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Elisabet Velasquez, 2017 Poets House Emerging Poets Fellow

Self Portrait Of America As A Revival

Mami never misses a revival. It is a chance to pray
to dead things
like her marriage.
Her body,
a thing she carries like a cross.

In America
the police kill
men sometimes.
They do not
bring them back to life.
They still want to be called God.

I am a poet
obsessed with learning
a holy language.
A language that is not 
white. I only speak in color.
          In Brooklyn.

                    In resurrection.

I am a girl who cannot drown.
This makes them call me witch.
I make them call me baptized.
I come from hell
before the flame was gentrified.
I still remember when the block was hot.

The Bible teaches me to brag of riches
even if I am broke.
even if I must die
to see it.
Which is to say - I own a piece of heaven

                              on layaway.

In Brooklyn a revival is held
in the deadliest part of town. 
Tonight heaven is a bank. 
Tonight someone will cash out. 
Tonight we only praise the living.

Tomorrow the news is our bible.
Tomorrow another god is dead.
Tomorrow a street corner lights a dozen candles. 
Tomorrow a wall takes the shape of a face. 
Tomorrow a tee shirt is turned memorial.
This is how we resurrect the dead.

Next week a mother joins a march to save her children. 
She marches like a commandment.
She dares you to break her.
Her children will know no other god before her.
Her face heavy and wooden. An arc amidst a flood of bodies.

At revivals, we praise
the living.
At revivals, we dare you to find a tomb

          to house          our gods.


Elisabet Velasquez is a Puerto Rican writer, mother, feminist from Bushwick, Brooklyn. Her work has been nominated for Best Of The Net. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including Huffington Post, Muzzle, Latina and Vibe Magazine. She is a VONA alum and the author of the chapbook PTSD. You can find her online at


See full list of 2017 Emerging Poets Fellows