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.