Melissa Castillo Planas

Two Poems


Dr. Melissa Castillo Planas an Assistant Professor of English at Lehman College. She is editor of the anthology, ¡Manteca!: An Anthology of Afro-Latin@ Poets, co-editor of La Verdad: An International Dialogue on Hip Hop Latinidades, the author of the poetry collection Coatlicue Eats the Apple, and co-author of the novel, Pure Bronx. Her current book project, forthcoming with Rutgers University Press’ new Global Race and Media series, A Mexican State of Mind: New York City and the New Borderlands of Culture, examines the creative worlds and cultural productions of Mexican migrants in New York City. To learn more:

My body is a scar


He traces the wounds of my body in wonder

Your pain threshold is incredible.



I’ve lost count of the number of times I asked someone to scar my body

I don’t remember when it stopped hurting

Maybe I started running so long

When I stopped feeling the needle

Look forward to that 20 mile ache

How legs feel like knives are carving at my thighs


Your pain threshold is incredible.



By mile 23 the aching stops

I smile again - endured again

Another medal for the collection

Another memory I’ll soon diminish 

Like the books dates I dream will

cascade the length of an arm


I realize, it’s not a threshold it’s an addiction.



that the same giddiness that marks a new tattoo is no different then those last 3 miles

That I don’t just endure pain, I enjoy it.

That I don’t just collect medals and tattoos but insults & critics

That maybe I enjoy depression

a vacation of the mind from thinking

about this fucked up world and my place in it

my superpower and my kryptonite 


My addiction to pain is spectacular or spectacle I can’t tell the difference -

I think of the spectacle of spectacular violence we are witnessing in our streets

Black deaths as painful as they are public

Child murder as tragic as it is preventable


Children stacked like fruit baskets

like legos

a border turned into containment

Containment en a desierto

Where dreamers go to die


The death of dreams is violence too

Mama es mi cumple

Cumplo cinco

Quiero pastel

En America habrá pastel

Y navíos

Navíos más grandes

Cargados de comida y agua

Mamá estás allí

O estás allá

Mamá y donde estás?

Mamá ya no me quieres?

Ya no eres mi mama?


It’s more than a 1950 mile wound

It's more than a fence dividing a familia

a pueblo

It’s a line

a lie

discarded in production

or destruction


in the containers

of our American Dreams.


He traces the wounds of my body in wonder

Your pain threshold is incredible.

Instead I wonder,

Are we a nation of addicts?




I am Gloria

(For Gloria Anzaldúa/ after I am Joaquin)


I am Gloria

split in a world of borders

spit out by a gringo society

confused by my Mexicanidad

told I don’t fit

In this land

or this land


My father

       a pillar of struggle

My mother

       a stoic survivor

and I

       caught in the fence

       of cultural survival


How do I sustain a culture they say is not mine?

How do I sustain a culture they say is criminal?




            pieced back together




            I heal again


this wound is scabbing


            again with every racist tweet


I cry for a culture I can never fully know

I cry for a culture under attack


In the zocalo

I dream of another life

One unencumbered by borders

One without those zebra stripes

Marking me always

As other


In the zocalo

I dreamed another life

The one where you stayed

I wonder if I exist without borders


I cry into the Rio Grande

        flowing in my veins

cut as they might it flows

        rich & red

reminding me always that

       I am here

       I am her

© The Acentos Review 2019