National Poetry Month Day 4: José Olivarez


José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants and the co-host of the poetry podcast, the Poetry Gods. A recipient of fellowships from Poets House, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, & the Conversation Literary Festival, his work has been published in the BreakBeat Poets, the Chicago Tribune, The Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, and Hyperallergic, among other places. His debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal, will be released in September 2018 from Haymarket Books. He is from Calumet City, Illinois, and lives in Chicago.


Poem In Which I Become Wolverine
after Tim Seibles

i wake up to powdered faces on the news
disagreeing politely while the ice caps melt
& bombs punctuate every day like a period

what does peace look like but merciless war
there are more ways to put lead in a body
than pulling a trigger                what do you think

a food desert is but a long sip of poison
& you think it’s spilled juice     an accident
as if history books aren’t written by guns

every day my people confined to a news ticker
below waving flags & rising stock prices
8 detained in an ICE raid of El Paso         i know

when you look at our abuelitas you see knives
in their braids               knives in their hips
i know you hear invasion orders when our children sing

sana sana colita de rana            just last week
two ICE officers with cuffs ready to bite
the hands of a fourth grader                & still

the daily calls to speak English properly
to trade mangonadas for what type of life exactly
what is assimilation but living death

my enemies aren’t ugly faced crooks they don’t laugh
while innocent die        they point & say how
tragic   then go home to pet their cute dogs

some days when the news        is the news
& i’m required to show up on time & polite
i can see it like a movie             i mean  i can feel

my claws coming in                  six presidents
talking liberation                       casting votes
through steel & blood               i mean six reasons

to end the chit chat      i can see myself on a poster
movie or America’s most wanted         posing with the head
of state                        i know what happens to Wolverine

i know my rage is a poison       i know it kills me first
& still i love it & feed it              i mean i can see it like
the last scene of a movie         good cop in civilian clothes

walking to their cop car            my six abolitionists
counting up the score              doing the math 1 against history
i wish i could tell you                the cop gets his morning donut

i wish i could                            roll credits

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →