GRIEVANCES: Roberto Montes

compiled from the social media of Roberto Montes

The truth is every day

Marginalized people are pressured

To surrender the imagination

Of being

For political expediency

In the case of queerness for example

It is more persuasive to insist

“We did not and would not choose to be”

Than to argue the ramifications of such a choice

Or unravel the difficult beauty

Of its possibility

A bald and effective measure

For precipitating inclusion

Is to reorient the conversation surrounding power

So that those at the center of it

Come to understand

That a violence against your people

Is by its nature a violence against themselves

(The congressman at the podium:

“As the father of two beautiful daughters…”

“As the cousin of a proud gay man…”)

Though this may limit what you are able to become

The benefits of political inclusion

Are obvious and

In the opinion of the poet

Who above all in the realized world demands a relief

Of violence against marginalized people

Often worth the sacrifices

But sacrifices are made

And they must be recognized

For they will always be accounted for

By those who wish not only to deface our bodies

But annihilate the possibility of our return

Let us speak of identity

In the opinion of the poet

Who above all in poetry demands a relief

From the bounds of imagination imposed upon us by those who know better

We package each other

To sell ourselves

It feels now that a marginalized poet cannot

Write outside of translation

Of their marginalization

(In some instances not

Because they are forbidden

But because they lack the capacity)

The age of identity has arrived

And with it the reaffirmation of poetry as sociological construct

Distinguished plaques to instruct and ensure

A half-hearted audience

There is an economy of sentiment that has grown

Around capitalizing on this trick

Infiltrating the discourse of popular culture and the academy alike

One of the first things a marginalized poet learns

Is how to do the trick

It is not necessarily something spoken of out-right

And I am not so cynical as to believe that there exist

Individuals who purposefully and comprehensively plan such a mechanization

Like most things

It comes about through the invisible hand

Of the institutional feedback loop

Work that seeks to translate marginalized experience

For the benefit of the straight, white center is praised


And declared representative of a people

Work that doesn’t is left to mill at room temperature

Where exceptions arise

I have seen marginalized poets wielded as if bludgeons

In a froth of anger by those at the center

An example ___ An excuse

Anything to protect their standing from what they

In the absence of imagination

Understand only as an incursion on their turf

I recall one such moment when I spoke to A Poet

Noting how outrageous I felt

It was that their words be so twisted

By a Poet of the Center to legitimize what

Seemed to me to be a cowardly argument against the merit of another poet of color

In a transparent effort to delegitimize work that did not seek to translate

But instead to embody the very refusal of translation

And the confusion I felt as they responded in a moderated tone

That I was perhaps reading too deeply into things

A week later when it was announced that the Poet of the Center

Was publishing The Poet I spoke to in a prestigious journal

Embracing diversity by featuring voices from the outside

I felt a great and subtle shame

Not of The Poet I spoke to

But of myself

That I almost ruined the opportunity of another

By putting them on the spot

(Hope also carries with it a chilling effect)

It is not necessarily inclusion

That is at fault

But the mechanisms that determine inclusion

Will always be subject

To the institutional feedback loop

The internet and social media have

Rather than contest this process

Optimized it beyond reproach

The discourse that is available to us

The critiques we are able to make

Necessarily surrenders the boundaries of what’s possible

We don’t want our friends to struggle

But we cannot afford to cede the symbology of struggle

We don’t want to sentimentalize our experience

But we can’t risk the loss of the string quartet

The work that we are to publish

Has been partitioned in advance

When the voice you have is not your own

Sometimes I wonder

If silence is the answer

(The only thing beyond imagination)

But where there is possibility

There is choice

And the truth is

Every day we choose


Just as every day you choose

The world you carry in you

It is these choices that

In the face of the flat palm of political expediency

Give us our strength

Not what we choose to be

But that a choice was made

Impossible to translate

Impossible to take

Roberto Montes

Roberto Montes is the author of GRIEVANCES (The Atlas Review)