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About this poet

Rosa Alcalá was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey. She received an MFA from Brown University and a PhD from SUNY Buffalo.

She is the author of the poetry collections MyOTHER TONGUE (Futurepoem, 2017), The Lust of Unsentimental Waters (Shearsman Books, 2012), and Undocumentaries (Shearsman Books, 2010). Of her work, Carmen Giménez Smith writes, “Rose Alcalá’s poems dwell in the liminal space between the personal and the political—poems built on the idea that ‘the world exists,’ and that work to define the metaphysical and ephemeral architectures of origin, migration, nationalism, and loss.”

Alcalá is also the editor of Spit Temple: The Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012) and Cecilia Vicuña: New & Selected Poems (Kelsey Street Press, 2018). Her translations include Bestiary: The Selected Poems of Lourdres Vázquez (Bilingual Press, 2004).

Alcalá teaches in the bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso. She lives in El Paso, Texas.

Selected Bibliography

MyOTHER TONGUE (Futurepoem, 2017)
The Lust of Unsentimental Waters (Shearsman Books, 2012)
Undocumentaries (Shearsman Books, 2010)

At Hobby Lobby

She tosses a bolt of fabric into the air. Hill country, prairie, a horse trots there. I say three yards, and her eyes say more: What you need is guidance, a hand that can zip a scissor through cloth. What you need is a picture of what you've lost. To double the width against the window for the gathering, consider where you sit in the morning. Transparency's appealing, except it blinds us before day's begun. How I long to captain that table, to return in a beautiful accent a customer's request. My mother kneeled down against her client and cut threads from buttons with her teeth, inquiring with a finger in the band if it cut into the waist. Or pulled a hem down to a calf to cool a husband's collar. I can see this in my sleep and among notions. My bed was inches from the sewing machine, a dress on the chair forever weeping its luminescent frays. Sleep was the sound of insinuation, a zigzag to keep holes receptive. Or awakened by a backstitch balling under the foot. A needle cracking? Blood on a white suit? When my baby's asleep I write to no one and cannot expect a response. The fit's poor, always. No one wears it out the door. But fashions continue to fly out of magazines like girls out of windows. Sure, they are my sisters. Their machines, my own. The office from which I wave to them in their descent has uneven curtains, made with my own pink and fragile hands.

Copyright © 2012 by Rosa Alcalá. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by Rosa Alcalá. Used with permission of the author.

Rosa Alcalá

Rosa Alcalá

Rosa Alcalá is the author of MyOTHER TONGUE (Futurepoem, 2017). She lives in El Paso, Texas.

by this poet


Why the image just now of a bullet entering the mouth? Why call it raw, when it isn’t sticky and pink like a turkey meatball, just the usual: gold, and shiny, and cylindrical? What about this bullet is uncooked? Why does it multiply with you in parka or short skirt, versions of the you that you were, swallowing raw

(for Sergio Mondragón)

The body's hidden face
removed of its excesses
is cooked into a codex
that reads:          
this little piggy went to market            
this little piggy piled high
what's meant by surface.
Everywhere a nation awaits, 
a cardboard