Clueless to when
it all started,
possibly since birth,
or brought upon
from your environment.
Not a choice.
His sparkling brown eyes
like golden honey
with specks of glitter;
on a trampoline
with no off switch.
Not a choice.
The way he says hello,
like a slice of watermelon
across his cheeks;
tomato-faced from his presence,
not knowing what to say
or what to do next.
Not a choice.
Making him your priority,
taking smaller steps
during passing periods
just to see him
across the hall;
forgetting the world
and everything else
it has to offer,
thinking you’ve found
Ranting to your friends
when you search for him
but he’s not there;
thinking that you’re
not good enough,
relying on his smile
Taking your time
—time that could be spent
with people who love you
unconditionally and sincerely--
to see if he
still has interest in you;
craving for him
to make you
long hours of the night,
a waterfall of tears
as a way to vent
when your friends
have had enough
of the bullshit
you keep telling them,
although they always say
Yelling “that’s enough!”
lifting your head
out of the quicksand
that has imprisoned
remembering the world
that you’ve forgotten
and known so well;
getting away from
Realizing that love,
I don’t remember my birth in Haiti.
I can’t picture the poor slum,
it’s dirt grounds, rubble buildings, and cluttered trash.
I do know that my birth mother lived in Cite Soleil.
I’ve been told that she loved me,
wanted the best for me,
and couldn’t care for me.
I believe she’s a part of me, just hidden,
inside my heart and part of my faded memories,
stored, locked, and kept away for no one to see, not even me.
I’ve lived in two different orphanages,
I was malnourished, my belly aching for food.
I've known true hunger before,
being unable to function.
Among many other Haitians,
I've lived in poverty,
been surrounded by flies, heat,
and the thick, moist air.
Don’t ask me what it’s like.
I won't be able to tell you.
If I could, I would . . .
but I don’t remember.
I have seen the images,
“That little Haitian girl” is me.
I have no memories,
Just knowledge gained by books,
my mom, and my feelings.
I was a Haitian child,
Lived there for four years.
I had a language, Creole, not French.
I was Haitian. . .
My life uncertain, unmoving, and still.
Now, I am Haitian, a forgotten Haitian.
I don’t remember being in a plane and coming to America.
At only the age of four, leaving familiarity,
Arriving to the unknown.
Now I live in Santa Barbara,
Surrounded by protective mountains,
and the steady ocean.
I know who my mom is,
What she looks like,
and I always feel the closeness.
I know she loves me,
she wants the best for me,
can and always will love, care and be there for me.
I know she’s a part of me.
I’ve gone to school,
Played basketball, volleyball, soccer, ran track.
I’ve been in plays and sang in choir.
I can play the piano, I can dance,
I can sing.
I have experienced so much.
I know who I am.
If you ask me what I do
I will be able to tell you.
I have many memories,
making more every day.
I gain new knowledge from those around me,
I’ve been an American for 13 years.
I have a language, English, not Creole.
I am Haitian-American.
My life now certain, moving, always changing.
Now I’m Haitian-American
I don’t have to remember to
work hard, never quit,
give everything my 110% effort.
There is no other alternative,
For me, I have to be resilient,
stay kind, and positive.
I am a proud Haitian-American,
Given to me is the present of life,
freedom and opportunity.
I know who I am, what I want to do,
and who I can become.
I have amazing abilities,
and all my dreams are,
A poem looms over my head,
It asks me to write it.
It asks me to read it to help it to solve it,
But the words do not appear.
Instead, the stanzas jumble and the rhythm dances.
The poem looming over my head is a free verse that spreads across a minefield of writer’s block.
Shrouded by a thick fog of revision and the compulsion to edit,
The poem is withering as it sits atop my head.
I reach up to grab it, guide it, have it.
The poem laughs at my clumsy hands as I grasp empty ideas and dull prose.
I want the poem, to coax it out and watch as it flourishes on white paper.
It is not easy.
Several days I sit and do not look at the poem looming over my head.
Months pass and it has gone into a deep sleep.
The poem yearns to be simple and pure, a dozen lines that will satisfy all
My mind pushes it back and avoids it.
I cannot picture the poem or read the poem or revise the poem without writing the poem and
I will not write.
I will spend my days thinking and dreaming of unspoken words but
I will not write.
I will do puzzles and read novels and cry generously, my tears full of self-pity and fear and the question: when will I sit down and create the poem that is looming over my head?
I will not write, but
When I do, my hands will be bound to a pencil by rough, self-deprecating ropes.
The stanzas will tremble and the rhythm will skip a beat,
But by the time my hands are weak and my mind is released
By the poem that has loomed there for years,
I will be free.
I am making a cake. It will be red and glorious and tall.
With a friend by my side, we begin with the batter.
Questions and a sense of uncertainty arise as I am unsure about ingredients and steps,
My foot taps as I stand and watch flour scatter onto the counter,
Then onto the floor.
I make white-lined footprints and restrain the urge to fix, clean, control.
Grabbing a spoon, I mix cocoa powder with red food coloring, creating a thick, ugly paste.
Frowning, we throw it into the mixer and watch as the lumpy mixture shifts from beige to a deep, rich red.
Confidence returns and the batter is almost done.
Before placing it into the oven, vinegar and baking soda fizz and hiss and that goes into the well-greased cake pan as well.
My heart stills and we wait impatiently as the cakes rise and puff up proudly.
Out of the oven to cool, and so we make the frosting.
Where is the cream cheese? There is none, and the giddy feeling evaporates. The cake is ruined, it is over.
The cakes look sad and unfinished.
This catastrophe is put to an end when I remember that Ralphs is nearby.
With the wind in our hair and the sun on our backs, we pedal quickly and purposefully.
The cakes are still warm, we have time, we have cream cheese!
I take a rolling pin and aggressively beat the butter until softened, loving the methodic, satisfying thump.
Thump, thump! All will be well. Thump, thump! Almost there. Thump! Done.
Into the bowl it goes, as well as vanilla and the cheese and mountains and mountains of sugar.
The whisk spins and flicks the frosting into fluffy peaks, and we spread generous amounts onto the scarlet cakes.
The dessert is distributed among family and friends, and is gobbled down gratefully.
After all of that fretting,
I am relieved.
Tacs, random, thought out, within reason
Connected by strands, one pin to another
Glancing over oceans, mountains, and rivers
Place to place, tac to tac, random, thought out
No pattern, but also recognizable
Only for dreamers, for the nomads, for the lost
Only for dreamers, for the nomads, for the searching
A plan, for a tomorrow, a fantastical tomorrow
Asians aren’t mentioned in speeches
Blacks, Latinos, Muslims
Caucasians, too. They say this represents all
Do you really believe them?
Exactly no speech I've heard acknowledges
Faith and religion all
Gandhi? Sure we’ve heard of him.
He’s a great leader
Just that though. So few can recognize that Indians are asians, too.
Kids shows and TV and the big screen the same. I rarely saw another
Maybe once in a blue moon
Never a lead though.
Only ever your stereotypical, smart, glasses-wearing, accent bearing East Asian.
Partway through their lives, they begin to feel ignored
“Quit speaking your parents native tongue.”
Remember your culture, yes, but embrace it and live it? No.
Sometimes it’s just easier to assimilate.
Truth is, your culture, your food, your traditions, they're great.
Uplifting even, but they do not belong here.
Vulnerable are we
We make up just 5.6%
Xi’an. Just try to pronounce that.
You won't because you don't care enough
Zeal we come with, but you just us down because we sound a little “funny.”
There's a maple born lost in crossfire
Scorched, broken, thirsty, it's weeping alone
Golden red crown singing in a black mire
Withered and hopeful, but reeking of bone
Its sinking world trying now to atone
while both its idyll light and mucid hate
cast loaded dice, betting, on every throne
And made sick this earth that's a sapling's bait
But around the chains and bark hums white fate
Painted feathers make the cold wind docile
Ivory beak, starry eyes, claws of gold weight
A colorless prayer, a sad apostle
This is the dark crow that feeds on doomsday
And this is the bright dove that heals the fray
He sits there,
No matter what you do, you cannot escape his glare,
Where you go he finds
Following, approaching, talking
the shadow, a man of unpleasantness
trailing, obscuring your light
The shadow is normal right?
The dark, following you in the sun’s gift sent to earth,
Why the shadow is just a little odd, no need to fight, right?
The darkness to your light.
The demon’s sheep,
A part of the world’s rubbish heap,
Forever a reminder of a turbulent past,
The time you were a little rash,
The man trying to take you off the righteous path.
So you try to avoid the shadow,
Ignore its presence. Mistake.
he follows, strategizes, comes back stronger,
A thirst for vengeance as you sit there somber,
Ignore him and he gets meaner, more difficult,
So this is your life now?
Sit, there, you sit,
Brain full of turmoil of the day, from below the actions of the shadow stirring,
How can you make this go away?
You no longer want this from the day,
You think with all of your might
He is the shadow, the darkness of your life.
The answer, more light!
So simple it seems.
The positivity fueling your torch,
So easy it seems,
To fight darkness with light.
Unsustainable, as he sits waiting for the flame to flicker, burn out
And it does flicker, alas, a loss.
Hello Mr. Shadow again, coming back with the same intensity of that flame,
He is the darkness to your light.
Like his master the sheep likes to play games,
Numbers seem to be the endgame,
pray for the day you are no longer in this dismay.
Why don’t others see this?
Do they see what they want to see?
A perfect world without the importance of me?
A year passes,
Heart growing bitter, light growing dimmer,
Sick of this,
You will ask for it to end,
Bargain with the master of darkness.
Vantablack seems pale in comparison.
Fight before the loss of your light.
He is the darkness, he is the night.
You ask for it to end,
Take a stand,
But we all know this isn't the finale, nothing to defend.
The damage done,
For he has already won.
Scars the colour of soot on paper,
Deeper within you than the Mariana Trench,
The shadow now in you.
He is the night. Darkness to your light.
The stalker of your life.
Society takes its needle and thread
And tries to sew shut my imperfections,
Keep them out of sight,
“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” right?
But it all keeps coming apart at the seams,
Nothing stays inside for long,
My heart stumbles out of my chest and
Onto the ground,
Placing itself in front of someone
who doesn’t even understand her own emotions.
How can I expect her to love me if she doesn’t even love herself?
Not to mention my own self-esteem is in shambles,
Staring at the mirror and hating my reflection,
Plucking excess hairs in some places
While wishing there was more in others
What does it mean to be a girl?
Why does cutting my hair
make me doubt my own belonging within the female gender?
Society laughs mockingly at me and I stare back
Numb and unblinking because
I don’t feel that much anymore
I don’t feel much
except for the burning hatred for my body,
The way my eyes are too small
And my eyelashes too thin
They tell me I should sit up straighter
stop looking so sad all the time,
Make an effort to talk to people often,
But try not to talk too much because that’ll bore them.
What if once I start talking,
I just can’t stop
I can’t fit the tsunami wave of thoughts
into a one-hundred-forty character limit
It all just keeps pouring out of me again and again.
Aren’t the things about me that are “different” supposed to be the best things?
Because society tries to ingrain that into me
But then tells me the opposite,
“Be yourself” is a contradiction,
Promising that they’ll all accept me
until suddenly I become unacceptable
And all at once I’m feeling too much of one thing
and too little of another.
I want to wrap my arms around my body
Hug my brittle bones and
Tell myself that I am worthy, I am home
That “Pretty, desirable, and hot” are only adjectives
Invented by a society desperate to belittle each girl and woman and
Make her into nothing more than a pretty face.
But we are so much more than pretty faces.
I want to scream it from the rooftops, make it known to each little girl
That her appearance does not define her,
That we can be writers and doctors and leaders and astronauts,
Scientists and politicians and architects.
We are all these things and more.
When beauty is shoved down our throats
We will spit it back up into the
factory-made boxes that they have manufactured for us,
reminding them that
we are so much more.
IF by Monserrat Zarate
IF PEOPLE WERE KIND INSTEAD OF CRUEL OUR LIVES WOULD'T REVOLVE AROUND A WHIRLPOOL IF PEOPLE WERE TO SING INSTEAD OF FIGHT THE WORLD WOULD BE SO BRIGHT IF WE WERE HAPPY INSTEAD OF SAD MAYBE OUR DAYS WOULDN'T BE SO BAD IF PHRASES WERE CLEAN INSTEAD OF MEAN SMILES WOULD SURELY GLEAM IF PEOPLE WERE BOLD AND TOLD ONLY TRUTH INSTEAD OF LYIN' AND SPYIN' LIKE CRIMINAL YOUTH MAYBE I WOULDN'T HAVE TO SIT AT THIS BOOTH JUST TO TALK, ME AND YOU IF ONLY, IF ONLY, THAT'S THE SAD TRUTH IF ONLY MY WORDS COULD IMPACT YOU USE THE WORDS SPOKEN, CAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN, TO PREACH, TO TEACH, TO TAKE THE LEAD. CAUSE YOU'RE WHAT THE FUTURE JUST SO HAPPENS TO NEED.