Sometimes the role of poetry is to help us name grief, injustice, dismemberment, so that we can participate in honoring our fullest selves, the resistance work of collective repair. Poems this week by Alex Quintanilla and Christopher Martinez, "Customs Declaration" and "On the Night my White Friend Got Arrested" do not shy away from naming violences both quiet and grand, and in this way manage to reclaim some power from the forces that would have us believe it is better to suffer in silence, "I know the contents of my body".

Read more from 'This Work Will Take Dancing' here.

Customs Declaration

I know the contents of my body.
I am bringing earth, sand, ashes, and stones.
I have stayed on a wish farm.
I am carrying astrocytes and the seeds of stars.
I am transporting a nocturnal ocean without shores.
I bring no animals except the ravenous one.
I do not harbor dead things for more than 3 hours.
I know the evidence of my journey unwraps itself in my bones.

I acknowledge, to the full extent of the law, the loneliness that drives me here.

On the night my white friend got arrested,

she called because the officer was kind
enough to permit a courtesy, to reach someone

and save her car
before the tow truck came.

When Antonio and I arrive,
the officer's tone now

dissatisfied, as if he'd expected
a throng of young, blonde college girls;

a pornographer's plot.
Don't move your hands

too quickly, let me see your I.D.
And I am 15 again, a young body mashed

into the metal of high school lockers
by an officer for being out of place, for being

where I am supposed to be.
Arms bent back like weeds before the pull,

a combination lock burying its shine
into my chest like a slow bullet,

a badge and metal and my last name
are a mixed drink at a cocktail party,

that entertains everybody
except me. I'm used to this.

He leans over to my friend in the backseat,
still cuffed,

smiling. She's used to this too, I guess—
always being a lamb in the eyes of America.

You know these guys? He asks her, of
lambs who befriend tigers,

and I am writing myself as the beast again.

Alex Quintanilla

Alex Quintanilla graduated with a BA in English from Rice University before teaching English in Extremadura, Spain. She is currently a pediatric resident in San Antonio, Texas where she enjoys sharing the love of reading with her patients.

Christopher Martinez

Christopher “Rooster” Martinez is a writer and spoken word poet from San Antonio, TX. He earned an MA/MFA in the Creative Writing, Literature & Social Justice at Our Lady of the Lake University.
Christopher co-founder of the Blah Poetry Spot, a local poetry open mic and community organization. His work has appeared in such places as the Button Poetry, The Huffington Post Latino Voices, Pittsburgh
Poetry Review, Acentos Review, and self-published chapbooks.