Sarah A. Chavez – Halfbreed Helene Tries to Write a Letter to Her Future Self

Sarah A. Chavez

Halfbreed Helene Tries to Write a Letter to Her Future Self

Dear To Whom It May Concern,

There’s no telling what the world is like, but 
I assume you are still alive. Do you live 
in an apartment or a house? Are you 
still alone? Your roommate got married
and I assume you are no longer friends. 
Anyone who only gives 2 weeks’ notice 
before splitting to marry some sailor 
who sauntered into the bar ten minutes
before closing is not the kind of person 
who stays in touch. 

Do you have more than one job? I hope not. 

Respectfully you,

Sarah A. Chavez – I Count

Sarah A. Chavez

I Count

the bricks in the path: old
bricks, new bricks, broken
bricks, bricks enrobed 
in moss. 

I count the budding peppers
on the Fresno chile, the purple
sprouts in the potato patch,
the bulbs that have opened
on the star plant, the buds 
holding a tight fist, the petals
which have dried & dropped
from the stem.

I count the barks from the tiny
Shih Tzu next door. I count 
the number of breathes in which
the neighbor yells, Shut up
I count the piles of dirt I dug 
from the earth, the number 
of rocks I pulled out.

I count the mornings I wake
to sunlight and the mornings
I wake to rain. I count the beers
left in the fridge, the boxes
of dinner proteins frozen,
the remaining granola bars
in the big glass jar in the cabinet.
I count the cabinet doors, 
the crumbs on the counter, the
specks of dust floating in 
from the open window. I count
the whole of these to keep 
from counting the days 
since you left.

Juan Luis Guzmán – Blood Meditations V

Juan Luis Guzmán

Blood Meditations V

Excerpts from an essay

I know someday I will feel what my father does. Someday, my body too will become insufficient. Isn’t that the duty of a son? Of a body? Released from the hospital, he is back at his home in Jalisco, which was his father’s home, which will be mine. In the evenings he sits on his mother’s couches, relics that are often renovated to keep them from being discarded. The dining table, her broken chairs, the stove, the dressers, all of them have undergone some sort of repair to keep them alive for another generation. In the closet, I find a stack of records with my father’s name in ink, penned by his own teenage hand. Play that one, he says when I hold up an album with a man holding a sad guitar. The music awash through the house, he sits expressionless. I ask him what he’s thinking about. Nothing, he says.  The man’s falsetto rings through every bloody wound. 

Sarah A. Chavez – Halfbreed Helene Goes to the Beach

Sarah A. Chavez

Halfbreed Helene Goes to the Beach


Her people have a complicated relationship to large bodies of water. 

It’s something the brownest shouldn’t have been forced to travel through
and something the whitest hadn’t seen until the mid-20th century. 

It’s something the middle-class book a Best Western by for their children to visit
on slow summer weekends.

It’s something the working-class leave at 7 a.m. with two coolers of food that need
to last the day, cuz there’s only money enough to buy one soda per person 
and since this will more than likely be the only day in six months or more
the adults get a “vacation,” they stay. The Whole. Day.

Her white mom and fair-skinned sister would burn being anywhere outdoors
all day. Helene has seen the blistering at the lake when the sun shifted through the shade
of the pines. H had forgotten all about that until she’s there almost by accident
at the beach 25 miles down I-5. She’s watching skinny-ribbed, shirtless children
get stopped by their red-haired, sun-bonneted mother, long legs sprouting
from the petals of a white bathing suit cover.

H came alone, almost as if the water were calling. She’d picked up a coffee
and four cookies from the vegan panadería, and then just kept driving.
She forgets how she’s supposed to feel once in the face of the water. Forgets
to think on anything other than the bipolar lapping of the tide. Aggressive
and loud, pounding the rock edges, then gently and quiet, licking folks’ toes.

You’re a fickle beast, H says out loud to the water, knowing anything she says will
be swallowed immediately. The water takes what’s their’s. That much is clear.


When Helene looks at the water, she realizes that it 
is all water. Not as in separate from sand and rocks 
and crabs, but all water is water. 

Not this water is connected to other bodies of water,
but this water is that water, that water is this water.
The water in the Sound, the water in Bass Lake,

The water in the Ohio River, the water from her 
bathroom faucet, spurting uncontrollably from a fire
hydrant. It is all water. And when she whispers

See you later, to the water at the beach, she means
that she will return to the beach, but also that she and
the water will revisit one another at the fountain

in the square, in the kitchen tap, in the sweat
that beads on her brow as she walks back to her car.


If all water is water, Helene thinks, what else
is whole and omnipotent? Is grass grass? Ants
ants? Is abuelita abuelita abuelita? Certainly
the sky is sky. That one is clear and has always
been clear. Clear as the crystalline of the clouds
which are clouds, everywhere clouds.

Juan Luis Guzmán – Blood Meditations IV

Juan Luis Guzmán

Blood Meditations IV

Excerpts from an essay

We call convents and seminaries across Guadalajara and neighboring cities hoping to find a donor. We know, even if we find someone willing to give, there is still a possibility that the hospital will turn them away. I find a slip of paper in my mother’s belongings with contact information for a local fire and police department, on the back she’s written, ten misericordia de nosotros. Lord, have mercy on us. The hospital broadcasts a channel to televisions in the city asking for donors to help patients in the most urgent need. My mother knows this would humiliate my dad, who has always been too proud to ask for help. I give permission to the hospital and they broadcast his name and blood type to countless viewers. They add the information to their Facebook page and some of his friends call to tell us they’ve seen the messages. They want to know how he’s doing. None of them offer to give him blood. Publicizing his case and need on TV and social media yields nothing. 

Blood is big business, especially along our southern border. Every month, Spanish-language flyers make their way to Mexican border towns advertising cash for plasma transactions. They are bright and packed with images that are easy to understand: a stack of cash, a clock, a smiley face wearing sunglasses. At the center of the ad a dollar figure and below that information about receiving bonuses for multiple donations and for recruiting others to donate. It’s possible to make upwards of $400 a month this way, incentive enough for many poor Mexicans to cross the border on temporary visas sometimes twice a week. The United States is one of the only countries that allows high frequency donations of plasma, and that enables pharmaceutical companies in the US and around the world to profit from the blood of Mexicans.  At one particular blood plasma center located in El Paso, 90% of people who donate come from the Mexican border town of Cuidad Juárez to do it.

The town in Jalisco where my parents are originally from is over an hour away from the hospital. I ask my mother to make a list of people we know there, family or friends who would fit the description of a healthy candidate. While she works on the list, I pull up account information on the Citibank app in my phone and wonder about a fair price to place on platelets. You got to give some to get some.