Present tense

Thank you Label Me Latina/o for publishing my poem (below) in the spring 2015 issue.

I actually wrote this poem many years ago but recently dusted it off and sent it out into the world. I also wrote an essay about Elenita, which maybe I will post sometime soon. It covers what this poem covers, along with more about why I remembered her so well, why she pierced my memory long after I left Mexico.

I hope this version at least tells you a story, which is what my favorite poems do. 


Present Tense

My student, Elenita, won't learn past tense.
She winds her lipsticked mouth
around words, chews the verb ends 
into peppermint gum.
She shakes off the “ed” as easily 

as she tosses her auburn hair.

For her it's a tense of failure:
tried, wanted, wasn't.
I frown and shake my head;

she shrugs with eyelash flutter.

She slinks 
into my English 
language class 
in tight shirts,
hips snug in jeans, 
hair pressed straight, in place. 

She slides into Fernando's crook of arm
and giggles into his eyes.

She is present and perfect 
this Torreón spring
as she saunters from class
with Fernando clutching 

her books.

She leans into the flap 
of his black shirt

and they disappear 
into yellow desert sky.

Tonight I will read her essay,
the small, still words a sigh
of ink—

nothing to shove the crook
of Fernando’s arm open

like the latch on a gate 
giving way.



Please note: This poem first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Label Me Latina/o