Carlos Andrés Gómez is pursuing his MFA at Warren Wilson College. A Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared in RATTLE, Beloit Poetry
Journal, Timeout New York, Muzzle, The Acentos Review, We Will Be Shelter: Poems for Survival, Me No Habla With Acento: Contemporary Latino
Poetry, CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape, and elsewhere. He lives in New York City.
Afro- not hairdo but poorly kept family
secret. Everyone in every family album:
black. Fourteen minute drive, under the
speed limit, to Haiti. Don’t ask her blue-
black grandmother what she thinks
about darkness. Says she’s glad I walked
in with ojos claros and pelo bueno; might
otherwise have been a problem. Can’t enter
her kitchen if a comb’s wide-toothed
smirk holds steady to your scalp.
Her head is all thick naps and kink,
claims their roots trace directly
back to Spain. In our family’s photo
albums, anyone who could have been
Africano or Indígena was not blood-
related, suddenly; someone else’s
cousin. Someone’s neighbor or cleaning
lady. Someone’s hushed-breath mistress.
Not ours. The first time they met my
black girlfriend of two years, they
couldn’t remember her name. Whitney,
I reminded them, while my aunt spent
three whole days washing and re-
washing the same pile of dishes.
How does invisibility declare itself?
How does it walk into a room and hold
everyone’s gaze without blinking?
How can it both be and not?
Philosophy is played out, so we drink
Brugal beside Orixá alters and sing
borracha bachata ballads brought
to life by Congolese drums. Nothing
black about our people. We pretend
each imagined line asked for consent.
Sought out clarity in the muffled
gasps that made us from nothing.
People assume my love is Dominican
when they find out her last name
is Gómez. One time, when she was
wearing a t-shirt scrawled with French,
a guy spoke to her in Haitian Creole.
She responded in French. I love Parsley.
She’s never heard of the Parsley Massacre.
Has trouble rolling her “r” when she
speaks Spanish. I never watched
the Dajabón River overflow with blood.
My only memories of the Dominican
Republic are eating fresh mangoes
in the ocean and making love to my
high school sweetheart on the counter
next to her grandmother’s stove.
Last week that grandmother turned
100. Still retains the muscle memory
in her tongue. Will never mispronounce
the “r” in perejil. Or forget the bleached
smile of Trujillo that she could feel
more than she ever saw. She watched
the Dajabón River overflow red.
The family across the street. Her
kindergarten best friend. Three cousins.
Her first love. She burned all of their
pictures. Started using skin lightener
four times a day instead of two. Dyed
her hair light brown. Would still give
anything for gold locks
and a pair of clear eyes.