i split hairs of red and green wires, cutting through
stereotypes with the tip of my tongue.
i craft articulate essays for collegiate professors,
surprise the fuck out of them with a sophisticated thesis
i douse the flames of burning effigies
of my species—
“species” being animal.
i turn in monarch monologues for my professors to examine,
and am relegated to circus freak. no matter what
butterfly vocabulary weaves its way out of my mouth, i realize
they will always see caterpillar.
the glistening goo on my spine
will always spell out “mojada”–
caution: floor is wet here,
where my father’s self-esteem began to slip beneath his feet
on tiles of dreary office building floor
where his associate’s degree meant nothing to the man who asked
if he’d like to be their janitor after hearing his name.
we cannot cocoon out of our own skin,
or make wings from melanin.
our words cannot fly unless we are spoken to first–
i only speak first to assure my white professors of my proficiency in English.
years later, my Dad has been fired again.
his wings are used to being folded beneath him–
not allowed to be seen.
he should scream: don’t take opportunities from me;
i don’t have many left.
instead, calmly calls it discrimination.
my father’s brownness has necessitated gasoline dumpings over the crown of his head.
inner turmoil fuels self-hatred into an inferno in his stomach lining.
i wonder if he will burn from the inside out, or breathe fire.
like my father before me, i have come to expect white administrative hands
offering me shelter, then biting down heavily on the nerves on my back,
laughing at the symphony of my screaming,
ripping wings carelessly, then spitting them out,
scattering remnants of glory that I had achieved like butterfly bombs, floating
to join my carcass below.
they pick their teeth with my plucked antennae when they’re done.
ask me to thank them for leaving all of my pieces in one place.
my father told me this would happen.
i never knew why he demonized white men until i lay
in a bed of my own dreams shot down by systematic disbelief in my abilities.
hearing “you’re smart for a Mexican” never gets easier,
no matter what diplomatic wording is used.
my Dad lowered his ambitions years ago,
tucked what is left of his arthritic wings away for safekeeping.
i am still waiting for the day he glues himself back together.
the monarch puzzle pieces will slide into place like stained glass,
and he will rise above the carnage of our pueblo; i want him to fly again.
because i know my species doesn’t die easily.
if i die in Police Custody:
use the crimson wrists they carved up as red herrings
to make me into the warrior i always wanted to be.
follow the lines of my jaw and wonder why they didn’t go for the jugular vein.
if there are bruises from my assault in all of its various forms, connect them
like constellations on my throat
and tell the ghost of my daughter it took sky guardians to stop her mother’s words.
listen to my mother as she tells you i would never slit my own wrists because
i couldn’t stand the sight of blood. hold her, gently
but don’t tell her i went down fighting.
reserve that news for my father.
wipe his eyes so his tear tracks will not etch themselves into his skin.
tell him my death took all the marks our family should ever have to bear.
conceal from them the rose the police made from my clitoris
when they slashed my skin into petals with what they say was the shiv i took my own life with. place this rose in the folds of my skirt and hide it
between the poplin pleats so i can take it with me.
bring my father lilacs and sweet peas and tell him of my dreams.
release the journals of my dreams so the world can know me,
anxiety-ridden but rising above the desire to die because i so loved being awake–
at my wake,
sing Christmas carols to soothe the family I did not live long enough to enjoy.
sing La Posada and tell my grandparents I am knocking on St. Peter’s door;
ask them to pray that he’ll answer.
it won’t do much for me but maybe the language will awake in their souls again.
it’s easy to forget how to speak.
like when the tongue becomes encaged behind the white picket fences of your teeth,
clenching against sexual assault in the back of a patrol car or in a Dallas, Texas jail cell.
if i die in Police Custody, tell the world i went down fighting
because i’m afraid i wouldn’t.
i fear i might surrender to my fate in the hopes they might leave me alive.
bring me daffodils.
create a coffin for my pyre with remnants
of stakes that were always too high,
matches that never found their flint,
and a branch from my favorite oak tree.
set my coffin afloat on the river of my family’s tears and watch it hit the horizon ablaze
with the energy given to it by my loved ones.
watch as my father’s spine crumples as the flames linger on.
it is his life force my death has drained.
witness the river trail blending into the night sky and me
dressing myself like Penelope, Goddess
of the Dead. watch as i rip the bruises from my windpipe
to form a new sky creation, and call me
Marisa Adame, storyteller/creative from Dallas, Texas, has performed at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. Currently completing undergraduate degree in Ohio, seeking to create a balancing act between joy and despair using the rhythm of language.