Hernando Gonzallo Viila/LACMA

“Variations on This Land.” A New Poem by Tim Z. Hernandez

From the New Collection Some of the Light

April 3, 2023  By Tim Z. Hernandez

This land is your land,
this land is Comanche land,
Mescalero Apache land,
Coahuiltecan land, my ancestors—
bent to build the Alamo, then slaughtered
and buried beneath it, risen again, to be forgotten,
now a river to be walked upon, treaded by tourists,
on a mission, who find San Antonio a city
with two thighs, good only for entering and exiting.
This land is my grandfather’s land
whipped to suffer his color in the cumin air,
to erase that he ever loved, the way only a brown boy
can love Brownsville, beneath oil derricks
and sugarcane horizons, and fields
of afterthought, a cluster of cancerous
lovers in the wake of red dust, and pick-up truck
envy, never again, this land, never—
This Land looks better in the rearview,
better under night’s speckled eye,
better in the black sputum
of its horny oceanic spills, better under
the fog of hurricanes, or the distant plano-myth
of its own romantic promise, this land
is your Matanza land, your prideful legacy
of mounted Rangers by dawn’s zealot light land,
mass unmarked graves, and tales of a nascent Amerika
on the come up, your Corpse of Christ land,
that tore the tongue from my grandmother’s
tender jaw, this is your inheritance, not the land
but the stories of land, this land is your prideful misnomer,
keep this land, bury yourself here, deep in the heart
of your taxidermied glory, of your nostalgic West,
no amount of sermons from your mega-preachers
can undo how vast hexes span.

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Some of the light

Excerpted from Some of the Light: New and Selected Poems by Tim Z. Hernandez (Beacon Press, 2023). Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.

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Tim Z. Hernandez
Tim Z. Hernandez
Tim Z. Hernandez is an award-winning author, research scholar, and performer. His work includes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays. He is the recipient of numerous awards, most notably the American Book Award, the Colorado Book Award, and the International Latino Book Award. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, C-Span, and NPR’s All Things Considered. Public Radio International hailed his book, Mañana Means Heaven, as one of their 2013 Books of the Year. In 2011, he was named one of sixteen New American Poets by the Poetry Society of America, and most recently he was recognized for his research on locating the victims of the 1948 plane wreck at Los Gatos Canyon, the incident made famous by Woody Guthrie’s song of the same name, which is chronicled in his documentary novel, All They Will Call You. Hernandez holds a BA from Naropa University and an MFA from Bennington College, and is an associate professor with the University of Texas El Paso’s bilingual MFA in creative writing. He lives in El Paso, Texas, with his two children.

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