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Eye

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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.

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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

in parallel

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, 

impregnation happened

 

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

for them

 

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”

and so,

to toy with what it was

that others’ eyes projected,
I relented.

 

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

of history.

 

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
and understand

discrepancies.

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
I want.

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Dilute 

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

only

person

with melanin

 

As money makes “money moves”
capitalism

with a green that is actually white

pushes out browns of all shades

whips it into the periphery

and the solution

is diluted

so that

nothing can be tasted

but the bland.

Illegal Hands 

This poem is in response to Millicent Fredericks
by Gabrielle Daniels from This Bridge Called My Back.

 

All my nieces were

in part

raised by nannies.

 

All 5 girls

from 2 of my siblings

had their diapers changed

were fed

and have loved

a total of

4 different

undocumented

Mexican women.

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

of “illegals,”

both sides of their Americanized mouths

arguing with the other side.

 

I still see in them now

these women

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, 

with bits

of a culture

ripe with icons

and symbols

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.

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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,

combine

a beneficiary of their brightness

ironic because of

how the world darkens their shine

merely on the basis of their melanin.

Kimberly, David

both loves of my life

at different stages

both teachers

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.