How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? By Irene Vazquez

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

The fifth time you feel like an imposter
in your own skin
you are 15
almond-eyed boy asking if you speak Spanish
trying to coax your two right feet into dancing


When was the last time someone loved you,
you, your bottomless soul
you, your Southern roots
you, your Mexican blood?

“You’ve been hiding your Latin heritage.”

You go home
resuming your favorite habit
angering your mother
falling in love with white boys who don’t love you
everyone’s still surprised you speak Spanish

“Can I touch your hair? We don’t have anything like that here.”

Think of your Abuelita
skin dripping off her hands
soft, comfortable
think of shared afternoons, sipping coffee
the way she held you so that you finally knew who you were
or maybe you didn’t
but your label didn’t matter

“Hijita de mi vida, te quiero tanto.”

You remember that the last time you held her was at her funeral
soft, comfortable
it’s been almost a year
your peach pit heart forgets how to feel

Qué lejos estoy del suelo donde he nacido.”

You falter
your mother doesn’t speak your mother tongue
makes it so hard to sing

“Our American accents are good enough to fool them, no?”

By Irene Vazquez


Irene Vazquez is a mixed-race poet (African-American and Mexican) currently residing in Houston, Texas. She attends St. John’s School where she writes and edits for her school newspaper, The Review, which received a Gold Crown rating from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

The summer of 2014, Irene spent three weeks at Interlochen Center for the Arts studying creative writing. There, she worked under poets like Travis Wade and Francine J. Harris.

Irene received a regional Silver Key for her poetry in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and she received an honorable mention in the 2014 Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest, sponsored by Hollins University.

Her work has previously appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.

She often writes about the intersection of her identities in modern America and what it means to have her childhood dreams of a “post-racial America” shattered.


2 thoughts on “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? By Irene Vazquez

Leave a Reply