Artist's Statement

Throughout my writing career I have been interested in the stories that lie submerged below and between other narratives. Many poems in this collection tell stories that are the subtext, that are at the substrata, of other more dominant stories. These poems examine the domestic, the working class, and both the private individual experiences and the unrecognized histories of Latina women.

I came upon the story behind the title poem, "Mexican Jenny," in a back issue of a textile arts magazine. A short article announced a quilt exhibit that included a crazy quilt Jenny made in the 1920s, when she was incarcerated at the prison in CaƱon City, Colorado.

According to the article, Jenny had been a prostitute in Cripple Creek, a gold mining town, and she killed her husband after he beat her up for not bringing home enough money. She was convicted of murder, and in prison made a quilt from her working girl clothes, complete with the embroidered image of her dead husband. When she contracted tuberculosis in prison, the quilt was sold and the money used to send her to Mexico where she died.

This story haunted me. I wanted to know who this woman was, what brought her to Colorado, and what brought her into "the life." I used the bare bones of this story and began to flesh it out with my own imaginings.

I also researched the lives of prostitutes in western mining towns and eventually learned some of the facts of the real Jenny's case. I found the historical record's contradictions and improbabilities to be essential to the story, so I wove them into my poem. Because of these conflicts of fact, folklore and interpretation, I have given her story three different endings, told in multiple voices.