Alejandro Jimenez


Alejandro is a formerly-undocumented poet, writer, educator, and avid distance runner from Colima, Mexico, currently living in New Mexico. He is a two-time National Poetry Slam Semi-Finalist, multiple time TEDx Speaker/Performer, and Emmy-nominated poet, whose work centers around cultural identity, immigrant narratives, masculinity, memory, and the intersections of them all. His work has appeared in the Latino Book Review, Yellowscene, As/Us Journal, Rethinking Schools, and other publications. He is a Tin House Writers Workshop and Lighthouse Writers Workshop alum. His self-published book, Moreno. Prieto. Brown, has sold over 1,500 copies. He works as a high school college and career advisor and tries to laugh with his students as much as possible.


Instagram: @alejandrowrites


Hands before and after burial.

He scolds me as I am getting in the big
plastic toy car that is parked next to the stove.
Salte, cabron, no es tuyo. As he bends
down to pick my 8-year-old body up
in his arms – he smiles – kisses my cheek and
placed me on the floor. I saw his gold
necklace with a tiny crucifix, hanging
from his collarbone. His shirt was not
buttoned-up all the way. Just like the
picture I saw of him before I even met
him. He smelled good. I would find his
cologne stash when I was older – Brut
was his favorite. I hugged unto his waist
and buried my head into his hip. He placed
his left hand on my shoulders and gently held me. 


In the picture, my Uncle, still in Mexico,
is standing with his friends on a street
corner of our small town. He is 15 –
my grandmother let me know. I have
no memories of this Uncle, until we
are in the kitchen. In the picture, he looks
the same as in the kitchen. Sharp. Good-
looking. Dark. Stoic. Handsome. Soft, thin
lips. Hands full of veins. Slicked back hair.
A smile that has not yet buried his father.
His posture is relaxed, and he is looking
straight into the camera. His eyes two
pieces of black jade sparkling without
death. Those are the prettiest eyes. The
ones with no dead bodies in them. 


In the kitchen, his hands have already
shoveled dirt onto his father’s casket.
Have already hammered the cross to
his grave. His mouth has already wept loud.
His eyes have cried so much they puffed
up red. But, his hands are smooth as I run
my fingers through them. His voice is
soothing and sure of itself. The black jade
shimmer when he laughs, and it makes
my spine shiver with joy. They say, that
part of you is buried with the loved
one in the casket. I wondered if his hands,
were even softer before the burial. Staring
at him, I wondered, which part, of all his
miraculousness is incomplete.




Alameda Street

                    For Oscar & for all the students we’ve lost
                    After Langston Hughes 

There – on Alameda Street – where Little Mexico begins.
There, the place their bulldozer’s teeth are salivating for,
the place where paleteros honk a horn and children come
running like bees to pollinate a flower, and their smiles
are honey; and a springtime grows in their baby-fat filled hands.
This – the place for Sunday morning church and Sunday night cruising.
All joy in these streets. Potholes ain’t nothing but a reminder to
slow down and enjoy the blue and pink sky on a summer night.
Truck burnouts are to amplify laughter; Corridos to speak happiness
in more than one language, Botas to stay rooted; Tejana to prove
they are Mexican while they eat a bowl of Pho. Shit-talking morros y
morras asking; where the plug be; when the race to Lookout be;
                     where the cops be hiding, B?
                     Be happy here, be eternal here.
                     This place will remember you,
                     Brown boy.
There, on Alameda Street, in front of St. Cajetan’s Church, Oscar took
his last breath while trying to tame the wind like he tamed those horses.
There, a vigil of Brown faces all lit with burial in their eyes.
There, Jesús cried. And Cesar, too. And Darwin and Raul and Daniel
And Carlos and Exar and Erick and Rene and Ernesto and me. 
We all cried. And there were not enough candles to melt
our sadness onto the pavement and we tried praying but we just hugged
each other instead. We were a choir of weeping Brown boys.
How beautiful to sing like that. How ceremonial to hold each other like that.
How these streets give us back to the earth I will never agree with.
How these streets show us sorrow I will never agree with. But, we were there.
Holding each other like the sky holds its night. One of our stars fell that evening,
                     Landed on our cheeks,
                     Made singers out of us,
                     O, how we howled into
                     each other’s chests that night. 

There, on Alameda Street, inside of St. Cajetan’s Church the casket held his body.
Gently tucked within layers of shiny, pearl white cloth and dressed in clothes
picked by his mother. His eyes looked as if they wanted to open.
His lips: a horse’s neigh silenced. The mariachi
sang sad songs.
The guitars did not make us want to dance. The trumpets tried
but they could not drown out his mother’s cry. The singer of sad songs
took a seat and let the sobs in the room be accompanied by the instruments.
This ritual of letting go, this practice of parents outliving their children,
this sore throat, this emptiness, these dry eyes death leaves us with - is something
I will never embrace. The priest said,
Oscar is in a better place now. I looked at his
mother’s arms but they were empty. I looked at his girlfriend’s lips and they
was not being kissed by his. If after this – is better – let him be laughing,
                     Let him be riding his favorite horse
                     down this Alameda street.
                     Let him stay happy like that.
                     Please, let him stay happy like that.

Death in Cuyutlan 

               After Danez Smith

i. the ocean

the sun was setting, and the reflection of its rays were being juggled by the waves –
back and forth, back and forth. my cousins and i bathed in dusk-gold waters and walked
onto the shoreline with necklaces made out of jade and turquoise, laughing like we’ve
never known silence. i don’t remember pain when my lips stretch past the ends of my
mouth exposing my wisdom teeth, smiling. the sand was a soft-brown color and the
grains felt like tiny-prickly stars trying to reunite with the stardust in my bones.  we
looked out to the horizon, past where the waves begin to rise, and saw him floating,
mouth pointed towards heaven as if wanting to return the stars in his body back to
the sky.

          he’s really way out there, huh, my cousin said.

i know, he must be a good swimmer.

ii. the body 

i thought he was back-stroking
         chest above water like a buoy signaling too deep 

head tilted back; mouth opened [i swore i saw his pearly teeth reflect the sun]
         as if accepting sunset as the body of christ 

shoulders, two mounds of earth rising from the sea-bed
         looked like a soft pile of brown rose petals gliding on the surface
and all the beach goers in Cuyutlan were pointing 
at the brown body floating parallel with the horizon
and we all gawked at his effortlessness to wade in the ocean,
         the ocean seemed to embrace him
and i was jealous of how the ocean’s arms cradled him
         like a newborn being passed from one family member’s arms to the next
and i wondered what his skin might feel like
         maybe his hands would remind me of my uncle’s 
maybe he was a farmworker or maybe he had soft hands 
and loved to cook or play instruments
i wanted that serenity and peace, i wanted to look as calm
as a storm before it makes everybody hide
i wanted my body to make the ocean seem small and insignificant.

iii. drowned – 

that’s how you died that afternoon.
when the waves pushed you onto the beach
& people flocked around you like seagulls,
some screamed & some asked your name.                                          what is your name?
& when the teenager ran towards us screaming,
¡se ahogo! ¡se ahogo! 
i imagined a starfish making a home out of you stomach,
i imagined a whale swimming in-and-out of your heart’s arteries, 
i imagined an octopus crawling on the floor of your veins,
i imagined a coral reef forming in the backside of your ribcage,
i imagined fish eating plankton from your femurs,
seaweed braiding itself with each of your vertebrae.
how ceremonial to flourish upon death,
how ceremonial to witness a life ending and starting all at once.
how beautiful it must be to die like that.        


I want to die beautiful, like that
in front of everybody so no one goes looking for my body.
so that every time my mother looks at the ocean, wherever
she is, she is seeing part of me. any time she wants to find me
she can just follow a river and if she wants to feel my embrace
she can just dip her feet into the water. the crashing waves
will be me laughing joyously & she will not have to wonder how i died.
she will be content knowing that each wave hugged me like a newborn 
and when they cradled me in their arms 
they reminisced about an ancestor that i reminded them of,
maybe in my smile they saw all the things that i will become in my next life.
my mother will not have to post missing pictures of me,
she will not have to convince witnesses to come forward.
his body was full of nature when we found him, she’d say. 


a body filled with nature, when found, instead of 
bullets, ain’t that a beautiful death?
that’s how i want to leave here.
mouth open swallowing life back into my body as
i choke on the mountains that will become 
my bone-marrow. as i choke on the birds and their feathers.
as i choke on grasslands and my liver becomes
a red mango tree and my heart becomes a moon that tells farmers when to plant
and the bees will pollinate the flowers that grow from my intestines.
all my blood will be replaced by fresh water that cascades from my esophagus 
into the valley of my lungs. i want to die like this:
mother nature coming to ask for me,
come back inside it’s dark already and dinner is served
come eat, before it gets cold.


before we realized your body was cold with death – 
my cousin and i sat in our chairs, astonished
at the brilliance of your skin drifting like a cloud 
before our eyes. we named you a good swimmer.
we named you brave. we named you every superhero
we could think of and you saved the day and captured
every villain. we named you everything except: murdered, missing, 
dismembered - pieces of body in black plastic bags left on sides of a road.
your resting place will not be a clandestine grave in the woods.
your resting place will not be a desert, the sun will not eat at you slowly.
your whole body will be present at your funeral.
no burial after years of searching for you – we witnessed your death today.
at your open casket your mother will be able to kiss your skin
and that gives me hope for my own death


i hope that i out outlive my mother
and that it is not like in the dream
where i am in a casket that
is gold & at each corner a candle 
burns and my mother becomes ash
from all the praying & she doesn’t 
rise from that pain her wings fly 
the opposite of sky. in another 
dream there’s a mariachi band
surrounding a silver casket &
i am singing a song that my mother 
loved & we all dance, just how she asked,
& there’s plenty of food, just how she liked,
& of death we made a celebration


death made you a celebration.
made community out of strangers
all of us hoping you’d exhale again
death made a siren scream and made a bystander
hug her children close, made all the swimmers
take a seat, made my cousin scared
made me cry, made you a poem
made everyone ask for your name [what is your name?]
made the paramedic feel your heart with his hands 
made the sun warm and our spines shiver
made all the seagulls stop flying and gawking 
made my cousin ask if you were no longer of this world. 
maybe you liked the way your body was filled with nature?
you drank so much water your last breath sounded like a wave


“you drank so much water your last breath sounded like a wave”
and that’s poetic, i guess, but where was the poem when the paramedics
asked for your family and there was no one to claim you? no one told us  
your name. the paramedics would not know who to tell you died full of nature.
when the ambulance left with your body 
we sat and looked out at the sun dropping behind the water.
the waves were empty of swimmers and seemed noiseless.
the breeze was gentle with a somber howl 
the sand the blew into my eyes reminded me
of what my grandmother said about stars once,
they are all people who have died and are looking
down to see if they can see any of their family members

i forgot to ask her how long after death before someone
becomes a star.


© The Acentos Review 2020