Brownies of the Southwest: Troop 704

Humanscape 62, 1970, by Melesio Casas





Three years before I’d hear the word / beaner /
from the / white boys / who’d spit first in my broccoli,
then in my hair, / my mother / dressed me

each Wednesday in that / brown / sheath: I was seven.
It’d be the only time I’d wear a sash — 
Miss / America, / she said.

Twenty Miss / Americas, we made /
kitsch from clothespins, pipe cleaners — 
our / brown / socks / banded and complicated /

with orange tassels just below the / brown /
/ rosettes / of our knees, little / skulls / knocking
together in our elementary / school / cafeteria.

How we jumped the day / we heard / voices
raising there instead of / at home, / when Tracy’s
mom slapped our / troop / leader / and Tracy

cried. And Tracy’s / mom was white /
and only her / dad was brown / and Tracy
was a little / prettier than the rest of us. /

At the lunch tables, / white bitch / stuck to our fingers
like glue; / fucking Mexicans / landed like glitter
onto the sashes laid across our / small / hearts. /

With Tracy, / we watched / manifest between us
/ a line, / risen from the tiled floor where / we shared /
meals as tears clung to the eye-rims of my seven-year-old

/ compañeras. / Lorena chewed her nails till blood
/ bloomed / on her ring finger. Andrea peed quietly
/ on her brown knee / socks. None of us knew

where to hide. This was not / home, /
where / we could run / to the / broom / closet
or to the / feet / of our big / brothers. /
You can read the rest of the PINTURA : PALABRA portfolio in the March 2016 issue of Poetry. All images in this portfolio are courtesy of and with permission from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Humanscape 62 by Melesio Casas, museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment © 1970, the Casas Family. 
Source: Poetry (March 2016)
More Poems by Laurie Ann Guerrero