Databending the {Amerikan} Barrio

Jacob Ramirez


I pledge allegiance to Amerika, a translation of shattered song.

I pledge allegiance to Amerika, a translation of shattered song.

I pledge allegiance to Amerika, a translation of shattered song.


For the tongue is code

for wrath and ecstasy,

the accent is a blur

of gods and gold. 

                                                                        The conquistadores fly their sails,

                                                                        surfbirds before land.

                                                                                                            Teotihuacán summons a                                                                                                                     sermon of nature’s first song,

                                          her garden weaves its leaves

                                    under ocelots languid with lilies

                     with hummingbirds milking white laelias

                                                                                                and nightjars burst

                                                                                                from lemon trees

                                                                                                in the loam

warm with wombs     

                                                                                                under pyramids.

                                    Stones eclipse the horizon

                                    before the storm

                                    of Spanish ships

                                    crashes into a century

                                    crashes into a century


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This necklace enhances Jesus on the Cross,

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                                                      In Amerika

                                   la Bruja sings Santeria,  

                                            her blues in a key

                                         of elegy she moans

                                      her bruises, she heals

                                   to kill the eagle

                                              igniting feathers

                                            with chili powder.          


She throws fire to the wind

and her rooster plucks and picks.

                                                                        The sparks become a bird,

Quetzalcoatl slurring slithering

writhing in clouds each scale

a full throat of sky.


Outside, her feral children

dance folkóriko

in palm leaf dresses

and deer horn crowns

holding pistolas

to and scavenge the night

for salvation                            and she invites me to her glass table

                                                                        with its chorus of candles singing

                                                                        devotion to the moon, her cheeks

                                                                        the bark of sycamore in October.

                                                                        She says ‘Pour the sacramental

                                                                        wine before lechuza comes for you.’

                                                                        We drink until the owls carry me past           


the winos swaying with angels

around the liquor store, IDs fallen from pockets from sweat pants.

Ay! Yo! Gabriel, Miguel, Juan! Pssst! What up in the alley?


No hay Jesus. No hay doctors.

                                                                                                No hay salvation. Hay barrio.

Hail Mary Full of Grace,

the Lord is with Thee.

Blessed art thou among

the barrio, the factories

and fields reek of dreams

rotted as the diabetic heel,

sour with the stench of promises

rabbit-punching you in kidneys

like fly-weight boxers or novella       


teens who love into the bench seats

of lowriders as ricos push into the wombs

of rucas and priests who lecture women

on sin loose as Lady Guadalupe

brewing magic black as Bible leather.

She reads her horoscope singing You’ve Got to Change Your Evil Ways, Baby.


 Her words pepper the sky with caw,

a murmuration of crows, murderous,

                                                                                    she tells me there is white magic

in mothers crying

                                                                        whose bellies bare fire

in the indigo night

                                                                        like chimineas

burning orange

in the barrio.



Jacob Ramirez earned his MA in creative writing with distinction from England’s University of Lancaster. There, he worked under the tutelage of Paul Muldoon and Sarah Corbett. Ramirez earned Lancaster’s 2019 Valedictorian Prize for creative writing. His work will appear in Haymarket Books’ The Breakbeat Poets Volume IV: LatiNEXT (April 2020). Ramirez teaches literature in Sonoma County, California. He lives with his wife and two children.