mother’s advice for a hot afternoon

we walk to la iglesia to the beat of heat waves
that amá tries to ward off with her black sombria
hovering over her head. she notices me wiping
sweat off my forehead. “take this so you won’t
get prieta like me,” she advises, handing me
the umbrella. i shake my head.
“there’s nothing wrong with that.”

we go to the church sin hablar, and as
the black nube lingers above her head, i think
about much easier it is for me to say that
being prieta is beautiful.

only $12

in the thick of expensive cigar smoke,
i noticed your clarks and wondered–
maybe i’d be better at math
if everyday calculations were less troubling.

$12 in my jean pocket
(because jeans go with everything)
and i rummage through goodwill sales
where cute black tennis shoes are only $7.99
(i wish i had a pair)
and beautiful blouses for my new job are $10.99
(because unfortunately, dress to impress)
shit, a shirt or the shoes?

i leave goodwill with the shoes and blouses in memory–
i’m running low on soap and tampons are more expensive
than they should be.

$12 in my ripped bag
(i just haven’t had the money to replace it)
while at target i remember that i should get a pillow
(i’ve learned to sleep without one, but still)
and i see the most beautiful choker:
coral, white, and silver crystals hang like
chandeliers, a serene luxury–12.99.

i leave target with only self-reflection–
i have slept without a pillow for over a month now,
and i need to pay my coworker back.

the cigar smoke couldn’t mask your class.
and when you whispered that you scored a
great deal–chocolate for only $12!
i couldn’t help but wonder who’s better at math.