Poems by Rosa Alcalá

by / Mar. 8, 2017 12am EST

 Thursday, March 9 
 Readings by Rosa Alcalá, Mike Kelleher, and Noah Falck 

 7:30pm / Just Buffalo Literary Center / 468 Washington St, 2nd floor
 716-832-5400 / 

On Thursday, March 9, Just Buffalo Literary Center presents readings by three poets. Two, Noah Falck and Mike Kelleher, are closely tied to Just Buffalo: Falck is currently the center’s education director, and Kelleher was longtime artistic director before leaving to run Yale University’s Windham-Chapman Literature Prizes. Both have had poems featured recently in The Public.

Poet Rosa Alcalá teaches at the University of Texas at El Paso (she earned her PhD at the University at Buffalo); her collection Undocumentaries was published in 2010, and a new collection, My(Other) Tongue, comes out this year. The selections below come from the new collection.


English is dirty. Polyamorous. English

wants me. English rides with girls 

and with boys. English keeps an open 

tab and never sleeps

alone. English is a smooth talker

who makes me say please. It’s a bit of role-playing 

and I like a good tease. We have a safe word

I keep forgetting. English likes 

pet names. English

has a little secret, a past, 

another family. English is going to leave them 

for me. I’ve made English a set

of keys. English brings me flowers 

stolen from a grave.

English texts me, slips in 

as emojis, attaches selfies

NSFW. English has rules 

but accepts dates last minute. English makes

booty-calls. English makes me want it. 

When I was younger, my parents said

keep that English out of our

house. If you leave with that miserable

don’t come back. I said god willing 

in the language of the Inquisition. I climbed out 

my window, but always got 

caught. English had a hooptie 

that was the joint. Now my mother goes gaga 

over our cute babies. Together 

English and I wrote my father’s 

obituary. How many times 

have I said it’s over, and English just laughs

and says, c’mon, señorita, let’s go for 

Chinese. We always end up

in a fancy hotel where we give 

fake names, and as I lay my head 

to hear my lover breathe,

I dream of Sam Patch plunging

into water: a poem

English gave me 

that had been given

to another.

—Rosa Alcalá,

(From M(y)Other Tongue, forthcoming Futurepoem Books, 2017. First appeared as part of the Poetry Society of America’s Red, White, & Blue: Poets on Politics series, 2012.)

At Hobby Lobby

She tosses a bolt of fabric into the air. Hill country, prairie, a horse trots there. I say three yards, and her eyes say more: What you need is guidance, a hand that can zip scissor through cloth. You need a picture of what you’ve lost.  To double the width against the window for the gathering. Consider where you sit in the morning (transparency’s appealing, except it blinds us before day’s begun). How I long to captain that table, to repeat in a beautiful accent a customer’s request. My mother cut threads from buttons with her teeth, inquiring with a finger in the band if it dug into the waist.  Or kneeled against her client and pulled a hem down to a calf to cool a husband’s collar. I can see this in my sleep, among notions. My bed was inches from the sewing machine, a dress on the chair weeping its luminescent frays.  Sleep was the sound of insinuation, a zigzag to keep holes receptive. Or awakened by a backstitch balling under the foot. A needle cracking? Blood on a white suit? When my baby’s asleep I write to no one and cannot expect a response. The fit’s poor, always. No one wears it out the door. But fashions continue to fly out of magazines like girls out of windows.  Sure, they are my sisters.  Their machines, my own. The office from which I wave to them in their descent has uneven curtains, made with my own pink and fragile hands.  

—Rosa Alcalá

(From M(y)Other Tongue, forthcoming Futurepoem Books, 2017. First appeared on the Academy of American Poets website (, 2012.)