Half-Mexican

Odd to be half-Mexican, let me put it this way
I am Mexican + Mexican, then there’s the other half
To say Mexican without the half, well it means another thing
One could say only Mexican
Then think of pyramids — obsidian flaw, flame etchings, goddesses with
With flayed visages claw feet & skulls as belts — these are not Mexican
They are existences, that is to say
Slavery, sinew, hearts shredded sacrifices for the continuum,
Quarks & galaxies, the cosmic milk that flows into trees
Then darkness
What is the other — yes
It is Mexican too, yet it is formless, it is speckled with particles
European pieces? To say colony or power is incorrect
Better to think of Kant in his tiny room
Shuffling in his black socks seeking out the notion of time
Or Einstein re-working the erroneous equation
Concerning the way light bends — all this has to do with
The half, the half-thing when you are a half being

Time

Light

How they stalk you & how you beseech them
All this becomes your lifelong project, that is
You are Mexican. One half Mexican the other half
Mexican, then the half against itself.

— Juan Felipe Herrera

The son of Mexican migrant workers, United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera grew up in the agricultural areas of the San Joaquin and Salinas Valleys. As a young man, he became involved street and spoken-word performances as part of the Civil Rights movement. After graduating from high school in San Diego, he earned a B.A. in Social Anthropology from UCLA, a Masters in Social Anthropology from Stanford, and an MFA from the University of Iowa. He is a Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at UC-Riverside and CSU-Fresno.

[Research note: Juan Felipe Herrera, “Half-Mexican,” Notes on the Assemblage (San Francisco: City Lights Book, 2015), pp. 87]

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