Read the introduction by guest editor Camille T. Dungy.





at the beginning,
i was dust.
i was a seed,
a flower,
a dry stone.

i had a mouth.
i sang a song
of dry grass.

i spoke the language
of droughts.

i was crumbling dirt. 
i reeked of ash and smoke.

i belong to the fire tribe.
i burnt tumble weeds.

i was a piece of hurt meat.
i was a bullet shrapnel lodged
in a coyote’s hind legs.

i was the wind in the arroyo.
i played with dry leaves.

i was dry grass.
i grew roots.
i prospered.



Things I Claim In The Desert


i claim the desert as my home.
i claim this cacti world as mine.

the old bones turning to dust
under the old saguaro tree belong to me.

the wooden crosses without names
are part of my kingdom.

every single shallow grave belongs to me.
every single forgotten corpse is mine.

all of the dead undocumented
men, women and children left behind
are part of my kingdom.

i claim all of their dry bones.
all of the pain that lives
between mandibles and clavicles.

i claim the metal wall as mine---

i claim these rape trees
that bloom behind the metal wall
as part of my endless kingdom

i claim all of the pain,
all of the tears,
all of the prayers.

i claim la mujer vieja,
who weeps for her dead
children in the arroyo as mine.

i claim all of the sick, the old,
the young, the crippled and the innocent.

i claim the dry water holes,
the dry, empty fields
and the dead cows as mine.

i claim death as my queen.
thirst is my punishment.
i claim this desert as mine.



Gerardo Pacheco Matus, a Mayan native, was recipient of a 2015 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Work-Study Scholarship. In 2012, The San Francisco Foundation awarded Pacheco the distinguished Joseph Henry Jackson Award. Pacheco's poems and essays have appeared and are forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press, Jambu Press, La Bloga Online Magazine, Grantmakers in the Arts, San Francisco Foundation, Spillway Magazine, Transfer Magazine, El Tecolote Newspaper, Cipactli Magazine, Amistad Howard-University, Poets Responding to SB1070, The University of Arizona Press, APRICITY PRESS and The Packinghouse Review. Pacheco was also selected to participate on "The Pintura:Palabra National Ekphrastic Workshops, in tandem with the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Travelling Exhibit, "Our America: The Latino Presence in America Art."" Pacheco's manuscript, Child of the Grasses, was chosen as finalist for the Andrés Montaya Poetry Prize in 2016. This summer, Pacheco will be a 2016 CantoMundo fellow.