Poem of the Week | September 26, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Sports Cards” by Jose Hernandez Diaz.

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of the chapbook, The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020) and the full-length, Bad Mexican, Bad American (Acre Books, 2024). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Huizache, The Missouri Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, Yale Review, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011. He is an editor and teacher born and raised in southern California.


Sports Cards

When I was a kid, maybe 8 or 10 years old,
              my brothers, friends, and I would steal sports cards
from the local K-Mart. I knew it was wrong and I felt guilty,

              but at the same time, I didn’t have the money for it.
Don’t get me wrong, every now and then,
              my parents would give me money and I’d buy cards,

but it was never enough to fill my desire for sports cards.
              We would put the packs of cards in our pockets.
Then we’d walk out of the store, undetected.

              I feel so bad telling this story now, almost thirty years later;
I should’ve known better. All I wanted was a Kobe Bryant
              rookie card. Or a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.

Is that so much to ask? Can’t a first-generation, poor kid
              steal his dreams, if he can’t afford them?


Author’s Note

I wrote this poem thinking about my childhood growing up in Northern Orange County first-gen low-income Mexican American. We didn’t always have what other suburban kids had. We lived 8 people in a 2-bedroom apartment for much of my childhood. Sometimes, very rarely, though, I acted out and stole baseball and basketball cards from the local K-mart when I couldn’t afford it. I idolized the ball players and wanted to play point guard for the Lakers one day. I knew it was wrong and felt guilty about it. It was probably my only criminal activity. Otherwise, I got straight A’s and never missed a day of school. I thought writing a poem about this would show the economic disparities some folks face which often go unnoticed and the fact that all kids want the same toys and collectibles and dreams. I want to show that we all have the same desires and aspirations, although we don’t all have the same opportunities, in a capitalist, materialistic society.