I lament the lack of Spanish on my tongue
like a pregnant woman's cravings on an August
night when the belly is too big for the car and
hot is alive
in every swollen joint.
I remember my Mother changing her mind about my color
when I was ten. I was Black. The next day, I was Hispanic.
She talked of Panama - a slip of land that looked like my Daddy
colored Grandmothers. I checked the box marked Black
anyway. She couldn't see me. I had not changed
since the time I was four when I was informed firmly about
my Blackness. It made sense back then. The word coffee
has a startling intensity and jolting blood electricity.
My Grandmother tells her life in a rolling sequence
of Intelligentsia identity. Dates her events along name-calling
fashions. In eighty years, she has been as many flavors of Black
as Baskin & Robbins serves ice cream. South Africa told her
She was White once, when they needed her to not be Black
for eleven days. That story was funny enough for me to want
to stay Black when I was ten. The "in crowd" served up diversity
on the fancy platters of multi-culturalism. I remember when rainbows
were about God's promise. Instead of a buzz word
stinging like any insect with venom for your veins.
My tongue tangos and salsas. Limbos deftly
under the Queen's English. My Grandmother tongue
was snipped out. Efficient as runaway slave-breaking
techniques. How many languages can they beat out?
How many times will we deny ancestors? Certainly
more than Peter. Rome was an infant dabbling at Empire.
I lament the lack of Spanish on my tongue.
This dance of definitions has become tiring.
I no longer wish to try on names any more than
our port of entry was a chic boutique now past its time
and worthy of mourning. One slave name
honors my ancestors. The other maintains an illusion
that we are who colonized us rather than families of Africans
divided by a new world. These definitions clank and howl.
I hear them like moans bounced off the stench
of ship holds when we fed the Atlantic Ocean new salt.
--Svaha (Her Divine Serenity)