Brown Girl on a Swing
Elevated a few feet from the ground,
swinging back and forth while
sitting at the edge, she stared
at the le conte’s sparrow, brown and dull
flying above her. Swinging
her legs to go higher, she wondered
what it would be like to jump off, to not care
about knees hitting ground,
like wings against sky demanding
to be seen, because her screams of joy,
regardless of the blood gushing,
indicate that she once knew
how to fly too.
Brown Girl, Your English Is Good
First day of school, in green camo, “American
Girl” across her chest. Blue jeans, white tennis shoes,
and the brown skin she picked at while she walked
into the noise of her second-grade class.
New girl, quiet girl, the only words she spoke,
“My name is.” Her wounded name
was foreign to her, “Así no es mi nombre,”
she whispered. Popcorn reading in third grade
had her not making sudden moves, wishing
she could speak. Hearing her name
felt like all her classmates wanted to tear
her black hair from the scalp, make
her the punchline of their “why did the Mexican
cross the border?” jokes. Brown
quiet girl can’t read, funny looking girl. Go
back. She spent a fourth-grade recess swinging,
practicing words she heard in the classroom.
“Volcanoes erupt lava,” while her brown
eyes kept watch for the loud-mouthed white kids.
She felt their mean smirks.
Parent night in sixth grade, everyone
read their essays out loud. She raised a hand,
and a hot rush ran through her, her tongue
no longer splintered by double r’s.
Everybody listened to the brown girl talk.
Dia de los Angelitos
My feet hit the pebbled road hard.
Thud after thud, rushing through the crowd
Of people selling and buying calaveras de azucar,
Of women weeping over cempazuchitl and on
The tamales and pozole they took all day to cook,
Of men painting tombs yellow, blue, and hot pink,
With red and white candles to guide you home.
Replacing the dead leaves that gathered all year round,
I tripped close to your grave, and I remembered
When we were at the posada the year before,
and I was dancing around the bonfire, reenacting a ritual
That you made up. You had said to me
“Para pasar el tiempo rapido solo corre, pero ten caución.” (Why?)
I looked down at my hands, seeing the dark spots
Between my fingers. I saw how you had tripped me
When I reached my arms out to break my fall.
All I caught was the high burning flames,
So I cursed your name until Christmas day.
I needed Someone to play with.
I looked up, still on all fours with blood on my knees.
While I read your name on your gravestone, I found
Myself still hoping to see you smirking, saying to me
“No corras tan rápido tonta, deja te alcanzo.”
The now-melting white candles still with high flames
Next to the cold flautas now drained of their flavor
Told me you were here, home with me.