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Jenny Irizary grew up broom-fighting possums in a canyon that flooded every year. She holds a B.A. in Ethnic Studies and an M.A. in literature from Mills College. Her work has been published in Label Me Latin, Atticus Review, Duende, Snapping Twig, Tipton Poetry Journal, Communion, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, and other journals.
If You Want More Proof She's Not Puerto Rican
By Jenny Irizary

If you want any more proof she’s not Puerto Rican

she’s never made sofrito

I’m kidding; she’s never made it

but that’s not my cooking

base to care about.

All she knows is what a waitress told her

at that restaurant where my ex-sancha works.

We’re both married, children with other people

and she didn’t like me to begin with any

more than I liked her

always calling me Camello

head shape joke.

Emelia with her big forehead

from that little no-nothing place, Santa Ana de Michoacán

I don’t know how she thought she could say anything.

Anyway, I made up the lie to make her jealous

and she just asked what Emelia’s breasts felt like

how they moved when she was on top of me

this girl she wanted

to dominate

a part of herself

not my problem and not Emelia’s

so I invited Emelia over and we hung out

don’t remember if we even had sex

but we remembered

things like knowing everyone who comes out

on Sunday night

knowing that you’ll know your children’s children

or it seemed like that then.

Stars straight down

the road uninterrupted by a break between land and sky.

Both of us were just museum

dummies come to life

to that güera,

a sculpture with real working parts

out of her mother’s old anthropology textbooks.

And she took all our jokes about it,

all of it,

her body our bodies


believed we hated ourselves

each other, when she was the one

who wanted to be anything but us.

I met some paísanos convinced they were

descended from Cortés

acting like having five cousins named Martin makes you the direct line

pureza de sangre

the one

jaliciense that isn’t Olmec, Toltec, and all the other people that never get

their names in the history books the three of us read as kids.

That was the other

thing she thought

Emelia and I were uneducated like the people in her town,

when she’d never bothered to read even the aforementioned anthropology texts,

let alone anything written, I don’t know, by an actual Latino.

But we played up the story she read

in at a certain point

because it didn’t matter what I told her

how many times

yes, it’s possible to be Catholic and also proud of religions paved over by it

although I don’t believe

in that curandería shit

my brother dragging my dad to the cemetery

pouring cheap

beer all over his atrophying diabetic feet

and then bathing him in the ocean.

Honestly more a vengeance taken

on the man that beat our mom right in front of us

because she was the one with the business sense

dreams we wanted to be a part of

the restaurant she’s forever planning

been planning since she lived in Santa Barbara as a teenager

more urbane than that güera Boricua is ever going to be with her small-town fear

of being found out to be more African and more Indian than me.

Or worse, just as much

meaning no

martyrdom of the oppressed

superiority of the conqueror

just another woman who’s cried

to me if she could take

back 500 years

maybe we could be friends.

I’m not

saying we’re family

or her being my sancha was the same as her getting off on Emelia being my sancha

she makes

hippie fusion Indian food and smoothies

and I’d rather have sofrito than that

although I’m not a fan of not-pizza, not-burgers, not-tortas, not-quesadillas

which is why I made those mayonnaise

and ham white bread sandwiches

gave her a plastic Dollar

Store Viking hat.

Not because she wants a horn like that to stick in all the women I can have and she can’t

(they don’t want to deal with her bullshit, either).

It’s that she’s not cosmopolitan

she’s a small-town whitegirl who happens to be part-Puerto Rican

a redneck who thinks she’s “above all of that”

because her mom was in some protests and her dad ran away from the fight

tail between his legs.


the names sticking stringy between

our family trees needling her

like her hair being coarser than Emelia’s

I just mean I may not be a Taíno dead

within 50 years of Columbus

or some torna atrás finds-herself-in-the-Orishas

born-again apologizing

because she actually didn’t have to know that she was anything but white

but I’m not as far from her as she thinks

other times I wonder if she remembers I

am me not her alter-ego.

That’s all I’m saying.
"Jenny Irizary's poems are so necessary right now. She writes about what it means to be Latina in America right now, in a way so vulnerable and raw that it feels like I'm transported into her brain. In her poem, "If You Want More Proof She’s Not Puerto Rican​," she writes, 'dreams we wanted to be a part ofthe restaurant she’s forever planning​/​been planning since she lived in Santa Barbara as a teenager​/​more urbane than that güera Boricua is ever going to be with her small-town fear​.'" - Joanna Valente, 2016 Poetry Judge,