My mother always told me coffee would stunt my growth
But it didn’t phase me, you see
I wanted to grow into her, her easy shoulders
her calloused—yet delicate—hands
But most off all, her smell,
Can you see it now, embracing a person
atoms dancing between you
between you and the mystic magic
that hides between each heartbeat of another human being.
But the first thing I notice is the smell,
and she smells like
sonorous and sweet,
sunken into the air,
And my mother would hold her cup
and as the cream broke the surface—it blossomed
into the color of her skin, my skin,
And on the first day of junior year,
she handed me that cup
and only hoped for the best,
letting our skin blend like always.
But the stark contrast of the bleached hallways,
stark gaze, like a star gaze
eyes and words that burned like sun rays,
You see, the burns didn’t come quicky,
but as I pulled my fingernails up my arm,
imprints of my impatience stayed, stood, stunk--
Branded as a brochure background
a one sided definition of diversity
my name became “chica”
and my game became university.
But if I spoke out, I became ungrateful,
ungrateful for the skin I’m in
as if it’s such a sin to be recognized
rather than translated
I’m slated to grow
into a woman I know, my mother
—and she never shows
the grey around her eyes,
the scars on her arms,
as she’s still stalked through department stores.
Each gaze a bracing burn
asking one question.
Do you really belong here?
The question echoes, enlists, and emits
the atoms on my skin get slower,
but the space between each heartbeat gets shorter
and the smell of coffee gets staler,
Because no one really understands that
to underestimate is just as damaging as to overpower
and devouring the ends of sentences
leaves only shame of a stutter on my lips
My name isn’t chica
beaner or muslide
My name like my body
doesn’t need definition.
How would you know if my body
is spicy or not
it’s not like you’re ever gonna taste it
And my attitude isn’t fiery or unstable
I’ve left my cards on the table
and not one of them says race
If my ethnicity is so interesting
maybe you need a better mirror,
For years, I’ve held my history
higher than myself,
Never contained in words or stories
my body, my blood, my hair, my melanin—a sin.
My name is woman,
past, present and future—
A future of easy shoulders,
delicate but calloused hands
curling around that morning’s
first cup of coffee,
Another day to grow.