Dark as night the heads of children racing back and forth across the plaza shouting, hair shiny in the early dusk. Dark as night the grackles roosting in the jacarandas of the zocoló. Dark the skin of every single body in the crowded square, except her. Old men, young women, clustered, Spanish a loud, steady murmur, the rapid curve of a summer creek, as steady as the grackles calling from the trees, a cacophony of conversation, a mad frenzied orchestra tuning up. Dark as night the glistening black feathers, dark the skin, dark the grackle silhouettes, dark of every being in the zocoló but her, her white skin a bruised thumb, dumb with her estadounidense self. She would lose her Puerto Rican friend over a careless email about walking through the plaza in that Sunday twilight, the dirty cement, the alien dark-skinned world, her senses dulled by too much beer. Not racism, though, only sinking in a sea of otherness, aching and alone. But now she dreams of it like dessert. She’ll go again, sit nodding, smiling on a bench, tears sliding down her face in the half light. Eyes closed, the symphony surrounds her. The grackles make her heart dance in her chest, bump against her ribs. She holds still in the center of that boisterous foreign world where language is music. Her white skin gets lost in the late dusk until her estadounidense self all but disappears. She sits there while the light slips away, until it feels right to be there in the heart of things, dark as night and plain as day.
[Editor’s note: This piece was begun with a writing prompt from my Monday night writing workshop led by Alaina Bixon. We were told to begin a poem with a cliche. Thank you, Alaina.]