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Lillian Pittman

July 8, 2012

browngirl poem

Yeah, this small world
is cut loose by unlovingness.

It’s Abuelita knitting blankets
and us staying safe as we please,
or keeping no home at all
and mother proving her tenacity once more.

We can only pretend this is what it’s like
to be loved.

It’s learning in college
what they won’t let you teach,
or no education at all—
cutting us or coining us.
Nope, ain’t no different for browngirls neither.

It’s a fist like a hoof to the eye,
or a bullet in your heart.
Or it’s mama calling you “¡Pendeja!
once the jackass is gone (before you know’t),
provin’ once more, she’s right.

It’s a doormat if you’re a Harriet,
(with or without an Ozzie) and no passion,
or passion and no commitment if you’re Ozzie himself.
Dye blond, get thin browngirl! Be a porn star,
stripper, used thing, just nothing lovely
—housekeeper, mule woman, river swimmer,
man eater, drug taker, baby popper,
cock teasing, husband pleasing browngirl.

You see, love’s the one thing you’re supposed to reserve
and save for another day, daydreams
sure, su madres y hijas,
yes, even your little boys that will grow
to be men with open hearts instead of closed fists
(just not other people).
Save it!

For your tomorrows—your next-times-Papi’s
—we’ll give love a shot.
Tequila Gold
with a slice of lime on the side.

To Love a Black Face

It’s important that you know
my mother is Mexican;
Chicana to be precise.
I am her religion—non
practicing, of course,
and I grew up (by default)
with her morality,
as well as her chicken molé. When
people look at me—skin
like brown sugar caramelized
—they don’t see
this. They stare at
my Viva la Raza
t-shirt and Che Guevara
patches and pins
and wonder why. I speak Spanish,
they laugh. How cute!
La negrita knows
a few palabras. “Que bueno!”
So condescending
in a politely courteous
sort of way. There are those, too,
that despise (resent maybe)
me, wondering why
you look at me
the way you do. How
could it be possible? To love
a black face.


Lillian Pittman bio: In a few simple words, I speak Chicana. This is what I tell fellow writers when they look at my black face and wonder why Ebonics does not dribble across the page, bouncing with rhythm and blues. Because of my mixed race heritage, black is the color of my politics. Because my abuelita raised me, Chicana is the language I speak. The work I have done in African American and Chicano/a comparative literature is grounded less in a need to find commonality and more in a need to reveal a ground of common struggle at the apex where these cultures meet (at least for me). I am a poet in every sense of the word and I am currently taking this poetics to the field of independent filmmaking. I am Black, Brown, and a million shades in between and, indeed,  I speak Chicana, sprinkled with Spanish, seasoned with attitude and expressed with grace—a different kind of language that chases English right off the page.

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