one

we can only respect our cultures
when they respect our women.
the rugged path they paved with womens’ bones
is lit by orbs that hold dreams they forced us to forget–
dreams in which limits only came from our fears
and not systemic cages and structural, inevitable dead ends
where men stand in the dark like vampires who use glamour
to feign trust and to illustrate humanity’s tenderness.
forced to walk barefoot on this path, the stones sting
like cigarette burns and pierce like
coerced body art at a tattoo parlor; right before
her tattoo session she screams that
she refuses to go down this aisle with that pale man
she’s run away from in her dreams
because in her dreams she awoke to a man’s
fate tattooed on her collarbone. she chants that
she is no one’s keeper, she is no one’s anything
but her own.

radical beauty

her lips dry like peach slices
as sunlight deepens the complexity
of her skin. she strides in
crowded meat markets and in between
street vendors while laughing with
a belly as sound as the atlantic and
the earth awakens from its
media-drugged slumber because
its gravity can’t hold her down.
she caresses the imprints of
change on her body that no one knew
how to love, and her calloused hands
devoted themselves to loving her;
after fucking popular beauty
she was still happy not being one.

aleigha

you’re a fast learner–you’re only 5
and you know that beauty
is the best compliment you can give. you’ve
learned that white women should be the
subject of your desire because they are–
princess elsa is stamped on your pink
light-up tennis shoes and her pale, delicate,
features adorn your fluffy purple blanket
that warms you while you sleep.

aleigha, how can i prepare you
for a racially charged world? where
you’ll fight battles for your dark curly hair
and deep skin? how do you prepare to win a war
against yourself?

the warrior

looking behind a stained glass window
i sigh. the multitude of realities image
a woman with a spine as strong as tree trunks
and with arms that could embrace the world. i
remember when she squeezed the world too hard
and the oceans poured from her hands and
unprecedented lands cracked between her
fingers. she never touched the world again.
instead she built her shoulders like mountains and
drew illogical symbols of time with fingertips
stained red from the decline of the world
she once held. she looks at her feet and notices that
they’ve become as defying as jellyfish–
i watch as she spins and spins and spins and
screams with a release, a smile, on her face.
we claim the world.

resting with work shoes

“los mexicanos son bien machista.” – a saying

Licha, a slim, middle-aged woman, drops her small, faux-leather purse on her bed just after she arrives home from la fabrica. She glances at her watch. It is 5pm. Her eyes close, and she imagines her body sprawled on the bed, her latte-colored skin feeling the breeze of the metal fan behind her. In a bit, she tells herself. In a bit I can rest.

Her husband had been waiting in the living room on their brown, suede sofa. He arrived an hour and a half before Licha. When he came home, he took off his shiny-black work shoes and changed into a pair of basketball shorts and a muscle shirt. As he sits on the sofa, he stretches his legs and rests his hands on his belly. He greets Licha as she makes her way to the kitchen.

He tells her that he wants enchiladas for dinner. Make them real spicy, he says. Those are the best. Licha nods. Her husband smiles at her and continues to watch las noticias.

Licha begins to make the chile. She decides to use the chile de lata—he won’t know the difference, right? She pours the red chile into a pot and stirs, adding other chile powders and herbs. Meanwhile, she heats corn tortillas, careful not to burn her fingers as she flips them. She places the tortillas on a plate and makes the stuffing: baked chicken with cilantro, chopped black olives, a little cheese, and a drizzle of the chile sauce. Now, the chile is done; she dips the already heated tortillas inside it, coating them red. She sets it on a separate plate and fills the tortilla with the stuffing. Licha folds the tortilla like a taquito and places it on an oven-safe tray. She repeats this process until the tray is filled.

While Licha sprinkles cheese and black olives over her enchiladas, her husband appears in the kitchen. You made enough so that I can some take to work, vieja? he asks. Licha replies, claro, viejo. Her husband nods at her response. He loves when Licha makes his lunch. See, you won’t have to prepare anything for my lunch tomorrow, he says. I’ve done you a favor, querida, he says. He serves himself some apple juice and talks about his day at work. Licha listens as she slips the tray in the oven.

Licha is washing dishes while waiting for the enchiladas to cool—she took them out a few minutes ago. It is 7:30pm. Her husband enters the kitchen again. He opens the fridge and grabs slices of ham, sandwich cheese, and mayonnaise. What are you doing? asks Licha, confused. The enchiladas will be ready in a few minutes. They’re just cooling down, she says.

Her husband snorts. You should’ve made me something else in the meantime. You know I have to wake up early to go to work. I have to go to bed soon, he says while spreading the mayo on wheat bread. I’m tired, he says.

Licha protests. I work too, and I’m also tired, she says. Are you really going to waste my time and energy? she asks. He sits down on their sofa and ignores her. She raises her voice. She tells him that he is a malagradecido, among other insults. He shoos her away. Déjame comer en paz, he says. Licha continues to express her frustration and her husband continues to disregard her.

Before shouting, Licha thought her husband would listen to her this time. One day he’ll realize he can’t do that to me, she thinks to herself. He won’t be so terco.

She serves herself a few enchiladas and walks to their bedroom, alone. She situates herself on the bed and lays against her fluffy pillows, sitting upright against the mahogany headboard. She turns on the television and begins to watch a novela called, Lo que la vida me robó.

Licha doesn’t realize that her work shoes are still on.

meanings of spanish words used:

*los mexicanos son bien machista: Mexicans are machista
*la fabrica: the factory
*las noticias: the news
*de lata: from the can
*vieja: (in this case) old woman, used to refer to one’s girlfriend or wife
*claro: (in this case) of course
*viejo: (in this case) old man, used to refer to one’s boyfriend or husband
*querida: (in this case) beloved
*malagradecido: ungrateful person
*Déjame comer en paz: Let me eat in peace
*terco: stubborn
*novela: a television soap opera
*Lo que la vida me robó: a tele-novela titled, What Life Stole from Me