29.El tambor ("the drum")
No te arruges, cuero viejo, que te quiero pa' tambor.
Don't you wrinkle, dear old leather, that I want you for a drum.

I cannot decide where I fit on the spectrum of the color wheel.  My skin is pale. I burn in the sun faster than the eagle flies.  I know where he goes to find the serpent and how that serpent is part of me. 

I beat my hand against my chest because of the drums.  I feel the bass in my laughter.   I know how my blood flows.  Know the rivers it travels and I stay in tune with the spirits that swim there. 

I do not tan in the sun.  My brother is warmed light brown sugar on the hottest day.  Our hair kinky and unmanageable.   We coil in ways our cousins don’t understand.  Our father is brown.  Can tell us that he loves us in two languages but he only ever says it in English.  He’s brown only from years of working underneath the sun.  When he swims, when he wears those shorts his thighs are white as mine.   He keeps the A/C on full blast because of the heat.  He doesn’t consider his paleness. 

Someone told me once that brown was dirty.  I don’t know.  I know how white is made out to be so pure.   That my skin has been a sad blessing.

I join people of color groups because I’m trying to understand my people.  I’m trying to understand myself.  I’m trying to understand where my grandmother found her love of white men and why she allowed herself to fall in love with one who would silence her. 

I’ve spent years trying to understand why women protect men who’ve hurt their children. My hands are empty in that rain.  I’m soaked and I hold nothing and now I want to know where my language fell to.  Why I reach out and don’t know who is holding me. 

I dip my head under the waters.  Closing it all out but not the beat.  Not the clang of ancestors voices clinging to my skin.  Pulling me under and whispering “mira mija…  look how the eagle flies… faster than the sun rises… going to catch the serpent…  that one that’s part of you...”


La Escalera ("The Ladder")
Súbeme paso a pasito, no quieras pegar brinquitos.
Lift me step by step, don't try and skip.

In my brothers room hung
a sign.  It read:

Please be patient with me.
God isn’t finished with me yet.

I use to imagine his face rough and foreign.
The way his hand would feel as we walked
up the white stairs.  Leading me to a place
that surely housed every puppy in the world.
With an endless supply of Coca Cola and Skittles.

I stopped imagining holding Jesus’ hand about
the same time my step-dad started wanting to
hold mine.  Courting like a teenager and weird.
Awkward in all the ways he should have been,
had he not been in his mid-twenties.   All the
whispered don’t tell your mom okay?s All the
pleadings of something broken and lost.  I truly
imagined that certainly God wasn’t finished with
him.  That he had a plan beyond what he was
seeking in me. 

I cringe sometimes because my brother does that
thing.  The one where he plays with his mustache.
Rubbing the skin above his lip over and over again
in some sort of contemplation.  Just like our step-dad
did.  Something he inherited from him.  Someone
broken.  Someone not our blood.  Whenever I see
him do this, I worry about what I’ve inherited.  What
did he teach me?  I think in these moments.  I pray
in these moments.  I truly hope in these moments that
God, whoever he, she or it is… isn’t finished with me yet.

That whatever ladder I’m climbing to whatever peak
I’m meant for is higher than someone else’s pain.
Someone else’s abuse.  Someone else’s fucked up
childhood.  That each step, each notch was a space meant
to be, a catalyst for where and who I am.  A declaration
of incompleteness.  A sharp, resounding semi-colon.

El Paraguas ("The Umbrella")

Para el sol y para el agua.
For the sun and for the rain.

We kneel in the heat.
Knees pressed into hard dirt.
Hands soiled.

We kneel in the heat
and look up;
allow the sunshine to blind us.

We sizzle.

Hard labor and hot clothing.
Watch the cumulus clouds
and sing our song, calling to them.
Hoping to draw them
to us
to cast their shadows on our faces
to be underneath something bigger
more fierce.

The sun and our skin are a union.
Soaked dark in it. 
Under the sweltering of its love.
We are inside 
the cotton picked
              the grapes that wrath
                            the sweet sour of cut grass
                                          the woodchips and tangerines

We dance in the sun’s rays.
Hear the low drum of ancestors.
Pray for a rain cloud.
Shout the words to
De Colores
 in our quiet hums

Wonder where our stories have been.
Wonder who tells them now.
who holds the umbrella.

Sarah Frances Moran is a writer, editor, animal lover, videogamer, queer Latinx. Her chapbook Evergreen released this summer from Weasel Press and her work has appeared or will appear in Chiron Review, Tinderbox, Flapperhouse and Bop Dead City. She is Editor/Founder of Yellow Chair Review.