Sheryl Luna


Sheryl Luna is a Latine poet and educator born and raised in El Paso, Texas. In high school, a college counselor told her she was not “college material.” Despite this discouragement, Luna went on to earn four separate degrees: a BA from Texas Tech University, an MFA from the University of Texas at El Paso, an MA in English from Texas Woman’s University, and a PhD in Contemporary Literature from the University of North Texas. While Luna was running track at Texas Tech University, her coach introduced her to the work of esteemed novelist Ralph Ellison; Luna was transformed by the power of his work and grew an immense fondness for reading literature. Luna enrolled in a creative writing course with hopes of becoming a novelist but was urged by her professor to pursue poetry. Luna began by writing short soulful poems, somewhat inspired by the Imagist movement, weaving rhythmic lines with autobiographical insights. Her debut collection, Pity the Drowned Horses (2004), an exploration of cultural identity and the U.S.–Mexico border, won the inaugural Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. Before becoming a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Texas–Pan American, Luna worked with the literary organization BorderSenses, where she taught poetry in juvenile detention centers in El Paso. In addition to her academic work, Luna is a volunteer poetry teacher at her local mental health center. In her collection Magnificent Errors (2022), she writes about her personal experiences with homelessness and mental illness, as well as the struggles she has witnessed others face. Luna, who now lives in Colorado, believes wholeheartedly in the healing properties of poetry.

Lowering Your Standards for Food Stamps

Words fall out of my coat pocket,

soak in bleach water. I touch everyone’s

dirty dollars. Maslow’s got everything on me.

Fourteen hours on my feet. No breaks.

No smokes or lunch. Blank-eyed movements:

trash bags, coffee burner, fingers numb.

I am hourly protestations and false smiles.

The clock clicks its slow slowing.

Faces blur in a stream of  hurried soccer games,

sunlight, and church certainty. I have no

poem to carry, no material illusions.

Cola spilled on hands, so sticky fingered,

I’m far from poems. I’d write of politicians,

refineries, and a border’s barbed wire,

but I am unlearning America’s languages

with a mop. In a summer-hot red

polyester top, I sell lotto tickets. Cars wait for gas

billowing black. Killing time has new meaning.

A jackhammer breaks apart a life. The slow globe

spirals, and at night black space has me dizzy.

Visionaries off their meds and wacked out

meth heads sing to me. A panicky fear of robbery

and humiliation drips with my sweat.

Words some say are weeping twilight and sunrise.

I am drawn to dramas, the couple arguing, the man

headbutting his wife in the parking lot.

911: no metered aubade, and nobody but

myself to blame.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Poems of Place

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line


visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work