January 9, 2019KR OnlinePoetry

To El Hombre Dominicano Who Told Me It Was Not My Place to Write about Dominican/Haitian Relations

after Lorna dee Cervantes & Rosebud Ben-Oni

            My body is a midnight church. & when the blue of your mouth
broke open a black estuary depositing soiled slurs & sediment,

            frothing feral words kept you from being forgotten. Your
tongue lashed shame into submission so I would know

            you were a proud man, like my father, shaking your
hands & your head a machete striking blows against my resistance

when I tried to explain that my poetry was—
            for women, martyred by men they disagreed with

            women, for 27 de Febrero en la puerta del conde
women, for antidictatorship viva la revolución, si se puede

            women, for La Guerra de 1965 fuera con los Yanquis
women, for teachers & students, poets & writers, activist women.

            & then “esos gringos” y “el Haitiano” sullied out of your
bullhorn mouth like volcanic rocks ejected from a fallow

burning field, & false idol monuments erected in the town square
            in honor of la patria. Again, I tried to justify that my poetry was—

            for women, amas de casa bearing rifles & marching in skirts
women, for chanting in verse to deliver their boys from exile

            women, for red moon buzzing butterfly assassin
women, for sharp tongue cracked tooth camouflage combat boots

            women, for pregnant resistance & fighting womb relic
women. For the type of woman I was before you

            fissured your fleshy mouth open & ruptured hot, marked your own
territory with a stream of words that muddied my tongue &

pursed my lips shut until I crawled inside my midnight church
            & plucked red orange, pomegranate & pale pink roses

from my cheeks. & I laced them into a bullet-proof crown of words
            on my head, in memory of the women who are more

than a talking head statue in the center of an abandoned park
            where the men like you go to weep.

Jasminne Mendez
Jasminne Mendez is an Afro-Latina poet, educator, and award winning author. Mendez has had poetry and essays published by or forthcoming in the Acentos Review, Crab Creek Review, Texas Review, La Galeria, Label Me Latino/a, Gulf Coast, Bird’s Thumb, The Rumpus, and COG Magazine. She is a senior contributing editor at Queen Mob's Teahouse and the author of two poetry/prose collections: Island of Dreams (Floricanto Press, 2013), which won an International Latino Book Award, and Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e: Personal Essays and Poetry (Arte Público Press, 2018).