Alejandre Cartagene, “Carpoolers Jam” (2012) at Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda, Santiago, Chile (photo by Elisa Wouk Almino/Hyperallergic)

Lingua Franca

I assure you,
your Honor,
I crossed that border but

once: wet
behind the ears, snuck
in the pseudo

utero of a hollowed
stereo speaker.
In those years,

in that rage,
I learned to be
dispossessed; to dress

in your red,
white & blue.
I understood

to live, to trek
in the shadows
of your steeples,

I was to step
soft as the shorn ewe
does, let

my snout touch
your callused hands
as the razor’s edge

scoured my hide
ad naseum.

a bleating
rings through this
still. Over & over.


Lingua Franca

“You don’t get the right to a hearing”
-Bryan Cox, I.C.E. spokesman, 2017

Your Honor,

the field in the form stands blank
because it’s true:

alien, being of ordinary abilities,

I have no wisdom to peddle,
no arcanum to speak of.

Every day, my Spanish grows grungy, unkempt.

I was a good-for-nothing brat,
anyone would attest to that.

I submit:

In 20 plus years of living here
I never took to pie,

apple or otherwise;

never pocketed a single bill
from any till.

When the towers fell, I saw

the smoke plumes (tall)
from the kitchen window;

the hair on my nape raised.

When dad’s ingrown turned septic,
when ma’s wrist was sprained,

when Lola’s one good eye was cast

to darkness, cash
is how we paid.

Because I know your enterprise is not

to mince words, to gather wool,
can only end in my ejection,

Hermano, here’s what I admit:

Unlike the man who dug JFK’s grave
on his day off

to the tune of $3 an hour,

I will continue to live
nondescript, to love

even in the fellest fault.

I do not consider myself

I do not consider our talk
an honor.

*   *   *

Ricardo Hernandez is the son of Mexican immigrants. A recipient of fellowships from Lambda Literary and Poets House, his work has appeared most recently in The OffingFoundry, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He’s an MFA candidate at Rutgers-Newark.

Wendy Xu is the author of the poetry collections Phrasis (Fence, 2017), winner of the 2016 Ottoline Prize, and You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013). The recipient of a Ruth...

3 replies on “Two Poems by Ricardo Hernandez”

  1. I never feared the police, not even in the tear gas 60s. Another luxury I did not know to count everyday

  2. I like it a lot, so it must be poetry.
    But I’m not sure.
    I guess so.
    Perhaps we don’t
    need Andy’s Campbell’s,
    only the cans,
    or maybe only
    the soup
    I like the soup.
    I like Hernandez.

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