Portrait of a Young Undocumented Immigrant in America


in America the great, i don’t wear

a deer loin cloth to cover my manhood,

i’m forced to wear an orange striped jumpsuit

to cover my bones as they believe me dangerous,


sometimes, i walk alone & naked

wearing my black, spotted skin

with a sign that reads, “shoot me,”

tied across my chest,


i’ve grown old & tired pacing

back & forth, i’m caged

in the smallest jail cell in America,


i’ve travelled across empty fields,

i’ve crossed el desierto on top of La Bestia,

i’ve been locked up in a jail cell in Texas,

or in some room in Yuba County,


even though my name is Cuauhtémoc,

in a hot & dusty room in Florence Arizona,

the INS judge calls me Jose or Joaquin,

when he denies me to stay here in America,


i’m shackled to another man,

his skin is darker, he’s old & tired,

he’s covered with scars from head to toe,

we hobble together down the hallway,

a long & cold chain is tied around our black necks,


i’m always throwing chingadazos,

one, two & three strikes & i’m out,

one more fight & they’ll put me away for life,

i’m always a bullet away from death,


i’m shackled against the metal fence,

i’m tasered, shot at & spit on,

i’m told over & over

i’m worth una chingada,


in my jail cell, i breathe the stench of gun

fire & burnt meat as i pull the bullet

shrapnel lodged in my hermanos’ corazones,

i have a full jar of bullet shrapnel as proof;


Gerardo Pacheco Matus is a Mayan Native and the recipient of a fellowship from CantoMundo, the Joseph Henry Jackson Award from The San Francisco Foundation and a Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Work-Study Scholarship. His poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press, Grantmakers in the Arts, San Francisco Foundation, Amistad Howard-University, La Bloga Online Magazine, Poets Responding to SB1070, The University of Arizona Press, The Packinghouse Review, West Branch Wired and Four Way Review. The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal nominated Pacheco for a Pushcart Prize in 2015. His manuscript, Child of the Grasses, was a finalist for the 2016 Andrés Montaya Poetry Prize.