My older brother says he doesn’t consider himself Latino anymore and I understand what he means, but I stare at the weird fruit in my hand and wonder what it is to lose a spiny layer. He’s explaining how white and lower-middle class we grew up and how we don’t know anything about any culture except maybe Northern California culture, which means we get stoned more often and frown on super stores. I want to do whatever he says. I want to be something entirely without words. I want to be without tongue or temper. Two days ago in Tennessee someone said, Stop it, Ada’s Mexican. And I didn’t know what they were talking about until one of them said, At least I didn’t say, Wetback. And everyone laughed. Honestly, another drink and I could have hit someone. Started the night’s final fight. And I don’t care what he says. My brother would have gone down swinging and fought off every redneck whitey in the room.
Ada Limón is the author of four books of poetry, including Bright Dead Things, which was named a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, a finalist of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, and one of the Top Ten Poetry Books of the Year by The New York Times. Her other books of include Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, and Sharks in
the Rivers. She serves on the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency M.F.A program, and the 24Pearl Street online program for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She also works as a freelance writer splitting her time between Lexington, Kentucky and Sonoma, California.
“Prickly Pear & Fisticuffs” from Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón
(Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ada Limón.
Reprinted with permission from the author and Milkweed Editions. www.milkweed.org.