Okcupid: A Footnote

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Prom Night

Beneath your sheets, install our software.
Say you went there.

Produce perfect pictures to customize &
broadcast the best four years of life.

Add technicolor lights. Midnight in Paris
or Under-the-Sea-themed backdrop.

Glamour shot. Champagne toast to
still-life smiles with teeth.

Perform a past you can post about.
Black tux. Hot pink

sequined skirt. New Age Art to show
your kids. How to fit

in a cul-de-sac, it’s all about how
the light hits your cheekbones.

Glitter to gloss over grime.

As you flip through scrapbooks,
sepia still make you nostalgic.

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/aren’t we all/one family/besides, I have black friends/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 alike/say history’s relative/choose the Bible/leave the names of better known ghosts/ 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

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.

 

After they remove the burnt bits

 

they wrap pink ribbons in your curls

to twist them around your neck

 

Dear child: they tell you what it ‘is’

not what it ‘does’ and how you are

to be obedient.  You are the polite sex

 

who does not offer to hold

the door in case you offend.

As you begin you learn to love

 

your mouse-trap mouth you

are told to choose between

bold & beauty between

 

black-rimmed heels and his pride.

As you remove them he does not

feel small & you can root yourself

 

to the ground. This is perfection:

an art form called shadow-play.

You try your hand at construction-

 

paper houses to be told: Hands

to yourself; your brother becomes

the bright one. Yet you can drink

 

embers. Your waterfall of words

turns severed speech. Then:

Sweetheart, no— don’t

 

pick azalea petals to crush them

in the palm of your hand.