Maybe it began with empathy,
Lástima at the visualizations
Of black women taken in the depth
Of night, invisible against the open
Mouth of the darkness;
Or despair at the footless
Slaves, the trenches in their
Backs like the plowed fields
They bent over, prostrated.
Then it turned into guilt,
How could we have done that?
She asks other white people,
Who kidnap and strangle the ‘we’
Out of her sentences, severing it,
Like gangrenous legs and arms,
It wasn’t us, we had nothing to do with it,
Apologist, traitor, race baiter they call her
That’s not our problem, they remind her,
But it is a problem, she insists.
Yet the guilt remains like an open sore
In the mouth, her tongue pushing
Against it, punishing herself
And in a way, her way, her own race
Reparations made with pain,
With the flinching pain of the sore
As she grinds it between her molars
Then she disassociates—
I’m not like them, I wouldn’t have done that;
Her own image an indictment,
She sees her ivory hands holding whips,
Tying nooses, restraining thrashing bodies,
Shacking ankles, stampeding in mobs.
It wasn’t me, it cannot be, not me me;
She perms, dyes, and lies,
A transmorphed and manufactured race,
If you present black are you then black?
Not me she continues, but now it’s not
A circulating blame like a blood disorder—
Not me, it was done to me, just look at me!
What happens when she encounters
African-Americans? She nods,
Holds a fist in the air and makes sure
The white spaces in-between her
Knuckles are not showing.
Madari Pendas is a Cuban-American writer and poet living in Miami. Her works focus on the surreal and absurd aspects that accompany living in an exile community, and the inherited identity crisis of being a Latina in America. She has received literary awards from Florida International University, in the categories of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in The Accentos Review, Pank Magazine, The New Tropic, Politicsay, Sinister Wisdom, Junto Magazine, WLRN (Miami’s NPR affiliate), and The Miami New Times.