Mexican American Sonnet Standing in the Center of Houston & Looking South

with gratitude to Wanda Coleman & Terrance Hayes  


But there was always a Mexican American hysteria,

xxxxxxlike an old myth, the sadness in suspension:

tzompantli       museo de momias—

my father’s hysteria, the Gulf of Mexico churning,

xxxxxxwidening; my mother’s, a ball of feathers

in her waistband          who’s the father? The disobedient

stars short-circuiting, wounds opening up electric

with blood       my grandmother ignites into a Highway 59

pileup, a womb evacuates—

xxxxxxmy father’s cadence, stresses on all the wrong

syllables, panting along with the border dogs, urine,

sour like memory, avifauna, Huitzilopochtli,

overgrown hummingbird, tell me, who are we at war

                                                                      with now?



Iliana Rocha is the 2019 winner of the Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book of Poetry for her newest collection, The Many Deaths of Inocencio Rodriguez, forthcoming from Tupelo Press. Karankawa, her debut, won the 2014 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). The recipient of a 2019 MacDowell Colony fellowship, she has had work featured in the Best New Poets 2014anthology, as well as The Nation, Virginia Quarterly Review, Latin American Literature Today, RHINO, Blackbird, and West Branch, among others, and she serves as contributing editor for Waxwing Literary Journal. She earned her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and is Graduate Director of Creative Writing at the University of Central Oklahoma and lives with her three chihuahuas Nilla, Beans, and Migo.