I have come to learn that the good will and love some of my stateside American friends have for me has boundaries. Those boundaries often appear where my indigeneity begins. I get it, too. The truth of me, of us, makes some of them uncomfortable. I sometimes feel bad that knowing about my home makes yours feel less fun at times. I’m still trying to understand why acknowledging the actual history of our home insults some of them. How strange is it to be personally insulted (or feel disrespected) by historical and political fact? I wrote the poem below while thinking about these things.
You like me best when I am
A Catholic woman
head bowed low
beautiful pictures and
Witty banter over clinking glasses,
When I am “passing” for white.
But when the blood that made my daughter brown boils inside me,
You avert your eyes.
Handing me platitudes
telling me to cover up.
When tears fall over open wounds,
You remind me it’s just a scratch.
I’m not really bleeding.
Cuts like that don’t leave scars.
You like me best when I am…
When I am slip n slides
balancing babies on my hip.
You like me best when I am…not me.
When orange shells do not dangle from my neck.
When I am not choking on my own mother’s tongue.
Not bent in gratitude.
You like us best when me (and mine) … are gone.