Tucson Youth Poetry Slam

The young voices of Southern Arizona

Category: Poems

Poem from Eva S., Winner of the January Slam!


On September 21st, 2014, I received an anonymous question asking if I would ever date someone who wasn’t Mexican.

Now, while stupid, it is a valid question.
Many say it can be a challenge to date someone of a different background, and doing so often results in the suppressing of one’s customs, language, etc.

So, my answer to you, wonderful anonymous person of the internet, is yes, because we are all the same.

Well, no, technically we’re not the same at all.
We’re just not built the same and with the intent to do the same things.

For example, a brown boy may struggle to reach the top shelf, similar to how a white boy probably can’t get down to a cumbia.

I pay attention to the differences in customs and colors because they’re too special to ignore.

But instead of letting those differences divide us, let them bring us together.
Get to know each other. Get a little interesting.

If we date,
I want you to tell me about your culture, baby. Let’s talk about what kind of food your mom makes, baby.
I love it when you talk to me about your grandparents, baby.

Tell me your story, baby, whether your family came here 300 years ago or 5 years ago or if they were here this whole time.
The point is that you’re here
And this is now, and

When it gets down to business, I don’t care whether your skin is brown or black or red or yellow or white.
I’ll look you in the eyes and love it, regardless of color.

And tonight, baby, I wanna dig my nails deep into your roots. I wanna talk all night long. So much so that by the next day, I’ll have had lost my voice. I love that big background of yours. And I want you to turn me into an expert.

Use that mouth to teach me your language
Use those hips to show me your moves
Use those hands to cook your favorite meals for me

Indulge me in your customs and your culture and the rights and the wrongs because I would rather learn from you than from some fucking textbook.

Tell me about God and what role he plays in your life.
Tell me why you wear your clothes that way or why you eat your meals that way.

I want you to be proud of your culture
Celebrate the victories your people made
Learn from the mistakes your people made
Fill in the blanks
Connect the dots
Teach me what you know and let’s learn what you don’t together

Baby just please, don’t strain yourself making that accent.
Don’t tuck your faith underneath your shirt
Don’t hide behind layers of neutral-colored shame and regret
Peel back the layers, share your knowledge
Because dating someone should never mean abolishing your roots.

Poem from Louie V., Winner of the December Slam!

The Human Sound

There is an ancient whisper muttered in silence
It is deafening.
I have heard it & so have you.
It is first whispered during pregnany
It lingers long after death.
some spend the entirity of their lives searching for it
some never hear it
even still, some wish to suffocate the sound…

An ancient sound
This collection of hearts
we may not want to acknowledge it
but this is a holy war…
They’re trying to make us sit proper;
say we live too loudly
speak blindly.
that we ought to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves
But I stopped checking myself because I’m already wrecked.
My whispering heart can barely keep me upright.
It speaks through shreddedd vocal chords.
But it need not speak, only whisper.
So stand in my wake, let the breeze hum you my legacy.

And let it be known that on this day
I wrote a constitution
In which it states that
The human sound ought not be silenced.
I signed it with my blood
Dotted my “i”s with tears.

An ancient sound
This collection of hearts
let yours hear mine whisper
may yours forever beat.
and when my body gives way to the wind
this poem please repeat.

There is an ancient whisper muttered in silence…

Poem from Lydia H., Winner of the November Slam!

“I know I am because I said I am.” -Mary Lambert

I was twelve when I first used the word “queer” to describe myself to a girl in my computers class. My tongue tripped over the “Q” like it was a shoelace. I made her swear on her Holy Pre Algebra textbook that she wouldn’t tell anybody. She wouldn’t tell anybody. She wouldn’t tell anybody… she told the guy she’d been dating for three days. This guy told all of his friends. His friends started leaving bastardized Bible Psalms in my locker. I suppressed the memory of my combination. I suppressed the idea of being open, and I carried my weight on my own.

I like to think I became all the right kinds of shadow, all the right kinds of ugly. Girls I had never met before asked me if I had a crush on them and a traffic jam started in my chest. I was told I was “disgusting” on a regular basis and my jaw turned to barbed wire in my head. They shoved me in science class and I bruised like confinement. But I never looked away. I never struck back. Maybe I was all the right cowardly. Maybe I was all the right brave.

Now, people aren’t sure what to make of this. Me. I am so young. I shouldn’t be so sure of my weathered heart. And I saw the girl who outed me, three years later, in the supermarket. She looked at me like I was a plane crash; she couldn’t look away from my reflection in the freezers. Perhaps I am a plane crash, a travesty, a tragedy. But at least there were no casualties. At least we all made it out alive. At least at the end of the day I can look at the embers and say that I made it. I do not need to confirm if I’m gay or if I’m not. What I need to do is be proud of myself, all these kinds of myself, because

I know I am because I said I am
I know I am because I said I am
I know I am because I said I am

Poem from Cecilia M., Winner of the September & October Slams!

You are the only thing that causes me to lose focus, distracted don’t get distracted. Everyone says to listen to your heart but if a stethoscope were to be taken to my chest you would hear nothing but my blood entering through my inferior and superior vena cava, blue and choking. You could hear the shuttering of my valves into my right atrium the contraction of travel to my right ventricle around again, running through open mitral doors into my left ventricle finally sweeping out red and rich in oxygen from my left atrium out my pulmonary vein. So even if I wanted to listen to my heart, its repetitive “lub dub” is getting me nowhere. I tried to listen to my feet and though they were screaming to run they planted to invisible concrete blocks weighing down with the beat of a thousand drums I will never march to. I tired, to listen to my knees but as soon as I spoke they buckled under the weight; it’s not that I couldn’t stand the thought of you it’s that I couldn’t stand to the thought of you. I tired listening for my stomach but it is starving for the feeling of focus, the bile is dripping, I’m a bit more nauseous than usual today so I swallow back the acid that slavers from my mouth when I miss you which brings my attention to my throat. We can skip that though, it’s fucking busy right now. M jaw, my lips, my hands all crack and clench. The catharsis of breaking my bones like a fruit that has no guts, a book that has no spine. I hole my courage in the cupboard of my ribcage, contort, restore- don’t be a coward. Didn’t anyone ever tell you- you need to sit up straight.

Poem for Michael Brown, Written by Tucson Youth Poetry Slam

To Mike Brown’s parents,
our condolences.

Rest In Power
Michael Brown

The media says they are dropping the truth on us like it’s a case of bombs,

when in fact,
the bombs are still in the media’s hands.
They brought out a whole new war tool:

that make your eyes burn,
that cuts off your oxygen.

White washed is the journalism
covering black revolution.

We all saw the news
colored hands reaching for the sky
don’t shoot.

Killed by a man whose job is to protect and serve
failed to serve
made no efforts to protect.

Excuses flood the why
people ask “why are you so angry?”
as if the askers don’t read
don’t see the “no, don’t shoot”
don’t see others not being treated like human beings.

As if being human is an error
an excuse for a trigger.

Let’s go back to the beginning,
the one we often seem to forget,
the one we keep in the past,
but keeps on repeating history itself.

Mike Brown is not the past.

He is now.

Mike’s name in every mouth,

Hear our cry for justice
mend broken bonds
humanity’s hum
in our eardrums.

can treat us
less than human.
To deal with pain, trauma, loss of life
you have to become
more than human.

We stand in solidarity with Mike Brown, his family and all of Ferguson.
May our noise,
our yells,
our protest of this inhumanity
be heard
from Tucson to Ferguson.

With love,
Tucson Youth Poetry Slam

“10 Commandments of Being Mexican” by Jose Martinez

Poem performed at the 2014 Tucson Youth Poetry Slam All-City Championship

Baby You’re Beautiful

It’s Araceli Montaño here! This post is for the girl from Douglas High School who wanted a copy of my “Baby You’re Beautiful” poem. I’m sorry I couldn’t get your name, but I appreciate you coming out and supporting what we do! Also, I was highly flattered by your comments and hope you were inspired to write something of your own! Thank you again!

Baby You’re Beautiful

Araceli Montaño

Rainbows and lollipops, smiles and gumdrops.
THAT is the sugar coated wall of defense built to protect this little girl;
the one with black pigtail braids and blue marked bruises
that lie upon her skin.

She sits- swinging herself at the park allowing the air to caress her face
and wipe away
her tears wondering why, daddy doesn’t love her
and instead of leaving her presents he leaves
her scars-
marks…that make her doubt innocent existence at 6 years old.

Baby You’re Beautiful.

Make up and perfect hair, tight clothes and sexy underwear;
the facade put on by every teenage girl, the ones who lay in bed at night and contemplate
to Lord Jesus Christ- “Why, couldn’t you make me perfect?”
Their pride should come from their inner genes, not the size of their jeans;
but fear of not having the curves of a coca-cola bottle or skin as flawless as Victoria Secret models
puts up the barrier that reads: Please accept me.

But Baby You’re Beautiful!

And for the seventeen year old girl whose mind is that of a boy,
but restrictions take over like strings of a marionette puppet,
pulling her back from saying the words
she’s afraid will leave her abandoned.
Closest friends, don’t have a clue- and every time she hears the words “gay, homo, crook-ed,”
her heart skips ten beats and she realizes why she just can’t be herself

But Baby You’re Beautiful!

So the next time, that you look at yourself in the mirror and face the only person that you will ever be- accept, the imperfectly perfect person that stares you down.
Embrace, every component that makes you different and forget, every heart-stabbing look of judgmental eyes that don’t deserve to take sight upon you.
Disregard, every ear-aching word flying from lips undeserving of one kiss and tell the reflection of your new self from your old:

Baby You’re Beautiful.

-Araceli Montano