I split hairs of red and green wires,
cutting through stereotypes with
the tip of my tongue.
I craft articulate essays for collegiate professors,
surprise the fuck out of them with a sophisticated thesis
I douse the flames of burning effigies
of my species--
“species” being animal.
I turn in monarch monologues
for my professors to examine,
and am relegated to circus freak.
No matter what butterfly vocabulary
weaves its way out of my mouth,
I realize they will always see caterpillar.
The glistening goo on my spine
will always spell out “mojada.”
Caution: floor is wet here
where my father’s self-esteem
began to slip beneath his feet
on tiles of dreary office building floor,
where his associate’s degree
meant nothing to the man who asked
if he would like to be their janitor
after hearing his name.
We cannot cocoon out of our own skin
or make wings from melanin.
Our words cannot fly unless we are spoken to first--
I only speak first
to assure my white professors
of my proficiency in English.
Years later, my Dad has been fired again.
His wings are used to being folded beneath him--
not allowed to be seen.
He should scream
"Don't take opportunities from me,
I don't have many left!"
instead calmly calls it discrimination.
My father’s brownness
has necessitated gasoline dumpings
over the crown of his head.
Inner turmoil fuels self-hatred
into an inferno in his stomach lining.
I wonder if he will burn from the inside out
Or breathe fire.
Like my father before me,
I have come to expect
white administrative hands offering me shelter,
then biting down heavily on the nerves on my back,
laughing at the symphony of my screaming,
ripping wings carelessly,
then spitting them out,
scattering remnants of glory that I had achieved
like butterfly bombs
floating to join my carcass below.
They pick their teeth with my plucked antennae when they're done;
ask me to thank them for leaving
all of my pieces in one place.
My father told me this would happen.
I never knew why he demonized white men
until I lay in a bed of my own dreams
shot down by systematic disbelief of my abilities.
Hearing "you're smart for a Mexican"
never gets easier,
no matter what diplomatic wording is used.
My dad lowered his ambitions years ago,
tucked what is left of his arthritic wings away for safekeeping.
I am still waiting for the day he glues himself back together.
The monarch puzzle pieces will slide into place like stained glass,
and he will rise above the carnage of our pueblo --
I want him to fly again.
Because I know my species doesn’t die easily.
Butterfly Bombs was performed by Marisa Adame at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in Richmond, VA.
© 2015 by Marisa Adame