2023 Award for New Poets Third Place Winner: “Free Museum Day” by Yola Gómez

Last but not least, we have the third place winner for the 2023 Award for New Poets, selected by guest judge torrin a. greathouse, “Free Museum Day” by Yola Gómez. Please join us in congratulating them on this achievement!

“we become replicas of our former glorious selves. mounted in stainless steel buildings. displayed in original form one time per year. outlined by white names, and categories like, ‘primitive, and ancient, and spiritual.’ we get excavated over and over throughout time.  we know.”

Journey through the museum as Yola Gómez makes bold and necessary commentary on race, colonization, and appropriation in this striking prosaic poem.

Free Museum Day

i walk around the museum on free admission day with my university friend. she asks what i think of this, pointing to a corner lit up from above and below, a masterpiece, i guess. i say, “it looks like a mass grave as a horizon. and those are bodies drying on the trees. the mothers and the fathers and the children.” my friend says, “they did it to natives and mexicans too.” i shrug cuz i know. and it kinda looks like a laundry line too. but the bodies are there, still. they are still and brown. there, in that other corner on another white wall with a tall show-off ceiling, a ship creaking. i can hear it too. i can hear the tree sway. it must have happened even on peaceful days, the deaths. kids playing, food smells coming up, a ship coming in, and a tree swaying in the breeze. the dead bodies hanging there. my friend says, “we’re still treated like animals, you know?” i shrug cuz i know. “desert landscapes with coyotes and jabali look real perdy with no black or brown people, eh?” we share the pleasure of mutual soul knowing with a chuckle. someone else comes in with a palimpsest body and a face that knows too. and we all walk around just knowing.

knowing how we become replicas of our former glorious selves. mounted in stainless steel buildings. displayed in original form one time per year. outlined by white names, and categories like, ‘primitive, and ancient, and spiritual.’ we get excavated over and over throughout time.  we know. our hearts are as sensitive as hornets’ nests. hanging in front of your door. you want to kill us don’t you? we are adobe walls holding our breath, waiting for the monsoons to teach you a lesson. you follow us on free museum day. through your shitty gift shop. 

my toddler wants to swing from a branch and
i say, “don’t hang from that tree.” i shrug cuz i know it happens at night. it always happens at night. taking our souls and painting them into gold frames and putting us under glass. 

“what do you think this piece means?”, i ask my friend. “the bodies are still there. they’re all our bodies underneath alabaster and polished silver and I hear church bells ring too, you know?” she shrugs cuz she knows. it happens at night. except when it happens in middle of nowhere or in cities or in front of cameras or  in broad daylight in an open field under the midday sunshine with multiple witnesses and it invades the core of you and rips you to shreds humiliating you along with the rest of them and you just lie there afterward wishing for cover of darkness and warm baths. 

my friend says, “this is bullshit. fuck free museum day.” i shrug cuz i know. this is where our tongues split in two and the white deer’s fawn suckled at a makeshift bottle. no nourishment could be found. those truck stops in between. the gleaning and glinting lights, thirst. tempting fate and wondering why we haven’t died. so we leave. 

Yola Gómez

Yola Gómez is a first generation multi-ethnic queer trans Xicane activist, writer, and theorist. Yola grew up on the US-Mexico border and in the rural California mountains. He has sought to use his experiences as a means to agitate, educate, and organize others. In 2019, Yola graduated with an MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University. Soon after, in 2020, he won Flying Ketchup’s Hybrid Manuscript Award for his unpublished book, "We’ve Always Been Weeping" and "Searching for the Dead." His work has been featured Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century and Abolition Feminisms Vol. 2: Feminist Ruptures against the Carceral State. He has a forthcoming essay in the anthology, Weeping Women: The Haunting Presence of La Llorona in Mexican and Chicanx Lore. Yola’s work appears in literary journals including Entropy, Nat.Brut, Utterance, and Cutthroat. He has co-authored in Mass Incarceration in the 21st Century Realities and Reflections with a forthcoming co-authored essay in ‘Risk and Safety: Post-Millennial Cultures of Fear in Literature’, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, titled ‘Through the transmutation of my own personal experiences: Affective Autotheoretical Accounts of Fear as Critical Engagements with White Supremacy and Heteropatriarchy’ as well as a forthcoming review of the book Psychoanalysis Under Occupation in the British Journal of Psychotherapy. Yola defines himself as an academic outsider and literary saboteur keeping his sights set on abolition. Yola is a PhD candidate and Graduate Research Assistant at Oregon State University in Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and Queer Studies. He is an outreach representative with The USA Palestine Mental Health Network and SWOP activist/organizer/advocate and co-editor of the Red Umbrella Babies: Sex Work and Parenting Anthology with filmmaker Juliana Piccillo.

Close Menu