Session Two Anthology
MENTOR: Fatimah Ashgar
Definition: Noun: The fatigue of living in the inbetween of biracial Verb: To drop one’s open palms at the waist after a stuttered performance as one or the other.
While widely disputed, three origins are of prominent note:
You are in 6th grade English. The boy at the next desk says you can’t be Mexican because your eyes look like something else and why are you lying? Your classmates say nothing. You are unsure of who they believe. You are in college. A boy follows you to the bus stop to say you look like an ornate vase that could have been sold by merchants, shipped in a steam trunk, purple, gold leafed, from somewhere over the sea, too distant to have concrete origin. Revision: This is at best a bad translation and a lie. He calls you exotic and asks if he can have you. You fix your eyes on the stars and pray for strong vocabulary or headlight.
The girl behind you in spanish class whispers to her friend that you are white-washed because you’re in the good classes when you’re not here. You’re afraid she’s right because no one looks like you in your next class and your tía uses cream for her “dark spots,” helps you pick out the lighter shade of your two foundation choices at CVS.
Your father asks you to not to tell anyone that you speak spanish in your suburb school but makes notebooks out of scratch paper and staples at home, asks you to make picture books out of the words you still know, title it la Virgen’s cloak of stars.
A. The Dia de Los Muertos party you attended where some Echo Park silken magnolia skin effortless welcomed you to her home, explaining the ancient aztec art of skull facepaint and cute tissue paper flower crowns to you and your hand pocketed anguish.
B. In your dreams, every time you need to scream, you have always whispered.
C. You are perfectly awake. Your friend says “I don’t see color.” You say nothing. It types like white ink. She asks for the Spanish word for darkness (oscuridad) and grief (dolor), finds them fascinating, clinical, a metaphor she can deconstruct, call her own reckoning, even when she doesn’t know the correct pronunciations: marigold scraps crinkled under dusty picture frames, orchid shelf on the exact floor tiles where your uncle once died, the distance created by the dictionary you must open in between you and the people who have your same eyes..
D. No, it’s okay, says the barista in a bar in Barcelona, declining your delay and splinter like an overdrawn debit card. What would you like to order?
E. A viejita who doesn’t know you, who is just in the throes of point a to b, unable to stop for long enough to wonder who you are, asks you for directions. You are ready with the few words you still have under your skin, a scar you rub when you are nervous. Gracias, they say, Que le vaya bien, mija! May you travel safe and well, my girl. And for a second you belong in the palm of a stranger. In English, I am this feeling forever. In Spanish, yo estoy, I have a feeling but it is fleeting. Yo estoy satisfecho pero va a desaparecer.
Crystal Salas is a 2016 Fellow for the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and has been named one of “40 Poets To Watch Under 40” by the Ventura County Arts Council. Her work has appeared in The Acentos Review, YAY! LA Magazine, Da Poetry Lounge blog, The Moorpark Review, Chinquapin, as well as in True Focus Theater’s original stage productions: Cat Fight and Life, Death & the Middle. Currently, she teaches high school English and coaches a kickass, award-winning, youth slam poetry team in Los Angeles. For more of her work, visit www.littlebirddigs.com.
We stay exchanging
lip balm in high school hallways,
switching pants because you forgot
about that job interview.
We’re like a choir,
except we’re all sopranos
and we’re all off-key,
but our laughter stretches for miles
and we stay turning heads.
We crack phone screens
‘cause we blow up group chats.
We nap together,
cry together. We don’t care
when you come home, as long as you
come home safe.
We FaceTime your
new boo thang and remind him
that if he hurts you, we’ll slice him so clean
he won’t remember to bleed.
We stay drunk calling the
late night pizza place so often
that they ban us from ordering.
We interrupt each other mid-sentence
‘cause we can’t stop building, can’t stop
our chain link of thoughts. We are witness
to your bloom, and
Jhorna Islam is the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants from Southern California and an undergraduate student studying International Relations.