This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Now in Color by Jacqueline Balderrama, released by Perugia Press in 2021.
Mexico as Mexico, 1914
Mexican soldiers of the Revolución play their shades
through Hollywood cameras—gray, charcoal, ash, slate—
for The Life of General Villa, except the bullets are real
and there’s nothing special about effects.
Battles set during daylight mean you can see
when a man falls, the orchestra moves on without him.
In one recovered reel, a rag threads through
the shrapnel hole in someone’s leg.
In others, the backstory filmed in California
where a young Villa rears a trick horse
spinning the way it will in Birth of a Nation.
The rest melts to silver drops.
But you’re asking for one quarter of my blood,
and for a footfall on the southern border—
before my father was born and my grandfather too,
before his father worked in the shipyards and in the orchards—
and for someone who looks like me but isn’t.
You must rewind to this place to know
it was post The Outlaw’s Revenge,
post the raid on Columbus, New Mexico, 1916
when the original footage was recast
And somewhere between here and Satevó,
my ancestors escape the way steam rises from fire.
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