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From the Melting Pot by Lydia Flores

I don’t tell people I’m Puerto Rican
because I’m not enough of it
I’m only a tea spoon of Sazón
Even though you can smell the acapuria
when my mother parts her lips to smile
I don’t know what that means; which means
no, I don’t speak Spanish which translates to, I think
assimilation wrongfully touched the weariness of
my mother’s heart and I’m the wedlock child of America.
Now Santurce is a ruined city buried beneath
the thick earth of my black nappy hair.
I don’t look like home I look like misplaced pride.
My father is from Trinidad and
I don’t speak that language either
I speak the emptiness that is left
in the liquor bottles, he pours
into the ocean, where I should be
The slurring tide of forgetfulness
pulling under, all of who we are.
what I mean is, he loves me but
not enough to braid the flag of his country
into my ponytail. And I don’t look like him
either, I look like melancholy in the eyes
of a child staring out the window
of someone else’s culture. So—
I learned to twist silence into a dutty whine
I learned to roll into the R’s of sorry
I learned that jealousy is the cousin of shame
who replaces our conversation when my abuela
rolls her eyes at me for answering to her in English.
If America is the melting pot it only makes sense
why diversity is the stew that burns our tongues. This is why the
hook of question marks hang the deception of what you should
look like over your head and the rain pours
on you for what you do look like.
I can hear the ghost of Latin America whispering wepa.
On the day of the parade, a man says “oh, you don’t look it”
on the day of independence I can hear the inebriated cries
of Trinidad and Tobago from the grave part of me I never knew.
Now, I cook a meal and re-cook it till it’s right,
singing not in the language my tongue was forced to cluck
but in every language, I know because my body is its own country
out on the waters of the Caribbean. and I will boil my heart
until it tastes like pasteles taste like roti. until it tastes like me,
like poetry. I serve myself up to love, who speaks with the accent
of history but looks like colonization, like violence with nappy hair
I will look at her, in the mirror and say que linda—
this is what I am and let the teeth of my own
language comb through the knots in her hair.
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