An Introduction to Ismael Santillanes by Victoria Chang

Santillanes’s poem toggles between the real and the surreal, between seeing and being seen, between being in the world and on the margins. The language in the poem similarly evokes this fluidity as the title rolls right into the poem, and as the images pile one on top of the other and are propelled forward by the absence of punctuation. The speaker in this poem doesn’t merely use the “homeless” woman as a vehicle of the gaze, but rather the woman is elevated as seeing something well beyond what the speaker could ever see: “i wished i had her sight to stand there watching an epic battle between heaven and earth…” Here’s a seeing poet, but one with a sense of ethics.