this is my home

by Vickie Vertiz


I don’t want to start off broken                       But my pencil is running out

That’s okay, we have more lead in the yard  


My home is     I can’t breathe             Surrounded by sound walls    You can’t hear us                    In that quiet, a child finishes their homework, closing a good thing               


She’s done     


The LA River ends in Vernon            After Slauson, the friends of the river run out, too


The death stench in our water             In the jobs       In her long thin nose  

Everywhere a gas leak             


My mother and brother are ten thousand truck miles             Why won’t their coughs go away?    

The Freeway, my lover says   Coffins with windows            


This is my home                    


Pig fat rendered into lipsticks

We’re bottling the left over chitlins and dropping crates on San Marino     


When I took Amá to the garden, we drove past their high hedges    My mother looked out our windshield at their lawns          

They don’t have earthquakes here, huh Chata?

They do           I said               They just don’t have to feel them


This is our home, arsenic fairy           dust on wedding cookies

A student plucks a lead bloom and sharpens in the lungs                  Cancer berry cluster on the vine         It’s no use, this poem


I lost my parents to the pollution                    But no one’s come to clean my yard

You can have our methane clouds      Windshield tacos


The river is a stream here and the freeway’s always running           


We’re planting nopales in the riverbed          We dream        About dabbing lead perfume behind your clean pink ears   Jumping our skateboards off the cement into your white teeth         Jamming ragged molars into your skull


We are death flower orchards, 21 square miles          opening and closing                Miscarriages bubble and thin into glue


I’ve never felt worthless


In my home there are no fields of wild lupine                        The blooms purple with tumor pistils             My other neighbor died from a rot    A molecule punctured his liver,  pulled at the skin with its teeth          


This is my freeway Bougainvillea      This is my palm

This is my jacaranda                           This is my home


We stole the hole thing up      That sushi you’re eating? It’s cueritos from Farmer John’s  

Who are the fools?                  From nopal light         We’re tossing back the blocks           


The students are boiling LA to exterminate your poison                   Even walls       hands              

The start          The mile you had to run

It’s here           A river’s a reverie                  

The you and me                      Then    water

audio recording of the poem


Vickie Vertiz


                                                                contributor 2016 second edition


Vickie Vértiz was born and raised in southeast Los Angeles. Her writing has been featured in The Volta, Huizache, The Offing, and Nepantla. Her first full collection of poetry was a finalist for the Andrés Montoya book prize this year and for the Hillary Gravendyk Prize in 2015. A seven-time VONA participant, Vickie was also the 2015 Lucille Clifton Scholar at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Natalie Diaz selected Vickie’s poetry for the 2016 Summer Residency at the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona. She lives in Los Ángeles.