Jacqueline Balderrama

Poet

About

IMG_8549Jacqueline Balderrama is a pursing a Ph.D in literature and creative writing at the University of Utah. She is the first-place recipient of the statewide 2012–2013 Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize. Her poems have been  nominated for the Pushcart Prize and been published in cream city review, Blackbird and others. She serves as Assistant Editor for Quarterly Westas Poetry Editor for Iron City Magazineand as a contributing writer for WILD.

Balderrama completed her MFA degree in poetry at Arizona State University (ASU) where she taught and served as poetry editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. While at ASU, she received Virginia G. Piper Center Fellowships including two for international writing residencies in Asia during the summers of 2014 and 2015. She was a participant in 2014 and the event coordinator in 2015 for the Letras Latinas literary initiative, which strives to build community between Latina/o writers within various MFA and PhD programs. She was also involved with the ASU Prison Education Program as a volunteer instructor at Florence State Prison, Arizona Dept. of Corrections where she co-taught a weekly creative writing workshop with fiction writer Gary Garrison. Her work is interested in the exploration of voices and otherness.

Poems

Lion Lights
—after Richard Turere’s invention to protect livestock near the Kenyan savanna

We may never know what it’s like for a predator to enter our gate
and drag away the cow / We may never know / what it is like to be the predator
found in the grass / then dragged into town by the hind paws
hearing this is my territory / That is yours

Cows didn’t always live by the savanna / neither did the boy
who leads them to grasslands / who says / A lion for a cow
What does it matter / after both lie still in the yard / the lions
still coming / The boy builds the compromise

in a modified car battery / linked to lights running off solar
after so many shunned scarecrows / hung
dewy and limp / At night / torch bulbs flash for the lions
glinting off their eyes / glinting off the dull cows’ eyes

So the lions move toward zebra foals / The boy
enters in the morning with feed and draws the milk / We want to say
to ourselves Lion is a thief / is a drunk driving their car
into our tree / is a mortician / who steals corneas / But no

The lion / is a lion / was / will be a lion / We don’t know
what a lion is outside / the cage / the channel / the big cat rescue farm
How are we / outside the lion / Sometimes we’re just
straw stuffed in our old clothes / sometimes we move / Lion moves too

previously published in The Citron Review

Becoming a Mammal

A step— the first recognition
that the body was no longer floating
that probing digits, eyes, lungs
could be surfaced.
See the humid world and step
upon the strata once collapsing.
From the oceanic incubator, they slipped out
whole, without the brittle crust of
pale shells.
And grew, divided, ran, sprouting
thick coats of wool, solid hooves, once paddling
tails thinned to swishing rope.
But still drinking
their water mother
stepping in, looking down,
being unrecognizable.

previously published in Miramar

Giants’ Faces Held in the Hills

Late morning we occupy the space of our shadows
escorted each week through the yard of small white stones,
of whale-blue buildings named Palo Verde, Cactus, Kennedy,
Roosevelt, and the two spruce trees called sentries.

Neither inmate nor correctional officer,
I am between their words and the invisible women
that occupy workshop with descriptions of their hair
like water from a dry spring. My co-instructor and I,

we are new statues. We are pinstriped cotton shirts
and blue pants. We are slender fish between the gates. We
are our family’s names beside students also fathers, also
husbands, also sons, also inmates in their orange reminders.

Here they say, we are not cyclopses. Thank you for not staring.
We talk about Bishop’s fish returning to the water
with its hooked gums, about Pound’s apparitions.
It seems this prison is also a world beneath worlds.

Its residents speak to the outside from booths beneath sentries.
On ceremony, some gather in the sweat lodge gated under sun.
And I see none of this until a morning when the yard
is clear of orange, when we look past our shadows and theirs.

At its finish, they say, drive safe. We exit the yard.
Exit sally port, returning our radios. Exit door and outer gate until
the desert is un-netted from barbs and chain link. Until next time,
we return to giants’ faces held in profile against the dark hills.

previously published in cream city review

You and I See the Animals

1.

Lion summertime swallowed us up year after year.
We sisters picked neighbors’ apricots, peaches, nectarines.
We swung our legs—acrobats on ponies—from bike pedals to handlebars.

We puffed air into the nylon of our swimsuits
to make breasts like mermaids, the water holding them up.
That was when we started wearing swimsuits.

We were wetting our hair in front of our faces
then rolling the damp sheet of it back
to look like George Washingtons,
the hose twirling in the pool
until the last warm day had already passed,
the water too cold for you and for me.

2.

We listened to longer books on our parents’ bed, illustrated Greek mythology.
How silly all those gods and grown-ups,
chasing the sun, opening boxes, looking back.

Each night, sister, you and I thought we could undo our looms,
It was easy to cut thread with scissors,
as easy as unlacing our fingers from one another.

Odysseus had built that olive tree bed, each bedpost a growing tree trunk.
But Penelope was alone, sleeping on the left or right side of the bed,
then spread out in the middle.

He was off on one of those promises again,
while we were sure the bed had grown enough to lift off the roof.
Inside became outside, so animals wandered in following moths following light.

3.

We thought of lion summertime, speckled deer, antsy rabbits,
baboons, green parrots and crows sidestepping her bed’s branches,
invisible to the suitors, who only saw Penelope.

But the crows weren’t there for love, just olives, which they took
in the mornings like they do on our street, when olives fall purple and fat.
The crows stepping on split olives on bedcovers, made footprints all over.

This is the story you’re telling me in the attic of our garage.
I can feel the spotted fur of the leopard, the feathered necks of flamingoes.
We are all of those animals at once until

you’re bored waiting for love. You fly down the attic’s drop ladder,
leaving me in the rafters. You begin to sing, sister.
And then the story is over.

previously published in Poet Lore

Poems

Lion Lights
—after Richard Turere’s invention to protect livestock near the Kenyan savanna

We may never know what it’s like for a predator to enter our gate
and drag away the cow / We may never know / what it is like to be the predator
found in the grass / then dragged into town by the hind paws
hearing this is my territory / That is yours

Cows didn’t always live by the savanna / neither did the boy
who leads them to grasslands / who says / A lion for a cow
What does it matter / after both lie still in the yard / the lions
still coming / The boy builds the compromise

in a modified car battery / linked to lights running off solar
after so many shunned scarecrows / hung
dewy and limp / At night / torch bulbs flash for the lions
glinting off their eyes / glinting off the dull cows’ eyes

So the lions move toward zebra foals / The boy
enters in the morning with feed and draws the milk / We want to say
to ourselves Lion is a thief / is a drunk driving their car
into our tree / is a mortician / who steals corneas / But no

The lion / is a lion / was / will be a lion / We don’t know
what a lion is outside / the cage / the channel / the big cat rescue farm
How are we / outside the lion / Sometimes we’re just
straw stuffed in our old clothes / sometimes we move / Lion moves too

previously published in The Citron Review

Becoming a Mammal

A step— the first recognition
that the body was no longer floating
that probing digits, eyes, lungs
could be surfaced.
See the humid world and step
upon the strata once collapsing.
From the oceanic incubator, they slipped out
whole, without the brittle crust of
pale shells.
And grew, divided, ran, sprouting
thick coats of wool, solid hooves, once paddling
tails thinned to swishing rope.
But still drinking
their water mother
stepping in, looking down,
being unrecognizable.

previously published in Miramar

Giants’ Faces Held in the Hills

Late morning we occupy the space of our shadows
escorted each week through the yard of small white stones,
of whale-blue buildings named Palo Verde, Cactus, Kennedy,
Roosevelt, and the two spruce trees called sentries.

Neither inmate nor correctional officer,
I am between their words and the invisible women
that occupy workshop with descriptions of their hair
like water from a dry spring. My co-instructor and I,

we are new statues. We are pinstriped cotton shirts
and blue pants. We are slender fish between the gates. We
are our family’s names beside students also fathers, also
husbands, also sons, also inmates in their orange reminders.

Here they say, we are not cyclopses. Thank you for not staring.
We talk about Bishop’s fish returning to the water
with its hooked gums, about Pound’s apparitions.
It seems this prison is also a world beneath worlds.

Its residents speak to the outside from booths beneath sentries.
On ceremony, some gather in the sweat lodge gated under sun.
And I see none of this until a morning when the yard
is clear of orange, when we look past our shadows and theirs.

At its finish, they say, drive safe. We exit the yard.
Exit sally port, returning our radios. Exit door and outer gate until
the desert is un-netted from barns and chain link. Until next time,
we return to giants’ faces held in profile against the dark hills.

previously published in cream city review

You and I See the Animals

1.

Lion summertime swallowed us up year after year.
We sisters picked neighbor’s apricots, peaches, nectarines.
We swung our legs—acrobats on ponies—from bike pedals to handlebars.

We puffed air into the nylon of our swimsuits
to make breasts like mermaids, the water holding them up.
That was when we started wearing swimsuits.

We were wetting our hair in front of our faces
then rolling the damp sheet of it back
to look like George Washingtons,
the hose twirling in the pool
until the last warm day had already passed,
the water too cold for you and for me.

2.

We listened to longer books on our parents’ bed, illustrated Greek mythology.
How silly all those gods and grown-ups,
chasing the sun, opening boxes, looking back.

Each night, sister, you and I thought we could undo our looms,
It was easy to cut thread with scissors,
as easy as unlacing our fingers from one another.

Odysseus had built that olive tree bed, each bedpost a growing tree trunk.
But Penelope was alone, sleeping on the left or right side of the bed,
then spread out in the middle.

He was off on one of those promises again,
while we were sure the bed had grown enough to lift off the roof.
Inside became outside, so animals wandered in following moths following light.

3.

We thought of lion summertime, speckled deer, antsy rabbits,
baboons, green parrots and crows sidestepping her bed’s branches,
invisible to the suitors, who only saw Penelope.

But the crows weren’t there for love, just olives, which they took
in the mornings like they do on our street, when olives fall purple and fat.
The crows stepping on split olives on bedcovers, made footprints all over.

This is the story you’re telling me in the attic of our garage.
I can feel the spotted fur of the leopard, the feathered necks of flamingoes.
We are all of those animals at once until

you’re bored waiting for love. You fly down the attic’s drop ladder,
leaving me in the rafters. You begin to sing, sister.
And then the story is over.

previously published in Poet Lore

 

Publications

Poetry

Anomaly. Forthcoming. “The Other Side of Giving” and “My Life.”
Swamp Ape Review. Forthcoming Spring 2018. “Because we saw it in the movies,” and “Speculation on Disappearance.”
_________________________
2017
Canary: A Literary Journal of the Environmental. 37. Summer 2017. Online. 
“Without the Flood.”
Interim: A Journal of Poetry & Poetics. 34:4. Online. “oscuro,” “rueda,” and “huerta.”
Public Pool: One Space for All Poets. 
July 2017. Online. “esperanza,” “salvaje,” “Some Horses.”
Wildness Journal. Platypus Press. 8. April 2017.
Online.  
“Scene 1: Doorway” and “Scene 2: Everyone had ideas about what should happen next”

2016
Blackbird. 15:1. Spring 2016. Online.  
“Accountability for Your Blind Sheep,” “Somewhere Else in Texas.”
Connotation Press. 1:8. September 2016. Online. 
“This Name,” “Azul for Water,” and “The Dead Dream Us.”
cream city review: the other side of the mirror folio. 39:2 Fall/Winter 2015-2016. “Giants’ Faces Held in the Hills.” 85.
New Plains Review. Fall 2016. “The River: My Mother’s Spider Veins.” 5.
Poet Lore. 111:3/4. Fall/Winter 2016. “You and I See the Animals.” 30-31.
Qu Literary Magazine. 3. 2016. Print and Online. 
“Water Theory.” 46, and “Hero,” 48.
Southern Humanities Review. 50:3&4. “Finger Puppet in the Likeness of Frida Kahlo.” 62.

Fiction
2016
Jabberwock Review. 37:1. Summer 2016. “When You’re Dating The End.” 95-96. Flash Fiction.
The Gateway Review. 2:2. Spring 2016. “The World Briefly Underwater.” 21-32. Story.
(Winning story for the 2nd place in fiction Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Award in Writing at ASU 2016 and the 2nd place award for The Gateway Review, 2016)

See Archive for full list