A Poem from “Auto/Body,” by Vickie Vértiz

From the greased-up engines of auto body shops to the innumerable points of light striking the dance floor of a queer nightclub, Auto/Body, winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, connects the vulnerability of the narrating queer body to the language of auto mechanics to reveal their shared decadence. From odes to drag, to pushing back on the tyranny of patriarchy, to loving too hard and too queer, to growing up working-class in a time of incessant border violence and incarceration, this collection combusts with blood and fuel. Vértiz writes to dissolve a colonial engine and reconstruct a new vessel with its remains.

I Take—and Keep—My Flesh


I think my friend is in love


His candy shell Falcon, a ‘65

Is red retro—an old romantic

My, that hurts

The Beatles grip a rage, glowing

in my throat—a lighthouse in the daytime

My friend is used to handsome alleys


I am a passenger, my leather  

a crashing view

Silent streets remember

Lap belt marks on my thighs

And while I am

not my mother, I am

her skin

I am this door

Its candy apple stripe and so much steal


A dashboard burns anything

It wants you to think


This friend’s car

is my ride home


We are gelled-down

and pat friends

I fall out his door

Thanks, I say into my brushed denim


My skirt curls away from the

freeway sun. Jaws clutched


Talk to me

Talk because

a chain-linked high

is hard on the knees


And though he’s used to ignitions

I burn. We are

friends and gasoline

Should my driver four my body

and make me half, tell Amá he

crooned me, this racer, his ride

I’m sitting in


The Falcon is parking

his claws careful and far from my tips

He leans into my hot looks and where

he’s darker, a pimple once picked

Drunk-out in love

This lap is alive —backed into the seats, I take

and keep

my flesh