Poetry

One Poem by José Olivarez

Our poetry editor, Wendy Xu, has selected one poem by José Olivarez for her monthly series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

Abraham Cruzvillegas, “Ichárhuta” (2017),  Mixografia® print on handmade paper and archival pigment print
Edition of 49, 12.75 X 7.5 inches (image courtesy MIXOGRAFIA® and the artist)

 

Mexican American Disambiguation

after Idris Goodwin

my parents are Mexican who are not
to be confused with Mexican-Americans
or Chicanos. i am a Chicano from Chicago
which means i am a Mexican-American
with a fancy college degree & a few tattoos.
my parents are Mexican who are not
to be confused with Mexicans still living
in México. those Mexicans call themselves
Mexicanos. white folks at parties call them
pobrecitos. American colleges call them
international students & diverse. my mom
was white in México & my dad was mestizo
& after they crossed the border they became
diverse. & minorities. & ethnic. & exotic.
but my parents call themselves Mexicanos,
who, again, should not be confused for Mexicanos
living in México. those Mexicanos might call
my family gringos, which is the word my family calls
white folks & white folks call my parents interracial.
colleges say put them on a brochure.
my parents say que significa esa palabra.
i point out that all the men in my family
marry lighter skinned women. that’s the Chicano
in me. which means it’s the fancy college degrees
in me, which is also diverse of me. everything in me
is diverse even when i eat American foods
like hamburgers, which to clarify, are American
when a white person eats them & diverse
when my family eats them. so much of America
can be understood like this. my parents were
undocumented when they came to this country
& by undocumented, i mean sin papeles, &
by sin papeles, i mean royally fucked which
should not be confused with the American Dream
though the two are cousins. colleges are not
looking for undocumented diversity. my dad
became a citizen which should not be confused
with keys to the house. we were safe from
deportation, which should not be confused
with walking the plank. though they’re cousins.
i call that sociology, but that’s just the Chicano
in me who should not be confused with the diversity
in me or the Mexicano in me who is constantly fighting
with the upwardly mobile in me who is good friends
with the Mexican-American in me who the colleges
love, but only on brochures, who the government calls
NON-WHITE, HISPANIC or WHITE, HISPANIC, who
my parents call mijo even when i don’t come home so much.

 

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José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants, the co-author of the book of poems Home Court, and the co-host of the poetry podcast, The Poetry Gods. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the Marketing Manager at Young Chicago Authors. A winner of a 2016 Poets House Emerging Poet Fellowship and a 2015 Bronx Recognizes Its Own award from the Bronx Council on the Arts, his work has been published in the BreakBeat Poets, Vinyl Poetry and Prose, the Chicago Tribune, and Brooklyn Magazine, among other places. He is from Calumet City, IL, and lives in Chicago.

 

Readers are encouraged to submit 3–5 poems as a PDF to Wendy Xu for consideration at [email protected]

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