All the salons in the city couldn’t perm that culture out of her hair
By Raymond R. Beltran
When I was young, I thought I was white,
my skin being much lighter
when I stood next to a black boy,
and we all spoke English
unable to grasp culture.
English, Spanglish, Caló, Spanish,
The transition has been devastating.
Pocho! They used to scream.
Standing there, speechless,
I thought I would cut out my tongue.
Dad loves John Wayne for Friday ev’ning flicks.
Chiseled ideals of manhood were molded
by histories told through Hollywood tricks,
dead injuns and bad ass cowboys.
In those days, Tata used to drive a cab
while Dad learned to be a man,
watching television blindly.
Nowadays, Fridays are spent
staring down the bottle of a cold beer
and preaching sermons about a
woman’s place in the world,
while watching True Grit.
Mom’s new man hopes his son will look like him.
All the makeup at Macy’s
couldn’t cover that dirt on her face;
All the salons in the city couldn’t
perm that culture out of her hair,
scared to speak Spanish at tea parties,
taking down my posters of Emiliano.
No one better find out she’s from the Valley,
and she never disagreed
when my stepfather used to say,
“I hope the baby comes out white, like us.”
Raymond R. Beltran is from San Diego, California. He graduated from San Diego State University with a BA in English and has been a contributor to La Prensa San Diego and a member of the former Red CalacArts Collective.
Anna Daniels says
In Maria Garcia’s latest installment of the history of Neighborhood House, the newspaper clipping at the end of the article notes that “families of Mexican blood are eating real bread these days[as opposed to tortillas]–made from white flour.”
It’s accurate to say that what Raymond writes about is baked into the bread….
Shelley Plumb says
Powerful poem. I’m speechless, as I let it all soak in — thru my white skin.