“I Tried To Be A Good Mexican Son” by José Olivarez

I Tried To Be A Good Mexican Son

José Olivarez


i even went to college. but i studied African American Studies which is not

The Law or The Medicine or The Business. my mom still loved me.

so i invented her sadness & asked her to hold it like a bouquet of fake flowers.

she laughed through it all. i didn’t understand. wasn’t immigration a burden?

what about the life you left, i asked my mom. she planted flowers in the backyard.

only house on the block with flowers. foreclosure came like a cold wind.

it took her flowers. but that was a season. new house, bigger garden.

mijo, go get some tomates from the yard is something my mom really says.

i tried to be a good Mexican son. went to a good college & learned depression

isn’t just for white people. i tried to be a good Mexican son, but not that hard.

sometimes, my mom’s texts get dusty before i answer. even worse, i never share

the Jesus Christ memes she sends me on Facebook. if there is a hell,

i’m going express. i hope they have wifi. i hope i remember to share

my mom’s Jesus Christ memes. maybe god believes in second chances.

but i doubt it. i tried to be a good Mexican son. i came home for the holidays

still a disappointment. no million-dollar job or grandkids. Spanish deteriorating.

English getting more vulgar. i tried to be a good Mexican son, but i kept fucking

it up. my mom still loves me, her bad Mexican son, even when i can’t understand

her blessings. she makes me kiss her on the cheek before i leave the house.

she tells me to quiet down when she’s watching her novelas. she asks me

if i’m okay. she tells me i’m getting so skinny & i need to eat more frijoles.

she has the pot ready. i try to be a good Mexican son, but all i know how to do

is sit down for a good second & leave before a bad one.



José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants. A recipient of fellowships from Canto Mundo, Poets House, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, & the Conversation Literary Festival, his work has been published in the BreakBeat Poets, the Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, & Hyperallergic, among other places. His debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal, will be released in September 2018 from Haymarket Books. He lives in Chicago.