"Angelica Root" by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

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October 7, 2022 

Angelica Root

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal 

What  back  we spring from.  
What   woman   we   unravel  
from.    What     blade    pour  
howling into  our  pearltight  
mouth.  We  am diamond in  
land’s eye we am rotwitness  
moving     lightmemory    we  
tell.   We   treetalk.   All   the  
yous  untangling in our own  
body.  We  see all  our child.  
We gave our  tooths for  our  
sight    and   swallow   ocean  
eye. You know. You know in  
your   deep.  Open.   We  am  
the  coin  in  your throat  for  
passage. We  am  the bodies  
in the river. We am the river  
birth  you. We  am language  
in        your        body.       We    
say     ourselves    in    blood.    
Listen.   We   am   saying  so     
much      and     you      don’t  
listening. We am  saying  so   
much     message    turn    to   
cancer unspooling   through      
your.    They    unstitch   our  
bones   from    your    babies.     
Our     muscle   making   the   
house  he  rattles  into   your  
hips. They eat your  fruit  we   
made. Pear baby pear baby.   
Listen.    We     language    in 
your body. We say ourselves  
back. We say ourselves until  
you memory our alive

Copyright © 2022 by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“One of the most confounding and mystifying experiences I’ve ever had with language was translating for my grandmother in early childhood while my own English was developing. To translate as a child of immigrants is to attempt registers of language and feeling beyond your maturity level, so that language itself becomes a site of failure haunted by the unsayable and the unsaid. This poem is an act of deep, epigenetic listening—an attempt to ‘read the helix,’ or hear the dead in our bodies, heed their warnings, and embrace the imprecision of any translation as the trace of a spiritual language with its own poetic logic.”
Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal was born in the Rio Grande Valley borderlands to Mexican immigrants. She is the author of the poetry collection Beast Meridian (Noemi Press, 2017). The recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award in Poetry and a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, she is a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.

Beast Meridian
(Noemi Press, 2017)

“Ancestors Are Calling” by T. J. Anderson III
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“From the language of ash” by Monica Hand
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Thanks to Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, author of Cenzontle (BOA Editions, 2018), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about Castillo’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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