Poetry: ‘Qualifying Animacy’

This work from poet Crystal AC Salas delves into the grief of structural and systemic violence.

andres guardado
Guardado family

After seeing my community’s grief in the summer of 2020 as a result of structural and systemic violence, I noticed that storytelling for the bereaved often involves trying to rationalize the injustice and pain of loss. “Qualifying Animacy” shows how language not only fails but also betrays us when trying to convey what someone meant to us.•

after reading reporting on the murder of Andres Guardado

They killed another young man yesterday
this time at his job.

When asked for comment, the police said:

no uniform  no one saw it

When asked for comment, his tío promised:

I never saw him sad or angry.

When I saw the news, my first
rage and spit:

He was a teen. He was a student.

and look at how I qualified
his breath with a résumé.

I thought of you
and what mothers
must collect as proof
of the light that once warmed
the body outside of their own:

birth times  brown eyes

el mundo detras de pestañas largas

dodgers hats faded blue  hair slicked

in tres flores and mother’s spit  second grade

pictures tucked along the edges of the bedroom mirror

that you used to fall asleep on the sofa

a near-grown man dreaming in soft mijo peace

and someone still awake in the house draped you

in tigre cobija as you drifted

that it crowned dandelion

when you laughed.

This poem appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Alta Journal.

Crystal AC Salas’s Grief Logic is a cowinner of the inaugural Alta California Chapbook Prize and is available in a bilingual edition from Gunpowder Press.
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