Mamá always lied to herself


I used to think she lived

covered in a silk of illusion,

distancing herself from her thoughts­–

measuring happiness with grains of rice.


I saw her deny herself everyday.

I believed it was a choice–

A choice to stay hidden and quiet.

Her silence–an act against

the ever so powerful and fair truth.

How could she keep herself from me?


I am so proud of my blue-eyed idol,

“Ya’ll are jealous I have the better looking gringo”.

My cousins turn their heads as he

walks by, six feet of white light.

“Jordan has bigger eyes”, my tía said.

Pero Dios, nothing compares to those baby blues­­–

the color, a forgotten pigment of the waters you were born in.


The blue-eyed idol leads me quietly to the ivory tower.

The light blinding my brown eyes–

reflecting off of his.

I cry. It’s too bright, too hard for me to reach.


My thoughts, my identity, my self, denied

by a system that privileges narrow nostrils and white skin.


"Is one of the fairest portions of the globe to remain in a state of nature,

the haunt of a few wretched savages, when it seems destined by the Creator

to give support to a large population and to be the seat of civilization?"[i]


Yes, give up your mother’s history for ours,

inhabit the tower of reason.

Here we will tear the intuition out of you, the salt that seasons your spirit.

In return you will receive the light.


Blue eyes and ivory towers are cold and distant.

It was not worth mi mente, mi sabor, mi poder.

I was blind and alone,

my skin a burden to my knowledge­–

my ancestors disappearing from the strands of my hair.


I jump from the tower to my awakening­–

thirsty to search for the hidden crevices of my roots,

the cells that separated and formed the pigment of my skin,

the sweet smell of papaya my wet hair emanates as I step out of

the shower every night.


I embrace the brown skin mi mamá me dio,

the wide nostrils my father me regaló,

the black hair mi abuela me entregó,

the courage que mi familia me enseñó.


I look in the mirror and feel the power that has been passed down to me

from my mother and the mother of my mother and the mother of her mother­–

mothers who have lied, who have fought, who have shown ruthlessly what amor es.

No­–not love, not kind and caring and fortunate love,

pero amor, the kind of amor that suffers with blood, with tears and anguish.

Amor that withstands darkness and creates life,

Amor– the dark and hollow cry of my mothers.


I stand before a breadth of choices.

There is only one choice:


[i] Harrison, William Henry. Speech, 1840.



This poem is about: 
My family
My community
My country


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