Knuckle Girl

I. Laying

hermana, me oís? do you hear me? do you see my blood
do you see how my veins are brandished with the sweet scent
of everyone’s uncle sipping mate

light-skinned latinas, milky residue slipping down a cafecito
my mama never grabbed me by my hair but sometimes I wish she did;
to teach me my identity
mama don’t leave me en el medio, don’t make me feel without skin and
without culture.

what if god and la virgen had a baby that was white like me
latina like her
assimilated into American culture like the royal We.

a few years ago I tried to burn myself with the sun. I shut my eyes and laid my body bare and let the rays sting the knees I later brought to my chin, mourning. as my skin began to sweat and
redden, I bit my lip, hoping the tan would validate my heritage and rid me of the poser latina spirit I had swallowed thirteen years earlier.

hermanas, me oís?
my mama’s hair is curly like my skin curling off in peeling chunks.
some things are impossible to forget and others too sun-dried to recognize.

II. Standing

they used to read me La Viejecita Que No Le Tenia Miedo a Nada
The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything
to soothe my neurotic soul and relax my spasmed knuckles

I worried about melting in the sun; I still do
who takes the time to remember a grandfather’s brother whose
heart, they tell me, loved too much it exploded
when I asked if it bloodied his tanned chest
they wrinkled their eyes.

throwing seashells on the graves of my mother’s parents;
it is impossible to see the hue of one’s skin when they are dressed in rock and moss

in the story the viejecita is being chased by individual articles of clothing
and I sometimes wake up sweaty
the beat-up shoes, the trousers, the blusa following me
chasing me out of uruguay, my homeland

embarrassed, my skin reddens as I run, panting
to the bathroom mirror, to the sink faucet that drips
like my grandfather’s brother’s heart
I flip the handle up with a sweaty knuckle
the water exploding out, splashing against the bottom of the bowl

III. Floating

tea is most bitter at the bottom of the cup
my hands break from my sister’s, dearest
a mangle of white limbs being whipped by the ocean

how come when I get high I see myself as paler
ghost girl just saw blood
crying and babbling about how it belongs to a grandfather’s brother

who is happy with what they have?
mussels who make beach shores
the graveyard for their shells

I am tired and mama’s hair is sun-dried raisins
she picks them straight from the vines of her scalp
throws them into a bowl of cottage cheese;
a snack before bed
sometimes I see myself as cottage cheese with raisin freckles
they used to be grapes but have shriveled under the sun’s rays

it is the distortion of the cracked bathroom mirror, perhaps the drugs
ruptures like spider legs across a frame
my knuckles finally stilled.