Open Letter to TSA

Call it random screening/foreign film with the sound turned off, no translator’s note to tell us what subtitles won’t/today, I slip on someone else’s skin/tells their story for them/forget what we say/just smoke break jokes amongst friends/besides, I didn’t know he was black/I’m colorblind/and aren’t we all/one family/besides, I have black friends/share the same struggles/call me spokesman/I won’t talk over someone/just test drive their tongue/call color a construct/dissolve the spectrum/even our words sound more alike/when I highlight the highpoints of histories/all relative, right? Now, whitewash the world with inclusion.

 

Please comment and shares likes/dislikes/etc.

Speak up,

            sweetheart, don’t stutter.

I’ve been told: I’m brother’s sister,

prisoner to genetic code.

Born into the body

with a blueprint.

 

Since he went to high school

first, I became his last name

 

I wore with pride painted on

as a medal meaning people

might address me. Because

 

being in his shadow means

I’m at least a footnote now.

 

At work, I’m asked to leave for

the man in the back because

I can’t be the tech savvy one.

 

So I slip on a stage-play smile,

I’ve been told, I’m better

as a backdrop hum.

 

Maybe there’s a mason jar

where my mouth used to be.

 

Watch me carve apologies

into the cracks in my spine

until you’re uncomfortable

with my quiet.

 

Say it’s my fault

they shout girl

on the sidewalk, girl

 

why can’t you just keep

your head down?    But didn’t I

bite the bullet?

Place the barrel

between my teeth?

 

America, bring me the bedtime

stories where my sister doesn’t

belong backstage.

 

Stop asking my mother what

her husband does; let it be

a sign of respect

when she keeps her last name.

 

America, I know you will teach

my daughter about her body

as a bruise, but

I won’t let you–

 

temper her tongue/tell her

it’s a tight-rope tied to her

skirt-length/that her brother

is the bright one, because

 

you find it safer to place her

in the form of fiction is written

on a page she’ll turn

Translation

My mom washed my mouth out with soap, but I still wake up silent. Sometimes, the bubbles line the inside of my throat. At school, my class diagnosed me with a bad case of halted tongue. Have I learned to expose my ribcage yet? and didn’t my folks raise me right? and teach me to carry my skin on the outside. How dare I steal words for myself when they wake up starving.

As my body becomes an ill-timed tap-dance, you  

 

tell me it’s a choice. Tell me

I hold my own head underwater.

 

That I asked for this first

panic attack at age eight

in grandfather’s car, anxiety

became an unwanted birth-mark.

 

matchbox I can’t scrape

my name from.

 

Inside a crash-test car,

I watch the body

become the crime scene and try

 

to escape. Each time my head

hits the dashboard.

 

Go ahead: Call me quick-sand.

I’ve known both strength and

setback and setback and how

 

there’s a tourniquet around

my tongue, but I’ll fight that

house-fire each day.  I know

 

I was born a winter storm that

takes up so much room I keep

the whole house unfurnished.

 

Tonight, I will love myself flash-

flood/hand-grenade/heart-beat

turned trigger-warning and how

I still search skin for splinters.

 

But each day, I unearth  

someone stronger.

 

Disguise myself as sturdy

to find it built in-

              to my bones, dear,

watch me bite the bullet holes.

 

As my body becomes an ill-timed tap-dance,

As my body becomes

an ill-timed tap-dance, you

 

tell me it’s a choice. Tell me

I hold my own head unwater.

 

That I asked for this first

panic attack at age nine

in grandfather’s car, and how anxiety

 

becomes unwanted birth-mark.

A matchbox I can’t

scrape my name from.

 

Inside of a crash-test car

I watch the body

become the crime scene & try

 

to escape each time my head

hits the dashboard.

 

Go ahead: call me quick-sand.

 

Each time I tell myself

pull the hair off your neck,

the body hits boiling point. Again,

 

I learn heart-beat means

trigger warning.

 

Disguise myself as sturdy

and find it built-

in to my bones.

 

Dear, watch me

bite the bullet holes.

 

Customer Service

As you slip on summer-

camp smile, slip pride into

       your change-purse.

 

Become an employer’s dream;

        tuck thoughts into dress-

        sleeves come out steam-

        cleaned & professional.

 

Remove old scars/tattoo

marks/impress with high morale

and how you process words

into pamphlet form.

 

Pour bleach down

    your throat 

to talk hallmark-card.

 

When the customer’s tongue

turns switch-blade/come out

unscathed/sun-soak

 

each phrase about

the same great day

since you turned sale-stat.

 

Now, learn to string sonnets

         as you speak,

talk until you taste floral.

Prozac

As you find coffee stains you can’t remove, bandage each bruise with fluorescence. With the first dose, it feels better to feel less. On four hours of sleep, you swaddle yourself in red-tape. Switch to safety scissors that round out each edge.  Now, it takes twenty milligrams to taste saccharin sweet.  Until, you cannot sit still to write. To find your tear ducts drained. Wide awake in this half-wake state. With just enough want to undo auto-pilot. Words turned inert and reduced to replicated view. So I erase smiles mask-taped to my face. Brew my coffee bitter. Again, I play the uncut jazz tape.