LUPE MENDEZ.August 2018


Photo by Jeff Sirkin



Immigration officers call

off a massive hunt, state

there are too many

hurricanes in the areas

they want to pick apart.

We go right back to work,

in Houston, ask families

what they need after a storm.

One lady sits on a chair

outside her place, dips

a piece of mold in her black

coffee. She hands us bricks,

wet ones, says to take them

to help build that new wall,

said they won’t even stop

all the rain drops from

crossing over in the night.

A little girl, traces a water

line in crayon in one room,

hasta aquí llegó on tippy toes.

Another man, hands us

his dripping eviction

notice, his face is soggy

with fright. He tell us

the cops will be here

soon to kick people into

the water logged street.

He asks us to find the word

mercy in the dictionary,

and rip the damn thing out.


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*** ** ***



I see you,            in between the blurs of sous chefs,

in bits of ladles                that stick out of soups,


don’t let your sleeves get caught                              in chicken

stock flows around                       stove tops                or the prep cooks,

skimming around that metal table, brilliant.

You should hustle here              a few days more,                        nights

stay with you,                                with the hot rags                 in water,

waves of dishes steaming,                your fingers stinging

from cold and hot                                and flushed and chilled red

steaks, raw

under the blade,                                                             white tendons

nerve out on tan boards.                           We all               get past

the fumbling flops of food           on floor.            You can pinch

black headed strawberries,

sink chocolate warheads,

settle them on mirrors,                eat each shard, you can

take one.            See?

We always take two.

Go ahead,

learn to make extra,


eat a brown pepper steak,

in butter rolls.                   It’s the best meal                         in eight hours

standing,                   planning your escape,


green lettuce into sheets,                        count the clock ticks,

multiply that

by the four dollars,              twenty-five cents,                we make.

Go crazy broke.

When you cut yourself, flesh,                   in the palm,

that becomes

the only long break,

rummage around the back,

ask everyone you haven’t met                              for the first aid kit.

Go again,

in between short order cook arms                      in sauces and pesto

coated vegetables.

Don’t touch the radio.

It’s one hour Tejano,

one hour Norteño,

two hours Magic 102 Jams.

That’s the secret to peace.

You still bleeding a bit?

Get yourself an old rag,

a black rag,

let go of the knife,

let’s dip your hand                      in the ice machine,

stain the ice melts,

eat that with me,

the taste, copper,

pennies,                      the nickels,

the dimes,

they pay us to work

until the lights go out.


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*** ** ***



I cannot help you.          When you cry,

you hide, inside a cave,         under the dark,

a rock, mushroom,        you can’t even speak,

won’t budge,             won’t share grief,

someone told you that a woman     that cries,

is weak or that          emotion is, a hot blanket

that makes everyone         uncomfortable and

I know, at night,             when we sleep, I

jerk and moan, you       wince, and I haven’t

even touched you, it is     all the corked up tears,

your eye ducts have            recorded all the falls,

a quiet birthday party            every year and

only five people show up.        I won’t let you in,

its my own fucking house,       I am Ponce de Leon,

and I claim you, my island,         in the name of grieve.

Punch you, you big red balloon       I think

flinch will make you shudder.         One day all that energy

will flow right out of you,          wildly, will pop. A molotov

brakes against some wall,       up in my insides. I want

you to stop running away         from you, end up in a circle,

out of breath, lost, so          just sit with me, let me touch

those nerves, untangle                the veins coiled around your heart,

the damn things ache so much.       I can see it in your silence,

you sit there, doing nothing,       You wear sulk until it stinks.

I do not think I can help.             You don’t recognize this, deal in violence.

Gestures, plates broken on       walls, a punch at the ribs,

a pot of scalding water           across my arms, a hand between

the frame and its door,       a frozen beer hurts only a few

minutes , throb, hurts,              cracks in a skull. I know these things,

it is the home of impatience        you live in. I bounce around

on the inside, grow thick skin,        can see fists

fling at me, a whirl of grand mal        seizure strikes

at my back, a trail of belt buckles       latches on to my lips,

and I bleed. I know when hate           decides where he stands,

leans, in the door. Drunk. Lost         in a moment. Get lost with me,

just like that. Make it intimate.       Throw a few things,

join this ruckus, the one time,          I am used to. Let your body

flex a few screams, don’t worry,           take the hits.

At least I know you, at the end of it all.         You will sleep.


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*** ** ***



a fist no

bullets out

the pop of skin

the twist of wrist

where scars pox out

coals rubbed together

where the air runs to hide

first seconds of fresh wound

el significado de un trancazo

gutting a confetti of fish scales

tocando Dos Monedas, siempre

the rash that spiders into bleed

reaching out in a pitch so black

gripping collected corn stocks

looking for change in pockets

metal across jawbones biting

bricks against me, against me

combs of warm water in hair

bandages holding paychecks

shovels up in the wet ground

translators when tongue slurs

a shave with a sizzling knife

abriendo ataud sin pesame

age measured in caguamas

red slices to a calf’s throat

the nails that scratch white

dotted knuckles magnetic

cold bones on card tables

blisters wrapped in mint

a heart that waits to beat

a shake in the forearms

glass shards in tendons

boxing practice lessons

seconds jabbing reflex

boiled water thrown

thunder up on body

hacksaw for limbs

weighted fingers

axes split roots

the snap of ribs

a flung machete

palms cup clap

tenderness waiting

prayer holding night


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*** ** ***



Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?

 are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?

 we hav        all the      people from                    countries come

 all the      people                                                    come here

 we hav        a                                          shithole                                   here

 we hav              the                                 shithole                                   here

Why          we having        the                                 shithole                                   here?

 we                 all              people from shithole countries               here

 we                 all the       people from shithole                                   here

 shit                                 come here

 shithole                        come here

Why                                                                             shithole      u                          here?


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“LupeLupe Mendez
is a Poet/ Educator/ Activist, CantoMundo, Macondo & Emerging Poet Incubator Fellow, and co-founder of the Librotraficante Caravan. He works with Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say to promote poetry events, advocate for literacy/literature and organize creative writing workshops that are open to the public. He is the founder of Tintero Projects and works with emerging Latinx writers and other writers of color within the Texas Gulf Coast Region, with Houston as its hub. His publishing credits include prose work in Latino Rebels, Houston Free Press, the Kenyon Review, and Norton’s Sudden Fiction Latino: Short Short Stories from the United States and Latin America; and poetry that appears in Huizache, Luna Luna, Pilgramage, Border Senses, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Glass Poetry Journal, and Gulf Coast. His first collection of poetry, Why I Am Like Tequila, is forthcoming from Willow Books.


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August 2018.LUPE MENDEZ