“My Present to You”

Give me nothing at all
And I will be happy

With nada
I am free and can create
My own destiny

So I give you nothing
But the air cupped in my hands
A smile on my face
The heat in my heart

It is a present
Without a receipt
That you cannot return
Please re-gift it
Again and again

Amor, True Love




“State of Emergency”


At some point the panic becomes passive
Then you understand
How even the devil can thrive in hell

Every day is an emergency
One day closer to the ultimate riot
It lasts a long time
Yet it is really nothing at all
The blink of an eye
The scratch of an ass
Then it is over

A state is not an action
A state is prolonged perpetual torture


You can smile in between the yanking of your fingernails
Everything begins and
Everything ends
Just like the sea
Just like the stars
Just like that time you were crying alone
Twisted in bed and the whole world was armed against you
Because you deserved damnation
Just like the fires that burned in Baltimore and Watts and Guatemala and
In your barbeque pit

What matters is the action
Not the state of being
You can down a beer while the carne asada cooks
You can raise your fist as you drown
You can pick up a pen and write
Because we all know the story of the pen:
Once upon a time a simple man pulled out his pen against
The swords and guns aimed at his heart
With full faith he shouted:
“The pen is mightier than the sword!”

He did not live
Yet he won
He ended
Just like this poem





“Sins and Miracles”

It was tradition
To take off your shirt and
Parade your
Bubbled scars
Green tattoos and
Famous stupidity

You chase cars
You get snapped!
You expect prison and proof
You will never change

Death is the only option

The art is in the funeral
Full of flowers
The ladies crying
The homies drinking
You just on display
In your finest
Pin-striped suit
Knowing or
Not knowing
You made it to the goal:

It aint no sad story
This is a glad story
A bad story
What people with words would call
The day of reckoning
The day of dreams
My grand dreams
My soul beams

Forget about hitting homeruns
I don’t know about winnin an Oscar or
Being president
I got no clue about scoo and
All the small smiles and
Firm handshakes that come with that

I got now and
This is what I call high—
What I think of when I hear of

I’m free


               “THIS IS YOUR POEM”


Enter into my mind with arrogance

This is your poem


Enter into my heart with love

This is your poem


Together we are a beginning

Separate we end


But today we have now

This moment perfection


You and I listening with one ear

You and I speaking with one voice

And our conversation is this:

What’s up, brother?

How’s it going, love?

Me, I’m cool, ah, super cool. What a gorgeous day!


But conversation can’t match your smile that blinds me

Or your gaze that transforms me

And I want you to feel as if this is not bullshit

Or a line from this poem


It, this poem, these palabras, are what you invent out of it.


So what is your poem?


I am your poem.


Brilliant ball of fire am I

Manufacturing mansions

Out of mountains

Encouraging air

Into excitement


In order to live.


Little gangster cholo

You are a doctor

Giant genius

You are a savage

Ignite Earth

With your dance

Produce power

Through your passion

Sing songs







Your reward is the sky

Your treasure is today


Always Ben

Always Senor Bac Sierra

Always true.


I am your poem.





Love is most precious.

Prevent the panther’s escape.

Post proud by a cage.




“Santo Cholo”

At some point there will be no tomorrow.

You will be hungry.

Eat the word.


Let there be no mistake:

Words fill

Not just belly or brain

But the emptiness beyond.


In that void

One moment in infinity,

A time further than forever,

I will invent your name,

A word.


I will not recognize who I am

What history has passed

But your word will trigger me

To your face

Your broken smile.


From some unknown

A word will whisper or shout and

Feed me

Your name.


Then time will begin again

And tomorrow will be a blessing.





Instead of drawing you this poem,

I should be working on taking over the world,

But what is Earth without your teeth

Without your kiss

Without your laughter that colors sky

Or your eyes that halt my breath?


Instead of carving you this poem

I should be working on taking over the world,

But I waste my time like a bum

Because what better life is there but to love?

And to love you is a blessing, a miracle,

A curse.


You are not easy,

So the world stops yet

The universe begins for you.


You are the throne, the queen of class.

I am simply the king of quesadillas.

And that is why I tattoo you this poem.



“An Entertainment”


I prove love

The way a pitbull

Proves death.


A petty poet, I lock onto

“Roses are red and violets are blue” and

Playfully shake from flank to flank,

Because that is my instinct: to love.


For you, I fight because

You are my master.

Pet my head, and I obey.

Send me to the ring, and I entertain

Beyond my last breath.




“Wild Animals”


You love me because I grunt like an animal,

Something between a panther and a pit bull.

You love me because I love like a sincere hunter.

I do not stop until my teeth caress your soft, sinewy neck.

A carnivore, I need you to sustain me.


But I merely pretend to feed off your flesh.

By swallowing you, you enter my body,

And you,

It is you who eats me

From the inside out

Until I am nothing

But dry bones.


Nourished woman,

You are

The wildest animal of all.





                                  “CONFESSING A FEELING”

As I Sit Here, The Lonely One, Slipping into Darkness
I Call Your Name to No Particular One.
Oh, How it Hurts, this Thin Line Between Love and Hate.
I’m Your Puppet, Your Old Standby, who understands
I Destroyed your Love.
I Had a Choice, and I chose wrong, Playing the Part of a Loser.
Now I’m haunted by your love.
It’s Okay, Aint No Big Thing I pretend, but I’m The One Who Knows The Agony and the
Dreaming Casually, Wishing on a Star, I’ll Write a Letter to Myself
And promise I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow but that’s Just my Imagination.
It’s Too Late for Love.
This is a Man’s World, but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.

               “Solo Tu”

In this poem, you read my destiny.
An eternity ago, not simply months, but
A forever of some past place,
Once upon a sunny day
I looked upon your beautiful face,
And I knew my life had begun.
I predicted how
My life would end.

Now I am here, without regrets because I
Accepted you are My fortune.
Your judgment holds life and death that
Was and always will be.
A petty man, I have no control,
For I am a mere mortal.

It is you with your
Tilted chin and elegant eyes that force me
To kneel.
And it is your words or your silence
That breathes life or extinguishes it.
I wait for a voice that sings my soul.
I wait for an end that you bless.
It is you, only you with



           “Breath of Life”

What love is there but the love from your lips?
It is as if heaven and earth were created
From the breath of your mouth.
The words you first spoke gave birth
To the sounds of birds and this beast.
For before you, my tongue was tangled
In stutters of stupidity.
I destroyed my time tricking myself
That there was purpose.

In your voice
I discovered the song of beauty and beginning.
With each syllable, you sing
My life, my future, my beginning.
Even your silence will one day demand a dance,
For it is when I will no longer hear you
That I will know I dance my ending.
And at that end I will bow to you,
Kiss your hand
For the honor of having heard the
Music and magic of your alma.



A poema for our brother:

“The Last Time I Saw Your Face”

Hungover and happy,

You rolled and hopped into

Candlestick’s Streetlow Car Show with the

People’s Choice lowrider from the hood.

Caked with dirt, new rollercoaster dent on the passenger’s side,

Not even pretending to be pretty,

A convertible 1966 Super Sport royal wine Impala

Tailored for rawness.

For you, the streets were always most important.

Even though you knew better,

You accepted your destiny

To be a loco.

You lived and died with that honor,

No matter your mistakes.

The last time I saw your face

You smiled and

We embraced


Whatever I do in my life,

I hope I can honor your spirit.

I wish you love.

By Benjamin Bac Sierra

For James Jeffrey Bac Sierra, my soul brother.

November 10, 1968 to June 16, 2008



Let us not romanticize the past.

These streets were death and despair.

Muggings, shootings, stompings, and sinning.

Singing, too, but the strongest songs were sad:

Oldies rule forever.

It was nice to suffer with a good friend,

My Solid Cement.

On the brink of death

Or crushed from a hangover,

I hugged this Earth,

My mother Mission Earth

And she always comforted me

With her cold kiss.

I would be in such love,

Inventing such sublime imagination.

These streets were death and despair


The grime and graffiti in the alleys is as beautiful as the sunrise.


“Kicked Out”

The Homeboy tattoo true:

Smile Now, Cry Later 🙂 😦

It was a boast and compliment to be kicked out—

Of school, of church, of civilization.

Only the streets were where savages belonged.

Even donut holed cops knew we owned las calles,

So that was our goal:

To be joined with streets  

Concrete at my feet

Beers mixed with tears

Angeldust til I bust

Laughing at infinity: por vida.

With pride and panic,

I have learned

Even infinity has its limits

Because today I must pay.

My treasured gray cement and beautiful black tar,

You no longer love me.

You break my heart.

Now is later.

“March Forth!”

My homeboy Alex born on March Forth
Boasts he is a natural born revolutionary.
Me, I entered existence on the
20th of November, which explains why
I love turkey and mashed potatoes but with
Orange Habanero chile peppers instead of
Canned purple cranberry sauce.

I am not royalty unless you consider
The scars on my head as a crown or
The tattoos on my chest as a golden necklace—
Then I am a king or
Even more of a turkey.

This place is ha ha funny and
I like it.
The smiles, the silliness, the stupid seriousness especially.
We think too much of ourselves—
Our teeth and nails, our eyebrows and nose hairs,
Our ear sockets and assholes.
We are all the same:
We rise
We drink
We whisper
We curse
We love
We drown
We stomp
We break.

This makes us all equally fucked up and
That’s the way I like it
Nice and fucked up
Exciting and tragic
Totally human to fight against
Two plus two and
Enjoy it,
The illogic and sheer beauty of
Fresh flowers and first steps,
The damnation of good luck
That got me here to this point.
I sing songs with my cracked voice
That confesses my youthful shouts and
Desperate cries.
I, too, boast of revolution
Though I was not born this way.
I had to earn it through
My own idiotic mistakes.

For My Brother, Alex Nieto, RIP

“A Cinco de Mayo Poem”

I am brown like shit
That fertilizes flowers and food
I am brown like dirt
That sustains skyscrapers and suenos
Brown hot coffee
Fuel for faceless forms
Inspiration for tired troops
Your victim
Back broken coffee picking
Because what else is there
When you have nothing
But muscles and brown skin?

On Cinco de Mayo, I down Corona beer
And get drunk like a Mexican
Even though my parents are from Guatemala.
It does not matter.
We are all brown pieces of shit
Who share suffering and smiles
Heartbreaks and heaven
We know how to live
And how to die.
Con Safos, Homes.

“Sunday Evening Poem”

Secrets survive between shadow and soul
A place of echoes, of laughter, of stupidity
We hide them even from ourselves
Because we are cowards of our
Empty reflection
We fear invisible love
Our vulnerability
Our ego
Our pure joy
It is too much to believe what
Children believe

Corrupt we choose fire and brimstone
And lie to our face in the mirror
Look without your eyes
You will find
Buried treasure
Rusted, muddy, priceless
It is enough.

“The Good Fight”

I am not foolish enough
To try to figure
It out
I waste my time
Making love
Writing poetry and
Fighting the good fight
Worthless endeavors
That do not lead to

It is better to be confused
With a smile
Than to be bitter and
Figure out nothing
Not even hatred

“On Bernal Heights”

Alone the wolf
Climbs the mountain
To howl
It strolls to the edge of
The highest cliff
Wind swinging it wild
Pushing it forward
Pushing it off

To howl is a risk worth taking
On the streets
One must calm one’s urges
On the streets
One must remain silent
In his agony
But here I howl:


Is it a sin to sing soul?
To be proud of cries
To be transformed beyond
What little Red Riding Hood
And the three little pigs
Think of me?
Can I not just stand here
With my pain
And wretchedness
And beauty
And howl?

I do not want your food
I do not want your mind
I do not want your life
I ask for little things:

To howl
At sunshine and moon
To howl at spirits
With and
Beyond me
To let my tears fall
In peace
In love
Truth is confession and liberation
That no one understands.


A magician or a poet
I can make you vanish
Into thin air
With some hocus pocus and
I will forget you as if
You were never born
I did not love you
You did not love me
We did not laugh or cry or
Kill to be together
Those things never happened
For I have the power to
Erase my heart

Little green apples
On a sunny day
Equal zero
There is magic and poetry
Even in

One thought on “Poetry

  1. Hello Benjamin,

    Was really great meeting you in person last night at the Pegasus Book Store in Berkeley. Thank you for signing the book for my chiquito “Chuy.” I am really inspired and honored to have grown up in the very same streets of San Francisco as you. I am able to relate to you in many ways….starting from the cross on my hand, the struggle and the ability to uplift ourselves, pursue an education; and be proud of “nuestras raices which are deeply embedded in the Barrio!”

    I would be honored to collaborate with you in the near future in some way shape or form!

    Love the Homeboy Haikus – Radical Poetry!

    Si Podemos!

    Ana G. Perez, ASW

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