I Am Merely Posing for a Photograph

By Juan Felipe Herrera Juan Felipe Herrera
I am merely posing for a photograph.
Remember, when the Nomenclature
stops you, tell them that—“Sirs, he was posing
for my camera, that is all.” . . . yes, that may just work.

My eyes:
clear, hazel like my father’s, gaze across the sea, my hands at my side, my   
legs spread apart in the wet sands, my pants crumpled, torn, withered, my   
shirt in rags, see-through in places, no buttons, what a luxury, buttons, I   
laugh a little, my tongue slips and licks itself, almost, I laugh, licks itself   
from side to side, the corners of my mouth, if only I could talk like I used   
to, giggle under moonlight, to myself, my arms destitute, shrunken, I   
hadn’t noticed, after so many years sifting through rubble stars, rubble toys,   
rubble crosses, after so many decades beseeching rubble breasts—pretend I   
came to swim, I am here by accident,

like you.

My face to one side.
Listen to gray-white bells of rubble, the list
goes on—the bones, hearts, puffed intestines,
stoned genitalia, teeth, again I forget how
to piece all this together, scraps, so many scraps,
lines and holes.

The white gray rubble light blinds me,
wait, I just thought—what if this is not visible,
what if all this is not visible.

Listen here, closely:
I am speaking of the amber thighs
still spilling nectar on the dust fleece across Gaza,
the mountains, the spliced wombs across Israel, Syria.

The amber serums cut across all boundaries,
they smell incense, bread, honey—the color
of my mother’s hands, her flesh, the shrapnel is the same color
the propellers churn.

“I Am Merely Posing for a Photograph” from Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems by Juan Felipe Herrera. Copyright © 2008 Juan Felipe Herrera. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press. This material is protected from unauthorized downloading and distribution.

Source: Half of the World in Light (The University of Arizona Press, 2008)

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Poet Juan Felipe Herrera

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Relationships, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

 Juan  Felipe Herrera

Biography

The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera was educated at UCLA and Stanford University, and received his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His numerous poetry collections include 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007, Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008), and Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream (1999). In addition to publishing more than a dozen collections . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Relationships, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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