23 Pairs of Chromosomes

37.1 trillion cells

23 pairs of chromosomes

46 chromosomes total

4 stories


The pigment of my skin, a reminder of the humid city my family came from.

A story of how I became the first born in a country where my grandfather was alone, working, to support a family on the other side of the border.

How my mother came to the United States when she was sixteen, leaving all she knew, both her heart and accent heavy.

A reminder that no matter how Texan my accent may be when I speak English,

No matter how much I’ve grown used to straightening my hair and finding jeans that fit both my height and the curve of my body,

I can’t hide my indigenous roots.

I can’t suppress the fact that my hair becomes a tangle of curls and waves when it is wet or it’s humid outside.

I can’t conceal the fact that I don’t have long, beautiful legs and a perfectly even body.

I can’t try and reserve the culture and traditions that shaped my youth, my memories.

The country and history that provided the details, tones, and shades that made me up


37.1 trillion cells

23 pairs of chromosomes

46 chromosomes total

3 stories


Recalling inconsiderate children in elementary school, a reminder of how damn hard English really is.

A story of how no matter how hard a five-year-old girl tried,

No matter how quickly she absorbed the words that were thrown at her, with pictures of household items for reference and association,

She was always that brown little girl, that little “hispana” who pronounced the easy words incorrectly.

A reminder that being told “I don’t want to be friends with a Mexican” in the second grade is actually a really hard thing to hear,

Because no matter how tough you may be, it’s a pain to be disliked and judged by something you couldn’t control.

Something you couldn’t change or wish away,

Because it wasn’t a personality trait or flaw, or at least you didn’t believe so.

Not until you replayed that phrase in your head, wishing you could train your brain to retain the English and push back the Spanish.

Until found yourself wishing that your skin color didn’t give away the truth,

Which was that despite now knowing both languages, your brain always made your tongue desire Spanish.

Until you find yourself subconsciously scolding yourself when a word in Spanish almost slipped out in the middle of a discussion in English.

Or even when you didn’t quite remember the word in English, but you could think of its translation.

Because you found yourself hating that before knowing two languages was a blessing, it was hard and felt like a punishment.


37.1 trillion cells

23 pairs of chromosomes

46 chromosomes total

2 stories  


My mother’s push for academic excellence, a reminder that I’ll be the first in my family to go to college.

A story of how my mom got married at 17, had me at 18, and went on to let her dreams go to follow the path of motherhood.

How despite coming into the United States as a sophomore, spending her first year in ESL classes, and trying to capture a language that in that instance seemed like a bird, fast and out of her reach,

She exempted all her courses her senior year.

A reminder that once again, I am first born in a country of great opportunities that I am lucky to be a citizen of,

For some have to jump through hoops to drop an anchor in a country they have no tie to other than them wanting a future.

A reminder that my grandfather was a strong man, with a big heart, who didn’t leave his home to have undistinguished descendants,

Because that’s what is sold to me as a reason to succeed.

I am sold this box full of stories and profiles, laced with heritage and lessons, that mean that I must succeed and strive for more because for some damned reason,

People with my complexion weren’t perceived as being able to.

37.1 trillion cells

23 pairs of chromosomes

46 chromosomes total

1 story


The girl in the mirror, a reminder that I am here, right now, and still have a long road to go.

A story that chromosomes are not the only thing I am made up of, considering that you could take every single gene in my body, and still not get the composition of me.

One story for every cell, every pair of chromosomes, and every single chromosome.

Sadly, that’s too many to tell.


37.1 trillion cells

23 pairs of chromosomes  

46 chromosomes total


This poem is about: 
My family
My community
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 


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