1. Home
  2. Poems & Poets
  3. Browse Poems
  4. Punk Half Panther by Juan Felipe Herrera
Punk Half Panther

Related Poem Content Details

to the whistle of night bats—
oye como va,
in the engines, in the Chevys
& armed Impalas, the Toyota gangsta’
monsters, surf of new world colony definitions
& quasars & culture prostars going blam

    over the Mpire, the once-Mpire, carcass
neural desies for the Nothing. i amble
outside the Goddess mountain. Cut across
the San Joaquín Valley, Santiago de Cuba,
Thailand & Yevtushenko’s stations;
hunched humans snap off cotton heads
gone awry & twist
nuclear vine legs.

Jut out to sea, once again—this slip
sidewalk of impossible migrations. Poesy mad
& Chicano-style undone wild.

Rumble boy. Rumble girl.
In wonder & amazement. On the loose.
Cruisin’ shark-colored maze of presidential bombast, death
enshrined archipelago fashion malls, neutered wars
across the globe come barreling down
on my Neo-American uzi mutations, my uppgraded
2Pac thresholds. My indigo streets, i say

with disgust & erotic spit, Amerikaner frontier consciousness
gone up long ago. Meet my barriohood, meet me
with the froth i pick up everyday & everyday
i wipe away with ablution & apologia & a smirk, then
a smile on my Cholo-Millennium liberation jacket.

No motha’, no fatha’,
no sista’, no brotha’.
Just us in the genetic ticktock
culture chain, this adinfinitum, clueless Americana
grid of inverted serapes, hallucinations of a nation,
streets in racist Terminator

Get loose
after the day-glo artery of a fix.
Power outages propel us into cosmos definition,
another forty-million-New-Dollar-Plantation Basilica,
or is it tender chaos?

My upside-down
Kahlúa gallon oración drool
blackish metal flake desires, the ooze of Dulcinea—
Tepeyac stripper, honey
from Tara’s open green fans. Tara?

Tara, where are you?
Tara of the blessings & weapons against illusion.
Against administrator pig,
against molester snake,
against rooster corporate lust. Remember me?
i am the black-red blood spark worker,
Juana Buffalo’s illegitimate flight usher,
back up from Inframundo.

Quick ooze again,
this formless city space
i live in—
my circular false malaria.

Fungi Town says everything’s awright
without your Holy Wheel,
your flaming tree wombs, this sista’ bundle
i ache for, the one i lost

in a fast brawl for redemption
at the gates of this Creation Mulatto Hotel,
this body passage, this wonder
    fire from the chest.

i stand alone on Mass Man Boulevard.
Look east, look south. Bleary sirens
come howling with vats of genocide &
grey prison gang buses jam
with my true brotha’ wetbacks.

Pick another bale of tropical grape,
another bushel of pesticide & plutonium artichoke.
Cancer tomatoes the biggest in the world.
Bastard word, bracero produce, alien culture—

           power & slime.
Crawl up my back, heavy
loaded on cheap narratives,
Salinas doubles, Atlantis sketched on Gorbachev’s forehead:
you, yes, you, gator-mouthed agent—like gila progeny.
Let’s hustle. Let’s trade.
It is 1:27 A.M. in da rat Arctic.
What do i trade passion for?

Language escapes me. Passion is smoke.
i dissolve.

It is in my nature to disappear. No sista’, no brotha’.
No motha’, no soul. This shred iciness is all,
a crazy register that destroys itself into Polaroid,
into a glacial sheet of multicolored border walls.

Let’s foam & spin flamey
bluish tears for the Thing-Against-Itself, soul-less soul,
this film word surface. Sing out, baby.
Wobble & bop to town.

Drag yo’ hands
across my fine-tuned work train named Desastre
en route to Freetown—engineered African shaman houses
smell of licorice, Ebola & famine blood, of hair torn,
of death owls & cancerous alcoholic livers, of babies sucking
this deep night to come,

then—a busted chink of afternoon copper light wakes us,
yo’ sista’ rolls in with a bag of lemons for Evil Eye,
for the seven-inch ache in her abdomen.
Keep me in stride. You.

i am talking to you, fool. Don’t
just sit there stretchin’ yo’ face.

Tell me why fire yearns for the heart.
Write it down. Say it. Fool. Speak the names.

Conjure the recitations from the coffee cup,
the steel-toe, border-crosser boots.

The grass rips up the morning snow lights, jagged & yellowish.
My AIDS face is hidden. Your rot, my epistemology.

i stand in pure light, a blaze of eyes & arms,
volcanic & solar, autistic, anti-written,
burned by mad friars & clerics, uptown
octopi readers, my long hair falls as reddish honey,
on a naked supple back,
   on breasts small & secretive.

Mystery evades me. Shadows crumble.
Without attention i locate the love void & yet,
i know all is well. My blood rocks to a bolero
out of rhythm, a firefly’s bolero that is,
the one in the dog eye. Hear me
warm up to the multi-night. Scribble poems &
    shout rebuke for the sake of scarred angels,
for Tara, who guides me
in her emeraldine, sequined night of lies.
Hear me now,

kin to the half-collie language that i keep & walk.
Kin now, to the leaves that plunge to the floors;
swivel whiteness without axis, tectonic blasts
without mercy. Straitjackets float on the river infinity.

Pink-skinned fishes stare back
as they evolve into my shape, my babble stream
magnetic juan-foolery. Arm wrestle me
on the soccer lawn, kick me in the balls.
The murder music is for everyone.

   The Last Mayan Acid rock band
   plays Berlin’s latest score:

dead trade market systems for the dead proletariats,
rip up from Bangkok to Tenejapa. Everyone is
meaningful & vomits, everyone deposits
a stench pail, into the Cube—

without the fissure of intimate thighs. Cross over into fire,
hunger & spirit. i write on my hand:
the road cuts into a star. Go, now, go, fool.
In your lyric wetback saxophone, the one yo’ mama left you,
the Thing-Against-Itself strapped across your hips.

Do not expect me
to name—this Thing-Against-Itself. Play it. Screw it.
Howl up to the Void, the great emptiness,
the original form.

Night Journal:
Keep on rockin’, blues fish, the gauze of hte day into night. Out there
somewhere, Dis-America, pick up a chrome bone, the shards of the last

Presidential extravaganza. You, of course, fool.


Swivel into the clear. Float over the greenish migrant barracks pocked with wire
torsos, toes wiggle & predict our forthcoming delirium—there is a velvet panther
shouting out OM in funk, there is a tawny word in the middle of the city
thoroughfare, a planetary semi of lives slices the wet animal in half. i am that
punk half panther. My fierce skull & mandible, formidable, my pelt is exact as
witch quartz, a slashed leg tumbles down the highway, battered by every dirty,
steel wheel. Face up to the sky, you, i said, to the brilliant gossip from the
Goddess parade. Outside, outside.


Crawl up, baby, come on, keep on floatin’—
sliding’, always: for black journeys, always in holiness.

                            From Border-Crosser With a Lamborghini Dream, 1999.  

Juan Felipe Herrera, “Punk Half Panther” from 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007. Copyright © 2007 by Juan Felipe Herrera. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books.
Source: 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 (City Lights Books, 2007)
Punk Half Panther

Related Poem Content Details

Other Information