Clouds of Doubt

Mother’s mouth was a story-telling flower,
painted in her favourite bougainvillea
lipstick, conjuring clouds of doubt
about where she was born.

Sometimes she’d say it was Cuernavaca,
‘the city of eternal spring’,
on the slopes of her beloved volcanoes
and the Chichinatzin mountains,

where dad would stop to buy her orchids.
Other times, she’d say we came from Mixtecs.
But she looked down on ‘indios’ and ‘prietos’,
only pointing out her skin colour

to boast how she turned chocolate in the sun.
While she resented my questions,
what else could I do? As a child,
I felt the weight she carried,

how she seemed trapped in her game
of concealing and revealing,
then sighs, quick laughter, silence.
My ancestors lie like budbursts in these tales.

by Marina Sánchez

Notes on the poem: Indios: native Indians from one of the many indigenous tribes in Mexico; Prietos: slang for someone who has dark skin.

News from the Poetry Centre: our latest podcast is now available! Tune in to hear Scottish Gaelic poet Niall O’Gallagher read and discuss three poems – in Gaelic & English – and talk about issues of translation, traditional forms, and the Gaelic community in Glasgow/Ghlaschu. You can find the podcast on our website and also on the usual podcast providers – just search for ‘Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre Podcast’ – and do let us know what you think! We’re on social media @brookespoetry and you can e-mail us via the website.

This week’s poem is taken from Marina Sánchez’s new pamphlet Mexica Mix, and you can sign up for the launch of the pamphlet tomorrow, 31 March, when Marina will be reading alongside three other poets who also have new pamphlets out with Verve: Hannah Hodgson, Jamie Hale, and Natalie Whittaker. We have shared poetry by Jamie and Natalie over the past few weeks and we’ll be featuring a poem by Hannah next week. Verve is offering a special bundle of all four of its recent pamphlets at a reduced price, and you can find out more about that offer on the Verve site,

‘Clouds of Doubt’ is copyright © Marina Sánchez, 2021. It is reprinted from Mexica Mix (Verve Poetry Press, 2021) by permission of Verve Poetry Press. You can read more about the pamphlet and order a copy on the Verve website.

Notes from Verve Poetry Press:

In her new pamphlet, Mexica Mix, Marina Sánchez, one of the most distinctive poets from the UK’s Latinx community, explores her experiences of living in Mexico, Spain and the UK. Through the arc of Family, Icons and Earth, she writes a profound, rich and well-crafted sequence of poems grappling with displacement, bilingual identity and mixed heritage, challenging cultural icons and affirming her relationship with the planet, rooted in her Indigenous Mexican ancestry. By turns lyrical, urgent, sensual and subversive, her powerful use of vivid imagery and language both voice the personal and engage the collective. You can learn more about the pamphlet on the Verve website.

Marina Sánchez is a Latinx mix of Indigenous Mexican/Spanish/British living in London. She is an award-winning poet and translator, widely published in literary journals. Her poems have been placed in many national and international competitions and then anthologised. Her debut pamphlet Dragon Child (Acumen, 2014), was Book of the Month in the poetry kit website and was featured in the British Library’s The Hidden Surprises of Poetry Pamphlets Event (2019). Some of her poems are included in Un Nuevo Sol (Flipped Eye, 2019), the first UK Latinx anthology. To find out more about Marina’s work, visit her poetry p f pages.

Verve Poetry Press is a Birmingham-based publisher dedicated to promoting and showcasing Birmingham and Midlands poetic talent in colourful and exciting ways – as you would expect from a press that has grown out of the giddy and flamboyant, annual four days of poetry and spoken word that is Verve Poetry Festival, Birmingham. Added to this is a colourful and prize-winning pamphlet series featuring poets who have previously performed at our sister festival and a debut performance poetry series, which has seen us working with the brightest rising stars on the UK spoken word scene. We also assert our right to publish any poetry we feel needs and deserves to find print wherever we find it. Verve was awarded the Saboteur Award for Most Innovative Publisher in 2019 and the Michael Marks Publisher’s Award 2019. Find out more about Verve Poetry Press on the publisher’s website and follow the press on Twitter and  Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.