Saturday, January 13, 2018

Poetry By Marisol Cortez

Marisol Cortez is a creative writer, community-based scholar, and cultural arts worker based in San Antonio, Texas. Her current projects-in-progress include The Bird Church, a poetry collection, and a novel entitled Luz at Midnight. Her creative work is forthcoming inCagibi and Metafore Magazine, and has appeared in Orion Magazine, Voices de la Luna, and La Voz de Esperanza. Her scholarly writing has appeared in Cultural Logic/Works and Days, Local Environment, Green Letters, as well as other journals and anthologies. For more information on previous publications and current projects, visit her website at


I'm feeling around in
the dark for you.
Sometimes I bump into you there.
Other times I fumble.
Sometimes I sense
your presence
but it's like you block me,
my hand or simply
the question of my presence,
not wanting to be found
or seen. Sometimes

I see you so clearly
it is blinding,
my indrawn breath
like a knife at my throat

Sometimes I see you
so clearly except
you are on
an exhibit behind glass
for me to admire
but never touch—

like when you say
you're a feminist
a race traitor

like when you say
there is a fire of joy
simmering within you

because I know that you are
because I know that it's true:

beautiful and unholdable,
a liminal corona
of flame.

Marisol Cortez


In Kansas
on the bottle of pills
prescribed to quiet
the anxiety of dislocation,
the exile of despair,
an error committed somewhere
in the telechain between
doctor and pharmacy

means my ethnic name appears
misspelled, two of its letters
inverted. I am embarrassed
to look at it, it reminds me
that no one here
knows how to pronounce
my name and that
I don't correct them
as I never have or else
have hidden behind
an Anglicized form
to make it easier,
more polite

so that they are not talking really to me
so that their address somehow skids past
my skin, an arrow
missing its mark

I write this thinking about how
I don't have to spell out
my name for the woman
behind the desk in San Antonio—
tho she doesn't know who I am
from Adam, neither
am I a stranger,
a foreigner in the mouth
of the place where I grew up.


It is so strange, the kind of love
that sees and touches
the pain in them but
whose own pain is
touched by no one:

if Wenders had not made his film
about the ironies
of immortality
(and so, I guess
of mortality)

about angels who
like filmmakers
see all
with love's wide eye
yet cannot be part
of what they see

whose seeing
is the condition for
a vast and supreme
loneliness, solitude
of the space between stars,
the loneliness that must be
omniscience, knowing all
yet being unknowable,
one's name unspeakable,
unpronounceable by those
who long for something
without knowing
what it is they long for—

angels whose infinite
love impels
an absolute exclusion,
held apart from the
possibility of response by virtue
of the force of their desire,
by the force of their gaze
pushed backward from its object
like Benjamin's angel of history
blown by the storms of progress—

had Wenders not made it
it would have to be
made, I
would have to make it

because this week
I wake up hollow
I wake up with the words
from Under the Bridge
in my head, I wake up
empty and heavy
both, unable
to shake off deep silence

of no one here who
can say my name right
of letters in the box with name
misspelled or no letters,
of no one here who

no one here

I force myself up,
I listen to the song
and I cry
and I go
to work and
I meet
my students
who trust me
who don't know
who I can't tell
who must not know that
when I wake up I cry
and when I come home I cry
and with a massive supreme
force of will, I do the preparation
necessary to project
the calm self-confidence
expected of an instructor,
to construct an image that conceals
the labor of its production,
to make image and reality seem
seamless, seemly

One wants to start up a non-profit
to mentor kids through sports,
a smart young black man both
upright and serious, diamond
studs in his ears, football player,
identical twin

I offer letters of rec and his
reserve drops, see him

One was absent last week
from migraines and panic
brought on by paralysis over
life decisions pending.
I know paralysis intimately
and tell her so, and
I tell her what works for me
(what I must struggle to do, inadequately
so that I survive my despair,
is what she must not know)
and I see the relief on her face
to hear she is not alone,
that she is understood

One has not turned in work
because she found out on Facebook
that her boyfriend of two-and-a-half years
has been seeing her best friend of
fifteen. I appreciate her trust and
I tell her so. the pain of love
I also know
more intimately than I can say.
In class she seldom speaks.
In my office she perches
on seat's edge in shorts,
face chiseled, legs translucent white
and faintly veined, sharp shins
tapering to sandaled feet I am
alarmed to look down and see
are the frigid blue purple
of the circulation problems
I remember from when
I did not eat, when
I wanted not thinness
but annihilation, a physical shape
that could name the experience
of having one's desire returned
give form to the desire to
destroy all desire as futile

Looking down from above
my wish is to jump
swiftly silently
to the death
of a holy knowledge of suffering
at the expense of response

to the death of the deathlessness
that holds me separate
that makes of my love
the hands of a ghost
an occult breeze
that lifts the curtains
seemingly from nowhere,
the presence of an absence


to the birth of an utterance
with enough force to break the air
of an uncertain speaking
self that appears
to someone who longs
to see me
as I have longed
to be seen

Looking down from above
my wish is to shed
wings of desire
for mortal clothes
of real touching:

if I could do it

it would have been worth it


I run and run and run. There are hoops and I jump, again and again, not even noticing that they get smaller and higher as I go. I'm so driven I don't even think about where I'm going or where I'll end up.

By the skin of my teeth I just barely make it, sliding beneath a door that closes from above, like Indiana Jones. I look behind me and see the door sealed shut—or is it? I'm afraid to try it, after what it has cost me to get here.

So I lie where I've landed and think of you telling me about waking up one morning when I was not there, hearing a bird sing outside your window. Not remembering its name but imagining you did, telling me its name, and me impressed. As I would be if you had known. As I am that you have imagined all this.

I look around. The land is strange here, its hills lunar in their austerity and dusted with snow. A robot landscape, a land of automata.

I walk around looking at things in the greywhite stillness.

I see a shallow pond pooled in a valley, where someone has constructed a floating garden out of chicken wire enclosing a fill of empty plastic bottles. I walk over to inspect, standing on the lip of a cement drainage culvert, drawn in by bright foliage that looks like red leaf lettuce, its unpotted root ball embedded in a network of plastic. Growing in a lake like Xochimilco.

I look around to see who has done this, but there is no one. I mean to take a picture, but the next day it is gone.

I see a framed picture on the wall of a building, two excerpted pages from a graphic novel or comic book. The artist is good—almost professional, but not quite. A shakiness in the lines reveals the studied attention, the not quite effortlessness of someone young or unaccustomed. But the story arrests me.

The story is about imagining Superman flying over Kansas fields after 9/11. Superman is someone else's story, about a dream of flight or escape. A story about flight that is rooted in place, paradoxically.

I look around to see who has done this, but the story is the only trace.  


it was a dream where s was with me. she was silent, she sat close by. a double, a sister. a dimension of self that protects. she was there when i was sitting in a chair before your desk as you worked, your attention elsewhere, anywhere else. me trying so hard not to disturb, reading words on a page with eyes cast down. not talking even tho i wanted to. because i knew you didn't want it. trying so hard to please. thinking as i always have that if only i was small enough. to fit through the cracks of fear or indifference, the seismic faults shaken open in fragile ground. tiny enough, like the way i would slink inside the building to your office, hoping no one's eyes would snag on my back, wondering who and what. later s and i drove together in a truck, me in the driver's seat, she beside. still a silent presence, a season before men, a stillness within me making sure i know that i am free. to speak. that i am equal: to be spoken to, to be deserving of response.

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