Her Name is Esperanza

rosebud design3


Mama’s on a warpath

She’s had it

with everyday luxury

Those words should never

end up together

It’s such an unnatural bond,

like identity and reinvention.

Soon Madonna’s gonna get back on the gondola,

not knowing she’s in Vegas.

Listen, little one, there’s a reason

Jesus didn’t resurrect himself every day.

How many times

can you get assassinated

before you wise up?


now that’s a luxury,

and mama’s not giving it freely

She’s spitting on guilty graves

Don’t write me saying things

in bad taste.

It’s not something I can afford.

When I was growing up,

No one spoke about the future,

or having a banner year

thanks to Bubba and Scooter.

All those kingpins

with the names of dogs

who tear into steak with silver

and dig holes in the ground

to hide the bones—


That is how the mighty create.


All the new things for us to say—


That’s the life, she says, I want for you.


This is how she dreams for children and yet


Mama never has time for fun and play

The worst criminal of all is lisa frank

Too much damn celebration

on a single folder

It’s obscene

It’s a waste of color

and animal

Children after all are childish enough

When I was growing up,

Mama says, we didn’t have alcohol.

We got drunk by working too much.

Purpose was a luxury

and you had to pay for it,

in full.


Her great ambition in life

is for her daughter

to become

a snob

This came after she heard on dallas

that a blonde’s whole life 

was la-di-da and this


This caught hold


That’s the life I want for you, she says to me looking at the television


She doesn’t care for nuance or getting

bogged down in history she moves

forward my mother

she cries at funerals

and then makes mourners

self-reliant again


If necessary

and it always is

she takes over words

like grief and reflection

and living wages

She has no time for healing

or explanation


or the people who can’t spell her name

Like the one who wrote to extravaganza

gomez wouldn’t you like 2% cash back

and my father swinging her around the kitchen

laughing about his secret

exotic dancer wife

My father the only person living

able to break

the fourth wall

she’s set between her and the world

There are no asides

She hides nothing

Her discipline is soliquoy: her mind roaming

wild Listen, little one, no dating until you’re married.

No boys until summa cum laude.


She knows the difference between northwestern

and northeastern universities in case I try to sneak

anything by her No pregnancy before

you’ve grown a life of your own because I brought

you into this world and I can take you out. Mama’s

on the warpath I’ll throw you on the street

wearing all that paint on your face.

I’ll knock out your teeth if you join a gang.

I love you, you’re my everything. I’ll scrub

every floor if you don’t get a scholarship

although you’re only holding down

a part time job. Listen to me:

don’t go into labor law or human rights

to honor me. Eat meat every day

and make bank with Buckley,

and then take his job, and then the company.

Why aren’t you studying? Figure out sailing. Don’t die

for anyone. Study before you get a license to drive

or practice law. Medicine before law,

and both before business.


I break her heart when I choose poetry


but she comes around to say: Study all the anglos—

dead before living, and mostly the men.

She has an inkling of dickinson

She put away americo paredes

and all the corridos she knew

She hoped my jewish studies made me intellectual

She told me to walk fast into stores like barneys and saks

looking bored, with my right hand splayed out

until I found the sales rack

without it seeming

the primary purpose

She worked two jobs and once never had a day off

for three years

She worked every holiday and weekend

and opened on Christmas of her own accord that day

her boss stayed away and let her run the store


But don’t make yourself into Moses, she says

Parting the sea,

and leading,

and leading,

only to be left behind.



is the impossible catching up

with the rest of us,

and never

was I

with the chosen ones.  


On a rare night

which my father finds

you won’t find her

looking for the next day 

There she is in his arms

in a plastic lawn chair by the small garden

he builds for her


he whispers


Everything loses shape

and it’s too dark to see anything

Here only are the colors real

There is no devastation in them


Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a 2013 CantoMundo Fellow and the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013). A Leopold Schepp Scholar at New York University, she won the Seth Barkas Prize for Best Short Story and The Thomas Wolfe/Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Best Poetry Collection. She was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan where she earned her MFA in Poetry, and was a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Recently, her story “A Way out of the Colonia” won the Editor’s Prize for Best Short Story in Camera Obscura: A Journal of Contemporary Literature and Photography. A graduate of the 2010 Women’s Work Lab at New Perspectives Theater, her plays have been produced in New York City, Washington DC and Toronto. Her work appears in The American Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Bayou, Puerto del Sol, among others. Rosebud is an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts (vidaweb.org). Find out more about her at 7TrainLove.org.