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Ode to My Older Sister, Letty, for Being the First in the Family to Go to College

By Jose Hernandez Diaz

For Letty

I’m not sure if you knew it at the time, but you showed us, your younger siblings,
A great example. Maybe you were just happy going away to college,

Away from the responsibilities of watching over younger siblings all the time,
But I always remembered having pride when I’d tell people my sister

Is an English major and even more so when you became a teacher.
In fact, you were the first Latina teacher I ever saw on campus, when you came

And substituted at my high school. All the kids giggling: is that your sister?
She looks just like you. How cool! Tell her to give you an “A!”

Not sure if you knew it, then, but thank you for making me proud that day.
I didn’t know what I wanted to be at the time:

Maybe I could be an English major? An English teacher? A writer?
Maybe I could write a book of poems? Maybe? Yes, of course. Why not?




Listen as Jose Hernandez Diaz reads Ode to My Older Sister, Letty, for Being the First in the Family to Go to College.

Added: Friday, March 29, 2024  /  Used with permission.
Jose Hernandez Diaz
Photo by Veronica Navarro.

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020), Bad Mexican, Bad American (Acre Books, 2024), The Parachutist (Sundress Publications, 2025) and Portrait of the Artist as a Brown Man (Red Hen Press, 2025). He has been published in The Yale Review, The London Magazine, and The Southern Review. He teaches generative workshops for Hugo House, Lighthouse Writers Workshops, The Writer’s Center, and elsewhere. Additionally, he serves as a Poetry Mentor in The Adroit Journal’s Summer Mentorship Program.

Image Description: Jose Hernandez Diaz stands in front of a dark amber background. He rests his hand and elbow on the back of a black chair and leans slightly forward, looking thoughtfully up and into the distance. He wears a black jacket with a white-and-blue-checkered collared shirt. 

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