Thursday, February 4, 2021

The #Midwessay: Monica Rico, Mexican American in the Midwest

What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart? Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. 

The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond.  These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors

Because I know the inauguration is happening and the first woman of color is being sworn into the office of Vice President of the United States, I decide to do something I have never done, and go for a walk alone in the somewhat isolated country of Northern Michigan. The temperature has dropped ten degrees in the last week; it is cold, and I cannot tell if I am listening to the wind or Lake Michigan. Sometimes I am not sure there is a difference. The ground is ninety percent ice, I have a walking stick, and crampons, but I move too quickly. I can feel my pulse rise to my face, even though I know there is almost no one in this area, less than ten families for miles. Once I am blocked by a dune, there is a hush of wind, and I hear an almost groan. When I pause to look around, it is the tree bending ever so slightly. I continue, and notice I am walking next to my own frozen footsteps from two days ago. I turn around and put my foot into them to be certain, then continue on to Church Beach.

Walking somewhere always feels longer than it is. I notice the footprints of a rabbit and crow. I am thinking of my parents and even after fifty-four years of marriage, my father still chokes up about his honeymoon. Not because he loves my mother too much, though he does, but because on the second day Up North my father was hit by a drunk driver. A man so intoxicated, that after he hit my father, he kept going, at full speed into a telephone poll. When the cops came, they told my father to calm down. His 1964 GTO convertible had been destroyed, but it wasn’t that, instead the cop was giving my father a ticket, and demanding he pay for the telephone pole.

I can see the bright white church and Lake Michigan is speaking again. I never get sick of smelling the water before I see it, like the second before it rains. When I clear the dune, I get blasted with the wind from Lake Michigan, and the sun surfaces its head. My face is beginning to burn, but I am smiling. I’ve lived too long not to do this, to have this moment, these waves, and sea foam dance for me. I wish my parents were with me. I wish this view of brown, to green, to blue, to black was theirs. I try to take a video, but I don’t want to look at the screen. Lake Michigan is saying something, she is throwing the veils of her dress, back and forth. She is so loud, I cannot hear the seagull, but watch its shadow. I pull the collar of my wool sweater that I used as a scarf earlier, back up around my face, and the condensation of my breath has frozen in the time I’ve been here. I am glad to end the last four years here, on the land of the Odawa, although I don’t know what to feel about the church and its garden of crosses. I hold the guard rail; the Lake is an orchestra I thank. The rabbit, crow, and now the arc of my own footsteps— create little disruption. 


Monica Rico is a Mexican American CantoMundo Fellow, Macondista, and Hopwood Graduate Poetry Award winner who grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program and works for the Bear River Writers’ Conference. She has received grants from the Good Hart Artist Residency and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Daily, Sporklet 12, The Breakbeat Poets Vol.4 LatiNext, Anomaly, Pleiades, Black Warrior Review, BOAAT, and Split this Rock.


  1. Wow! I love being able to see, hear, touch, smell, experience everything you lived in that moment. Thank you for this!

  2. You capture the wind, the water, the unique place that is Good Hart, Michigan. May your heart be full.