poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Luis J. Rodríguez



Piece by piece
They tear at you:
Peeling away layers of being,
Lying about who you are,
Speaking for your dreams.
In the squalor of their eyes
You are an outlaw.
Dressing you in a jacket of lies
—tailor made in steel—
You fit their perfect picture.
Take it off!
Make your own mantle.
Question the interrogators.
Eyeball the death in their gaze.
Say you won’t succumb.
Say you won’t believe them
When they rename you.
Say you won't accept their codes,
Their colors, their putrid morals.
Here you have a way.
Here you can sing victory.
Here you are not a conquered race
Perpetual victim
—the sullen face in a thunderstorm.
Hands/minds, they are carving out
A sanctuary. Use these weapons
Against them. Use your given gifts
—they are not stone.


Luis J. Rodríguez is the author of fifteen books in poetry, children's literature, fiction, and non-fiction. He is cofounder of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural and Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles, and founder/editor of Tia Chucha Press. Rodríguez is best known for his memoir, Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. His latest book is the sequel, entitled It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster).


Published in Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 2012.