I Am Both

My mind was jumbled, like a puzzle piece trying to fit into a mold

that wasn’t shaped for me.

Trying to come up with the reason as to

why I couldn’t be both.

Why I couldn’t claim my birthright,

from being born in the “land of the free,”

the land of opportunities, the land of dreams.

 

Was it because of my colored skin?

Or was it because of my dark hair?

Did my full lips, and wide hips not fit your mold?

 

Maybe it was because I came from a family of “aliens,”

or because my people are all taking your jobs, your money, your dreams--

 

My shoulders bend beneath the pressure of those gazes,

My eyes look at the floor, surrendering.

 

I should leave.

I should forget my dreams.

I should quit and go back to a country I am not familiar with.

I start to turn away from the future, but then-

 

I am offered a pen. A piece a paper.

I am offered adjectives that describe the struggles of the people before me.

I am given verbs that fight those hateful words for me.

I take it all and start to think.

 

I think of my hardworking mother and father.

The way my mother’s tired back, bends, and curves,

like the mountainous region of her patria.

 

I think of the way my father’s hands grew harder and harsher,

his once white, smooth skin, now a warm, speckled color.

 

I think of the long mornings my father had to work,

and the long nights when he studied for that degree

that would supposedly fix all of our financial needs.

 

I think about my birthday,

and how I share it with abuelito Pedro.

I think about the sweet, tres-leches cake with our names on it,

And about the grin that splits his

cracked, weathered face when I dunk my head into the cake.

 

I think about my great-grandmothers who taught me how to play loteria,

and about the nights we spent laughing, dancing,

and drinking the bubbly, orange soda from the corner store down the street.

 

I think about my mother’s language,

with its harsh pronunciations, and sweet tones.

The language that,

 

belonged to my great grandmother,

belonged to her mother,

belonged to my ancestors.

A language that came from a mixture of oppresion and adaptation

that came from a land I was not familiar with,

and how it is mine now.

 

I think about restaurants,

and how my mother gets angry

when instead of ordering tacos

I order “una hamburguesa, please.”

 

But, there are still English words my Spanish tongue struggles to shape,

and there are still Spanish words my English mind refuses to remember

 

I look at you, America,

supposed land of the free.

I look at you hard, with my wide eyes,

eyes that have been passed down from a people

I am just starting to learn about.

 

And I write you,

I tell you,

“I am both.”

 

This poem is about: 
Me
My family
My community

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