Bridge 1 (Too Brown)
This poem is in response to Gloria Anzaldúa’s La Prieta, from This Bridge Called My Back.
Patricia’s skin can still try to rise up from her body like a thousand points of rapture,
goosebumps that flock away from her form,
every single time that word “prieta” drags her back to that moment as a child,
in Mexico, visiting family, as the American Girl that she once was.
“Está bonita, pero lastima que esté tan prieta.” (She’s pretty, but too bad she’s so dark.)
That this gradient, casting shades, in a shady system of castes
set up by Mexico’s lily white rapist from so long ago
by a tongue that is still forced down our throats, for so long that we call it our own,
tasting our own gritted teeth,
-it forgets that roots are brown.
That she, as the American Woman that she is,
staunchly jutted up
against that masculine, that macho, macho man,
a white haint that lingers in Mexican homes
as an oppressive cologne wafting in the occupants’ noses
- she taunts them, in being delighted by stories about ghosts.
That to this day, this fuck-you-feminisim which once was a tomboy, in a tree
asserting her independence from gravity’s patriarchy,
using her limbs to launch, limb to limb,
with nature’s growth being the only limit of her climb,
-she is still a Mexican-American Woman, who still won’t back down,
to step backwards
over that line, still.
Even as nature herself, in her green indifference and negligence,
siding with ghosts
sought to consume her, and make the tomboy cry,
-she carved out her own womb to make a point,
with her pointed will, fashioned as a scalpel.
Flocked skin, or not, Prieta is a badge you wear.
It’s a thing that makes white ghosts shiver from their graves,
in the ground, planted like crops,
that no one will ever harvest.
Bridge 2 (Far)
So as to not have my voice not drown out
the sway of this bridge,
built to bend with wind and wave away shudders,
as one must
when men cross you daily,
I will try to approach with soft lungs.
Lungs that can rise to the occasion and rise up,
to call out other men, when they cross you daily.
Lungs that must also fall silent and fall to rank,
to be pink ears embedded in the cavity of my chest,
even as my privilege wants to hear itself talk.
In moments of mindfulness, focusing on my chest rise and fall,
I bring attention to breaths that we share,
that link us to each other as ephemeral bridges
of humid air,
bring attention to some of the same spans I have crossed,
others I’ve burned,
some I’ve never heard of,
and others I should surely help mend.
I mean, there’s lot of talk of infrastructure,
how it needs repair after decades of neglect,
this system of systems that runs quietly all around us,
unseen, taken for granted, as roads to follow and bridges to cross.
And, because of that other system of systems set up
to help people who look like me to speak more freely (mansplain),
I’m overconfident that I should be saying any of this at all
rather than listening with my chest, to be mindful
of the tone
of this very poem.
Absences that Feel For You
This poem is in response to Dreams of Violence
by Naomi LIttlebear from This Bridge Called My Back.
I clearly remember being gobsmacked.
I’d always had more female friends than guys
their sensibilities and tendency toward empathy,
a quality that I osmotically took in, just as I imagined,
as a child,
but I didn’t get the whole story
not because it wasn’t there
but because it wasn’t shared
I didn’t feel it
but I still feel guilty for not knowing
how to be there
I was gobsmacked at a conversation
with my female friends, and their sensibilities of empathy
which bloomed like a rare bloom that night.
A conversation that opened up slowly, naturally and tender.
It was about spaces in their past left undiscussed
all of them
points in time, that would never be there again
but would always throb like phantom limbs
that you reach for and cannot soothe
pains that come from somewhere that is long gone
aches like deep sobs
I was gobsmacked that
all of them
told the same story
every single one
like they were all witnesses testifying
about the same murder
the height, the weight, their hair color
the same crime seen from different angles
That the violence of bodies could
come not from fists
but were accompanied by whispers
in little girls ears
humid percussive breath
heating up tiny ears
in proximity to brains that would
never been the same again.
I had to pull myself out of a spiral of guilt
for my gender
and beat myself up for how I could have
missed this part of them
not make it about me
but to think about how it too common i was
and just be there
in that moment
and promise myself
I’d have that empathy I’d gained for them
to be more aware from that point on.
First, born of curiosity, then of stones
This poem is in response to I Walk in the History of My People by Chrystos from This Bridge Called My Back.
Against my better judgement
curiosity pulled me into the shadows with a smoldering lure
and tempted me
to 23 and me
I’d always denied that I’ve fallen for the,
“you don’t look like a Mexican”
to toy with what it was
that others’ eyes projected,
Far more European than I would had hoped
and not as much Native as I’ve felt pump through my heart
as searing blood
boiled by the pages
That my saliva
like a semen
as a conduit
of my DNA
could father these doubts
and make me wonder where
my loyalties lied.
In acquiring my Mexican citizenship
tracking down trails of paper
certificates of birth, and death and
lines to read between
to actually affirm the stone I am carved from
by Mexican hands
brown as the earth I will one day be buried in
by Mexican hands
That boiled blood
that other soup of my chromosomes
that impregnates all my organs with
the traits of ancestors
even a brain that want to question
I am not trans
but feel their cause in the static of my bones.
I cannot call myself Black
but empathize deep within the soreness of my muscles.
I was born of a place that is no longer Mexico on maps, but
I am like Chavela,
born wherever the fuck
This poem is in response to Beyond The Cliffs of Abiquiu by Jo Carillo from This Bridge Called My Back.
Cities are stirred by activity
motions in circles and
other ambiguous shapes
footsteps on sidewalks
tread mixing asphalt to move molecules
and the solvent
alive in our humanity
in a suspension
that is a culture of said town.
I don’t see us in the architecture
barely taste us in the food
and feel it in the basement of my abdomen
when, besides the waitstaff,
I am the
As money makes “money moves”
with a green that is actually white
pushes out browns of all shades
whips it into the periphery
and the solution
nothing can be tasted
but the bland.
This poem is in response to Millicent Fredericks
by Gabrielle Daniels from This Bridge Called My Back.
All my nieces were
raised by nannies.
All 5 girls
from 2 of my siblings
had their diapers changed
and have loved
a total of
One of them is still in our lives.
5 girls, 4 undocumented women across 2 families
that now are so conservative
that they speak ill of the evils
both sides of their Americanized mouths
arguing with the other side.
I still see in them now
who put their wombs
on indefinite pause,
how both cultures
seeded us as brownkind with the notion
that our value
is derived from our labor
The distinction being
are we working shoulder to shoulder
or are we handing them lists
and walking off to be superior?
fortified by what I know is also mine
This poem is in response to Give Me Back by Chrystos from This Bridge Called My Back.
You’ve try to intimidate me with sentinels that walk close enough to each other and make me step onto asphalt to nurture my own momentum, as I suspect you are carefully building that child’s fort of a personality,
of a culture
ripe with icons
that hide the fact that your fort is nothing but child’s play.
But I feel
in the pits of the atoms of my mass
that those symbols stand for me as well
affected without the affectation
of motions I don’t feel the need to go through.
I too have felt earth through my toes
known that this spot never belonged to anyone
seen pyramids in my sightline
hypothetical mountains made to tie lines
from that earth between our toes
to twinklings in the night above,
because night and day do come from above and bend down to all the earths
not just our own
not just the one we live on.
I too have walked the turbulent concrete
that are the walks
of Mexico City
that try to revert
to waterways and rebel against that colonial,
even the one carved into tunnels
where now pilgrimages to capitalism make their own clocks
their own rhythms against the current of the waterways.
I too connect to the tactile of objects made
by rough brown hands
desperate to craft enough to sustain
their wrinkled, tired forms
one more day.
Small things whose ingenuity of kitsch and materiality
speak of a misunderstood creative force
that makes factories’ soulless things
embarrassed of their own being.
I too feel that music
see the threads longer than the weaving itself
a sonic soul reaching back
tantric impulse to move my form
make me miss the origins of threads
I wasn’t there to tie in the first place.
I’m not sure if I’m writing this to let you know or to make this feeling in me more concrete and real, and to assuage any doubts your sentinels have tried to implant.
Ride or Dies
This poem is in response to
Lowriding Through the Women’s Movement
by Barbara Noda from This Bridge Called My Back.
I met them decades between
our intersections that were miles apart
but obsequious to the same kindness
the kind that becomes more rare
as the earth moves through her adolescence.
I am a fulcrum
a point a which the lights they radiate,
a beneficiary of their brightness
ironic because of
how the world darkens their shine
merely on the basis of their melanin.
both loves of my life
at different stages
who educated me in ways of life
long before they stepped into any classroom
dichotomy of twins
forming me out of mud
even when I’m dried to dirt.
We share the same eyes
however myopic our ages dictate
curve in the same feminine
and have always mangaged to march together
held signs, either in our hands
or in our hearts
and justice on our tongues.
Even as we travel down various roads
it is our intersections that define
our ultimate destinations.