A once undocumented immigrant, the son and grandson of undocumented Mexicans, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo wears his race and origin pinned to his chest. Married to a naturalized citizen, he finally received a green card in 2014. Cenzontle is a highly personal trip into the often conflicted and confused heart of a man forced to subsist in the shadows of citizenship, race and sexuality where, like the mockingbird of its title, his poems replicate the songs already ringing around him and are shaped by "the echo/ and its echo."

Castillo's work takes many forms and touches many moments of memory and passion. "Musical in Which You and I Play All the Roles," for example, is broken by half pages of white space, as if to shift scenes. Centered on erotic romance, the narrator plays his "roles," including lusting after the "shy boys in the dark" where he imagines "trying to peel off all their tattoos with my tongue." Eroticism, maternal love, paternal abuse, immigration, politics--they all find a place in Castillo's world. He speaks of farmworker deaths by exposure to pesticides and the bodies of those crossing to the other side afloat in the Rio Bravo. Stringing this diverse collection together is striking surreal imagery, like in "Wetback": "I wanted to dance by myself in a dark room/ filled with the wingless bodies of bees."

Cenzontle is a rewarding, immersive experience into the mind and heart of an American immigrant who isn't afraid to sing the songs he hears--discordant and off-key as they often seem. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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