“Negrita,” by Faith Scott

doors closed, shades drawn
names that can tickle your tongue and slip in between the blinds and out into the air
where they collapse in sudden rain drops and hide in the dust
kicked up only with the heavy traffic of bare brown feet
if you are careful you can peer between and your eyes might
float through turbulent silence with only the occasional
grunt and sigh whimper and cry
there is a child in the corner
there you’ll see her
smaller than most
everything smaller
except the eyes and nose she can’t hide them
not even with her blue-black hair or with dark brown skin
negrita, they’d call her and laugh in shards of glass
mama said not to touch
truth be told, she didn’t
it was another
the one with fairer skin and longer legs,
legs that were dancing and kicking for the joy of freedom
that the little one knows nothing about
there is a child in the corner with the name that doesn’t fit
no way to treat a queen
there is a child in the corner
on her knees, facing the corner
where there is no chair but crucifix
she mimics the worshipped figure
tiny sad man on the cross
little arms straight out at each side
shaking, cramping
each tiny hand teetering a bible thick with guilt and punishment
their size significant, giant in her palms that are now sloping
she can hear a hammer coming from the back of the little house
little like her
the hammer is banging and the toll tings like morning mass
it tings and it bounces down the hall with the slanted floor
there is a child in the corner who knows what comes next
she knows too well mama’s not finished yet
the footsteps bounce uneven boards aking it harder to hold up her books
the footsteps keep bouncing louder
they are merciless and so is she
the woman she called mama
the woman I will never call anything
the books drop
there is a child in the corner whose tiny arms can take no more
until the merciless footsteps turn the corner and stop bouncing
the footsteps stop bouncing and the silence stings
the footsteps stop bouncing and start stomping
they bounce and stomp toward the child in the corner
and yank her and push her and her little body
waving like her own countryless flag of red, black and blue stripes
until mama lays down what she was hammering in the back of the little house
before she came bouncing and stomping down the hall
before she came bouncing and stomping down the hall
she was hammering and tinging and pounding
making holes in the metal
scraps papi brought home from work
making holes that will slice and shred cheese and onions
holes that are harsh and jagged sharp and abrupt
the holes are ready and mama lays it down to teach little negrita who the queen is
mama’s ready to teach her not to touch her precious things with her dirty brown hands
and her big eyes that won’t stop seeing the disdain in her own mama’s face
and the nose that can’t stop smelling candles burning while tiny fingers
crochet patterns in the first sweatshop family owned
outside the little house few eyes were diverted by the sound
of the child there in the corner of the little house
who is kneeling again
this time with a wincing shriek
there is a child in the corner again
who is kneeling again
and mama is grating and shredding
again, and dinner may not be ready this time when papi gets home
from hanging on the poles with his leather back and face
and if you listen very carefully you can hear the whimpers and cries
and prayers of the little girl in the corner
who is praying for her castle to appear
in the corner she is facing and she is praying
for the tiny worshipped figure tiny sad man
to look at her and smile
and to leap off his cross and save her her shining king
maybe he will save her and take her to the castle
if she squints she can almost hear her papi’s laugh coming to save her
her papito’s laugh like sizzling swine
wide wrinkly face and soft eyes hat shine like little suns on the tear-streaked face
of a tiny queen


Printed with permission by Faith Scott, copyrighted by Faith Scott @ 2009.

Author: A Room of Her Own

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