Behind Pride

This is a pressure I will never relieve. I was born with it, as the eldest in my family. It is the pressure of sacrifice. They sacrificed the arms that raised them to raise me. They lived as second-class citizens so I could be any type of woman. They spoke a foreign language at home so that everything outside our doors would make sense to me. They shed themselves to let me be my truest self. In the fine print was the promise that I would make them proud.

In life there are reasons to celebrate, but there are dark moments too. I have shared the highs with my family, but the lows are my secrets. I never hid in shame; I hid behind pride. I spun my pain into shaky works of dignity. So here is a secret — I hope you are proud:

For Keeps

Wanted to talk

about what was lost,

but you’re right, it was really about

the pillage and —

rapt injustice taught we

could have

built back

time, words, or blood.

But you took

my rhythms and secret gateways,

peach fuzz and ocean breath,

silver tear-stain prints,

my flutters and stutters.

No one thought it was funny, but it’s funny

to dodge every what, where, why, when

I just needed to dispel the how.

How it felt when the lights were off and stayed off.

How it felt when tongue in teeth you

schooled me on what it meant to

feel small, then smaller.

How ice cold it hurt when fear

came out my nose and

I griped as raw fingertips primed

future slash and scar.

Letting bygones be gone,

so keep the broken innocence,

shards of despair, jagged little laughs.

I want be taken out

of this language I have never known.

You’re twisted in thinking and for thinking

you had to do some killing,

when I know you’d kill once

more to go back in time.