In my second year of college, my roommate had a vibrant teal poster with a lemon tree in bloom and the word ‘Tesoro’ nestled in its leaves. A ripe lemon dangled from one of the branches and drew my attention to a name I recognized. Yesika Salgado. I had seen her poetry in posts shared by people I followed on social media. Poems that spoke to them now resonated with me. Here and there, the universe brought her words to me. Seeing the cover of her book on the wall in my room was the final sign. After that, I began following her and reading her poetry.
Yesika Salgado is a fat and fly Salvadorian poet who writes from Los Angeles, the city she knows like the back of her hand. She writes about her parents and their crossing into the United States, of their dreams and the harsh realities that became of them; and about exploring her sexuality as a teen and then as a woman. She tells stories on the messiness of love: the lovers she could not let go until it was too painful to hold on, friendships that keep her going, and the magic these women possess. She speaks tenderly about her body, as she would a lover’s. Both are, for her, a site of divine communion and love.
Salgado continues to share her poetry during the pandemic, celebrating life and its hardships. She has also recently received the 2020 International Latino Book Award in Poetry. I have sought out her writing during these uncertain times. I poured over her most recent book Hermosa.
Hermosa. You are blooming, my love.
Evocative images unfold on every page. Yesika Salgado intertwines the familiar symbols of the city, her neighborhood, and the trees that grow in them. She also incorporates the symbols from the Catholic Church that shed the misogyny oftentimes perpetuated with religion as the tool. She describes the intimate rituals of sex, love, and healing. The pain she felt from lovers who could not commit to her because of how they saw her body, as though she must be hidden. Denied. And yet readily available to tend to their loneliness and her hunger for love.
She adorns her fingers with gold rings, her skin with the spray of fragrant perfume, her lips with the color of blood, and her body with black lace. She knows she looks good. Expensive. Unapologetic. After all the heartbreak, she no longer forsakes her existence or her body. Among the late nights and tears, there have been true moments of joy, moments of pleasure, and moments of love.
Yesika Salgado brings words to the parts of her, and ourselves, that don’t leave the back of our throats. These are things we are told lowers our value: fatness, infertility, grief. Reading Hermosa has given me solace and inspiration throughout this pandemic. Yesika Salgado and her poetry offer more than just representation for fat, brown, and creative women. She cultivates love and acceptance: acceptance of ourselves and the powerful emotions that move us. This is acceptance for the situations we cannot control and the ones we wish we didn’t. And finally, it is acceptance of the growth we still have yet to see and all the progress we’ve made up to this very moment. She shares this with her mangos (what she lovingly calls her readers) and so much more.
Suelta – a love and sex column
In addition to her poetry, Yesika Salgado writes a column for Remezcla called Suelta, where she writes about her life as a woman dating in Los Angeles. The columns go into more depth on the lovers remembered in her poetry. It details her path to sexual liberation, along with the pitfalls she’s still learning to overcome. With her columns, she offers advice to those navigating situationships, one-night-stands, ex-lovers, and new boos. Connecting her childhood and culture, Salgado writes introspectively about where her ideals on love come from as well as their effect on her today.
You are there with her as she’s sitting in her mother’s house late at night, reflecting on a night of traffic and a lackluster date. And you feel her writing of clandestine meetings with a high school sweetheart and first love she can’t resist seeing. You are there on nights when she’s in the back of an Uber glowing from a hookup. And she shares cautionary tales of men whose masculinity considered her success as a threat to them. With these dates, she’s learned the full power of her body by embracing and listening to its needs. She assures us that we are not alone in love and dating; her writing just as intimate as the messages she gives to her readers.
Writing-In-Place: workshops with Yesika Salgado and Not a Cult.
Salgado stays connected not only through her social media but also with online events organized by the publisher, Not a Cult. She leads poets and writers step-by-step to creating poetry in the workshop series To The Bloom.
She and other hosts cover topics like haunting and homeland, anger and vulgarity, the presence of absence, and more. The workshops are held on Zoom, where you can create and share with others from the safety and comfort of your home. If your schedule keeps you from going or perhaps you may not feel comfortable in video calls, don’t worry! Video recordings of each workshop are posted to Not a Cult’s Youtube channel. That way, you can engage with the workshop when you’re ready and at your own pace. I was thrilled to learn about these workshops because I felt like the pandemic had sucked all the creativity from life, but now, here is a space making creativity possible.
Want to read more of Yesika Salgado’s work? Or maybe you’re not a position to buy her poetry books just yet? Salgado always makes sure she and her writing are accessible, so following her Instagram and Twitter will invite you into her life and art. You will not be disappointed.