Chapin City Blues

Writing is writing whether done for duty, profit, or fun.

I recently borrowed the audio version of The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. With all the libraries being shut down, I’m making use of their digital content. I tried reading the book last year, but story in verse isn’t my strongest suit. I’m now further into the book than I made it last year. And when I selected this poem, I wasn’t even aware they were the same person.

There’s a story behind this poem – why I selected it, that is. Maybe last year, or the year before or two years ago – it doesn’t matter – I was watching a show on – I believe – on VH1. I can’t recall what the show was about, but maybe the hip hop industry. It’s not a show I watched regularly; not even more than this one time. But in it, a producer – I believe – was asking an artist – an Afro-Latina artist – what she was. Was she black? Was she Latina? She couldn’t possibly be both. When she explained what an Afro-Latina was, he dismissed it. It wasn’t a thing that existed. And that infuriated me. I don’t know why.

Maybe because I skirt my Chicano-ism with my Americanized upbringing. I am neither this nor that. Or maybe it was because a man was being dismissive of a woman. Maybe both.

Like yesterday’s poem, today’s explores identity and culture, history and how we embody it. It’s a beautiful poem, strong and inspirational. Please enjoy.

A beautifully tragic mixture,
a sancocho
of a race history.
And my memory
can’t seem to escape
the thought
of lost lives
and indigenous rape.
Of bittersweet bitterness,
of feeling innate,
the soul of a people,
past, present and fate,
our stories cannot
be checked into boxes.

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