by 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.

This poem appears in our 25th Anniversary Issue