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  Juan Felipe Herrera
Juan Felipe Herrera Juan Felipe Herrera's visit is made possible
Juan Felipe Herrera
through the co-sponsorship of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Milwaukee Public Schools, and the UWM Cultures and Communities Program.

Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performance artist and professor of Chicano and Latin American Studies at California State University, Fresno. He is known as one of the finest, most innovative, and most challenging Chicano poets today. Herrera grew up in California where he traveled with his migrant farm worker parents from harvest to harvest. He started writing poetry as a child and writes for both children and adults. Herrera has taught creative writing from third grade through the university level and is an Associate Professor of Chicano and Latin American Studies at California State University, Fresno.

"There is one constant over the past three decades in Chicano literature and his name is Juan Felipe Herrera. Aesthetically, he leaps over so many canons that he winds up on the outer limits of urban song. And spiritually, he is deep into the quest that we all must begin before it is too late."
—Ruben Martinez



La Muerte

(Death)


Juan Felipe Herrera


El ángel de la guarda

(The Guardian Angel)

My word against theirs, my sickle humor
against their last glass of chianti. Simple,
Direct and compassionate—in a way, let us say,
it is in my nature to be generous: to remind
the passengers about the last stop in Anguish-
town, to spell integration with an X, to scrub
the word Prison with sneaky vastness inside.

It is my own penchant for skull symphonies
my embossed headdress, especially, that brings
me to your carpeted doom-time; this flowery intro
serves a purpose; every spirit strand is an exit,
a cash & carry star of exits and entrances.




El angel de la guarda I should have visited more often.
I should have taken the sour pudding they offered.
I should have danced that lousy beggar shuffle.
I should have painted their rooms in a brighter color.
I should have put a window in there, for the daughters.
I should have provided a decent mountain for a view.
I should have nudged them a little closer to the sky.
I should have guessed they would never come out to wave.
I should have cleaned up that mole, the abyss, in the back.
I should have touched them, that's it, it comes to me now.
I should have touched them.


from Lotería Cards and Fortune Poems: A Book of Lives
Linocuts by Artemil Rodrígues
City Lights, 1999



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