July 24, 2021

Maria Arango (age 15)

¿IDENTITY?

El presidente Donal Trump said
they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

My brown sugar skin delicately
compresses me with warmth
as I try to understand the
anatomy of my body.

I close my eyes,
hearing the melody of my melanin
drowning into
a force adaptation.

And he said
they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

I grasp to my woven tan threads,
holding the warmth of my color—
because that’s what keeps me safe.

I was born in the green mountains of Colombia
with bright blue skies and with
the sparkly eyes of people
who never stop smiling.
The happiest population in the world.
And I grew in the land
of dreams; of dreamers
where the air is full of possibilities, posibilidades like mama said.

America was where I saw mama y papa
work hard to make a home for me.
I thought I knew where I was from.
But
they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

And in that moment
honey began to drip
from my eyes to my café colombiano.
I lost my location
because he said
they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

So I tried to translate
the recipes of arroz con leche.
Is it rice first and then milk,
or milk first and then rice?
I know how to make an apple pie
but I do not know how to make an empanada.

And after some conversation with familia that I haven’t met,
and fake laughs
over jokes I couldn’t understand,
after not being Latina enough.

He still said
they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

Being Latina in America
is what I held onto.

But I was a misplaced check mark
where being Latina wasn’t a race
or an identity but a fear.

So, I continued to write in English,
and every time it’s like I’m
floating on the surface of the ocean,
but I sink five feet further as I lose
my Spanish palabra por palabra stanza by stanza.

And so he says
they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

The sun wraps me with hunger,
holding onto the particles of my identity.
In the reflection of water,
the one we cross
for a better tomorrow.
Reflects upon my brown skin a
battlefield of a war
of natives and Europeans.
And in that moment, I knew:

we are dancing bodies of bones and flesh swimming
to an unknown race,
an unknown race carrying
the world within our touch.

We are from the same soil
where trees flourish,
we are the sun
holding our warmth.

We are the world in history.

As papá said
porque somos humanos,
estamos conectados.
Somos unos.
We are one. Connected

I’m not bringing drugs. I bring mama y papa

I’m not bringing crime. I give America my cultura

I’m not a rapist. I’m a brown student

Mi nombre es

inmigrante.

from 2021 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

__________

Why do you like to write poetry?

Maria Arango: “I write poems because it allows me to connect with others. To be truthful and to realize that in the not-so-good moments, good can arise. Poetry allows me to understand and remember who I was, who I am, and who I can be.”

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