poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 5, 2018.
About this Poem 
“I was listening to someone on the radio talk about the importance of referring not only to the victims of sexual harassment and assault, but to the perpetrators—the actors, not just the acted upon. As I listened I began imagining a bullet, which I called ‘raw,’ entering my mouth over and over again, and didn't at first understand why. As the poem emerged, it showed me that the ‘raw bullets’ were the many times my younger body felt vulnerable and threatened in public spaces—the grope on public transportation, the catcall on the street, an assault in a park—and how I carry those experiences in my older body. But the anger I felt while listening to the radio came from my recognizing the persistence of these dangers to other vulnerable bodies and that this is the world I've brought my daughter into, which I was hoping would be different. The poem, however, pushed me past this feeling of personal desperation to a recognition of the possibility in our collective voices.”
—Rosa Alcalá

You & the Raw Bullets

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 bullets as you walked? The images come without assailant, without gun, just the holes the bullets opened, the holes through which they went. And now at the age in which you ride enclosed in glass like the Pope or President you are spitting up the bullets slow-simmered in your own juices. You are shitting them out, feeling them drop from you in clumps of blood, in the days of bleeding left. But you cannot expel all of them. Some, raw as the day they entered, have expanded their mushroom heads into the flesh, or lodged their hot tip into the taste center of the brain. Will the tongue’s first encounter with pomegranate seeds be forever a lost Eden, that fruit of your girlhood, which, also meaning grenade, was perhaps never innocent? Do your own raw bullets come back to you, my friends? Let us legislate the active voice, instead. Not, “Many bodies have been used as blanks, aluminum cans.” But, “Here are the men who pulled the trigger, look at them.”

Copyright © 2018 by Rosa Alcalá. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Rosa Alcalá. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Rosa Alcalá

Rosa Alcalá

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

by this poet

(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

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