Tepoztlán Blues (Winner, 1st Place, chosen by Eduardo C. Corral)

Orchids hang from the patio ceiling. When no one

is watching I will take one and put it in my pocket

as if I could own something of this place.

By morning, it will be dead. I’ll walk by a funeral

home with child-sized caskets, and cry.

The air will belong to firewood. Night will return

cold to my bones. I’ll be alebrije: half woman,

half moon.  On the feast of San Sebastián,

fireworks rise and fall, like us all.

The orchestras will be spark then ash.

Nothing here is tame. I am high and disoriented,

pulled by my entrails. I’ll dance mezcal blues.

His hand inside my thigh will be a hovering question:

How can we do this, and where?

However and wherever, it won’t be enough

for the way I want to swallow this country: whole.


Hecha en México, Norma Liliana Valdez made her way to California in her mother’s pregnant belly. She is an alumna of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop, the Writing Program at UC Berkeley Extension, and was a 2014 Hedgebrook writer-in-residence. She was the poetry winner of the 2015 San Miguel Writers' Conference writing contest, and a 2016 Under the Volcano fellow. A member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, her poems can be found in Calyx, Dismantle, Poetry of Resistance, and Huizache, among others.