2022 Dipity Pushcart Prize Nominees
SAY THEIR NAMES by Taylor Thomas
I am told I should be grateful, despite my blisters open, seeping rancid wet into my other open wounds. The smell of decay, I’m sorry “change” they correct me. Blood spills, mine or yours or hers? I use my finger to trace pictures in it and they applaud, “Look how this pain made you stronger.” I am offered Band-Aids the color of salmon, The same color crayon the kids in my 1st grade class used To make family pictures. The darker colors pushed aside or ignored, and I am supposed to be grateful, not questioning, Not wondering where my tan body would fit in their portraits, And still I ooze. My hair, my wild tresses that no one can tame, Are yanked and pulled, tested & jerked, from strangers who believe they own parts of myself that I am not allowed to claim openly. “Exotic,” they sneer behind pale hands over mouths & lips lined in makeup that mimics my culture and yet I must remain grateful. My white mother lies, Spreads willing legs to men who look & sound like me, Creating children who see me and see community. She believes herself immune to the destruction, Mine or yours or hers? But, she reminds me, be grateful As you are allowed in this space, this world, she occupies easily, Because of her. I am enflamed, an infection now malignant scarlet spread and I am so tired. I am offered Advil, a quick painless shelter, Temporary without real solutions care or mind. Another one of us gone - a blip. The stars open arms and cry, and I am told I should be grateful. Heal me, I scream, as they poke and prod and evade Accountability. Be grateful. Violently infectious I am disregarded & small, insignificant to their mind’s eye, important enough to keep wounded and detained; my roots cut. They take pieces of my body. A lip here, a slice of my brown skin there, The scent, the burden, the disease worth 5 minutes of pretending to be me or you or her but I am supposed to be grateful. Reaching damaged fingers up to grasp slivers of crumbs of “diversity”. There is a seat at this table now, the chair rotted and reeking from previous occupants who look like me with wounds like me performing in a play that does not center us. Grateful, they remind me, the hostage, firmly pressing the gun to my backside.