The daily nickel marked me.
I’d take it from my pinned coin purse
to pay for the pint of Quality Check milk.
I carried a brown bag, tattered from use
and freckled by oil spot stains.
They had full trays and lunch cards.
My solitary bag stood tall – it’s mouth open.
Their flesh-toned trays lined tabletops.
My spicy tacos permeated the air.
Unwrapping the reused Reynolds Wrap,
I’d look down and wish I were white.
Wish I had bologna on Wonder bread.
Wish I could forsake the taste of chorizo –
but I was hungry. I’d hear the kids whisper,
Spick. I’d think pinche gringos, like
Papi when he was mad at the world.
The room’s ordinary walls resembled
the English my tongue would learn to flap.
Back then I longed for rolled Rs and spoken
syllables accented and topped by tildes.
But in the school cafeteria only wows and
way cools echoed. My chorizo tacos and chocolate
milk learned to speak for themselves.
– Vera Gómez
Published in The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume I: South Carolina, Texas Review Press (2007)
The Barbie Trilogy
In plastic pose with toes en pointe
her golden locks flow. Her eyes,
heavily-lined, have the drugged
gaze of the dazed, the look
of looking through you.
Her waist, strapped to the back
of the box, slips as twisties come
loose. She falls to freedom as her skirt
reveals thigh and her pillbox
purse hits ground.
A seven-year old hand saves her.
The girl squirms, wrestles with plastic.
The beauty queen, with bemused wave
and forced hips, jerks left then right.
Barbie begins the parade – a silent prize.
She used to savor food.
Favor its taste and texture.
Long for its sensuous aromas –
sweet basil, bitter cocoa, salty olives.
The acidic juices lay
in her now. Ulcers wait
to sour because she’s learned
to be hungry. To like that
slight edge of a gnaw.
Her sunken stomach,
the mastered effect of
holding her breath,
causes her protruding hipbones
to hang like trophies.
She gallops boutique to boutique.
Pretends to be Naomi, Linda,
then Kate as she hangs high couture –
BCBG, Prada and La Croix –
on her zero frame.
She feels the silk slip on,
the chill against her skin
like liquid nitrogen smooth and cold.
The fabrics hang on her, barely
hide the disparity of her ribs.
– Vera Gómez
Published in Quintet, Ninety-Six Press, Furman University (2003)
Donde la tierra besa la agua estoy esperando con brazos abiertos.
At the border, I can see into Matamoros
and feel the heat of the sun pierce the soles
of my sandals as I step across the bridge.
As children, we pretended sleep on the floor
of the Fairlane’s backseat. Mom and Pop dealt
with the border police, showing them our papers.
We stayed with Tio Mario and Tia Irma.
The concrete slab house they lived in painted
a festive pink, while ours, in Texas, looked boring.
Each morning Nellie and me were sent
to buy tortillas. She sneaked us Pepsi’s
with the spare change and told me not to tell.
Summers were magical then. A kid in a strange
country, the place I knew I came from but didn’t belong.
At my father’s wake my Mama’s neighbor,
Don Julio, played El Himno Nacional on his accordion.
Mexico’s national anthem set to polka and conjunto.
We placed my father’s homeland flag in the casket.
Folded and tucked beside his shoulder.
He was a U.S. resident, proud of freedom.
When I grabbed a handful of dirt to toss
into his grave, as it was lowered into the ground,
I knew what Papi meant by “Patria.”
It’s that place were dirt ends and the land
welcomes you with open arms.
– Vera Gómez
Published in Barrio Voices by Vera Gómez, Stepping Stone Press, University of South Carolina (2008)
There is a kink in this need to build a fence.
A nail in the finality of names like: Mick, Wop,
Black, Spick. Something harsh, like when we pretend
these people’s backs did not build America.
You can pull back the layers of one lone onion
plucked from the ground by the tired hands
of a mojado, but the smell
reminds us of his sweat-drenched shirt
and from where each of us come.
– Vera Gómez
Published in Quorum Independent Investigative Journalism (March 31, 2017)
At the farmer’s market I hold one
To my nose and smell the earth
At sixteen, my sisters and I worked the fields.
We’d ride with the Cavazos boys
in the back of the pickup to Modesto.
We got paid thirty bucks a day
to pull tomatoes – orange, red and green,
even the heirloom ones in all of their deformity.
When my father started his garden,
I’d tend to it. Water, weed then push
past the leaves to grab the fruit.
Once in my palm, I’d yank it from the vine.
By late summer the heavy ones hit the ground.
Their skin split, their seeds spilt.
If the stink bugs had not invaded I’d salvage them.
I took tomatoes to Dad’s hospital room once,
where with his pocket knife cut it open and let it bleed.
Salting the flesh,
I brought a slice to his lips
and let him taste the earth.
– Vera Gómez
Part of published essay in State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, Volume 2 (October 2015)
In the Shadow
During the eclipse of the sun
the shadow cast is a penumbra
and in totality, when moon
sits over solar disk
and corona flares visibly ignite,
celestial gods reach through
darkness to count our sins.
Trinity of sun, moon and man
locked in the shadows unseen
like the Aztec massacred,
the Japanese interned
or the Syrian banned.
Yet, light still prevails
if but for a brief time.
And of atrocity?
The Holocaust, Rwanda,
Pinochet’s regime or human
trafficking and border walls,
the dark may appear to win.
But it is in the light,
in the warmth and breath
of unprotected sight,
we risk being blinded.
When the eyes’ retina refracts
to twist light and obstructs us
from seeing the shadows
cast by ignorance and fear.
It is then that we must be
the less dark outer part
of a sunspot,
surrounding the dark core.
– Vera Gómez
Published in Syzygy Solar Eclipse Plays and Poetry Invitational Anthology (August 21, 2017)
I’ve been writing for some time, and here are some publications my work has been in:
- Quorom: Independent Investigative Journalism – Fente (March 2017)
- State of the Heart: Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, Volume II; University of South Carolina Press (2016)
- Bound, Yemassee, Vol. XVI, Number 2 (Spring 2009)
- Barrio Voices – Vera Gómez, Stepping Stone Press, The South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Series (2008)
- The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume I: South Carolina, Texas Review Press (2007)
- KaKaLak: Anthology of Carolina Poets (2006)
- Millennial Sampler/South Carolina Poetry Anthology, Ninety-Six Press (2005)
- School Room & other poems by Vera Gómez, South Carolina Poetry Initiative (2005)
- Quintet, Ninety-Six Press, Furman University (2003)
- Burka, Ties That Bind: 20th Anniversary Emrys Journal, Greenville County Museum of Art and Emrys Foundation (2003)
- Slow Jazz Kiss, Emrys Journal Vol. 18 (2001)