The Sunday Poem: Jessica Helen Lopez... Always Messing with them Boys

Jessica Helen Lopez speaks with more passion than just about anybody I know.  This is the title poem from her new book which is just out from West End Press.  She is reading this morning at Church of Beethoven, and has several readings locally in the near future.  They include  a May 29th reading at Acequia Booksellers and the Off the Page and On a Tangent Book Tour with Zachary Kluckman and Katrina K. Guarascio. 



Always Messing with them Boys

The night permeates like a blood orchid
bursting with the smell of wet caliche
through my open bedroom window.

One lamp is lit, the color of dusk.
Curled like a fist around my cigarette,
I am stuck in the knuckle of my thoughts.

Late nights like this urge me to push out a poem.
A fat candle burns at three wicks,
the scent of midnight pomegranates.
It is anything but red in here.

In my cotton panties,
I sit and sweat into the pillow,
hair wet down my backbone,
slick as a knife.

Motionless, still I do not
pick up my pen instead, I pinch
out the memory of one afternoon
I kicked ball with the boys,
before the blood came.

My scissor legs were
ashy as the rest,
my scabs half‐eaten.

Our eager yells bounced
from the black‐top into
the sun-baked air and the trees
splintered the sunlight like long fingers
against my sweaty forehead.

Inside the darkness of our house,
my father sits, a television blinks
like a blue Cyclops and pours
static into his ear.

He is a chunk of meat
frozen to his chair and
Mama is somewhere else

I kicked that ball all day
long as if it were the last
time I would ever kick a ball,
arms cinnamon‐dark,
body fast, stealth
like a wet seal slipping in
and around the grasp of
all them boys.

And when the sun boiled
its last cough over our neighborhood
the street lamps burst like marigolds
brilliant bright light
against a grey canopy

Daddy hollered at me,
Come in, stop messing
With them boys
and the screen door
slammed behind me like
a swat across my bottom.

Before the blood came
and there were pomegranates
in my dreams, a purple fist‐
shaped bruise beneath my left eye,
a bowl full of stars, a gift
from Daddy as I slept
in my bed.

Mama offered up her finest
eye shadow so both sides of
my face would match,

Ain’t you pretty, Mama said
Ain’t you?

But, no I never wrote that.
Some poems are best left
To rattle inside the head

Like the time she burst
from me as a seed does
With a pair of wilted
flowers for hands
I held her, an empty
husk pressed against
the sterile hospital sheets.

Her eyes stretched
from temple to temple and as
the blood still ran down my thighs
in shooting star color
I wondered if all mothers
are meant to be martyrs

Like when I broke all
the glassware in the house,
bits of porcelain clung to
his hair like snow.
The night I ran her Daddy off,
I swear to you, all those razor
blades winked at me from the
lopsided face of my medicine cabinet.

Always messing with them boys,
pushing the tongue against the teeth

running fingers across a three‐wick flame,
always never writing down my poetry

Like this one
still clinging
to the inside of my head,
like clean white linen,
Mama’s laundry
and the idea of love


--Jessica Helen Lopez



Poetry submissions are encouraged.  Email

Views: 479

Comment by AriesSweet on May 15, 2011 at 9:49am

I love this poem!

Jessica, I am a very big fan of yours.  I saw you perform this at last year and as always it was an outstanding performance!

Comment by Adelita on May 15, 2011 at 10:39am
Buy her book for more of her amazing words!
Comment by Margaret Randall on May 15, 2011 at 11:32am
Great poem, Jessica! Can't wait to read your book. It's amazing to be in Tunisia and read these powerful words, in a place in such revolutionary transition.
Comment by john franklin crawford on May 15, 2011 at 2:58pm
A real blowout performance by Jessica and friends last night. If you have difficulty locating Jessica's book, contact West End Press.
Comment by Dee Cohen on May 16, 2011 at 6:13am
Very intense & moving. Thanks for sharing it. Dee
Comment by Amanda Sutton on May 16, 2011 at 9:54am

The words on the page say enough, but when Jessica performs, they become even more poignant.


Comment by Merimee Moffitt on May 20, 2011 at 6:52pm
I love "the sun boiled its last cough" and "pomegranates in my dreams" and the marigolds and your bold courage to tell a little story and then another inside another--the stacking dolls of womanhood.  You are a star, shine on mijita, shine . . . and enjoy.  I love the play of light and distance and space in this one--yr good, Jess--jes keep on keepin on--
Comment by cc on May 21, 2011 at 5:19pm
Glad to read and glad to imagine you reading this. Thank you for interpreting your past in a touching way - honoring it, too - so we can reflect on yours, on others, on our own.


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