Melissa Castillo-Garsow

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Melissa Castillo-Garsow is a Mexican-American writer, journalist, and scholar. She completed her Bachelor of Arts at New York University in Journalism and Latin American Studies, her Master’s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing at Fordham University and is currently pursuing a Phd in American Studies at Yale University. Melissa was awarded the Sonoran Prize for Creative Writing at Arizona State University and was a finalist for Crab Orchard Review’s 2009 Charles Johnson Student Fiction Award. She has had short stories and poems published in The Acentos Review, Hinchas de Poesia, The 2River View, Hispanic Culture Review, and The Pacific Review. She has also written articles for The Bilingual Review, Women's Studies,, El Diario/La Prensa and Words.Beats.Life: The Global Journal of Hip Hop Culture

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El Paso 1917:

I am that woman

that refuses to be touched

tips over the carriage

runs "wild" through the streets

stares down the police -

yells  too.

I refuse to be inspected

to be bathed and taunted

for your beliefs.


For the 19 victims of the container tragedy in Victoria, Texas, 2003.


contained in x-rays

they look like bananas

browned commodities

moved liked goods

worse than goods

they are so "good"

at producing.


It's  a border picnic

he tells his wife

through a fence

as they eat

sandwiches and chips

she takes the valentina

passing it through wholes

stops to  pat an arm

motions to their hijos

toddlers rushing towards the waves


an alien invasion

x-rayed into

"large scale border crossings"

(Department of Defense)

shipping immigrants

like its

free trade when


is the modern day ships

those ships

their shipping


this container country

a 1950 mile open wound

that divides a pueblo

a family


One summer we drove

along Rio Grande

picking up cousins

like cherries

I never knew I had

so many cousins

never knew

i was so divided.


transported                        deported

it's not that passage

it's modern passage

people stacked like fruit baskets

containers like legos

a border turned trailer

trash trailers bringing

forgotten answers

containment en desierto


a quienes se quedaron en medio de ninguna parte


Papa es mi cumple

cumplo cinco

quiero pastel

en America habra pastel

y navios

navios mas grandes

cargados de comido y agua

familia y suenos

en America

esta mama?


drenched in sweat

begging for water

for authority (911)

their nails turned


theirs skins

grayish blue

dead stretched on the floor

piled to make room

sin air

            sin luz

                        sin esperanza


Its more than a 1950 mile wound

It's more than a fence dividing a familia

a pueblo

Its a line

a lie

a container

of bodies

bodied left between borders

no right to mourn

discarded in production

or destruction


in the containers

of our American Dreams.


De todo lo que no hay

en medio

de nowhere

I mourn you

without rest

without sleep

always in transit

I mourn you.



“Lo único yo sé es que pinto porque tengo la necesita de hacerlo, pinto siempre lo que me pasa por la corazón sin ninguna otra consideración.”



That leather wallet

faded into memories

I see your image


blood thorns & bold panthers

body casts & thick vines


pinned & sticked

needled but never cradled



In our jungle

thorns sprout like daisies

but you sprout xochi

from your roots

from your temples

from your tears


And from your earlobes

hand earrings reach

into my soul

where the perfil

of a diosa



refusing to be tame

to tame (in)perfections


with pearls & flowers & lipstick

you returned the gaze

now I,

return yours

like the skulls you painted

onto foreheads.





Sliding into life                              ruptured

a cracked                 skull

bleeding on

this flowerbed                               flowers

that grow through winter

                        (whimper in springs)


I will not be plucked


from the waist

because now I gaze

at a cracked wall

                        (of my own making)

It’s your canvas

this is my canvas

(fault lines)

burning bruises

(fault lies)

little cracks that

don’t heal.


I bear my scars

on ink stained fingers

sweat soaked stirrings

in railroaded rooms

filled with your likeness

consuming poems

in showers

I fall in love with you


like a letter in a bottle

like the caress of worn leather.




Recuérdame                      (mi amor)

te recuerdo             (mi amor)

stunning & strange

I suffer our realities

feel the light dull

from your eyes

because you drank tequila

at your funeral

and sometimes I

feel like an aperol bottle

cool & unused

skidding beneath the gaze

so I stare

at your red lips

it’s just lipstick

I bare your lipstick

like tus penas

(dame tus penas)

I can bare them

the way you did

better & bright

on the shelf

refracting sunlight

because it’s more

than just lipstick.




He tells me

I trash him

in public

in poems

but Today,

I want to write a poem


about something

that matters

but my mind is a

mushy mess

of tequila & wine

unrequited love

for a world that won’t love

our strangeness

too much liner

too many eyebrows

and so you,

paint reality

and I paint


because your paint

slides down my back

to same cell

you lived in.


Today I

write a poem

that matters.




You were so much more

than Diego,

I am so much more

than my nightmares

pesadillas of monkeys

& needles

& pushpins

& doctors


I’m taking this tequila to her grave

and showering in it.




Stunning & strange

on your back


scratched out their eyes

painted your own

and now,

I bear these scratches

those etchings

their ferocity

                        (you scare me)

porque te trago

por mis venas

porque estas

en mis venas


tu llenas y you recibo


ya no recibo

mi sange

es un milagro

que recibes

en estas páginas

                        en estas páginas

porque al final

we have endured

                        we endure.