid poetic. This poem is dead on. The last couplet deadly, brilliant—.