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Keith J. Castillo

February 26, 2018


take this
brown body
cracked lips
and bloodied knees
take this
this age old worry
this anger
this hate,
this love,
the ancient well we drink from like
drought ridden farmers

what were we suppose to do
in a world that never expected us to survive
what were we suppose to do but
learn to love the skin we were born in
learn to love the hair that forms ocean waves
and dandelion curls

what were we suppose to do but love each other
with such a passion that it aches
each time you hear another has died
what were we suppose to do but love each other
and with desperate eyes
beg the other
not to die?

each goodbye might be the last time you see them
each goodbye ends in a prayer for their safety
each goodbye a lesson in love, in the desperate need for the safety
of another being

others never quite understood why police sirens made you tense
why they reminded you of death rather than safety
there’s too much blood on their hands, you told them once,
too much blood

they still don’t understand

they never will


white woman says my hair is wiry
white woman says my hair is too unmanageable
white woman touches my curls without permission and
white woman says that i would look so beautiful if only i took the time to straighten my hair

white woman says this
and white woman goes to the salon to get ocean wave curls
white woman says this
and does anything to make her hair thicker
white woman says this
and yet if i were to touch her hair without permission i’d be set upon by hungr white fish
thirsting for any mistake
any reason
to render flesh

white woman doesn’t say that she thinks my hair would look better on her
white woman doesn’t say that my skin would look better on her as well
white woman gets her hair done, gets a tan, keeps her privilege
while i get made fun of for too big lips
a too wide nose
for skin that brown brown brown
for hair that is wavy curly
for hair that gets me called a vagrant when i wear it natural
for hair that i was embarrassed of
for a combination of skin and hair that made me feel ugly

white woman takes
and takes

white woman doesn’t know when to stop
white woman calls me slurs when i ask her too
white woman wants to be me without being me
wants to take what little we have and remake it for their own gain
and we all know that what white woman wants
white woman gets

white woman won’t ever stop taking
black woman won’t ever stop calling her out
with the voice of one who has dealt with this bullshit for too long
with the strength of the ancestors behind her
black woman storms forward
head held high
her gaze never wavers
as she tells the white woman
to cut that shit out

KEITH J. CASTILLO is a nonbinary Salvadorian-Canadian. He has been published in Vagabond City Lit, The Rising Phoenix Review, and Crab Fat Magazine as well as others. He can be found on twitter @nonbinarybird.