Rain on Easter Sunday,
Children play in the pews,
Singing songs of rebirth
With pastel juguetes and wicker baskets.
Adults sit with backs crucified
To the wooden benches.
En este momento, I dance on the bridge
Between Navajo Reservation and Gringolandia,
Arizona sand at the seams.
I am grown from white man’s flesh and brown
Woman’s womb, raised by deities unseen like
Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé: the woman who changes.
But my heart longs to know la otra mitad, and so
I enter my father’s stolen homeland
As a mestiza of 27 years:
Ni blanco ni indio, Both and neither.
Ambas y ninguna.
With the breaking of bread and a chalice of wine,
The procession begins. The white altar seduces
the children and me, la extranjera, Down the aisle.
Red sangre, white vestidos with heavy bows,
Azul del cielo en que
To me from the creases of a man’s palm
As I process to redemption.
I pray to the rafters, to the sky,
Pray that Dios will hear the mestiza better
Than he does the brown indio bodies beneath his altar.
I follow a carpet rojo down the aisle,
to the Priest who calls
Mi patchwork nombre que se me dio los padres. Priest summons me and Nuns
Summon God, singing,
This is elDios who
Spilled blood for us.
In my name is la historia de conquest
De violación, de sufrimiento, Of Discovery, of hulking ships and freight trains,
Of a new land.
El Indio is vanquished, beaten into
The shadows of the New world.
Now the mestiza remains:
God’s colony reborn.
My teeth to the border that cleaves me,
I taste this scorched earth.
Through barbed wire and concrete
A coyote howls to his brother,
A bison to her cousin.
Once, they roamed this land together.
Ya no. My tongue trips on mi nombre,
She is tamed, no longer a writhing
Serpiente. Wrangled by the eagle,
Mi lengua burns me with each palabra. English does not belong to me.
Español no pertenece a mí. Soy producto de esta colonia. My people shaped this earth,
I tell myself:
This land belongs to half of me.
The Priest marks me, and
I break the bread, ravage the flesh,
Let it stain my lips,
Seep between my fingers,
And I know I cannot return
To my mother’s people.
I am La Chingada, La Melinche, chicana y pocha: Traitor. I walk the aisle
With no gun at my back.
No, No, No, I am a mestiza woman Who walks among the white men Without fear. I promise I will keep La India alive, Pero mentirosa soy.
For when I see the brown boy, lips
Against the concrete curb, told by
Three barrio missionaries who stand
That he is not worthy, I avert my gaze.
He swallowed his teeth that day.
La policía y los testigos, we swallowed
Su nombre. When I left the reservation,
My mother prophesized
“M’ija, You’ll get lost out there; You won’t come back.”
So, I drink her tears,
White triumph, the drowning
Of una cultura my tongue has long since
I return to the altar.
It tells me,
You are not lost;
You are saved.”
Perdónenme. Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me.
Inspired by and indebted to the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, I have chosen not to translate the Spanish words in my poem.
Instead, I chose to subvert the conventions of written poetry, questioning the role that italics play in othering languages that have not been curated into the American cultural canon.