The Sunday Poem: Cathy Arellano... West Mesa Women

I’m a resident of Burque’s South Valley. I write about growing up brown, coming out queer, and living as true as I can which is kinda crooked. I write to re-member my family, hand-me-down shared rentals, window glass crumb-filled streets, dive bars, and other ignored people, places, and things. Also, I write to understand this new place that reminds me of home, San Francisco’s Mission District, and makes me feel like an outsider at the same time.

West Mesa Women

west mesa women
no killed
killed and left behind

not forgotten by familias

mothers and daughters
come on TV

we love her
we miss her
we wont forget her
we never forgot her
even when TV ignored our cries
the killer ignored her cries

newspaper columnist
a woman
brownest thing on the masthead
writes how TV reporters
went to families and requested responses
to police officials finding
mother/daughter/sister remains

mothers/daughters/sisters have no comment now
cuz when they asked TV
to broadcast fotos and films of
their mothers/daughters/sisters’ faces

TV asked
Where’s the story?
What’s the angle?

TV said
Television is an expensive media…
The Albuquerque market…

we want to lock up cops who say
You didn’t report her missing
Well, not right away

and they’re right

until she appeared on the cover of The Albuquerque Journal
we wouldn’t have known her
if we had passed her on the street
maybe we did pass her on the street
if we’re honest with ourselves
we can admit
we probably passed her on the street

walked by
walked on by
kept on going

cuz we do that
sometimes we just walk by
we don’t know how to help
don’t know what to say
what to do

or we choose not to
do anything

she’s choosing
she chose
she left her parents’ house
her husband’s home
left her baby girl in front of the TV
left her boy at the sitter’s
and she walked

but why did she walk?

why would we leave
our loving mothers
protective fathers
supportive sisters
understanding brothers
strong men
caring women
innocent babies?

why would we
go out with people
who don’t respect us
why would we take drugs
sell our bodies?

mom turned her eyes
at the same time uncle put his
on my

dad left long ago
and i want to finally find him

the teachers
kept assigning homework
and didn’t read the notes in the margins
help me
i’m scared
i don’t know what to do

the babies wouldn’t stop crying
they just cried all the time
for everything
even when we asked
for them to stop

they didn’t stop until we
placed our hands on their little mouths
little mouths so close to little noses
maybe they stopped cold
left us with nothing but hot fear

but we still couldn’t hear
ourselves think
until we smoked a little
drank a little
just a little
for a little while

maybe we just needed
a time out
that’s when he came
around the corner
with a kind smile
smooth words
cool wheels
slow drive
to the west side

maybe he listened
for one moment
someone listened to me

before he screamed at me
bruised me
broke me
pushed my bones into dirt
drowned my breath
with west side dust

--Cathy Arellano

Poetry submissions are always welcome. Email

Views: 68

Comment by cathyray on September 6, 2009 at 1:48pm
too true
Comment by Laura on September 6, 2009 at 3:26pm
thanks for posting this...
Comment by Margaret Randall on September 6, 2009 at 6:02pm
Cathy, it was great to hear you read this last night, and then to read it again this morning here. It's a wonderful poem, reaching into the places many don't want to look.
Comment by cc on September 6, 2009 at 8:11pm
You told many more sides of the story - thank you. Powerful!
Comment by flankedbyhounds on September 7, 2009 at 1:23am
goosebumps. beautiful.
Comment by Jennifer Concklin on September 7, 2009 at 9:29am
WOW...intense. Thank you.
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on September 10, 2009 at 9:16am
Cathy, Your poem is so good--hits me so deep--moves a coupla cobwebs outta my head . . . and I thank you for speaking up and out for women--I will bring this piece into the classroom. wow Will you send this out to be on other pages so more can see it? Sin Fronteras? the new New Mexico Poetry Review--editor kathleen Johnson?
Comment by C Arellano on September 10, 2009 at 10:27pm
Everyone, thank you for your positive feedback to this poem. Margaret, thanks for being open to it twice in twelve hours. Merimee, I was thinking of sending it out, but I wasn't sure where. If you think New Mexico Poetry Review or Sin Fronteras would be open, I'll try those places. If any of ya'll are interested, I have a blog: I hope we have found the last woman's body.
Comment by Elaine Schwartz on September 17, 2009 at 11:09am

A breathtaking poem!
Elaine Schwartz


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