Sarah A. Chavez – Halfbreed Helene Contemplates Protest Capitalism

Sarah A. Chavez

Halfbreed Helene Contemplates Protest Capitalism

Waiting in line at Safeway, Helene scrolls 
the pics on Wildfang’s Instagram 
admiring the straight-cut collared shirts. 

She pauses on one embossed with protest
buttons: “Cuz Liberty Was A Lady Too,” 
“Honk for Choice,” and “I Believe You.” 

But do they? H thinks. Always there seems 
in the commercial air to be a twinge 
of uncontextualized doubt that there could be 

so many unwanted hands touching hair and grabbing 
ass in public. Why, by these accounts it would seem 
to never abate . . . H considers the $52 commitment 

to wearing her over-taxed anger like a commodified 
protest trend. So many tshirts now and buttons and signs
in the living room windows of her white neighbors. 

Of course, she should be happy about this. They are
trying (visibly). They are doing all but raising 
a closed white power fist in the direction 

of their black and brown neighbors. See
their tshirts and bumper stickers and lawn signs 
are saying, I’m not one of those. I gave 

a donation to __________ . And yes, their money
is helpful, and yes, their inclusively aware 
interjections in white spaces are helpful, and yes,

not all do ___________, . . . but H finds 
their fragile, self-focused fear exhausting. 
Their neon insistence on Twitter creates a nagging 

irritation in her chest, like the feeling of catching 
a gnat in the eye. You can see around it, but such 
distracting irritation! If it stays in, everything goes red. 

Folks say not to touch it, it’ll just make it worse, but all 
you want is to stab a stubby finger in to dig it out. 
This is the thing she has the most trouble with—

Almost never can she leave well-enough alone.
Helene always—eventually—makes things worse.
And to what end? her mother asks. What do you 

care? Yes. And there it is, the reminder
of halfness. Her inability to be wholly any/one
thing: not white enough to not be affected, not

brown enough for the most extreme violences.
She sighs into the small bright screen in her hand,
glare from the neons overhead. Glare in her eyes.

That’s when H notices, behind her in line, 
a tired-eyed, slope-shouldered Latina, with two 
small children. Papi, no. Don’t touch that. Put it 

back, the woman keeps saying to the small 
caramel-eyed, curly-haired human knocking candy 
bars and gum packs onto the floor. H looks up from

her phone at the baby in the cart and the baby
looks right back at her with clear, focused eyes.
It feels as if the child is seeing into her mixed-

blood soul, can sense her feral insecurity, her
confused anger and intrinsically knows, even 
at such a short stage of development, its eventual

anger, its sense of self as oppressed or oppressor
will be more whole than she could ever be. 

Juan Luis Guzmán – Blood Meditations III

Juan Luis Guzmán

Blood Meditations III

Excerpts from an essay

When I’m alone, I open Tinder and swipe through profiles of men to distract myself. I am a good son. I have conversations, flirt, send pics from the bathroom of the hospital. I am a good, good son. I match with a twenty-eight-year-old resident, Dr. Mario, and make plans to meet him at the hotel like a good son.

The room is a double, the only one available. It’s is on the base floor of one of the hotel towers and the wall-to-wall glass door faces the swimming pool where two older couples lounge and drink. I shut the blackout curtains. Too dark. Instead, I close the sheer shade to give us a little privacy and wait. Less than a mile away, my dad remains in critical condition. 

This essay begins with a photograph: my father holding me as a boy. He does not know the eye of the lens is on him. He stares into my face, smiling. I finally see what I look like in another man’s arms. Not visible in the photograph: the blood that will eventually fail him. This essay begins in a voting booth. Blinded by a procedure on his eyes, my father receives special permission for me to enter and mark his ballot for him. This is the year that Proposition 8, a measure that would ban same-sex marriage in California, is on the ballot. He asks me to vote yes, tells me he is against gay marriage. I do as he asks, filling in the circle until it resembles a dark drop of blood. This essay begins the first time someone asks me are you a boy or a girl? This essay begins again every time someone shouts maricón! from an open window. 

When I open the door to Dr. Mario, he is much taller than I expected him to be.

Sarah A. Chavez – Halfbreed Helene’s Greatest Blaspheme

Sarah A. Chavez

Halfbreed Helene’s Greatest Blaspheme

Halfbreed Helene knows that she has a mother and a father and a sister,
but sometimes, 
                                        (most times),
                                                       she feels as if she sprang pre-pubescent 
from the dry knot of a drought-parched poplar: always thirsty, unsure
of which direction she should lean. She hears her peers thank their abuelas
for strength, thank their mamis for cooking, thank their fathers for bread on the table. 

There was no bread, no table. Her home had roof yes, had walls thin as promises,
fragile as the leaves stitched together with toothpicks she and her hermana (who hasn’t
called her back for two years) used to make. Sun-kissed and cross-legged in the grass,
constructing casitas for their barbies in a corner of the crab grass yard. The wind
that was brief and infrequent howled through and Barbie’s exposure seemed insurmountable. 

Without my ancestors, I would be nothing, H hears others say. Without my ancestors, I guess
I wouldn’t be breathing, she thinks. That much is true (and True), though the little breath
she has gets knocked out and used up in ways she doesn’t understand. Obviously, she isn’t alone.
Not truly. And she knows she appears ungrateful when a thank you doesn’t drop from her lips
when something good happens. No thank god or goddess or ancestor spirits. No thank amiga 

or comunidad. She just nods. Recognition that a thing she worked hard for has manifested.
Most times it doesn’t. So in those glowing moments in which decorum requires gratitude, her
mind is too busy trying to understand what aligned this time to make the something good
happen, how can she replicate it so people stop pretending like it was a lucky gift
or something stolen. 

Juan Luis Guzmán – Blood Meditations II

Juan Luis Guzmán

Blood Meditations II

Excerpts from an essay

I read through an informational pamphlet when they tell us my dad needs a blood platelet transfusion before he can be released: candidates must be healthy, candidates must never have been pregnant, candidates must not be men who have sex with other men. All of the women I’m with are mothers. They turn to me. 

Your body has betrayed you. Your body, infection’s vessel. Your body, a tangled question. My body from your body from a bloodied body. My body, a vessel of infection. My body speaks in questions. I am tangled in infection’s vessel. My body has betrayed you. 

A platelet is a tiny, colorless cell fragment found in our blood. It’s made within the marrow of the bone. As a boy, I remember my father sucking marrow from bones at the dinner table. Thrombocytopenia is the name of the condition that’s given when a body has a severely low count of blood platelets. Juan Luis is the name my father gives me at birth. Without platelets in the body, blood does not clot. A wound can bleed and bleed and bleed. I am the knife that cuts my father. 

In a private room at the hospital’s blood bank, I answer the questionnaire honestly, afraid that a lie could further complicate my dad’s condition. It’s been a year since my last blood test. I ask if they can try my blood first, if there’s any way they can take it and test it, and I’m denied. No. They say no. You are not a candidate. You are not a donor. Back in the room with my family, I make up a lie about why I was disqualified as a donor. My sister covers for me. We don’t know anyone in Guadalajara. His platelet count continues to drop. Every sigh is a blood moon.

Sarah A. Chavez – Four Hours After You Died

Sarah A. Chavez

Four Hours After You Died

I dyed my hair purple. 
I would have done it
anyway, but maybe
less methodical, with
music and dancing under
the line of bare bulbs
in the bathroom of this
house you didn’t get 
the chance to step in. 

I dyed my hair purple,
our shared favorite color.
Each rinsed strand glints
violet after drying.
You’d think it was too dark.
I think it looks lonely—

I look for purple 
nail polish, pulling out
cheek brushes never used
and cotton swabs and combs
from the cabinet under
the sink. I find it, swipe 
hastily at fingers and toes (I’ve
never been good at 

That looks unfinished too,
So I find purple socks
with skull heads on the ankles.
Then a purple blouse 
you gave me from your
vieja closet, when all
the clothes you loved
started to hang loose
from the bones of your
shoulders. The print,
palm-sized plum flowers 
with gold trim and pollen 
centers. Something is

incomplete still. I dig out
mauve pants. A lavender
jacket. I’m so cold it’s 
as if I were naked. I
crawl into the linen closet
for that lilac embroidered
blanket from the flea market,
find it and wrap myself
as if that could melt 
the winter in my bones, 
like the color might absorb me, 
like if I cover my face, the 
whole of me will 
become an organic purple
phosphorescent beacon
glowing glowing glowing
so bright my violet-shaded
cocoon might be visible 
from space (from heaven?)
and you’d be able to see 
clear the warm sadness 
your leaving left.