Alexis C.

Country Club Baptism

I’ve been alive for sixteen years,
Starting as republican mother’s beloved embryo,
To a teenage girl with a grudge as remainant as the ember of an American spring break bonfire,
On a beach with American flag bikini tops and sun tan lotions.
In these sixteen years,
I’ve noticed a tongue that repeats like clockwork,
But melts as if on Salvador Dali’s canvas.
Only to remold,
With a gentle expansion of my lungs like a party balloon,
And then it goes up into my throat.
And shakes like a rattle snake on crack,
Until it exits my vocal cords.
I am on the phone with someone important.
The muscles of my tongue push to the pink chandelier in the very back of my mouth.
I take in a breath of oxygen,
As if being baptized in a country club swimming pool,
into an All-American-White-Girl voice.
At an applicant office, I speak to emphasize how articulate a brown girl can be,
to prove I am not a threat to the lady on the other side of the desk, who sips coffee,
a light brown shade homogeneous to my own skin color.
I enunciate.
Dot my i's with arrow heads
And cross my T's with a bow and arrow.
It is not until my sixteenth anniversary of sperm-invasion-of-the-cervix
Until I realize
I never knew why speaking in a white voice was my second nature,
Like in my childhood when I never knew why there wasn't a hispanic powerpuff girl or a Native American Barbie Doll that was not a collectors item.
I never knew why I laced eloquence,
A subconscious action,
into every social encounter with a white face.
I never knew how to respond to white sales people who approach me as if they’re playing hopscotch over shards of glass
With the dread that I will steal;
But I retain the fact that the land upon which they have built American copies of Louis Vuitton
Is the land that is mine.
I never knew why white teachers asked me, the brown girl in class, to translate emails from
Spanish speaking parents,
Not knowing the density of my guts,
But merely the color of my skin.
The double L's in my last name extend from me like a Victorian era dress
Beautiful,
But a pull of the thread tears apart to the inevitable institution of racial profiling,
Put onto the shoulders of hispanic children with Latin American surnames
And resewn like stitches.
To those of hispanic origin,
Castillo is royally thematic;
To White America, it is but a generalization branded into the backs of poor kids from Garland.
And now, at sixteen years of age,
I understand why I speak white.
White is synonymous to professional and intelligent in its own system,
Where brown equates to inferior.
My Hispanic heritage is inadequate.
And my Native American heritage is forgotten.
Both dissolved in a country club swimming pool.

Jason Carney