|Although she acknowledges strong literary roots in the mythology and storytelling traditions of her culture, Tamez fights
against the assumption that these fairy tales are all they have to offer, and encourages work that flows from cultural and
social issues and are firmly based in reality. She has published several volumes of such poetry, including the chapbook
Alleys and Allies, Naked Wanting, and Raven Eye.
Naked Wanting offers readers a collection of poems linked to nature and stressing the ways in which human beings are
out of step with the natural world around them. Tamez's strong interest in ecology and preserving the environment peeks
through some of the poems, while other works are more subtle and challenge the reader's perceptions of normality. In
"Inhaling Two Worlds," a pregnant woman driving a car finds herself all but joined with the vehicle, trapped by the
technology that is supposed to simplify her existence.
Visceral, shocking images are the focus of "A Speed Zone, Inside Out," where the narrator stops by the side of the road
where a raven is dying and, rather than saving it or putting it out of its misery, proceeds to rip off its wings and take its
heart. Jarret Keene, in a review for the Tucson Weekly Web site, commented of the collection: "Sure, there are missteps.
... But these are few and far between the larger greatness that Tamez offers. ... Naked Wanting is a book we hunger for
and yearn to wrap around us like a blanket."
The poems in Raven Eye take a more personal turn and focus on the social and racial issues that concern Tamez.
Women and children, in particular, struggle to find their place in the world within the context of her poems, and simple
places such as borders take on grander meanings.
Tamez's “Corazon wakes up to watch the sky”
You and me at night, on the rez, no lights no lights, at night, no electric at night, no running water, no plumbing, nothing
wet but us, at night, so we piss outside under the stars, they're brighter on the rez, at night on the rez sometimes we see
UFOs, under the stars, when the witnesses to truth die, when they die at night, and we're finished pissing, we finish our
moment at night, then stand, under the stars, standing naked last night, we saw his star fast fast, it went from east to
west, from east to west his fast light went, you had just said how they go in 5's or 7's two went at Salt River and others at
Gila, his fast star we saw, standing naked you and me we saw him, our witness, fly across the sky, the power of the chilis
made life together possible.
Full Text of Tamez's The Digging Hole
In the back field
The memory of men slaughtering spring pigs
Throwing beer cans to the ground
Callously joking about the potent liver
The looping coils of intestines curds of fat cells clinging deftly
To the thick heart
This morning the pumice-bones dark and brittle
Still hang by the ropes clattering messages from the underworld
Odd wind chimes rattle and chitter the discontent
The night fills limply with humid pale clouds
Exhausted from days of storms
Meek implications of spent rage
Soon rains will soften the skies Spread their dank minds
As thin as grandma's old scarves
How the water smells like more than any of us ever were
Tomorrow I'll see the stump of a dead cotton wood
Viewed and considered each morning
Near the road to town on dark mornings
My headlights streak by fast
Like a well-aimed spear
The stump stares back at me
Its gnarled shape like a man hunched over
Repentant His chin digging a hole through his chest
And his back twisted--ashamed and punished
For all his cruelty For all he denies
Tomorrow's freedoms have no sleeves
Exposing skin to air heat chemicals
The unwanted unlawful touch
Is the thread this weaves looping into air
Into a web or a nest
The sun says with a sudden mouth
Dismissing my knowledge behind a stone-smooth cloud
Clouds smoothed flat by the storm's palm
Where it was recently the fist ripping open sky
Ripping the cervix brisk quick wide
The ones huddling and waiting out the storm
Get flattened across the certainty of a coming front
The sun wrecks pulling their voices under with it
To the kiln
They tilt their faces to the sky
As if it is the last jar on earth with water
The word etched on the bottom of its bowl
More on the Book Naked Wanting
In her book Naked Writing Tamez explores the effects of the militarization of the border: After serving for many years as a
nurse at the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in San Antonio, Tamez's mother returns to Calaboz, the home where her Lipan
ancestors once resided and what is now Texas and Tamaulipas.
While jogging along the river on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, she is perceived as la migra (the derogatory term used
by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol who stop migrants from slipping into the U.S.): "They think she runs away from them, /
that she is an illegal, / trespassing from Mexico" (Naked Writing 61). She stopps, turns around, and in loud Spanish
(although she speaks perfect English), challenges the validity and legality of the border.
The question she poses are powerful: "how exactly do they know / if she came from here, or there ... I am an indigenous
woman, / born in El Calaboz, you understand?" (61). In writing about this event, Tamez illustrates how the militarization of
the region creates a place where so-called "Natives" clash with "illegal aliens."
Her mother's proud statement challenges the categorization of the Tamaulipas Lipan-Apache as "aliens," and her words
raise questions about what it means to be "Native," "Indigenous," or "Indian." If the U.S. government does not recognize
the Lipan and Jumano as sovereign Indian nations, how can they be "Native"? Or even "Indian"?
When Tamez's mother claims her indigeneity, she invokes the history of the Lipan people, who once moved freely
throughout the region. She challenges the most evident manifestation of the nation state--the border--and the way the
Border Patrol supports and maintains multinational maquiladora factories, the extraction of wealth from migrant workers,
and the militarization of the region. She takes a stand against the ways the border negatively impacts the daily lives of
Erdrich, H. E. Sister Nations: Native American Women Writers On Community (Native Voices). 2002.
Tamez, Margo. Alleys and Allies. Saddle Tramp Press. 1992.
Tamez, Margo. The Daughter of Lightning. Tucson: Kore P. 2006.
Tamez, Margo. Naked Wanting. Tucson: U of Arizona P. 2003.
Tamez, Margo. Raven Eye. Tucson: U of Arizona P. 2007.