Latinx writer, MK Chavez is the author of several chapbooks including Mothermorphosis. Dear Animal, a full-collection was released in October 2016 by Nomadic Press. Chavez is co-founder/curator of the reading series Lyrics & Dirges and co-director of the Berkeley Poetry Festival. She is a fellow with CantoMundo and the San Francisco Grotto. Chavez’s poem The New Whitehouse, Finding Myself in The Ruins, was selected by Eileen Myles for the Cosmonauts Avenue 2017 Poetry Award, she also a recipient of a 2017 Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award.


From the top of the stairs,
booming from the cavern
of his mouth, the girl’s name
becomes something
that slithers on the ground,
leaves a trail of hiss.

The dampness of church
settles into her infrastructure
where it marries
bones & lymphocytes.

Her dog chasing its tail, her dog
on the last day before it disappeared.

Of the circle of men in her family—

How she wanted in. Did not yet
understand how an egg
is perhaps most vulnerable
because of its potential.

The largesse of fingers
surrounding a small wrist.

Holy blessed water taught her
all about drowning. For years,
she stood on the edge
of the pool during school outings.

Some things sink.

Her Pentecostal preacher
taught children lessons.

Some things sink in.

From beds, a million girls
will emerge moth dusted
and large-eyed.

Flame that licked girls
up and down.
The holy spirit
can go fuck itself—

Sunday sermons spoken
in tongues. Some learned
to be silent, others learned
to sing.

Asylum Mythology

The knowledgeable doctor says
this condition is like a Chimera.

Monstrous fire, the hybrid
is the sum of our parts.

I believe in nostalgia,
most of us come from a divided place

& there is always someone
who will say this story is familiar.

We are animals, sure—
Swish of a snakehead tail.

Hydra, my mother, her father
the endless heads.

Nothing stops this kind of brain matter.

Mother as animal parts, as disparate
& dazzling. Everyone

loves a crazy woman.
Who can blame them?

Passionate disaster, sometimes
naked, sometimes in pale lilac

platforms. Always a volcano
of vulnerability & fire breathing.

She breathed me, terrible flame.
This swift-foot— this Chimera,

was first woman, not mythological
or monster.

Saint Lucy’s Eyes

In the study of saints
find catalepsy,
coding and classification.

A body’s suffering
of incantations,
mystery and mass

Don’t act hysterical.

The artistic depiction of piety
a sort of premature burial,
Keep quiet, is sometimes
from a magnetic

The mind burrows
a tunnel to find a new trance,
chrysalis of disorder
DSM, Dionysus, diagnostic,
Sado-Masochist order.

Once upon a time
woman was yoked
to a oxen.

To name a woman insane.

Napa State Hospital, House of Wired Glass

We visited every Sunday. Never knowing
what to expect.

Once, it was a reaction to iodine
that had created a boiling of the blood
so hot it burned the entire surface of her body.
Her skin peeled for months.

Meanwhile it was 1976, visitors to the Hospital
could drive or take Grey Hound,
there was a bus stop just for us,
who never spoke to one another because
what was there left to say.

Across from the arches of the hospital,
visitors could eat at Sambo’s Restaurant
if they could afford it. At that time,
there were 1,176 of these restaurants
in Forty-seven states. It was a national chain.

My father who loved his light skinned wife
and didn’t understand why his child
was born so dark, sometimes treated us
to eat because he thought we could afford it.

During the same time punks & bands
came to play shows at Napa State Hospital.

Once it was the Cramps who played
in the quadrangle courtyard,
where Lux yelled into the crowd—

Somebody told me you people
              are crazy,
but I’m not so sure about that.

American Pastime

I used to know a theater, she is a shell
of her former self.

Winged ghosts decorate her body,
chained tibiotarsus cling to her beams.

In history women & sparrows
do what they must to survive.

I met her through the son
of the man who owned her.

The weight of him was the friction
that tired her luster.

He enjoyed that his family owned her—
a historical landmark.

It was his pride to discuss colors
& shapes. The spark of the deco line,

and her jazz flora. She sure is something
to look at, he was fond of saying.

He acted out scenes
from his favorite films,

on the landing of her stairs.
Last Tango in Paris, and others

where he could see himself
as some kind of hero.

Art deco arches are designed
to hold things up.

Women’s backs
are good for that too.

A body laid upon the theater’s floor
could if it wanted, travel her beams

to the zigzags & sunbursts,
joining the birds in the chevron

and watch for an eternity
the classic story unfolds.