Say Their Names by Taylor Thomas
Updated: Nov 12, 2022
.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
“Exotic,” they sneer behind pale hands over mouths
& lips lined in makeup that mimics
my culture and yet I must remain
My white mother lies,
Spreads willing legs to men who look & sound
Creating children who see me and see
She believes herself immune to the destruction,
Mine or yours or hers?
But, she reminds me,
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,
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
Violently infectious I am disregarded & small,
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
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
Grateful, they remind me, the hostage,
firmly pressing the gun to my backside.
"Taylor Thomas (she/her) is a biracial & bisexual emerging writer from Indiana. Her work has been published or forthcoming in Bayou Magazine, Salt Hill Journal, So to Speak Journal, Wingless Dreamer, The Indianapolis Review, root and branch, and Indianapolis New Voices. She received the Outstanding Literary Essay award from Voices of Diversity in 2021. She currently attends the University of Notre Dame's MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in South Bend, Indiana with her husband, Herschel, and her dogs, Bella & Buster." Follow on Twitter: @TaylorThomas322 or Instagram and Facebook @Taytom13
EDITOR'S SONG PAIRING:
Say Their Name by Mike Lowry