As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Jessica Helen Lopez – Poetry/Spoken Word

A Familiar Word

I do. I do love my
family, my daughter of onyx,
husband cut from natural light,
my slim brothers like twin fists
who were my first children,
and then the mother

martyr my misty-eyed
foe and friend

and you father

suspended like a lie
an accoutrement to the pithy life
that bore my name

I admire the cruelty, the salt
lick you taught to me, the slap
happy of your tongue

so giving your insults
your five year silences
your glittering anger
but never your absence

I do. I do love
the choke box, the five
foot chain that splintered
my neck, my wrist, my
shattered ankle that I chewed
through to the glistening bone

to escape
as a wild animal
who keens for its freedom must

that rusted room of yours
with no door
no chink of light to meditate upon

I do. I do
know how
to love this lie
that tastes of truth
and salt

that tastes of a familiar word
on the tip
of my blunt shaped

*     *     *

Watch Jessica perform Always Messing With Them Boys 

Always Messing With Them Boys

The night permeates like a blood orchid
bursting with the smell of wet caliches
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 blacktop 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

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 all 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 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 and as
the blood 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
Like Mama’s laundry
like clean white linen,

like the idea of love

*this poem was republished with permission from West End Press. 

*      *    *

Jessica Helen Lopez head shotJessica Helen Lopez is a nationally recognized award-winning poetry slam champion, and holds the title of 2012 Women of the World (WOW) City of ABQ Champion. She’s also a member of the Macondo Foundation. Founded by Sandra Cisneros, it is an association of socially engaged writers united to advance creativity, foster generosity, and honor community. Her first collection of poetry, Always Messing With Them Boys (West End Press, 2011) made the Southwest Book of the Year reading list and was also awarded the Zia Book Award presented by NM Women Press. She is the founder of La Palabra – The Word is a Woman collective created for and by female writers and artisans. Please visit the website http://lapalabra.abqnorthwest/.  Lopez is also a 2012 Ted Talk speaker and her talk, “Spoken Word Poetry that Tells HERstory” can be found at

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